At this point, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Stephen ‘Crokeyz’ Croke is among the most influential MTG personalities today. His daily streams attract thousands of viewers regularly, his decks almost instantly become part of the meta, and there’s even a meme going around that everything you face today in MTG Arena is a ‘Crokeyz list’.
Who is Crokeyz?
Loved by Magic fans for his off-beat and entertaining personality, Crokeyz is also a respected figure in the game’s pro scene. It’s hard to believe that it was less than two years ago when he played his first game of Magic ever. Before December 2018, he used to play other card games like Gwent and Artifact. After making a switch to MTG Arena, he made a name by establishing himself as one of the most consistent streamers and content creators out there. He has also been putting in impressive results in constructed formats Arena has to offer – at this point it is hard to even count how many times Crokeyz has been #1 on the Mythic ladder, with the most recent one being his Historic Jund Sacrifice decklist.
His dedication and skill are part of it, but I’d argue there also another reason why Crokeyz has become such an important figure in Magic community. Slowly but steadily, he eventually came to represent a new type of a competitive MTG player.
The Story So Far
MTG Arena has fundamentally changed the way the pro scene and its hierarchy worked. MagicFest grinding, Players Tour qualifying and such are not the only measures of your success as a competitive player nowadays. Arena offers another path – you can earn a name for yourself by being a Mythic ladder grinder, and Crokeyz’s journey in Magic demonstrates just that.
WOTC did recognize this movement and for the past two years they have been actively trying to figure out a new organized play system that would integrate this new wave of Arena grinders into the old, established pro scene. Tying both paper Magic and Magic esports together is not an easy task, and Wizards are on the long path of trial and error here. It’s a whole another topic – but you still have to admit, one definitely can’t blame WOTC for ignoring Arena grinders.
Changes can be unsettling, and Arena itself is not without its flaws both as a competitive platform and a piece of software. And given for how long the Magic Pro scene had existed without much evolution, it’s completely understandable that ‘old’ pros are finding it hard sometimes to acknowledge Mythic ladder grinding as something equal to Grand Prix circuit grinding.
In the early days of Arena, you could even earn your spot in the big stages (the first Mythic Invitational) by finishing in the top ranks of the Mythic ladder, and competition was fierce back then. Nowadays, merely finishing in the top 1200 each month qualifies you for a Mythic Qualifier, so there is no incentive for finishing #1 – as it offers no additional rewards. Having said that, finishing in the top spot is no easy task either, as you would have to maintain a solid win rate over a large number of games.
The existence of Magic Online (also commonly known as MODO) adds another twist to the dynamic here. Arena has a lingering reputation of a ‘casual platform’, and Magic Online is seen as a primary competitive online avenue. And while it is true that MODO has a tougher competition on average than Arena, it is also the fact that nowadays almost all Magic pros – MPL members, Rivals league members and Challengers – do the majority of their testing on MTG Arena. The competition in high Mythic can be very intense – and has been for a while now.
Now, back to Crokeyz and his latest initiative. It’s really great to see that he always looking to make some small steps to change this whole dynamic. Last week, Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica champion Andrew Elenbogen tweeted out:
This post generated a ton of interesting opinions. It was rather curious how the discussion outright separated into two different lanes. The long-time pros like Jon Finkeland Sam Black were mostly laying out their takes on how the first 9 positions should be ordered relative to each other. Meanwhile, Magic streamers and regular players have all came to the defense of #1 Mythic spot as a feat that should be at least in the ‘same league’ as all those other achievements.
Crokeyz retweeted this post, jokingly mocking Elenbogen’s stance in his well-known ‘banter’ manner:
The discussion continued in this thread, and I urge you to check it out for pure entertainment – a hilarious read. Hats off to both Andrew and Crokeyz for their good-spirited demeanour in this one. You always find it very refreshing when Magic competitors are able to dish out and handle some trash talk without taking offense. This is something a living healthy pro community needs more of, and not less! So, from this discussion Crokeyz then had the idea:
Many pros answered this call-to-arms, and Crokeyz definitely had an abundance of challengers to pick from. Again, all of them were nothing but humorous about the whole ‘paper boomer’ meme, and, additionally, the charity clause attached did fit the spirit of the event perfectly:
‘That all seems neat,’ you will say, ‘but why should I be interested in this event in the first place?’ Well, the entertainment value set aside, this gauntlet really has a symbolic meaning to it more than any other. The funny premise of ‘new kids vs paper boomers’ actually represents a distinct disconnect that exists in the Magic community – between the established paper pros and the upcoming Arena generation. Sometimes it manifests in Twitter’s ‘hot takes’ and heated arguments, other times it just sits there quietly – almost like a classic father/son dychotomy. It will take time to reunite these different points of view – it is happening, but slowly.
And this is why these initiatives like Crokeyz’s gauntlet are so important. Wizards will do their part to eventually come up with the best modern version of organized play, where everyone’s achievements are placed on a fair scale. Meanwhile, we as a community should be embracing changes as well, trying to build up a culture of tolerance and respect towards each other’s achievements. And Crokeyz’s gauntlet is really nothing but a much needed step in that direction. It is a breath of fresh air, a manifestation of an undivided community, spiced up with a little banter and showmanship.
Meet “The Paper Boomers”
- Seth Manfield (@SethManfield) – 2015 World Champion, five Grand Prix wins, four Pro Tour top eights. MPL member.
- Matt Sperling (@sickkofit) – 3 Pro Tour top eights, Grand Prix San Jose 2012 winner, Rivals League member.
- Sebastian Pozzo (@sebastianpozzo) – 2016-17 Constructed Master, four Grand Prix top eights, including a win at GP Santiago 2018. Rivals League member.
- Andrew Elenbogen (@Ajelenbogen) – Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica 2018 winner, 6 Grand Prix top eights.
- Michael Majors (@MichaelJMajors) – 4 Grand Prix top eights, including a win at GP San Diego 2015. 3 Pro Tour top 16 finishes. In July 2017, he joined Wizards as a member of the Play Design.
- Christian Calcano (@CCalcano) – 1 Pro Tour Top 8, 3 Pro Tour Top 16s, and 9 Grand Prix Top 8s with 2 wins.
- Brandon Burton (@sandydogmtg) – Grand Prix Indianapolis 2016 champion, Top 16 2017 Magic Online Championship, a renowned MODO grinder.
- Austin Bursavich (@mtghofbot) – Grand Prix Dallas 2019 winner, Players Tour Phoenix Top 4, two Pro Tours top eights.
- Where: Crokeyz’s Twitch Channel
- Date and Time: July 29, Wednesday, 4 PM CET.
- Format and Rules: 8 best-of-three matches on Arena where Crokeyz attempts to defend the ‘new kids’ flag against The Paper Boomers. Crokeyz to play each opponent once and each picks their choice of either Standard or Historic.
Below are eight decks by Crokeyz, and also 8 lists run by his opponents.