Today a major distinction was made, as we were told that winning the Vintage Championship does not make one a Vintage World Champion.
This year, for the first time ever, there will be two Vintage Championships. One will be held in Paris by the tournament organizers who were behind the Bazaar of Moxen, Europe's most prestigious Vintage tournament, and the second will be held by Nick Coss, who has run Eternal Weekend since its move from Pastimes/GenCon.
To start, the organizers behind the Bazaar of Moxen are genuine champions of Vintage. They are responsible for countless Europeans playing the format, and they helped turn Vintage into what it was a few years back in Europe. For years, Americans envied the attendance (and prize support) of the Bazaar of Moxen. If any European T/O were to get support from Wizards of the Coast for Vintage, it should be them. They deserve all accolades sent their way, and my future points in this post are in no way meant to detract from the tremendous work that they have done in championing the format, and creating the once thriving European Vintage community.
With all that said, and keeping that respect in mind, this change is a truly awful one.
Since 2003, we have referred to the victor of the Vintage Championship as the Vintage World Champion. Carl Winter, Mark Biller, Steve Menendian, Mark Hornung, Joel Lim, Brian Kelly and all others were received as the champions of the format. The distinction of the victor as Vintage World Champion is now impossible, as there are multiple champions when there can only be one.
What does this do?
For starters, European Vintage pilots who were interested in the title of world champion now have no incentive to fly to the United States to play. A statistically significant percentage of the competitors traveled to Eternal Weekend 2015 from Europe. Lacking the incentive to travel to the U.S. to play, I'd imagine that they won't.
Secondly, for those of us who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on cards, prepared, tested, and flew around the country to attain the title of the sole Vintage champion, the meaning of our quest is now significantly diminished, if not entirely removed. In running multiple Vintage Championships, there is no longer one acknowledged champion. Vintage Championships is no longer special. It is no longer the opportunity to compete against the best and claim your victory for that year, it is now just another large Vintage tournament. In running Vintage Champs in the U.S., and Europe, what's to stop there from being an online Vintage Champs? A Vintage Champs in Japan? If there is a Vintage Champs in Japan, and it nets 60 players, is it now more prestigious to win the N.Y.S.E. Open than to win Vintage Champs (because this one just so happened to be run in Japan)?
There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into running a large event, and it takes months upon months to organize. I know the amount of work that goes into Vintage Championships because I've seen it firsthand, and had an incredibly tiny role in it a few times. Nick Coss has done more for this format than any other T/O currently active. He has staked tens of thousands of dollars on the format and its community. He has run Vintage events through the dark times. He has promoted the format and the community at every opportunity. If there was one member of the Vintage community whom I'd deem absolutely critical, it would be Nick Coss. Everyone here owes him a debt of gratitude, either directly or indirectly.
The last Vintage Championship, run by Pastimes, had 187 players. It was the biggest attendance that they had ever had. Nick Coss, in his first year, surpassed that attendance by 50 players, with virtually no notice. In his second year, with notice, Eternal Weekend had 320 players. To my knowledge, no other American Vintage T/O can claim to have run a 300 man tournament, unless we go all the way back to before Magic rotated, and events were held in hotels. The most well-attended Vintage tournament I have ever seen was a Bazaar of Moxen several years back that had 382 players. In his third year, Nick had 482 competitors for Vintage Champs.
Nick's love of the format, work in sharing it, and tremendous efforts in running the best event possible, combined with the efforts of myriad other Vintage T/Os has helped to create a Vintage tournament that is more vibrant, better received, well-attended than anything that had existed before it. Consider that, at 482 players, Nick managed to nearly triple the attendance that Vintage Champs had just four years prior.
When you see success, you try to encourage it further. Wizards should be helping him here, and yet this will undoubtedly hurt him.
Vintage in Europe is ailing. America has achieved supremacy in terms of the best attended events, something that I wasn't sure I'd see anytime soon, let alone see at all. I love the format, and the community, and I am all for helping the Europeans rejuvenate their community, and return to where they were. But to destroy the title of Vintage World Champion, to make the title of Vintage Champion worth so much less, is at the very least odious, and at the most, offensive.
There is a way to do this. If you believe that the Vintage World Champion should be a product of a global community, you could run Vintage Championships once a year in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. You could run an annual World Championship once a year in one of those three places. You could alternate between continents. Would it be more difficult for American players? Yes. It would be more fair to the rest of the world though, and it would not deny us our champion. To run multiple Vintage Championships each year removes the incentive for many players to compete. It removes the incentive for many others to travel. It will take the efforts of Nick Coss, in particular and squander them.
I urge you to reach out to Helene Bergeot on Twitter, and to ask her to work towards solving this problem. We have had a Vintage World Champion since 2003. Will that title die this year? Please help us ensure that it doesn't.