“You can dust it off and try again, try again. Cause if at first you don't succeed, Dust yourself off, and try again” - Aaliyah
Letters to Riot
I want to start off by saying this article is not for everyone (you were warned). This article has been months in the making – although, to be fair, all of my articles follow the same path. I have an idea that festers like a pit in my stomach. I turn it over in my head again and again. New information comes to light and I add it to the list. Riot waits and waits to give us what we so desperately crave, and the list grows ever longer. New jokes, new angles, new stories about beagles and imaginary late-night LoR parties with “famous” LoR content creators come and go, until I’ve forgotten most of the list…
… but it doesn’t matter because it’s all going to come bursting forth in a completely unedited, unjustified, undeniable force (apologies to my editor).
Since apparently I am a person who writes – a “writer”, if you will – I decided I should reach out to God's gift to MTG articles, Jeff Cunningham (affectionately known as ffeJ) for some writing tips. He put me onto “Writing for Dummies,” aka Stephen King's book on writing… on tape. Let’s just say Stephen’s probably having nightmares about the hack job I am doing as I dare to break every.
One of his writing rules.
Fuck it. Let’s go!
I only bring up my complete lack of writing skills because I find it interesting that, despite writing at an 8th-grade level, I still managed to have the most read article on this website (over 10,000 of you read my take on “Is LoR Dying - Part One?”), and I also have the highest upvoted reddit post of all time on the Competitive LoR subreddit, “A letter to Riot,” which I made one year ago.
And what a year it has been…
With this very auspicious anniversary looming large, I am reminded of that famous quote by William something, “Once more unto the breach”. Why exactly these pieces have done so well I am not sure. I would like to think part of it has to do with my writing, but I know a large part of it also has to do with how tapped into the collective heart and soul of the LoR community I am. I love this game, I just wished it loved us all a little more, ya know?
Alright, music on blast, the beagle is fed and warming my feet (too warm), Ruby Orange Vodka Seltzer at the ready… (don’t judge me).
Why is “competitive” important?
First, let’s define what we mean by competitive. I think when I talk about competitive, most people imagine things like this:
They will equate competitive with tip-of-the-sword esports competitions. And this is a logical jump. Many will quickly point out all the reasons that this wouldn’t be good for growing the game, of which there are many. If this was all that was done to try and promote LoR, then I agree that it would not work.
Magic's Pro League
In fact, Magic the Gathering tried to do exactly this when it launched MTG Arena. They brought in someone that used to run League’s Esports scene to set up their own league with full-time contracts for top players, a weekly broadcast schedule and a Pro League similar to that of League of Legends and many other Esports.
Know what happened?
Here’s a picture of the first event… or maybe it was the last.
RIP Magic Pro League 2019-2022
Yeah, it was an unmitigated disaster – it only continued on for so long because of Covid.
The “best” part is that any card gamer could have told you this was going to happen. To put it into LoR terms, imagine if we had a Pro League, and we recorded top players playing matches, and then a new set AND balance patch came out, and ONLY THEN Riot decided to air the matches that were recorded pre-patch…
… who would watch these games from a dead format? That’s right, almost fucking no one. No card gamer would ever make this mistake, and yet the largest collectible card game league of all time did just that. When I say 'large', I mean all of the league’s members were paid $75,000 USD annually just for showing up to events, PLUS they played for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money at each of the many events every year, with very small fields.
As bad as botching coverage was, the real reason the league bombed is because there was almost no way to get into it. Something like five people every year would rotate in and out. What was there for the rest of the thousands of wannabe pro MTG players?
That’s right: nothing.
There was nothing for players to play for, no reason to grind, no carrot to chase. Thus players left in droves, including myself, Majiin, Kevor and many more. Does that last part sound familiar?
WotC eventually let go of said LoL person, and hired one of the greatest MTG players of all time to run their ORGANIZED PLAY SYSTEM. What is organized play, you ask? Great question. It’s what I mean when I say “competitive”, because it encompasses all levels of competition and not just the tippy top.
Organized play in card games is important for several reasons. First, it helps to create a fair and balanced environment where players of all skill levels can compete against each other. Second, organized play provides an opportunity for players to socialize and make new friends. Finally, organized play helps to promote the game itself by creating a community of players who can share their love of the game with others.
Roads to Worlds
Check out these sweet flow charts for both MTG Arena and the paper version of the game. On MTG Arena you can grind small tournaments that let you play matches whenever you want throughout the month, to earn qualifier points to join the monthly qualifier tournament that would allow you into a larger pro-level tournament, that would then allow you into Worlds. There are also last-chance qualifiers you can pay money to join if you don’t have the time to climb the ladder or grind tournaments.
Oops, sorry, this is the MTG Organized play chart from their golden age seven years ago, which would allow you to play tournaments weekly at your local game store and move all the way to worlds. Something to constantly grind at any level of play. I share this because figuring out an OP system that works is not that difficult, it’s been done before. Take what works and make it your own. Gauntlet never needed to be a joke, it just needed to matter more.
