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Subject: Rarity system => Pyramid scheme ? rss

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Mircea Pauca
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One point of design in MTG and a few other CCG's that really annoyed me and made me not enter fully 'the system' was the system of rarities, which really made it more a social pyramid or Ponzi scheme than a self-contained gaming system.

Think of Core X edition - 1 Rare, 3 Uncommon and 10 Common card in each deck (+ 1 Basic land, really useless since they enter the system with preconstructed decks etc.). There were several kinds of Rare cards that were fully worth 4 pieces each in several deck types. All 3 rarities had the same 'dilution' (121 types of each)

So, for each player having all 4, there would be 2 more players having the Uncommons but no Rare, and 9 more players having Commons only.
Sure, 'peasant Magic' can be fun, but it's not the same as competitive Magic, right ? And the competitive player RELIES on the many would-bes who buy boosters and trade away the Rare for a few more Uncommons, who trade with the bottom peasants for the Commons...

Or, it can be thought as lots of Commons lying around in folders, shoe boxes, donated around or sold in 1000's etc. In any case, a HUGE WASTE OF TREES !!

Things that can mitigate the problem: narrow specialization from a well developed secondary market: X has mainly Green, Y has mainly Black etc. Or by tribes, factions, shards etc. Also, some Rares are difficult to play and powerful, so they are needed only 1-2 per deck.

The recent Mythic Rares from Shards of Alara onwards make it more pyramidal, though not as much as it seems. Let's standardize the relative rarities in Shards:
Mythic Rare: 1/8 from 15 = 1:120
Rare: 7/8 from 53 = 1:60
Uncommon: 3 from 60 = 1:20
Common: 10 from 101 = 1:10

or a 12:1 pyramid factor. Don't know how much the mitigating factors work in this cycle ? (specialization, less than 4 needed ?)

By contrast, the Romanian system of Warcards was designed to be more 'friendly' to our limited market. All in all considered (rare Heroes needed only 1 per deck), the 'pyramid factor' was about 2 to 2.5:1. Just enough to feel like a CCG, make trading necessary, but not force so much economic distinction or waste of trees.

Most interested-enough players had a nearly-complete collection, able to play any archetype. I have ~1300 cards which make a collection ~90% functionally complete. At this point, deckbuilding and tactics way dominate the collection aspect.

BUT - that removed the 'drug-like' craving for just more cards ? and the massive 'cash cow' aspect for the producers of 'succesful' CCG's ?
unfortunately, Warcards was stopped after ~3 years (3 small sets and many separate expansion cards) - no. in total like one large MTG set.

So, if You the Player community wanted to do the CCG You wanted, which way would you prefer ? strongly pyramidal like Magic ? (maybe other systems are even more ?) or 'flatter' like Warcards ?
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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Come on! There are tree farmers in south Georgia struggling to make a living!
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Jeremy Beck
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See, this is a mitigating factor for most new players. Most of the newbs tend to favor a closer rare-to-common ratio for the most cost to benifit. Most competitive players and long term "die-hard" fans prefer the 65-1 style for the long term playability. If anyone has played Yu-Gi-Oh before, they underwent a rule change within the first six months to allow the rarity to really play out. The original rules allowed any card to be played at any time, which killed the value of the booster pack. The "two" good cards in any pack was not worth the price tag for the buyer. The difference of MTG is that the main deck is composed many of the lower-end cards in order to create a strategy. To be honest, most players who are any kind of decent deck builder can win without a single rare card.

I don't much care either way, but if rarity was really a factor, I would chose a different game.

My .02
 
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Personally, I prefer a LCG-style system to a CCG style system in many ways. (In the former, sets are released only in boxes that contain non-random selections of cards, though some can be rarer and exist in fewer quantities.)

I suppose that's not directly related to the 'flatness' of rarity though and can exist alongside either a tiny or massive difference in rarity.

Anyways, I'm not sure a flatter rarity is good.

Though there are some great rare cards, most utility cards seem to be common - great for ensuring drafted decks are playable and also for getting those utility cards into players' hands.

Rarer cards tend to be more expensive - exactly the type you'd want less often and exactly the kind of card that may not go in so many decks.

I only draft about 4-6 times a year so have a relatively small collection. I'm glad I'm able to have 'playsets' of the cards I really want, rather than just having 2 of everything, as may happen if there was no rarity (or a far flatter one).

