Beyond the Norm: MPL Player Tells Plebs to Be Grateful
My Thursday started off just like any other. I awoke to the sound of peasants being grimy off in the distance, bathed in my lavender-scented tub of wealth, and looked out upon my lands from the window atop my gorgeous ivory tower.
But my post-brunch tennis lesson was interrupted when I went online and discovered that a fellow member of Wizard’s Most Privileged Lackeys (MPL) was at the Magic equivalent of a Twitter firestorm – a Twitter argument involving about seven highly invested nerds and at least one very confused actual magician who just wanted to go to Magicfest. This was the tweet that started it all:
When I read this tweet, I was understandably confused. As a member of the MPL, I have the same superpower as random Hearthstone streamers: I am guaranteed invites to million-dollar tournaments (and Mark Rosewater’s annual family barbecue, but people never seem as interested in that). As such, I had to do some research to figure out what top 8 spots Stark was referring to. Some would say this makes me “out of touch,” but I like to think of it as “not being besmirched by an association with dirty plebs.”
It turns out that, in order for [what I’ve been instructed to call] “people” to qualify for the Mythic Invitational, they had to have finished in the Top 8 of all MTGArena players during the preseason. I was shocked! First of all, I had no idea that random street scrum were even able to qualify for the Mythic Invitational! I grimaced at the thought. What if I had to sit next to one of them at the tournament? Would their poor rub off on me?! They should be incredibly grateful that Wizards actually decided to allow their non-streaming, non-Hearthstone-playing butts a chance to qualify for a real live adults-will-be-there Magic tournament!
In the dark, filthy alleyway that is the comment section of Twitter, common folk complimented Ben on being out of touch, privileged, and an incredibly handsome man. I wish I had known it was so easy to elicit praise on Twitter!
Though I shudder to think about it, I, like Ben, was once a… grinder. Before the glitz and glamor of being a member of the MPL, with its living wage and convention center-centric lifestyle, I too would attend PTQ’s. I’d wake up early on the weekend, pile into a car with four or five friends, and then we’d drive a couple of hours to the nearest event. At the event, we’d play 7+ rounds of Magic, inevitably one of us would make the Top 8 and prevent everyone else from leaving, and then we’d go out to dinner after. We’d drive back home and do the whole thing again the following weekend. It gave a group of friends a fun thing to do one day a week!
Some of my fondest memories are from this Golden Age of Magic. Me and Squee arm wrestling for shotgun; PJ and Tobin dressing up in ridiculous costumes; windows open, the sound of police sirens behind us as we fled from the convenience store that we’d robbed so that we could all afford to buy playsets of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and play CawBlade. There was such a carefree feeling of freedom and fun back then; Magic today just isn’t the same.
But it was also a grind. Let me tell you- being forced into a small car with four of your closest friends on a Saturday for hours at a time and then playing a game you enjoy for a set number of rounds with transparent standings and a clear requirement to win was hell. All grinds since pale in comparison to The Original Grind. Thanks to the unspoken horrors of The Original Grind, Squee met the woman who would become his wife, PJ met Tobin, who set him up with his dream job, and I served three years for armed robbery. This all led to less time playing Magic, which was a complete travesty.
Pictured: What could happen to you, instead of being THANKFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY
You kids today have it made. What you refer to as a grind is more akin to a gentle massage. On Arena, you have the privilege of playing a thirty-day tournament with no set number of rounds, no standings, and random pairings while eating Cheetos in the dark privacy of your own home, alone, with no friends to distract you. To have a shot, you probably can’t have a full-time job, full-time life, or three meals a day. You get standings based on a mysterious algorithm that you never see and experience wild swings up and down the standings every time you get paired with a 98% player while you’re Rank 17. This lifestyle provides adrenaline, exhilaration, excitement, unpredictability, and, even though you’ll probably be dead by 30, you will have lived so much more than the rest of us.
Hell, even when I was a grinder, I played MTGO sometimes during the week. I would have murdered a family of four if it meant that my lighthearted playing of Magic Online could have led to a qualification for something. Your “grind” was my relaxing weekday hobby!
I guess what I’m saying is that Ben Stark is right. Your devoting hundreds of hours, alone, at all hours of the day and night to a tournament lacking any transparency whatsoever that will be decided by some coin flips in the last couple hours is nothing compared to the grind of playing one eight round event as part of a hangout sesh with your buddies once a weekend. Especially cuz my buddies were the worst – especially Squee! (Just kidding, love you Squee!)
But hey, congrats to those of you who made the Top 8! Looking forward to beating you all at the Invitational because you’re too exhausted and malnourished to string two thoughts together! But if this is all too much for you delicate young’uns, remember that you could also qualify by getting 50 viewers once or twice on Twitch, though that’s probably too much of a grind for you whiners. Best of luck!
Note: This work is meant to be satirical; flipsidegaming.com feels no ill will towards Ben Stark, the MPL and Wizards of the Coast.
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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