Here we go, this is what MTG has right now:
This amazing MTG player brought back the ability to go from playing in your local game store or grind online all the way to Worlds. No matter what level of player you are, there is always a tournament for you to be preparing for or playing in, every single week. This is on top of their monthly tournaments in Arena, which you can join for gems and win cash prizes up to $2,500 – while not part of the competitive system, it’s still good practice and great fun because who doesn’t love winning stuff and playing for stakes? There are also a bunch of play-on-demand tournaments where you can win more cards, cosmetics and in-game currency.
There is literally something for everyone to do all the time. There are multiple competitive and casual Constructed formats. Multiple competitive and casual Limited formats. Bo1 and Bo3 count towards the same ladder. There is even a separate Limited and Constructed ladder.
To be frank, there is so much stuff going on that I can’t keep up with it. But that’s fine because you figure out the stuff that’s important to you. I can figure out when the competitive stuff happens, because they send out a weekly update outlining everything from store sales, to balance schedules, to every last event. The casually-inclined players can also find the things that matter to them. How in LoR we don’t have updates like this for the weeks between patch notes is beyond me.
God forbid I suggest we get one of these things in LoR (BO3 Ladder, just do it), lest half the community thinks the whole thing will fall apart – the wait times!? The round times!? The poro working conditions!?
That’s the joy of having something for everyone. Everyone can find something that brings them back to the game.
INSTEAD, this is what we have: below there's a list of the League Partner Program Members, the ones from before I was brought into the program, the OGs…
Amy the Amazonian: Love her, she’s around the community – but she plays mainly MTG now.
Alanzq: World Champion. Used to play the game all day every day, won the most prestigious tournament possible – he's now mostly grinding Lost Ark.
BBG: Used to play the game all day everyday to thousands of concurrent viewers and would now rather stream TFT to what I can only imagine are the ten people in his hotel’s staff.
Jeff Hoogland: Went back to MTG. Sometimes you get lucky.
Swim: Even before he was rightfully removed from the game, was bored and was looking for a way to jump ship to another game.
Grapplr: Still streams, but Multiverse and other games are pulling him away.
Nicmakesplays: Is one of the biggest reasons I am writing this to you today. An absolute pillar of the community. Used to stream all day. He still streams but other games are taking him away on a regular basis.
SaucyMailman: Streamed full time and was half of the Runeterrable Radio podcast along with THE Blevins. Has hung up his content creation gloves for new ventures.
Silverfuse: Is still in and out of the game for reasons in and outside the game.
Apologies if I missed anyone. This list is being made off the top of my head – I won’t keep digging into every last person, but even among the newer members there are many that no longer play or stream the game (I miss you chat!). The point I am trying to make here is that there is an obvious pattern, and this isn’t even counting the never ending tweets of members of the community taking a step away, some for a break and some forever.
LoR’s most enfranchised players, and more, are leaving in droves and the reason for this is simple: there are not enough reasons to play the game. This frustrates me to no end – all I want to do is play the game until my eyes bleed from staring at my screen, and my credit card gets declined because I have purchased too many clickable boards. There is no excuse for having a rabbid customer base and not giving them what they want – this is akin to McDonald's only selling cheeseburgers between 5:00 pm and 5:03 pm.
I mean, take our money and give us what we want!
Meanwhile, the top MTG streamers and Youtubers have been making content for 5-10 years and rarely venture into other games because there is so much to do in MTG. Though this is what it looks like when they do get paid by Twitch to cheat on their beloved game….
There are of course other reasons for this, but let’s not kid ourselves: if BBG and Alan aren’t the canaries in the “Is the game in a good place?" coal mine, I don't know what is…
… one moment, the Ruby Orange spritzer is out, time to put on the big girl pants, Tequila and Coca Cola from here on out… don’t judge me!
Second Letter to Riot
The irony should not be lost on us: Riot started by saying LoR wouldn’t be an esport, and by that they meant an overly competitive game…
… and then they proceeded to make the perfect competitive digital card game. They fixed all the problems MTG has with variance, non-games because of mana, price, and stale formats because cards are tied to paper. They were poised to take over, and then they insisted on going down another… path.
They were so poised to take over, in fact, that Magic came out with its own digital-only format, Alchemy, so that they could compete with LoR. Of course WoTC botched it by price-gouging the shit out of their players, but still they did it, something I thought we would never see – and they continue pushing it, by the way, jamming it down their players throats because WoTC knows they need to be able to compete against digital-only games that have the advantage of not being stuck in horrible metas.
You think one month of Kai'Sa is bad? Try years of Teferi or Nissa. MTG’s golden format, Standard (which comprises all the cards released in the last two years) often has a Kai'Sa-level deck that comes out in the first week and stays for months if not years.
