Bring Back My Limited Grinders!
What I'm about to talk about is something that has bothered me for a while, but has finally come to a head because I can't take it anymore without at least voicing an opinion publicly. For anyone who has seen the movie Office Space, I feel like Milton, and my recent discovery of their being zero Limited format "grinders" at Nationals this year is, well, the last straw. If I don't get back my stapler, I might just have to burn the building down. First, let me introduce myself.
I am Sawyer Lucy, from the triangle area of North Carolina, and I've played Magic since I was 13. I am now 19. I started with some success in JSS, a few GP's, and I've since played in three Pro Tours but hardly consider myself a professional by any means. I am also a level 2 judge. The only reason I mention this stuff is so that I can establish some credibility as a player and judge that has a strong understanding of competitive Magic and present my complaint to Wizards and anyone that reads this. This is also to show that I'm not just some random moron that really loves Limited and wants to whine about not being able to play in what I prefer. I consider myself pretty reserved and I am not the likely person to write a complaint letter on a Magic website, but I feel that I am speaking for many people from conversations with other Magic players that I know personally and my general guess of how some others might feel.
A friend and I had been discussing our trip to Nationals for the last couple of weeks, waiting for the grinder announcements, mostly to see if there was a midnight one. When the information was finally put up (I believe the on 13th), I can honestly say that I openly voiced many obscenities when I saw that all six were Standard Constructed. I was literally blown away. My friend Shane, completely cancelled his trip to Nationals. The Limited grinders were in our minds, the gateway to playing in Nationals. I actually judged Regionals largely on the basis that I'd rather play well and get lucky and go 6-0 in a Limited grinder than attempt to do well in ten rounds of play in Regionals or even six in a Constructed grinder. That idea has been torn to shreds, and it is absurd that it has turned out that way. Not that I've ever liked Regionals anyway, but I'll get to that later.
The biggest absurdity of not having the Limited grinders to me is this: half of the swiss rounds in U.S. Nationals are Booster Draft, a Limited format. Would Wizards ever hold a PTQ season of Sealed Deck with a booster draft T8 that qualified for an Extended Pro Tour? I sure haven't seen one and wouldn't expect to either. If the event requires Limited and Constructed playing skills then why are the people that are better at Constructed given the best opportunities to qualify? The stronger Limited players have always been, pun intended, limited anyway with only being able to qualify through their limited playing strengths through grinders (well, since Nationals 2000 when they started having the Limited grinders).
Besides all that, are six Constructed grinders really necessary? Honestly, if someone wants to play in a Constructed grinder if there were 3 Constructed and 3 Limited, they would be given the opportunity as long as they show up early enough to sign up for the 256 person cutoff, and they are extremely likely to be able to play in multiples if they don't do well in the first.
Are the sealed deck grinders gone due to being not liking the luck of sealed deck? I sure hope not, because that is a [censored] poor argument and shoddy logic. Constructed can easily be just as random or even more so than Limited, and is heavily matchup dependant. Playing sealed deck grinders also showcases the third set which hardly ever gets a sealed deck format due to the PTQs always happening before the set release (which, as I understand, should change with the new PT schedule for 2006). This is actually one of the challenges for Regionals since players got to play with the new cards, and has been a challenge before when there were Limited grinders at Nationals, so why get rid of it? Ultimately, through the eradication of the Limited grinders, I feel that the representation of the Magic players of the United States in Nationals is heavily biased for Constructed dominant players now, which is odd in itself considering that for a while 3 out of 5 PTQ formats have been Limited based. It always will be too as long as Regionals stays the same as it is, which I honestly would not expect to change any time soon.
As for my problem with Regionals itself, this is just extra to add on top of the problems I see with Limited players being misrepresented in Nationals. I was happy being corn holed with just the chance to qualify through Limited with the grinders; I came to accept that the grinders were the only Limited ticket to play in Nationals, which is pretty sad in the first place. Why has Regionals always been Constructed? Why did it used to jam approximately 550 people into a room who prepared for a couple of months to hope that they didn't get two losses in a sea of 10+ rounds of swiss to make Top 8? Even after they split it up this year over more areas but with fewer slots, there were still huge turnouts, like the 291 we had in Charlotte.
Slots could just as easily been given out in a PTQ-esque format with likely less in attendance competing for 1 or 2 slots, with opportunities to win an invitation through Constructed and Limited. Slots could be attached to States and given to the winners so that the entire country could be represented in Nationals better and actually makes States mean something besides a box of cards and a plaque that looks like it was bought from a tee-ball trophy store. From a judging standpoint, it is much easier to contain and run a smaller tournament than a larger one, and is much easier to prevent collusion and other forms of cheating with a smaller crowd, which are high risk problems in events with an elusive prize such as an invitation to Nationals.
Ultimately though, is there is a reason the Limited grinder is gone that is unknown to the public? I sure hope so, but at this point I feel as though half the playing population has been hoodwinked. With as many polls as Wizards takes on their website through articles, they could have at least found somewhat of a consensus on the publics opinion of whether they want Limited grinders or not. I'd like to say that if anyone would like to further their opinions on the topic please write articles as well or voice your opinions in the forums. I'd happily discuss the topic with anyone from Wizards if they chose to do so. I use AIM and my screen name is Gazemer. I can also be reached at Gazemer at AOL dot com (yes, I do have an AOL account - please don't write me off as needing to be institutionalized so quickly).
Please give us Limited players our grinders back.
Sincerely and upset,
P.S. You could probably ask Paul Reitzl or Jerry Ellenberg or Sam Fog if they appreciated being able to win money in Nationals through winning in a Limited grinder, or maybe Eugene Harvey who ended up on the National Team the year that he qualified through one.
This year's grinder info: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=events/nationals/usa
US Nats 2003, Paul Reitzl, 18th Place, Final Standings Link: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=sideboard/natus03/standfin
Here's the link showing he grinded in a Limited grinder: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=sideboard/natus03/gr2decks
US Nats 2002, Jerry Ellenberg, 18th Place, Final Standings Link: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=sideboard/usnat02/finstand
Link showing he grinded in a Limited grinder:
US Nats 2001, Eugene Harvey 3rd, Sam Fog 19th, Final Standings Link: http://www.wizards.com/sideboard/article.asp?x=USNAT01909finstands
There is no link showing sealed grinder decklists for US Nats 2001, though there are links for the Constructed grinders.