Today we thought we would focus on a lighter topic, but also something that we feel passionate about. The WOTC Invitational and it’s prize of having a player (often times seminal to the professional scene) immortalized in a card. These cards were usually very impactful to the formats they were released in and were an important and unique aspect to the culture of the game. Here are a few of the reasons we think it was a mistake to end the Invitational.
The Importance of the Invitational
Just like in any major sport, it acted as the All-Star game. This tournament in particular was an important propaganda tool that used to excite players about the game. It helped connect fans with a lot of great professionals at the time, and helped those professionals build upon their legacy. Arguably, the introduction of the more extensive coverage of the Pro Tour through avenues like Twitch does connect fans with their favorite pros, but no sport should be deprived of its All-Star exhibition. It also served as a catalyst to drive the growth of the game and help player retention. It seems like what we’re seeing in the game now is a lot of long-time players stepping away from Magic, losing interest, or not connecting with the game on certain levels and aspiring to be a professional anymore. We think a return of the Invitational tournament would be a boon to the game overall – in terms of participation and longevity.
The Artwork and Design
Some of the most iconic card art came from the Invitational, such as Avalanche Riders (Darwin Kastle), Shadowmage Infiltrator (Jon Finkel), Meddling Mage (Chris Pikula), Solemn Simulacrum (Jens Thoren), Dark Confidant (Bob Maher Jr), Ranger of Eos (Antoine Ruel) and of course Snapcaster Mage (Tiago Chan). Not only was the artwork important, but the players also helped design the cards and most of them ended up becoming format defining. This was a huge reason as to why we even attempted to get into the competitive scene in the first place. The ability to make your mark on so many aspects of the game while giving a fresh perspective on card design was exciting and gave players an inspirational goal. Since the end of the Invitational, we’ve seen multiple reprintings of these cards and it’s a real shame that some of them have had their artwork completely changed, and have effectively stripped the winners of their prize.
Takin’ it Back
The reason the Invitational was cut from the tournament schedule was part of the Organized Play Department’s refocusing on grass roots programs. WOTC maintained that it was possible for a return of the Invitational in the future – and it’s creator hoped that day would come. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the end of the program and with dwindling participation in all aspects of organized play, perhaps now is the time to revisit the Invitational Tournament. The anniversary could be used as a way to make it into a big spectacle and create hype around it. A good idea would be to have a 5 year plan in place where all 16 winners (the 11 current and 5 future) could square off in a tournament of champions and be the first person to have a second artwork…assuming Shahar Shenhar doesn’t win 5 in a row and just become every Magic card.
Still, imagine if that were live-streamed. Who wouldn’t watch that shit?
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