The Misery of German Magic by Numbers

During the first day of the World Magic Cup, a tweet caught my eye.

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I immediately thought: This can surely not be a tweet of pride, right? After just five rounds, all the German team had achieved so far was reaching day 2 with (almost) absolute certainty. So this had to mean that we had failed to make day 2 in each of the preceding three years! I looked it up, and yes, that was actually the case. That is no reason for pride, but for shame.

Now, of course, Magic is a game of luck and variance, but being among the most successful 32 nations in the World Cup is still a very reasonable outcome to expect for a large and wealthy nation with a rich Magic history, and missing that goal three years in a row seems quite significant. I decided to compare Germany’s results with that of other nations, looking up 24 countries overall, including the most prestigious Magic countries in the world, the biggest nations from Europe, and our closest neighbors. This is what I found:

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To better compare these results, I decided to give 1 point to each country for each time they reached stage 1 of group play on day two, another point for reaching stage 2, a third for being in the quarterfinals, a fourth for playing in the semis, a fifth for reaching the finals, and a sixth for taking the trophy home. Then I sorted this table by total points and got this here:

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Admittedly, we’re not the only nation underperforming at the World Cup, but being at the very bottom of those rankings is still nothing short of embarassing!

But how much have we really been underperforming? Maybe we have actually gone from playing second fiddle internationally to being outright Magic backwater? (I admit I’m not that great with metaphors in English…)

To put things in perspective: There used to be a time when Germany was one of the four big Magic nations. The United States were – Kai Budde notwithstanding – clearly the overall number one for obvious reasons; Japan safely secured the number two spot after a few years; and France never quite gave up the headstart they had when cards had been printed in French before they were available in German; but noone else would oust us. We were (and, I believe, still are) one of the biggest markets for the game worldwide, and as a consequence were among the most succesful countries in competitive play (even excluding Kai). But alas, we have taken a big fall, and I decided to find out just how big that fall was. So I looked up the number of players who had secured gold and platinum status during the latest four seasons for the countries above.

Two caveats: For one thing, Wizards have consciously rigged high level play during the last few years to massively favor North American players, so it is not exactly fair to compare the rest of the world to the United States and – to a little lesser extent – Canada. Of course, density of organized play has always been a factor, but things have gotten ridiculous lately.

Secondly, while I did my best to find out the correct thresholds for gold and platinum in those earlier seasons, this proved to be a much harder task than I expected it to be, and I might have gotten something wrong. To the best of my knowlegde, those point thresholds were 25/40 in the 2011-2012 season, 30/45 in 2012-2013, 35/45 in 2013-2014, and 35/46 in 2014-2015, and I applied those to the final Player of the Year standings each season. If I missed the mark here, any consequential errors are at least not systematic.

To produce a ranking, I gave each country 2 points for each player who achieved platinum status during a season, and 1 point for each who made gold.

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The picture is clear: We count among the also-ran Magic nations nowadays, despite our large size and proud history. Of course, getting no high level events on our home turf anymore hurts, but as there are still a lot of Grand Prixs happening each year in driving distance, it’s hard to see why we should be so extremely disadvantaged compared to, for example, Sweden or Slovakia.

I still hold that the downfall of the German Magic internet community is a factor here (although causality probably goes both ways): No tournament reports, no strategy articles, no active forum appealing to competitive players anymore – and what’s worst, almost noone but me missing these things! A small circle of road warriors is still regularly hitting Grand Prixs and PPTQs, but with little reward in relation to their effort. Some even seem to have given up on the idea of own success, contenting themselves with being part of the playtest groups of succesful players from other countries, having lost any sense of belonging to a German Magic community. The desire for both disseminating and absorbing knowledge among fellow Germans is dead.

The current season is still young, but so far it really does not look as if Germany would get a gold pro again, while smaller countries like Denmark, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic have reasons to be optimistic. (Actually, Denmark’s Martin Muller has already secured gold during the World Cup!) But hey – it’s probably my fault in some way, right? Oh, and Germany’s Magic glory is probably not even really gone at all – it only hides in places where I can’t see it, just like its community. Or its common sense…

***

But enough ranting for this time. I finally finished my set of 100 Battle for Zendikar drafts with an overall disappointing tournament win ratio of 21%. These are my latest winning decks:

BeyondOrBlademaster

(I sided out the green splash for a red splash to run the Blademaster in two matches.)

DimirAlways

(Here I always sided out Green because I felt my deck was much more powerful anyway and would only lose to bad mana draws.)

