Competitive Magic is for Plagiarists

I might be kicking a hornet’s nest with this post, but I feel this ought to be said. Competitive Magic: the Gathering, the kind played in tournaments, is usually a bunch of players copying and winning with strategies that someone else thought up, commonly called “netdecking.” When you go to tournaments, you can just about expect to see the same 5 decks over and over again. And it really makes me angry, to be honest.

Netdecking: Plagiarism by Another Name

Considering my background in English literature and composition, the idea of stealing an idea from someone else and claiming personal winnings from it is anathema. Where I come from, that kind of thing gets you kicked out of college, not 1st place in a Magic tournament. Any idiot can steal a term paper off the Internet, or copy from Wikipedia and the like; it doesn’t necessarily mean that they themselves have gotten any wiser from the copying. The same goes for Magic decks–just because you can copy a deck doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a star player.

I view each of my Magic decks as an original work of art. Maybe it’s not an optimized game-winning machine, but I thought of it and it’s mine–it represents my creativity and my thoughts. Running someone else’s deck feels wrong somehow, as if I’m trying to take credit for the work they did in putting the original concept together. I would rather lose with a deck I created than win with something I didn’t have the slightest hand in shaping.

Yet most tournament players these days win with decks they pulled off the internet, just like the player next to them did. Instead of introducing new ideas to the Magic: the Gathering community, they’re content to just take a “deck that wins” and profit from it. How does that express individuality and creativity? How does that prove anybody’s smarts? IT DOESN’T!

This is why I get angry when I’m in a tournament full of nothing but copycat decks. I resent it when my playing skill and deckcrafting ability is judged to be of poorer quality because my lovingly crafted strategy didn’t win against a netdeck. And I hate it when these punks act so smug about winning with their netdecks, as if their win proves they’re somehow “smarter” than I am, when all they did was search Google for a few minutes. I feel like shouting, “Go home and build your own blasted deck instead of copying from everyone else, and then we’ll see who wins!”


I’d like to have fun again in Magic. And right now, the competitive tournament mentality is absolutely WRECKING the Casual Magic scene that I used to enjoy so much. Most people just bring in their netdecks now for CASUAL games, instead of working on deck ideas they actually thought of and want to test out. And you just can’t test a new deck against a netdeck that’s designed to win in 5 turns or less–it’s not even a contest, just a foregone conclusion.

Maybe for everyone else, “fun” equals “beating the crap out of someone’s copied Tier 1 deck with your copied Tier 1 deck,” but it’s not fun for me, and it’s not fun for most of the Casual Magic players I’ve talked to, either. Competitive Magic definitely has its place, but I don’t want it in my living room, and I don’t want it in my casual games. Just for once, can we all just build our OWN strategies and actually have FUN?

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