Several key limitations impacted this study, and each had a different influence on our approach, the data we collected, and our ability to interpret that data.
The most potentially obvious limitation is that of generalizability: to what extent might we assume that the conclusions we could reach might apply to a broader set of activity networks of any sort? Put another way: how contextually narrow, if not unique, are our experiences and, thus, conclusions (whether about Magic, or analog games, or games)?
For those familiar with Magic, one of the most significant limitations was that of card choice/availability. We used (and had access to) only a selection of the sets of cards that were, at the time of our study, tournament-legal for Standard or Modern play. As a result, the deck each player constructed was not as powerful or competitive as it might otherwise have been with access to more cards, to higher numbers of the cards that we only had in limited quantities (e.g., having a full playset of four of any given card), or to an entirely different range of card blocks and their mechanics.
Similarly, the relative lack of play experience by two of the three participants (Kevin and Trevor) allowed for some valuable insights to be gained about approaching a new game and its protocols, but it also obscured the awareness and employment of protocols in a nuanced manner that more experienced players might have been able to recognize and comment on more quickly and easily.
Further, the number of games played by three players with a small number of such decks, the data from which might be called a set of boutique data, cannot be a fully representative quantitative sample of the protocols and rhetorical options available to players of Magic games (with varying levels of game knowledge, strategy, etc.) in a broad sense, especially given the two decades of Magic product releases and changes to gameplay. We believe our findings and interpretations thereof are useful for beginning a conversation about the intertwining of protocol, procedure, and rhetoric in analog contexts—games or otherwise—but we can hardly make a claim to a definitive statement on that intertwining.