First off, I want to preface this entire article for readers by saying I’ve been playing Magic for 25 years now! That is longer than I’ve known all but two of my closest friends! Magic is dear to my heart and everything I say should be read from a place of passion and unconditional love for the game.
The recent announcements in the MTG community have been a bit of a gut punch… errr, for some like myself, I think its felt like multiple gut punches. I admit, I am feeling some burnout and disappointment, but I also continue to have an insatiable itch coming from the optimistic side of my brain, and I want to share it with you.
Recently, I was lucky enough to get together for a weekend with four of my closest MTG friends (including my partner in crime at Conviction Gaming Jesus Garcia) and be immersed in Magic: the Gathering as a way to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
We played with the Warhammer 40K precons; we went to the Unfinity release weekend at Pastimes in the Chicagoland and participated in a draft; we played Commander; we played multiple rounds of a Wizard’s Tower that my friend Ben spent a ton of time crafting, preparing, and perfecting for this weekend; we did our own four-player sealed Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate event; we played more Commander; we had great food, got drunk, and had tons of laughs. Most important of all…
We finally got to do what Magic is really all about again, and, as the saying goes, we played Magic “how Richard Garfield intended.”
It was a much-needed, perfectly timed weekend for me in many ways. I got to mentally recharge and let loose for the first time in a while. My job is demanding and often times stressful, and admittedly my home life isn’t much easier: two kids, ages 1 and 3, and my wife also has a demanding job, so we’re on the go all the time. Add in the work Chicago Style Gaming and Conviction Gaming demand from me, and honestly I’m not sure how my wife and I balance it all (kidding, it’s because of her being the superglue holding our household together).
I am sure many of you can relate to some or all of this. Our lives can be tough, and it sometimes feels like we are stuck running through the motions rather than living. I certainly find myself going through that a lot more in the post-Covid era than before, and I also find myself feeling this way more than ever when it comes to Magic: the Gathering.
Writer’s Note: for the sake of the next few paragraphs, I want to set aside “real world” dealings like jobs, family life, the economy, politics, social inequality, and more. Let’s just deal with the concept of burnout in context of Magic: the Gathering for a few moments. This is, after all, an MTG content hub first. But I promise, I’ll connect it all at the end. Ready? Here we go…
Place your finger to hold your spot on the page, read the questions below, and close your eyes for a minute to think about them in the context of your relationship to Magic: the Gathering.
This exercise was revealing for me when thinking about it in the context of my connection to Magic: the Gathering. The first thing that I immediately pictured when thinking about what burnout looks and feels like to me is the Magic 30 WeeklyMTG stream where the $999 packs were revealed.
This stream took place around 9:30 a.m. ET time on a Tuesday, and I was listening to it as I got ready for work. Why is that important? Because I was already in a mental state where I was “going through the motions” of my morning routine as I’ve been combatting burnout for several months at my job. Let me just say, fighting against burnout in one area of life (my job) and then using the little free time I have to basically fight burnout in another area of life (MTG) is no bueno.
To be honest, I loved the first 40 minutes of the stream. All the products they revealed were so cool. We got to see a Brothers’ War preview (melded Mishra is siiick); the Premier Play promos; a bit more insight into Dominaria Remastered and a reveal that Innistrad Remastered is coming in 2023; and the Magic 30 countdown kit via Secret Lair (also siiick).
But then this happened:
I still haven’t fully recovered from the shock of Magic 30’s announcement. But I’ve done what I can to digest and share what I think this means for Magic as much as possible on Twitter.