Complaints about 'wasted cardboard' seem redundant when they can be passed on to new players or potentially sold in bulk.
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Mircea Pauca
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Those who argue that deeply pyramidal rarity is good - can you explain better why do you consider it so ?

or it's more an argument of convenience 'I climbed this ladder with $$$, now let's not let too many others climb it' ?

An intermediate position between LCG and CCG I've saw in World of Warcraft Trading Card Game where preconstructed 'Raid Decks' like _Onyxia's Lair_ had all cards, but some only 2 of each where the rules allowed 4. So one could marginally improve a deck by buying 2 identical sets, and there did form a secondary market with clear but not huge price difference between 'scarce', 'marginal' and 'extra' cards.
 
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Um, I don't think you understand what a Ponzi/Pyramid scheme is. From wikipedia:

"A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned."

"A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, often without any product or service being delivered."

WotC pays for all manufacturing costs up front. They've sustained this business model for 16 years. They provide a physical product as well as their MTGO service.

There is no Ponzi/Pyramid scheme here, move along.
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Nick Short
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ROMagister wrote:
An intermediate position between LCG and CCG I've saw in World of Warcraft Trading Card Game where preconstructed 'Raid Decks' like _Onyxia's Lair_ had all cards, but some only 2 of each where the rules allowed 4. So one could marginally improve a deck by buying 2 identical sets, and there did form a secondary market with clear but not huge price difference between 'scarce', 'marginal' and 'extra' cards.
Raid decks are not tournament playable decks, they are a specialized casual deck that is only used for a group of players to play against, but it is not legal for tournament or even simple 2 player play. For all actual tournament legal cards, WoW uses an almost identical rarity scheme as Magic.

However, both WoW and MtG have Preconstructed decks, which are completely playable decks out of the box, and inlcude several uncommons and a few synergistic rares. Players know what they are getting, and it allows for a playable deck with a minimum of investment. Of course, they aren't perfect tournament caliber decks, but they are meant more as a launching point, or a way to get in to casual play.

ROMagister wrote:
Those who argue that deeply pyramidal rarity is good - can you explain better why do you consider it so ?
I'd argue the terminology, but that's beside the point. There is a very good reason why Magic has many times more commons in circulation than rares. Frankly, the most played cards in Magic are commons and uncommons. If you look through decklists for major tournaments, you'll see a wealth of Mulldrifters, Broken Ambitions, Vivid lands, Terrors, and other commons. These are the cards that go into every deck that supports them, and there needs to be many more of them around and they need to be extremely easy to obtain.

For even powerful rares, not every deck that can play them does so, and they are frequently not played with 4 copies. They are frequently at the top of one's mana curve, and you are unlikely to need very many copies of a given rare. Plus, they are actually a lot easier to replace than the workhorse commons designed to fill a deck's basic needs.

There's an interesting variant format called Reject Rare Draft. In it, everyone brings 45 rares, which are redistributed amongst the players. Then the rares are drafted and players build decks from what they receive. The format is always hectic because the decks are missing everything you expect to have in a deck. There is no creature removal, no mana acceleration, no enchantment or artifact destruction, very few cheap creatures, very little card draw. You are missing all the basic funtions! Commons and uncommons are the backbone of the game, so of course there must be many many more of them.
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Jeremy Beck
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ROMagister wrote:
Those who argue that deeply pyramidal rarity is good - can you explain better why do you consider it so ?

or it's more an argument of convenience 'I climbed this ladder with $$$, now let's not let too many others climb it' ?


I climed this ladder with money.

I've got to be honest with you, I HATE that phrase. I hear it all the time regaurding magic.

THIS IS A LIE.

Bet you 50 bones that a deck of only commons could still beat a good deal of people's "ladder of money" decks.

I prefer the higher rarity because of the price of the commons, which, BTW, are insanely cheap and THE MAJORITY OF ANY DECK.

If you need rares in your deck, you have a problem with your play style.

Sorry if you disagree, but COME ON. With all the problems with the game, I never had a problem the rarity.

With the addiction, yes, but the rarity, no...

P.S. I mean no ill will or dislike for ROMagister. I never want for any one to think me an A-Hole, but I get very frustrated with the misconception of a non-issue.
 