NoWarcaller

(No, the Warcaller in the sideboard isn’t a mistake. This deck didn’t want it. Note that I never played the Hydra or the Greenwarden, but Sower and Ulamog were great, and I won two close games with massive Rumbler attacks thanks to Sower or Woodland.)

Simic

(No color combination is truly weak if you’re in the right seat for it!)

SowerNoBreaker

(The Breaker never showed up, but the Shepherd brought back the Sower once, which was one of the more absurd things I’ve ever seen a draft deck do.)

DidntWinButShouldHave

Okay, that last deck only went 2-1, but the match it lost was due to MTGO freezing on me in this situation:

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Considering the utter absurdity of this deck, and the egregious injustice of the situation, I present it among the winners. Sue me!

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8 Gedanken zu „The Misery of German Magic by Numbers

  1. Peer_Rich sagt:

    I feel like the biggest reason is the lack of german Grand Prix. I wonder what needs to be changed to make german GPs a thing again? I can’t believe it’s the gamble law entirely as the gamble law of Schleswig-Holstein states:

    „Öffentliche Glücksspiele dürfen nur mit einer glücksspielrechtlichen Genehmigung angeboten werden. Zu den genehmigungspflichtigen Glücksspielen zählen vor allem Lotterien und Ausspielungen, Sportwetten, Pferderennwetten sowie Online-Casinospiele und Online-Poker.“

    I feel like most companys that are willing to organize are too shy and wizards is not interested enough to provide help.

    Very sad. I hope one day we’ll be able to battle again in big grand prixs in germany.

    Cheers, Peer

    • Zeromant sagt:

      Yes, the loss of Grand Prixs hurt, but it can hardly be the only explanation. And I feel you’re right about one thing – if Wizards would really make it a priority to find a solution, it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they really care.

      I don’t think the gambling laws have even changed since the days when Germany had Grand Prixs (and PTs, and even Worlds!) It’s just that local authorities seem to have re-evaluated their stance on the status of Magic.

      About Schleswig-Holstein specifically: Holding a Grand Prix there, just so that it happens on German territory, is probably not even preferrable to holding one in Amsterdam, for example. And getting a „glücksspielrechtliche Genehmigung“ might not be that easy, and maybe even not worth the trouble, depending on the conditions which have to be met. Also, Wizards probably have an interest in specifically NOT declaring their tournaments gambling events officially, so establishing such a precedent here might be a no-no even if it made holding a Grand Prix possible.

  2. Handsome sagt:

    I think it’d be interesting to see the number of German GP Top8s to get a clearer picture. It has always been my impression that German players are actually performing quite well at the GP level, but fail to break through on the PT stage for some reason. Guys like Valentin (Mackl) oder Wenzel are probably posterboys of this phenomenom, basically founding their entire careers on being good at GPs. Valentin Top8’ed four or five GP’s in his breakout season and still had to sweat for Gold because he constantly did terribly at Pro Tours.

    Should my impression hold true, then we can probably deduce that German Magic has some kind of systemic problem. Either the Pro Play system is somehow stacked against German players (unlikely), or we’ve failed thus far to put some structure in place that allows German players to adequately prepare for competition at the highest level. (Or maybe we simply run bad – sample size is a thing.)

    In that case, we could also deduce that the state of the German online community has nothing to do with this, since websites like Germagic, Zk-Forum, MU or PMTG help(ed) elevate the grassroots level of competition, not the level at its highest echelons.

    (I think that point is overrated anyway – I know a lot of players from Denmark and Austria, and those guys also don’t have bustling online communities. They’re simply not necessary anymore.)

    • Handsome sagt:

      Argh, Valentin is Austrian of course. :)

    • Zeromant sagt:

      Well, the thing is that very few German players do really well at Grand Prixs repeatedly. Different players top-8ing here and there, on the other hand, just reflect the large numbers of German players competing overall.

      Doing well at GPs and PTs might also actually require different skill sets. For example, beating weaker players consistently vs. holding your own against strong competition; facing ill-defined metagames instead of those resulting from long analysis; or preparing for one format instead of two.

      And then, it has to be said that Grand Prixs – especially on day 1 – put players under less scrutiny by judges or wary opponents than Pro Tours. Consistently beating weaker players is so much easier if you can fall back on a dishonest trick or two, and I do not think the German Magic scene is really clean in that regard. It certainly wasn’t in earlier years.

      As to the need for online communities: That might be related to a country’s size. Possibly, in Austria and Denmark half a dozen top players communicate via non-public channels with each other and thus are able to prepare efficiently. For Germany, the respective number of players would have to be somewhere close to 80… I cannot imagine that this works as well, and I also do not believe that these 70-80 players would fragment into smaller communication groups to preserve efficiency. I guess the Austrian and Danish players just got together naturally for the very reason that their countries are rather small.

