With the year winding down and Thanksgiving just a day gone, it's a great time to look back and reflect on 2017. When we think of Thanksgiving, we may think of endless mountains of turkey basting in gravy, stampedes of people brawling each over Black Friday sales, and the inevitable and impending approach of Christmas, but the true purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks for what we have.
It's been a year of ups and downs in Magic, but as we come to the close of 2017, we've hit a pretty good spot. For me this has also been an exceedingly crazy and exciting year, full of challenges and new adventures. There's a lot to be thankful for, so let's dive right in! Just pretend you're a moist, delicious piece of turkey, and the rest of the article is a savory, glorious boat of gravy. Mmm...gravy. Wait, what were we doing? Oh yeah…
Let's be thankful for...
...A Healthy and Diverse Modern Format
While Modern is still a topic of contention among higher-level players, there's no denying its rampant popularity. Tournament attendance is through the roof, viewership is always very high, and Modern content always does very well. There's no denying that Modern is currently the premier format in Magic right now.
So why is that? It definitely has to do in part with Standard's many struggles over the last year or so, as multiple rounds of bannings have severely damaged many players' relationships with the format. Furthermore, the non-rotating nature of the format allows for more casual players to more easily stay involved without needing to update their deck because of rotations. However, the true draw to current Modern is how obscenely diverse the format is.
Seriously, has there ever been a more healthy and diverse format than a Modern is right now?
Over the last few years there's often been a consensus "best deck" in Modern, with that deck often eventually seeing the banhammer. Splinter Twin was this deck for a long time, finally getting axed last year, as well as Eldrazi Summer getting Eye of Ugin banned. 2017 started with the rebanning of Golgari Grave-Troll, as well as the banning of Gitaxian Probe. Losing Gitaxian Probe took the wind out of the Infect sails, a deck considered to be one of the best in the format.
Since then, things have been remarkably stable and yet dynamic.
There have been points where it seemed like Death's Shadow, Eldrazi Tron, or U/R Gifts Storm was starting to approach "best deck in the format" status, until a few weeks later where the format caught up and things evened out. All three are still good choices for a tournament, but the metagame has been quick to adapt to any and all comers.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 3 Mayor of Avabruck
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
There have even been new decks making a mark on the metagame, something that doesn't happen often in non-rotating formats.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that this is the best the Modern format has ever been. Are there still 90/10 matchups and too many linear decks for one sideboard to handle? Sure, but that's just a byproduct of diversity. Modern rewards format and matchup knowledge, while seriously rewarding those who know their deck inside and out.
If you're still on the fence about Modern, go read Jadine Klomparens's excellent article from Wednesday.
...The Return of Standard
While Modern has had a great year from front to back, Standard has had a pretty rough go of it. First it was too many Collected Company decks, then it was too many Gideon, Ally of Zendikar decks, and then it was an unprecedented three rounds of completely necessary bannings.
There's no doubt that all three Standard bannings this year were necessary, and it's no surprise that Wizards of the Coast has hired an entire new playtesting team to help prevent these types of bannings from ever happening again. While Modern is having perhaps its best year ever, this has been one of the worst years in Standard in recent memory.
Thankfully, that has mostly turned around in the last few months.
Yes, Temur Energy and its variants are very good and Attune with Aether is another Wizards R&D blunder, but it's not nearly on the level of something like Emrakul, the Promised End or Feldiar Guardian. Energy is pushed a little too hard, but it's also a reasonable and interactive mechanic.
There will almost always be a best deck in Standard, and having various Energy decks filling that role isn't so bad. Games with and against Temur Energy tend to be very interactive affairs with many interesting choices and game states. The best way to build an Energy deck to tackle the mirror hasn't reached a consensus, and there's a good amount of tension between improving your mirror matchup and hurting your other matchups.
Aside from Temur Energy, there are still a good number of decks doing well at any given moment, with each of them experiencing evolution and variation as well: Ramunap Red turning into Desert Red, U/W Approach turning into Esper Approach, and so on.
A consensus best deck with no clear correct build that's very interactive, a few other top-tier decks that are constantly evolving, and a number of fringe decks that wax and wane in popularity...sounds like a good Standard format to me. Part of the problem seems to be how well Modern is doing; people see how wildly diverse Modern is and expect the same for Standard, but that will almost never happen with the much smaller Standard cardpool.
It's not perfect, but Standard is in a pretty healthy place at the moment.
...Another Exciting Year on the SCG Tour®
I've done a large majority of my Magic playing in the last few years on the SCG Tour® and still feel it's the very best place to play competitive Magic. I've been pretty vocal about my dislike for the current Grand Prix system on my stream, and while the Pro Tour is awesome, the steps necessary to accrue enough Pro Points to matter (namely GPs) feel too costly to be worth the investment of time and money for me.
As such, I was very disappointed when The Players' Championship for the had to go. It gave the players a long-term goal to strive for, as well as the viewers storylines to follow with stakes that felt important.
With no Players' Championship in 2017, I was honestly worried how The SCG Tour® would fare. Thankfully it's been an exciting and memorable season, with the Invitationals picking up the slack.