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Mircea Pauca
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Thanks Jennifer for pointing out the 'official' definitions. And right, while MTG is not *mainly* intended as an 'investment vehicle', the effects of marketing-driven design policies DO have similar elements.
- Prizes (at the top) give an incentive - yes, cash, travel - to have a wide collection. If buying a Playset (4 of each card) and if cards enter the global pool only by booster cases, LOTS of other Playsets remain: 2 more Uncommon and 9 Common playsets - almost free.
- Say a new player, has just bought 1-2 Theme decks and opens their eyes for more. Buys a 1000 Commons bundle, or takes the 'extra' left by veterans. Soon they will want... Uncommons, and in the process of opening more... boosters (themselves, or their provider like Starcitygames etc) they or others soon get more than they need... Commons, which will soon reach... new players, which will restart the cycle ! How can this NOT be like a pyramid scheme ?

And Jeremy's notes: true, playing skill matters A LOT, but the best honed card collection still matters much for the fine edge at the top.
Right, it's stupid to choke on Rare caviar and not use the best of Uncommon-meat-and-Common-potatoes.
Last I checked - and this was THIS rotation, not ages ago - most competitive decks needed 4-10 rares for the main strategy and 8-10 Rare Lands for the essential mana tuning. These last ones were desired by everyone, almost every kind of deck could benefit a bit or more. Oh, add the Sideboard too... good place for specialized Rares.

And Junk Rares... bleah ! I now understand why players can get so frustrated at opening yet another booster and getting that (along Uncommons and Commons that soon will reach... new players!). I understand that it's impossible to make them equally good, that variety is needed etc. but I understand Mark Rosewater even wrote a policy article justifying the deliberate design of 'junk rares' ?!?
 
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ROMagister wrote:
Those who argue that deeply pyramidal rarity is good - can you explain better why do you consider it so ?

or it's more an argument of convenience 'I climbed this ladder with $$$, now let's not let too many others climb it' ?


I've already given a few reasons. If you want me to elaborate, first dispute the points!

Your hypothesis seems ridiculous. Frankly, I'd much rather have a bunch of friends (and my future self) better able to enjoy the game at a lesser cost if that would be the real effect of rarities being eliminated.

I actually think that eliminating rarities would have adverse effects for most folk involved.
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Jeremy Beck
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ROMagister wrote:


And Jeremy's notes: true, playing skill matters A LOT, but the best honed card collection still matters much for the fine edge at the top.
Right, it's stupid to choke on Rare caviar and not use the best of Uncommon-meat-and-Common-potatoes.
Last I checked - and this was THIS rotation, not ages ago - most competitive decks needed 4-10 rares for the main strategy and 8-10 Rare Lands for the essential mana tuning. These last ones were desired by everyone, almost every kind of deck could benefit a bit or more. Oh, add the Sideboard too... good place for specialized Rares.


Go buy a shards of alara common/ uncommon x4 set and tell me that you NEED rares. The specialty lands are no longer rare, the monsters are now MASSIVE and the combos can be created without ever using one rare. (see the boomerang on a stick method, it will knock your socks off) Plus most control cards are all common.

The only part I'm conceded conceding is the "fine edge" point.

Having a nice kicker is great, but the deck should be able to compete without any rares. If you can't, DO NOT DRAFT. You will get Ca-rushed (i.e. crushed with emphasis) and will really feel like jerking the wheel into a GD bridge impartment.
P.S. Scrubs and Tommy Boy references.
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Jerry Martin
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I just looked at the top eight of the Lincoln, NE Regionals top 8. All the winning decks in the tournament ran between 28-32 rares. Obviously, this shows that in order to be at the top of the game you should be playing with rares.

Magic rarity is designed with the plan that rares will be used and needed for "best" decks.

Can a skilled player with no rares beat an unskilled player will a bunch? Yes

When it comes down to the most skilled players against each other though they want the best deck they can get. This means they will require the playsets of the expensive rares. The reason they are expensive is because they are played in the best decks.

Most professional players are part of teams that share their cards so that the financial burden is lessened. Top players usually win so much product that they don't have to worry about the "cost" of cards that much anyway.

Do you need all the best rares at your kitchen table? NO! Get what you want and play for fun. If you are specifically looking for a certain rare card it is cheaper to by the cards on the aftermarket anyway.
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Mircea Pauca
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OK, I understood so:
The rarity system directly affects Limited: Draft and Sealed formats. One effectively plans more around the Uncommons available, supported by the best effects of selected Commons, and the Rare (of opponents) can be relied to be just... rare.

