Off Topic: Stolen Lemonade

Mark Rosewater is on my &#!* list. Not for his usual blasphemy. As I sat down to secretly enjoy another Maro article, I continued to read in dread at the topic. It wasn’t controversial. It wasn’t some new shocking rules change. It was because the topic was mine. You heard me. It was my idea. The article in question was from Thanksgiving titled Maro on Maro, Part II. Those cardboard employees are so crafty, I hadn’t even realized I had been hit with a Mindslaver. Darn thieves. I was so upset: I cried into my pillow for hours. In all seriousness, I thought the idea of getting a job at Wizards would be a great concept for an Off Topic article. True, I don’t work for the company. This small aspect shouldn’t matter except for specific skill sets. Otherwise, I can reasonably assume what Wizards is looking for in employees will correlate pretty much with other companies. Things like; good communication skills, work well with others, and an education to name a few. I wasn’t actually upset about it. Maybe I was a little irritated for the time I had invested. Also, Off Topic article ideas don’t exactly fall right out of the sky.

Life had dumped a bunch of lemons in my lap. As I sat there staring at the computer screen, I tried to find ways to salvage what I had already formulated. A rebuttal article or expanding upon the article crossed my mind. All felt really stupid once I mulled them over. It sucks getting ideas stolen so to speak. It occurred to me. I’ve never seen an article on theft in the nonphysical sense. When I have surfed the forums, I can recall a post or two dedicated to players bragging/complaining Wizards had stolen from them. It ranges from a mechanic or card. Another common group of thieves are the netdeckers guild. They are a merciless group of deviants. Morals are easily swayed with the lure of tournament glory. The road will be full of perils and traps. I don’t expect to come out of this argument unscathed or sane. At least it just might be entertaining.

The Million Dollar Idea

During a slow, slow week at work, a few of my fellow coworkers spent the free time coming up with the million-dollar idea. The thought was to come up with something simple we could patent like those silly umbrellas in drinks or plastic things on shoelaces. One idea I remember was water weights. Such a product was for those weary travelers who wanted to work out on business trips. At any hotel with a water supply, the product could be filled with water. Presto, there would now be weights capable of being carried in luggage. It was ingenious. Of course during breaks and lunch-time, off of the company ticket, we scanned the internet to see if anyone else had thought of our get rich quick product. Yup, somebody else had already invented them. We thought of numerous other ideas to only discover our thoughts had already been taken. At the end, we decided to just win the lottery.

On just about any forum, a discussion can be found of people touting Wizards had stolen a card idea. Not to burst anybody’s bubble, but the idea probably has occurred to the employee’s of Magic at one time or another. Don’t feel bad. Those company thieves have already stolen many of my ideas. After the last You Make the Card campaign, I was tinkering with the thought of how to make a cheaper Wrath of God as a mental exercise. The thought of using turns as a cost materialized in my brain. I came up with a card a person could remove from the game at a cheap cost followed by a predetermined amount of turns before it could be played. Then came Time Spiral. Along with it, the suspend mechanic. Darn it. Later on, I thought of some ideas about having a land based block theme. Yup, we then got Zendikar. Dam them. Even though my ideas went a different route, it was essentially the same idea. Did I ever post it online somewhere were Wizards could steal the idea? Nope. Did I ever tell anyone about it? Nada.

The truth is Wizards has been making cards for many years. Even though some of my ideas have not seen print yet, I am sure in some secret file it sits idly by until the appropriate future set is released. Maybe Wizards is secretly keeping those stolen ideas stashed until the creators forget they had ever made them? I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong. People come up with all kinds of interesting ideas all the time. All I am saying is Wizards may have already thought of them also at some point. I can only surmise the millions of ideas they got during the last Great Designer Search and You Make the Card campaigns. So many ideas and only so many cards can be put in a set. Has Wizards ever stolen an idea? I highly doubt it. Why do they even need to go to such lengths? It seems ridiculous they would even need to steal ideas. They can’t even print all the ideas they do come up with in the R&D. A lot of them get scrapped to make room for card X for card Y. If anything, R&D has too many ideas.

My rambling isn’t to shoot down a person’s hope of working for Wizards. I just think it is a little delusional to think a person can stroll in there with a billion brand new ideas. The thought makes me wonder where all those extra ideas go after rejection. I imagine a filing system. Broken mechanics and cards get put into the Maro files. Cards with no apparent value get filed into the Johnny bin also known as recycling. I’m guessing many employees have a little dear diary of ideas.

Dear diary,

I thought of the most amazing mechanic today. In the meeting today, I put forth my thoughts and it was accepted. It will see print in two years. I just can’t wait.

Two years later.

Dear diary,

I came up with the most amazing card ideas today. The set I made two years ago was released. Unfortunately, the mechanic I made is smothered by the current metagame. We underestimated the power level of one of the other mechanics. I hope some players out there will still enjoy it.

The N Word

It is a dirty word. Many a Magic player have been called it at one time. I have been called it. You know the word.

“Net Decker”

Stings, doesn’t it? I’m still the feeling the burn. Now, where did I put my pillow?

Net decking is one of those weird slams. It implies a lack of creativity and originality. I get it. Nobody likes a poser. Once a person really, really thinks about it, the slam is pretty stupid. Why? Glad you asked.

