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Planeswalker Points: A Player’s Perspective

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Where am I? Hmmm . . . good question. As I write, I am somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean; as you read, I am in San Francisco. For the first time ever on any sort of flight, I’m on my own. I have just watched Thor, and now X-Men: First Class. I have seen them both before. I watch to pass the time and to find comfort in something familiar. I keep thinking that I am crazy; maybe I am. What has driven me to madness? Magic: The Gathering. I love the game. Even more than that, I love competing at the game. Most of you are familiar with my story—how I shocked everyone with my unexpected qualification and then success at Pro Tour: Nagoya. I reveled in it. I felt at home there and wanted to remain. I made friends—friends I will only see at those sort of events. I hoped to find similar success in Philadelphia. Sadly, I did not, and it left me sitting with a sad 8 Pro Points. So . . . no guaranteed return to the circuit.

I thought long and hard on this matter. I had finished my PhD. I found myself at a stage of life with few commitments. While I have aspirations to one day have a family and some sort of career, I’ve never spent time following a dream because I didn’t have one I wished to follow. I have one now. I desire to play on the Pro Tour. Not one more time . . . but as a pro. I want to be like those people I first saw on the back of some cards included with an eBay order my friend bought two years ago. That was when I first learned about the Pro Tour and that people played in it regularly. That was when I started to dream. When my dream suddenly became a reality, I didn’t want it to end. Now that it has, I want it back!

I decided to spend a year trying to become a pro. I planned to qualify by finishing in the Top 16 of a GP and then accruing enough Pro Points to start treading the circuit like a regular. Obviously, my plan was ruined about three weeks after it was conceived. There has been a lot of talk about what people think about the changes to the rating systems. That is not what I am going to do here; instead, I want to discuss what effect the changes have had on us, the normal players—people like me who have a dream.

So, back to my plane trip . . . (I’m now on to X-Men: Origins, by the way.) Why am I on a plane? To qualify for Hawaii. A little over two weeks ago, my boyfriend conceded a FNM round to me after he destroyed my deck in two short games. I looked at him, confused. “You are 85th in the world,” he told me. Well, that was a shock. Last I had checked, I was 164th, and I hadn’t expected to go up. Suddenly, I saw a window to my dream. But there were two GPs remaining in the season that I was not planning to attend. So, surely it was baseless hope.

GP: Hiroshima came and went. I waited anxiously for a fall in my rank. I expected to fall about two hundred places. After the points went in, I was still in the top hundred players. I couldn’t believe it! I had been lucky. The next GP was to be in America; I knew I had to struggle to keep up. Since my local FNM is biweekly, I planned to travel to London (forty-five minutes away by train) to compete in FNM when my local shop wasn’t running one. Amusingly, the Q&A on DailyMTG.com, in regards to the recent changes, stated the following:

Let me make it very clear here that FNM is not how you get onto the Pro Tour. We don’t expect pro players to have to attend FNM to continue to participate in the Pro Tour, and grinding FNMs should not get you to the Pro Tour.

Ha! That is exactly what I’m planning and expecting to do. I suspect that an “only” is missing from the sentence. I mean . . . once you are an established pro (depending on what the new system is), you might not need to grind FNMs to continue. But it certainly looks like a necessary part of the plan. I am gathering every point I can to make it to Hawaii. I have been given a system, and I am working with what I have been given. Of course I’m grinding points at FNM. It has some of the best payout I can find. I can be assured 30 to 40 points a week, so why wouldn’t I? It’s so close at the top of the rankings that the 180 or so points gathered from this are the equivalent to attending a GP. If no one else who is trying to qualify using this new method has worked this out and reached the same conclusions as I have, I will be genuinely shocked.

I knew I would need more than weekly FNMs to compensate for the other remaining GP, Star City Games events, and the ridiculously huge FNMs that have started to appear. I sent out requests through Facebook and Twitter asking for information about any GPTs that were happening in the UK. The results were underwhelming, except that Richard Hagon replied with the following sage advice:

Carrie, this isn’t a joke. If you want to get to Hawaii, then go to San Francisco. Ideally, go to San Diego first. Chase the dream, or forget the dream, but be realistic about what a potential 13 player GPT in Barnsley is going to do for you versus four days of Public Events in San Francisco plus a GP in San Diego.

Oops. Now you’ve gone and done it. A quick search revealed that flights would cost me about £500 for the round trip. Far less than I expected. Could I really afford it? No. Was it a sane decision? No. I asked for help with floors to try to make the first answer a yes. Lovely Jules Robins volunteered her parents’ place for the duration of Worlds, which was brave and touching. I am honored to know such people thanks to Magic. So, I did something I didn’t believe myself capable of: I booked my flight to the States. I would be traveling alone, since my boyfriend was out of holiday time. I am not a brave person, but it is amazing what you can do in pursuit of a dream. I estimate this trip will cost around £1,000 and should, I hope, give me a free flight to Hawaii. It doesn’t sound bad if it works.

What’s your reaction to this decision? Do you approve? Are you angry? Do you think I’m stupid?

I approve. I approve of anyone trying to live the dream. I am also angry. I am angry at the system that encourages this behavior, and I think I am a fool. I can already tell that I can’t keep this up. If there is no such thing as “the train” in the future, there is no way I can continue. I’m doing this because I promised myself I would try.

My friends despise what I currently embody. I show all that is wrong with the system. We don’t want to be able to buy our way. Yes, I did well—that is why I am so close. But it is money that will seal it. We don’t want to watch a bunch of people at our Pro Tour who had enough money to fly around the world to get there. We want to see people with skill and passion.

Just writing this makes me sad. I wanted to share with you the impact that the new PWP system has had on me. I am tired of traveling, of watching the points page, and of considering crazy plans that drive me halfway around the world. I am excited to see my friends in the States again and to meet even more new people. But I am tired . . . so, so tired. Are you considering qualifying through PWPs? I hope you have a lot of money, inner strength, and time, because you are going to need it.

Wish me luck!

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