In competitive Constructed formats, there is effectively no limit for the top players (the ones that can afford the above-mentioned 28-32 Rares) and, more or less, the real-life Budget for the rest.

I've covered the point about card sharing within a team under 'specialization'. Some utility cards (including special lands) may need duplication, so that increases demand and market price even more...

I still do not understand the gist of Jeremy's affirmation:
Quote:
Most competitive players and long term "die-hard" fans prefer the 65-1 style for the long term playability.

Please elaborate *what* makes it so ?
Suppose one did get some good rares. Can one really rely that others do not have the rares to counter or compete similarly ? or only slowly entering their card pools, just due to real economic disparity ?

Please come with an argument for *players*, not company's marketing.
 
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stephen
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When I was playing a lot of magic many yeard ago, it wasnt the financial value of rares that was interesting or whether I could build a competition deck with them, it was simply that fact that the rarity system in magic meant that amongst my circle of friends I could never be sure of what cards I would be seeing from one game to the next. It was this aspect of magic that really made the game for me and kept us buying the boosters. The huge numbers of different cards of varying rarity made each game of magic unique.

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Jeremy Beck
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ROMagister wrote:
I still do not understand the gist of Jeremy's affirmation:
Jamesstrife wrote:
Most competitive players and long term "die-hard" fans prefer the 65-1 style for the long term playability.

Please elaborate *what* makes it so ?
Suppose one did get some good rares. Can one really rely that others do not have the rares to counter or compete similarly ? or only slowly entering their card pools, just due to real economic disparity ?

Please come with an argument for *players*, not company's marketing.


Disregaurd the marketing.

The reason I feel that way, and feel free to go against me at any point, is because the current rarity forces the player to play a strategy. In another (i.e. more even rarity) game, players CAN buy their way to victory buy having the most elite cards.

If you understand that in a MTG tournament, anyone can beat you "regaurdless" of the money they invest, the flavor of the game keeps renewing every new playset. This in turn brings in new players who see the game from a different angle and continue the cycle. I lose one tournament by a combination of good cards and lack of defensive spells, and start to retool with new cards and a better strategy.

The current rarity allows player to invest little and still compete on most levels of play without losing enjoyment from it. Bad beats will happen, and super rare decks will destroy you from time to time, but there is never a better feeling then beating someone with your 27 dollar deck when you know they spent 120 plus on theirs.

NOTE: "Regaurdless" is in quotes because I can't beat you with 3-4 boosters worth of cards when you have several playsets from which to choose without a LOT of luck or unbeilivable booster pickups. I hope, though, that you get the meaning.

Syvanis wrote:

When it comes down to the most skilled players against each other though they want the best deck they can get. This means they will require the playsets of the expensive rares. The reason they are expensive is because they are played in the best decks.

Do you need all the best rares at your kitchen table? NO! Get what you want and play for fun. If you are specifically looking for a certain rare card it is cheaper to by the cards on the aftermarket anyway.


Couldn't agree more. The difference being that I am not in the regional championships. If I was going to compete on a US staged regional championship or qualifier, I would be playing a whole different type of deck and strategy. For most played games, for me anyway, I want to have fun.

I never have fun at Big tournaments, mostly because of a-hole, over-enthusiastic, rich, whiney, bad-tempered, arguementative, sore losers who (I'm not making this up) I used to get paired with every first three rounds. By the end of round two, I once was so drained I had to forfeit midmatch third round. The guy I was going against started smack talking me afterwards. Saying his deck quote "Intimidated" me.
 
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Eric Jome
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ROMagister wrote:
So, if You the Player community wanted to do the CCG You wanted, which way would you prefer?


Clearly, there are some people who prefer one type and some who prefer the other. Enough are in both groups to sustain a business in either one.

Magic uses a rarity scheme to fuel sales. It has nothing to do with game balance - the designers assume now that all players will all have all cards when testing a given format. In fact, the primary problems in design now are the times when something slips through a crack in that policy... and they are forced to restrict or ban it or (more likely) wait for it to rotate out of the current tournament scene.

Other games, like the LCG games for Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu or Knizia's Blue Moon, attempt to give much of the flavor of deck construction and game play found in collectible games without the rarity scheme. And by all accounts these are successful too.