Okay, let’s bring this train wreck of an article full circle. Speaking of train wrecks, that's a good segway into looking to the future. Not all of my articles have been hits. I thought for once I’d try and suggest how to help Riot get things together while they were spending seven months “learning from their previous mistakes” (read: shotgunning beers and putting together 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles, I assume? Because they sure as fuck weren’t learning from their mistakes). Sidenote: I’d like to apologize to the amazing people at Riot that are fighting the good fight and trying to make the game better… in between shotgunning beers, I assume.
I wrote a second letter to Riot. Trying to outline the things that they could be doing to improve their organized play and asking the community to share their thoughts as well. Here was one of my tips…
Is this proof they are listening?
I wouldn’t assume that. Between LoR having one of the most successful MTG and LoR players/devs now in charge of Ranked, Gauntlet, Seasonals, and Worlds in RubinZoo, AND also having Davetron (who worked on MTG for seven years) heading the whole game, I am hopeful that they will finally start taking Legends of Runeterra to the heights the community has always known it deserves. Dave promised us a new roadmap by the end of Summer. Riot confirmed that it is still on the way, with a soft ETA of one month.
To say a lot is riding on this would be an understatement. Even I, with my rose-colored glasses on, am getting a bit worried/fed up. It really is starting to feel do or die. I still believe we are going to see a home run from the team as they lay out how they plan to pick MTG's pocket while setting up to steal its job, dog and record-setting bank account.
Frankly, it’s hard for things to get any worse. What are they going to do, cut ladder? We are all dying in the Shuriman desert together – they could offer us Braum's sweaty shirt to ring moisture from, and we would gladly rejoice.
I’m honestly not sure if we will see any changes to organized play in the roadmap since Riot's refocus on PvP is very recent. But here are the things that I think will make the biggest impact, in no particular order.
- A competitive limited format. They have announced this is coming next year, and it's going to be a challenge given how LoR is set up currently as a game, but it can be done (I can help playtest!). If this isn’t mentioned in some detail I’d be more upset than Majiin playing a Demacia deck.
- Lean into Best-of-Three. I know everyone is afraid of change, but if we are going to focus on the “core” players, let's go all the way. I think of myself as a pretty die-hard LoR player, and I want to be able to play Bo3 all day for something I actually care about. Ideally we would have multiple ways to do this: Ladder, Gauntlet, Tournaments etc. In MTGA you can pay a price to enter a “League” in which you play matches on your own schedule until you either get some number of wins (usually 4-9) or some amount of losses (usually 1-3), and then you get prizes like in-game currency, cards, skins, qualifier points or cold hard cash. This to me is the most important part of the puzzle.
- The ability to play custom games. Games where anything goes. 100 card decks, all champions, all regions. This would allow the community to come up with their own formats. Commander is the most popular type of Magic today and it was made by the community, not by the makers of the game. Let that sink in for a second.
- While we are making changes like this, we need to bring back cross-shard play, or put us all on one server. The segregation of the community into smaller communities has been one of the biggest problems LoR has had to face. Instead of one giant, vibrant community we have a bunch of smaller ones. This creates a never-ending amount of problems.
- Include Tournament Organizers into the OP System. If you are wondering what I mean by this, imagine MaRu and others having the ability to hold tournaments that give away qualifications or byes into Seasonals. In the perfect world, there would be a Pro series that you could qualify for. This allows Riot to focus on the larger tournaments, while TOs can run weekly tournaments and help build the community. These are the stepping stones that we need for someone to go from never playing the game all the way to the “Path to Pro” that was announced when I first started playing. I don’t even dare to dream of a LoR Pro Tour…
I’m honestly not sure what to expect from this roadmap. Also, it’s just a roadmap at the end of the day. We’ve had those before… If we see any major changes before next year I’ll be very happy. But these things take time, so I am willing to put my expectations on hold until next year.
I’m not sure how many more rug pulls or clusterfucks I can take, though. I am also starting to get tired of being an optimist, and I am very tired of waiting for them to get it together. The roadmap will be telling, how Worlds is handled will be interesting, and I am worried that there will be nothing for non-Worlds players to do at the end of the year, since they decided to cancel Seasonals in place of three weekends of Worlds? This is the exact kind of thing that shouldn’t be happening. You don’t want 99.99% of your player base to have nothing to do for two months. I can see this disaster coming down the road, and I really hope they do as well since it's a holdover from earlier in the year.
Alright… the tequila is gone and the beagle has started to snore, so I think it’s time to wrap it here.
I got some flack from my last article, that I was crying about Riot taking away what I wanted in the game. My first thought was that I posted my article on the website that I built… so, I mean, it’s my party and I can cry if I want to. I also realized I can’t and don’t want to please everyone, because that’s impossible.
Most of the things in my articles are meant to make you laugh or think, hopefully. I sure find them funny, or at the very least entertaining. If you made it this far, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and if you cracked a smile at any point then this… this was for you.