- Todd Stevens's astonishing year-long heater that has him locked for the top of the Leaderboard permanently before we've even played the Season Two Invitational
- Andrew Jessup making Week 1 Standard look easy not once but twice, setting the stage for the Pro Tour that followed
- Brennan DeCandio's back-to-back Open wins to start the year
- The introduction of Team Constructed across three formats as a regular Open type
- The continued success of SCG Tour® regulars like Dan Jessup, Dylan Donegan, and Caleb Scherer, as well as the emergence of new names like Collins Mullen and Jonathan Rosum
- Craig Krempels coming into his own as an excellent commentator
It's of course not all sunshine and roses, as I still feel very strongly about the loss of The Players' Championship.
Still, it was a great year on the SCG Tour®, and I can only hope next year is even better.
...Another Great Year Doing Magic Full-Time
While things in Magic are for the most part going great currently, I personally am very thankful that Year 2 of me doing Magic full-time has gone even better than the first.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that Nicole and I just bought our first house! This time next year I'll be writing my articles from my new office.
I'm actually writing this article right now from my new garage, where I'm taking a break from fixing drywall and spackling. It's going to be a lot of work, but we're very excited for it all to be done. I'm also very excited to have my new office set up as I want, where I can do the many things that a full-time Magic player does.
I get this question a lot on my stream, so let's a take a peek into what being a full-time Magic player actually entails:
Well yeah… you're reading one right now! I've been writing articles for StarCityGames.com® since 2013, and it's an honor and privilege to have my work alongside some of the biggest and brightest names in the game. Every week I put electronic pen to paper and have a chance to reach thousands of Magic fans on the biggest and best Magic website out there, and that's awesome. Thanks for reading!
About two years ago I began streaming on Twitch, which has been a major player in my transition to doing Magic full-time. Streaming is an amazing win-win scenario for everyone involved, as I love doing it and anyone watching gets free entertainment and direct access to me as a player. It's been harder this year as it has been so busy, but I look forward to getting back on a more consistent schedule when we're moved in and things settle down. Monetizing the stream is a valuable piece of my income and without streaming I probably would not be able to do Magic full-time. Thanks to everyone who has ever tuned in, spoken up in chat, or subscribed!
Perhaps one of the most underdeveloped areas in Magic, coaching was a key service on metagamegurus.com when Team MGG launched and it has been a great success. As someone who was going to school to be a teacher and worked for two years as a tutor in my college's Writing Center, coaching has come naturally to me. Being able to help others improve and enjoy Magic more feels great, and having to explain concepts that I don't usually think about or speak about out loud helps to reinforce them in me and give me ideas for articles. This is an area of Magic that I expect to grow, and since our launch many others have started offering services as well. Thanks to all my past, present, and future students!
Sponsorship isn't a new idea in Magic, but it is an important part of being a full-time Magic player. There are many companies out there with great Magic-related products, and it's only natural for them to pair with well-known players to help market their brands. This again is another win-win scenario for both the player and the company, as it gives great brand visibility for the company while helping the Magic pro support their lifestyle. Big thanks to BCW Supplies, Inked Gaming, and Cardhoarder.com for their partnerships with Team MGG!
Actually Playing in Tournaments
Here's the big secret to being a full-time Magic player: tournament winnings shouldn't matter much to your bottom line. Your goal is to make it so that your non-tournament income is enough to support you, so that you are never in a spot where a bad stretch of tournaments means you can't afford to eat. Magic is far too difficult to have to be worrying about money when you are playing, so you must take that out of the equation. Any time you do well in a tournament and win some cash? Great! Consider it a bonus, and put some of that money back into your other moneymaking endeavors. Thanks to StarCityGames.com® for running great tournaments with great prizes!
One of the hidden benefits of being a full-time Magic player is that you get to work from home and make your own schedule. You decide how much you want to put in and you get to put into action your own great ideas. This time home is also very useful for anyone with kids, as it allows you the time and flexibility to properly care for them. I am able to get my stepson off the bus each day Nicole is at work, and this flexibility on my end allows Nicole greater flexibility with her own work schedule. Conversely, when I am away travelling for events on weekends, she is home from work and can take care of John. Thanks to Nicole for being great and John for joining me on stream sometimes on The John and Jim Show!
People often ask how it's possible to make enough money to support oneself by playing Magic, but the real answer is that it isn't just one thing. You couldn't get by just writing articles or streaming (unless you're at the absolute top of the food chain in either area), but by compounding each of these income sources, it has worked out quite well for me.
I am a very lucky man to be able to do what I love for a living, and I thank every single person who's ever contributed in any way.
Thank Those Who Deserve Thanking
With the Season Two Invitational coming up and the Magic year winding down, take a moment to think about who has helped you in your Magic endeavors. Maybe it's a friend who taught you how to play, or a pro who took the time to offer some advice before a big match. Maybe it's your parents for working hard enough to buy you a Standard deck when you were thirteen, or your spouse or partner who doesn't play but is very supportive of your hobby.
Who will you thank?