Both models seem like viable strategies for a business.
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Some points to consider;

1) In the real Magic tournament scene, no one buys boosters. You buy singles. You playtest with proxies and, when the time comes to buy your deck, you buy the individual cards you need. A serious competitor would not flinch at any cost for the single deck - the most expensive decks don't amount to a hill of beans compared to what you would spend trying to get something as good by buying boosters.

2) In the past, the designers did frequently put powerful cards in the rare slots, giving incentive to players to buy a lot to acquire those cards... and they realized this plan was limiting their growth and sales. In recent years, they have concentrated a great deal more on making rare cards not power cards, but rather strategy cards. That is, if you want to play a particular strategy, you often need specific rares. But to play a powerful deck of good cards with an interesting strategy and effective game play, you don't need anything in particular from a set. This change was necessary to make the game accessible for new players and to empower alternative competitive formats like sealed and draft play.

3) Rarity has no purpose in the game as a game. It is strictly a marketing tool to sell more cards. That tool is very useful for generating a lot of sales - it isn't going away anytime soon.
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Jeremy Beck
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cosine wrote:

3) Rarity has no purpose in the game as a game. It is strictly a marketing tool to sell more cards. That tool is very useful for generating a lot of sales - it isn't going away anytime soon.

Bravo. What a great way to put it.
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Nick Short
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cosine wrote:
3) Rarity has no purpose in the game as a game. It is strictly a marketing tool to sell more cards. That tool is very useful for generating a lot of sales - it isn't going away anytime soon.
That's not true, rarity has no purpose in the standard constructed environment, but it is everything in limited (limited = drafts and sealed deck). The limited format has a habit of amplifying a card's impact. You have fewer cards in your deck, so draw and mill effects are both carry much more impact. Creatures are inconsistent, so removal is amazingly important.

The simple truth is that many rares would be incredibly unbalancing if they were more readily available in limited environments. Wrath of God is a fair and properly costed spell in constructed, but the play style of limited is such that Wrath can absolutely wreck a player (especially if more decks were able to have multiple copies). It is important that players not have consistent access to such cards in a draft, and the rarity system is the only thing that compensates for them. Yes, your opponent may have a Wrath of God, but they are incredibly unlikely to have more than one. Why, because their odds of having one are 60 times less than their chance of having a Terror or similar "fair" removal spell.

If you had a flatter rarity, either they would have to stop printing such cards (or at least overcost them into constructed unplayability) to keep them from terrorizing limited, or limited would suffer horribly as more overly swingy cards are allowed to flood the format.

As a big fan of limited play, the current rarity scheme is very important to me, and I wouldn't want to see it changed to where rares were more accessible.

Basically, limited play is much like the game as Richard Garfield envisioned it. Everyone has a pile of cards put together in such a way that they play well, but only having a small smattering of the truly powerful cards. In this environment, one or two strong rares can be effective, but can be overcome; but not many more than that.
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Mircea Pauca
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Does anyone here mean Garfield himself didn't believe so many players would buy so many boosters just for the little extra competitive edge ? or that was changed by marketeers after the basic design ?
 
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Quote:
Does anyone here mean Garfield himself didn't believe so many players would buy so many boosters just for the little extra competitive edge ? or that was changed by marketeers after the basic design ?


Actually, yes.

Back in the design stages, it was considered that nobody would be crazy enough to buy more than about $20 worth of product. (This is also the period where WotC created a subdivision called Garfield Games, so that Magic's failure wouldn't bring down their core product line of The Primal Order.) Rarity was then seen both as a thematic issue, a rules issue, a complexity issue and as an emergency way of handling cards that were degenerate in large multiples. Like, say, moxes. If the maximum number of commons a group would reasonably see would be six or eight, then a single Ancestral Recall shouldn't break things.

The principle use of rares, though, was to give a player something unique and special to their deck only, whether it be Kormus Bell or Animate Wall or Lord of the Pit or the Hive or Time Walk. A way of being memorable and special.

The nobody-will-buy-more-than-two-decks-and-a-few-boosters theory was horribly demolished at the first GenCon when it hit the market. And that's about when the Internet started growing and creating card lists.


I should note way back in Fallen Empires, the better cards were backloaded to common rather than rare, and people were very upset. That, plus Fallen Empires's huge overprinting issues.

After a few years, marketing and R&D was able to catch up and actually plan stuff, but it took a while to get in front of Magic's runaway fad start.


-Chris Page
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