I swear a lot of people in this world don’t know how to debate. Their logic is just bizarre. My best example is my hatred for the majority of green vegetables. I don’t like them. It is going to suck when I have kids and I need to be a good role model. Yuck. Peas, green beans, brussel sprouts, and anything green besides lettuce. Fact, I hate green stuff. One day, a person sees me eating peas. They come over and call me a liar. Their point was I admittedly hate green stuff. True. I don’t like green stuff. The problem with the argument is I never said I wouldn’t eat it. Hating green stuff and not eating it are two totally different facts. Fact one, I don’t like green stuff. Fact two, I will still eat things I don’t like. Yes, I have actually been called a liar a couple of times because someone saw me eating green gunk. Fact three, my wife wants me to be healthy so I eat it to make her happy.

With all of the above, I find it funny when I play something common like Jund and get called a net decker. Playing Jund does not equal lack of creativity. Playing Jund may simply mean I am playing Jund. Playing a certain deck does not equal lack of creativity. During Mirrodin, I played Ravager affinity. It was certainly one of the better decks before the hammer came down. Did I play it because I lack creativity? Rather, I played it because I had the cards. I lacked the cards to play other decks. By some fluke of randomness, I opened all the cards I needed for the deck. My options were spending money I didn’t have to play something else with cards I owned. Therefore, I played affinity. As I get older with more projects than time, I can appreciate why some people just copy a deck off the Internet. I have more money than time at this point in my life. I tinker when I can with ideas, but I lack the time to fully form new and different ideas. If I have time to attend a FNM, it is very easy to simply surf for a couple top decks, slap them together, and head out for some gaming.

Then comes the decision about card choices. Cards like Broodmate Dragon are simply awesome. It shouldn’t be any surprise. Playing Broodmate Dragon isn’t net decking. It is simply one of the best cards, period. I suppose I could play with Jund Sojourners. I guess it would be creative. Not a smart move if I want to win a tournament, but certainly creative. The cards in Magic are finite. Only so many combos or cards choices are available. There is a limit to how many card combos or metagame choices can be found. Different players are bound to come upon the same ideas. I have taken a couple of my new deck ideas over the years to a FNM. After I start playing, my opponent would remark I am playing the new X deck to my surprise. The comment shocked me. I thought I had come up with something original.

T.O. Ideas

Since I can loosely relate the next part to the topic today, I am going to do it now. During my last article on Grand Prix Musings, I didn’t exactly use the best tone. It wasn’t my intent. I can’t take it back and I will try to learn from it. Instead of defending myself, I want to take the time to elaborate on something I left out...on purpose. I mentioned the chaos of seating players. It wasn’t meant to point out how the T.O. and judges are idiots. I just think there is a better way. A couple of ideas went through my mind. I thought of splitting the tournament into different groups and have them fire off at different times would help. After more thought, I believe it to be a bad idea on many levels. More efficient, but staggering the tournament would be hell on judges and organizers. Better for the players, but worse for the tournament staff.

What I personally would like to see is the tournament split into groups I will call pods. Lets take a simple model first. Take 20 players with two tables. There would be ten players at each of the two tables. Table A is the top players of the tournament. Table B are the lower players. In theory, all players who lose in the first round will be playing next at Table B. All the winning players will be at Table A. Instead of having these players go to each of their alphabetical stations. Why not have them simply go to their table/pod? Winning players go to pod one. Losing players go to pod two. We already know they are going to a certain table. Why not simply let them go to that table? Even though this example is very simplified, it should work at a very large tournament. It is simply math. A computer program will be needed, but it can be done.

To make it work, match slips can indicate the new designated pod for those players. After the match, I can look at the slip. The winner of the match will go to pod X and the loser will go to pod Y. When the next round starts, I don’t go to my alphabetical listing. Instead, I walk over to my pod. As the pairings go up for the pods, those lists will go up right by the tables I will be playing at. I don’t have to walk all the way across the tournament center, find my pairing, and then walk all the way across the tournament center again. In theory, I should only have to walk very little to get to my seat. By having pods, it reduces the amount of chaos of players crossing everyone else’s path. Pods put the players in the approximate area they will actually be playing in the next round.

Starting the tournament may appear to have glitches with having pods. The simplest method would be to randomly assign players a pod when they register. The pods can be spread out into their approximate locations. The number of players in each pod don’t have to be fixed or the number of pods. At the start of a big tournament, 20 pods could be formed. If an excessive amount of players show up, the pods can be expanded after the first round to say 25. The number of pods can be shrunk as players drop from the tournament. As with the 20 pods at the start of the tournament, the number of players in each pod can vary. The main idea is to place the players in the proximity in which they will play their next match before the round starts.

For those who wish to keep the alphabetical pairings, the move to pods has other advantages. Alphabetical parings are fixed. Pods allow players to move as the tournament progresses. With pods, a Tournament Organizer can have more than one room. They don’t have to rent a gigantic hall. Pods allow them to rent multiple rooms. If I am stuck in pod 20, it could be in conference hall B. When the round is about to start, I could walk over to conference hall B and stand in front of the pod 20 banner as I wait for the judge to come along to post pairings. With this, I don’t have to run across a building, find my pairings, and then run back across the building to the appropriate hall. I am already in the spot I need to be at for the next round. Side events would benefit as well. After registering, they can instruct me to the pod I will be in for the draft. The drafts could be in another section of the building. All I need to do is find my pod.

Pods simply didn’t spawn out of thin air. As I stood by watching the pairings, I saw a lot of pushing. Not in the physical sense, but in the process flow. The concept of pushing is a bad thing in terms of work flow efficiency. Instead, manufacturing processes want to pull the product through the system. Pods are an attempt to switch the system from pushing to pulling. My suggestion is from my knowledge of improving processes. Basically, I took something I know and applied it to Magic. In this case, a Magic tournament. One of last week’s forum posters talked about the side events resembling an assembly line at an EU event. Such an example is the attempt at pulling the players. It appears others have already had similar ideas.

Until next time, may your ideas be original.


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