As Singapore embarks on Phase 3 of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, local Magic game stores are exploring options of how to bring back paper events. It’s been a long 8 months since the start of the Circuit Breaker where all in-person events and activities were placed under heavy restrictions.
Last Tuesday, Cards Citadel offered a glimpse into how paper Magic events might happen again. In a collaboration with The Gym esports centre, a very successful Legacy Challenge event with 20 players was held in their spacious shophouse. With approximately 1500sqft of floor space, there was ample room to set 10 tables separately and away from each other to ensure social distancing. As expected, everyone including the hosts were required to wear masks throughout the evening.
Like for pretty much every Magic player out there, there was a thrilling anticipation to sitting down across another real person, rifling through your cards in an actual paper Magic event. After months of doing online video calls and conferences, the players (many of whom know each other well) really needed to let loose. It was a refreshing experience.
30 minutes before the first round began, two judges (officially authorised by Wizards of the Coast) conducted a quick briefing on violations, and new eligible cards such as Hullbreacher and Opposition Agent from Commander Legends. As Legacy games can tilt heavily and quickly with one small move, any misstep could cost you the match.
In terms of power and pace, a Legacy match felt very much like 1-v-1 Commander, except that your deck is way more streamlined since it’s only 60 cards and playsets are allowed. Both Legacy and Commander are eternal formats that allow virtually every tournament-legal card ever printed, barring specific bans. Having Hullbreacher and Opposition Agent legal in Legacy makes the format also really different from Modern, Pioneer or Standard.
But the biggest selling point of Legacy Challenge actually wasn’t the first prize of Command Collection: Green, but having two feature tables whose matches were streamed live (albeit with 2-min delay) on multiple Facebook and Twitch channels. Even before the Top 4 places were decided, total viewership had surpassed 500.
A total of 6 cameras were needed to handle the stream – two top-down table cams, plus one player cam for each person. Unfortunately audio was shared through a single source, meaning you would have heard dialogue and sounds meant for the other match, and not the one you were actually watching. Apart from that hiccup, image quality was excellent and accompanied with professional overlays and cut-scenes.
Although gameplay was tight, even high-calibre players make the occasional mistake. In one match, a player casts Inquisition of Kozilek, looks at the opponent’s hand and elects to pick Force of Will, despite it not being a valid target. The owner of Force of Will didn’t spot the discrepancy and the game would have carried on had one of the judges not intervened. Since both players made a mistake, both received a game violation.
At another table, a player had two Grim Monoliths in hand. Eager to start utilising them, he cast it and quickly tapped it for Mana, before being summarily reminded by the opponent that his Karn, the Great Creator prevent Artifact abilities to be activated. It’s not the first time these new passive abilities of Planeswalkers have tricked players, with Narset, Parter of Veils the other culprit.
For someone who was there in the early years of Magic, Legacy Challenge was a blast to the past, with a little spice added from the present. I was pleasantly surprised to find cards released in 2019 – 2020, such as Oko, Thief of Crowns and Terror of the Peak fitting in very nicely alongside powerhouses Force of Will and the like.
It certainly calls into question the power level of today’s Standard format, but I’d guess it doesn’t bother these Legacy players much. Their decks are built on a core of strong cards, and augmented with any new and powerful cards that are released.
The bigger question now is how big will live streaming play for future events. The end of Covid-19 is still some time away and that could force event crowds to be kept low. Harnessing the capabilities of The Gym could be a great way for LGS to showcase events. There are plenty of formats out there, and Commander is growing in popularity. Could a multi-round, multi-player Commander tournament be next?