The main highlights either I have shared directly or agree with are as follows:
- I think Magic 30 is a terrible investment from the standpoint of “WotC can apparently reprint these non-tournament legal Reserved List cards at any time”
- Magic 30 will assuredly sell out, and fast, because while it only targets 1% of the total audience of MTG players, speculators, and collectors, that 1% contributes a significant amount of the money to the game
- Reserved List as a whole figures to be safe long-term, but with the economic downturn and collectibles cooling off substantially from their 2021 highs, I expect the Magic 30 announcement to accelerate a correction for top dollar cards
- I am a buyer of Demonic Attorney and Contract from Below because they now feel like “true” Reserved List
- I am not a buyer of racially motivated cards like Invoke Prejudice because they go against who I am, however these will assuredly spike because there are people with lower morals than I care to think about
- Magic 30 is not for you, me, or 99% of the community, but that is okay
- Magic 30 will not ruin Magic: the Gathering, but it does set another new precedent for higher price-point products aimed strictly at MTG collectors and speculators
- Cash grab and wallet fatigue are overused and misunderstood terms, but product fatigue is something we need to all be cognizant of, thus the title of this article
- Hasbro will continue to cut LGSs out of the equation in favor of DTC (direct-to-consumer) and Amazon distribution
- The game as a whole is at an inflection point right now that looks eerily similar to the way sports cards went in the 90s, but the utility aspect of the game remains as healthy as ever… WotC hopefully realizes this now or soon, and corrects the ship’s course
We all have a responsibility to ourselves and to our fellow community members to take a deep breath more than ever right now. Magic: the Gathering may not look or feel like it did to you as recently as six months ago, but it really hasn’t changed much despite the Magic 30 anniversary reprint.
Yes, we as a community are all getting burned by Hasbro’s commitment to shareholder profits at all costs. Yes, WotC has embraced the idea of milking the cash cow to the nth degree. And yes, both of those things are bad for the long-term trajectory of Magic.
Those are all negative statements, so why and how am I still optimistic?
Magic: the Gathering, the card game we all love, was built on the backs of players first. The famous Field of Dreams quote, “If you build it, they will come” rings in my ear right now.
Magic: the Gathering isn’t dying.
Hell, it isn’t even contracting in a meaningful way. The game is healthy and the player base continues to grow on the heels of crossover sets, new product launches at better price-points, and global scalability WotC is quietly amassing with their new distribution methods. Taking a collective exhale would be good for everyone in the community, if not most of all, for WotC.
We may not like the recent products or decisions WotC has made, but the statements above about shareholder commitments and milking the cow have been true for years…
We’re just feeling it really sting right now because Magic 30 might as well have been a slap across everybody’s face.
We feel disappointed. Let down. Maybe even betrayed.
And that is completely normal!
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
My best advice right now is to get back to basics. Maybe that means consuming a little less Magic: the Gathering content or unplugging more frequently from Twitter. Maybe that means going to an FNM and jamming some games with friends. Maybe it means selling some cards so you can feel cleansed of the game for a little while.
Maybe it means doing nothing at all.
What worked for me was embracing the part of Magic I’ve always known to be a failsafe since I was a little kid: playing it with my friends.
Whatever you know will help you cheer up and accept that it is okay to be burnt out with Magic is the right move. There are plenty of ways to address that, but only you can know for sure which option will work. One thing I encourage the most right now, though.
DO NOT MAKE IMPULSIVE DECISIONS.
It can be easy to get angry with WotC’s decision-making, and given recent sets, I could imagine scenarios where that anger turns into bad choices. When we get emotional, we humans can lose sight of what’s rational and irrational, and lines get blurred in ways where regrettable choices are made.
Take the deep breath I talked about. Take time to disconnect and reflect on Magic: the Gathering’s place in your life. What does it mean to you today? What did it mean to you yesterday? What do you want it to mean to you tomorrow?
These are deep questions that can help you formulate an action-plan for how to turn your burnout into something positive.
It has certainly worked for me.
Chris Martin is the co-founder of Conviction Gaming and co-host of the Brewin’ With Conviction podcast. He has been playing MTG since 1998 and is an avid EDH player with a knack for MTG finance.
You can reach Chris via DM and find more of his daily MTG content by following on Twitter @ChiStyleGaming.