      Also: Brazil players always stress how important their community is for their success! As a much larger country, Brazil is probably a better role model for Germany than Austria etc.

  3. Handsome sagt:

    I also don’t think that having German GP’s would be too relevant. Again, they’re useful for recruiting players on the grassroot level, but they’re doing relatively little when it comes to preparing players for the Pro Tour and World Cup stage. Germany is still one of the highest-represented countries on the GP level. GP Prague this year had more German than Czech players, for example.

  4. Schizzo1985 sagt:

    Maybe one of the reasons is/was the big eternal community in Germany. And we all know, that eternal is not really supported by wizards. Something like a european Starcitygames would have been nice. Instead, a lot of small tournements were held across the county. Some years ago, i was playing Legacy almost every week. Around the Rhein-Ruhr area alone, it was quite easy to participate in 2 or 3 events each week. However, this changed a lot in the last couple of years, or at least i feel that way.

    A lot of small changes from wizards add up to a point, where i lost my interest in playing competitive magic.
    And because this is true for a lot of my friends, the time spending with magic topics decreased overall. At the beginning of this year, i sold my legacy card pool and bought a new car. And now this year is over and i have never played with paper cards this year. New sets do not really interest me anymore, more of the same powercreep. Maybe i am getting to old for this shit. Two years ago, i would have never thought about it, but now i am considering whether i want to keep my collection or sell everything (with the exception of few decks).

    This is just me but maybe you can compare my situation with the average magic player in germany. I think a lot of people lost their interest. And due to the pro play changes, it is almost impossible to become a pro for german players anymore, therefore the ambitions might be lost for others. And as mentioned above, due to the lack of german grand prixs, an active german community and some kind of german player, people could look up to nowadays, it is almost impossible to catch new players.

    Young people are now playing hearthstone anyway. A lot of pro magic players already shifted and i admit, although the game is ridiculously stupid and random and is missing real casual formats, it is fun to play a round or two. Furthermore, it is free to play (even though almost everyone is paying a big amount of money) and much much much more easy to play in comparison with Magic Online. And you can earn more money with it.

    A lot of choices, missed opportunities and ignorance lead wizard to this point. And i am quite sure that it will remain this way. It is quite sad, in my oppinion, Magic is still the best game in the world, but the present direction does not interest me anymore. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of other people feel the same.

    • Zeromant sagt:

      Hm.

      I’m not sure an European Star City Games would be possible (if at all) without focussing on Europe’s biggest market – Germany – and here it would run into the same issues WotC does when it comes to organizing big events.

      About Legacy’s downslide: The main reason may be found in your own quote: „At the beginning of this year, i sold my legacy card pool and bought a new car.“

      No matter how much it is being promoted as „cheaper than standard in the long term“ by some, both its entry barrier and the amount of money it requires you to tie up playing it become ever more ridiculous. It was always a foregone conclusion that the reserved list would someday kill Legacy, and its slow death is now recognizable. Of course, the competition of Modern has sped things up a bit.

      Anyway, a community revolving on dying formats is fating itself to die as well, so the shift from competitive players to eternal players which had been happening during the 00-years was actually yet another factor in killing the German community (in addition to fracturing it).

      Becoming (or staying) a pro player has certainly become harder for Germans during the last couple of years, but that is true for all nationalities except the United States, Canada and possibly Japan, so it cannot be the reason why we let so many smaller countries overtake us.

      Now, we DO have a peculiar situation in Germany, with no big events possible, and a decrease in expert stores as well as in sales for internet companies. However, Magic as a whole IS flourishing – especially in North America, but also worldwide. Hearthstone is unlikely to erode Magic’s popularity any more than Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! did, and will probably even serve to lure more people into playing such games in the first place, and thus may effectively even grow Magic indirectly, just like those manga TCGs did.

      And I’m not really sure if Germany’s Magic sales overall are really floundering, or if it is just the intermediate retailers who are suffering here. Casual Magic is possibly as big as ever – but casual players alone make for poor community building (talking about THE community, not SOME communities). There is just no point in discussing commander lists in contrast to discussions about lists for competitive formats or draft strategies which are tied to high-level Magic that can establish „facts“.

      And, to get back to the topic of my entry here, there is no improving or learning without such discussions. There is a large gap in Germany between what Handsome calls the grassroots level (which is just people playing Magic) and pro play: The aspiring, ambitious players striving to improve themselves and prove their skills. These people would need a functional community, but such a community cannot function without them. This is why Germany’s Magic has collapsed and is unlikely to recuperate from within.

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