Pro Tour Magic Origins hit the books this weekend, and with it a host of important subjects were solidified. We have a new Pro Tour Champion, a Standard metagame shape, and we locked in the 24 slots for the World Championships, as well as the Player of the Year and all the World Magic Cup captainships. All this aside, the highlight of the weekend's events for me was Helene Bergeot's announcements about the changes to Organized Play coming for the next year.
You can find a summary of the changes here.
I'll break down the major points, and offer a little commentary on my personal opinion on the changes.
Last week I spent much of my soapbox time tearing down some of the fundamental structure of the PPTQ system. I have a lot of problems with the way the path to the Pro Tour is designed, and I think there are many opportunities to improve that system to benefit those grinding it. I asked Helene on Twitter if there were internal feedback loops in place to review the system based on data they've received, and while her response seemed somewhat dismissive at the time, it makes much more sense given the major changes she announced this weekend. I seem to have merely jumped the gun a bit.
1. The structure of the seasons is being re-aligned to allow a few weeks between the end of the PPTQ season and the RPTQ itself. This is intended to give players qualifying at the end of the season time to make travel arrangements, as some of the RPTQ destinations are quite removed from the PPTQs that are feeding them.
· This is a very interesting change that will take time to process. While it is great that players who Q in the final week have time to make travel accommodations, and that it gives players who Q early in the season a window to re-familiarize with the format, it also reduces the length of the season and subsequently the number of chances you have to qualify for the RPTQ.
2. RPTQs will be held over a pair of weekends to accommodate any potential local events that interfere (i.e., Grand Prix).
· Excellent solution to the "have to skip the GP for the RPTQ" problem
3. TOs of RPTQs are allowed to hold "Last Chance Qualifiers" (LCQs) for the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier just prior to the event itself.
· This is huge. One of the major gripes I had with the system before this weekend was the absence of the PTQ road trip feel that comes with being qualified while your friends are not. The fact that non-Q'd players get a chance to travel to the event and hope to grind in prior to the RPTQ makes a much better road trip storyline than just watching your buddy play for a day – even if they largely amount to the same thing. This also helps to offset some of the problems with the reduced season length I mentioned in (1). Personally I'd expect to go for the LCQ at any given RPTQ I have friends attending when I'm not personally qualified. On the other hand, this may be the most difficult PPTQ of any given season, as most players will likely be regional end-bosses trying to get the last minute invite.
4. Two MTGO RPTQs per PPTQ season. Players would qualify to play in the online RPTQ through the normal paper-Magic PPTQ process.
· Huge news for places like South Africa and Hawaii, where the geographical remoteness makes the feasibility of attending a "local" RPTQ prohibitive. Throwing a bone to these places is low cost for WotC, though playing out high-level events on MTGO has been known to have its own host of problems.
My impression of the changes to the PPTQ/RPTQ system is overwhelmingly positive. While I think there is still room to grow – for example, there still needs to be an incentive for players to qualify for the RPTQ beyond the stepping-stone to the PT (in order to make playing in the RPTQ a goal unto itself) – but these changes are major movement in the right direction. There is a sense that they recognize some of the issues that made this system feel like a regression compared to the old PTQ system, and are working toward regaining some of what was lost. The old system had some problems, it's true, but it was successful in a lot as well, and throwing those successes away in favor of a new system isn't necessary.
Series-Style Events Run by Independent Organizers
Another major change to the qualification system, this is a way for Wizards to integrate competitions like the Star City Games Invitational or the TCGplayer MaxPoint Series Championship and Invitational into the Pro Tour hunt. While it will likely be much more difficult to qualify through these means, as the competition at many of these invitational tournaments is quite fierce, it does put a carrot at the end of the stick for players to work toward. Having to decide whether to pursue the Pro Tour or an Independent Tournament Circuit was a frustrating choice, and allowing for players to do both simultaneously is a great idea.
1. Planeswalker Point multipliers will be adjusted to reflect a level of competition of an event. Feeder events will be a 2x multiplier, while Finals (or invitational) events will be 4x.
· I'm not sure how many people out there actually care about this at all, but it does give you more opportunity for Grand Prix byes. This further incorporates the two systems.
2. If a series is comprised of more than 20 qualifying events, "we will consider" awarding a Pro Tour invitation to the winner of the culminating event.
· The caveat of "we will consider" is important, because I think they are trying to avoid any issues with this allowance being taken advantage of – for example a local store holding an invite-only event after 20 "seed" events comprised of 8 players each. Most likely we'll see the invite relegated to the major sites' tournament series.
Grand Prix Updates
1. Reduction in the number of GPs for next year, reducing to 48.
10 in Asia/Pacific
12 in Europe
26 in North and Latin America
· I have no particular opinion of this change. Despite the reduction in GP volume, my home location is still privileged to have half a dozen or so within driving distance.
2. Simultaneously-run Grand Prix will be the same format. No more "Standard in the States, Limited in Europe" weekends.
5 Team GPs
3 Legacy GPs
9 Modern GPs
11 Limited GPs
20 Standard GPs
· Increasing the number of Team Limited events is great. Legacy retaining some number of GPs is a nice sign that the format is still on the radar. Given the major changes to the online support for Legacy (along with Vintage and Pauper) a clear sign that Legacy will remain a part of the competitive tournament scene is a welcome sight.
3. Revised/increased prize payout for super-large GPs (3000+), along with a more top-heavy payout overall.
· A complaint I've heard many times for these mega-GPs (the increased income is not being passed through to the players) seems to have been heard, though we will see how this shakes out. It's unlikely that many more than one or two GPs per year will hit the 3k player threshold. The change to the payout shape is probably a net positive since the GP winning prize was awfully small for the accomplishment it accompanied.
4. All players who earn a Pro Tour invite via Grand Prix will be awarded airfare, rather than just the Top 8 players.
· This should have been the case from day one. Earning the "prize" of an enormously expensive plane ticket is not a great feeling, and though I'm not privy to any of the numbers, I'm sure there are invites going unused do to an inability to afford the trip to the PT.
5. Record for Day 2 cutoff will be changed to 6-3, rather than 7-2 as it has been in the past.
· This is the point that's had the most debate in my experience so far this week. Some players are very happy at the increased potential for playing on Day 2, while others are pointing to the inability to win the event from that record as a "feel bad." My personal position is that any opportunity to continue playing Magic at a Grand Prix on my initial entry fee is a good one, so I'm pleased with the slightly improved chances to do so. Others disagree, saying that it's a discouraging feeling to continue playing despite being mathematically eliminated from winning the event.
It seems like this is a great change for Limited events, where a 6-3 record will allow you to Draft on Day 2, while it could be disheartening to play a Constructed deck you aren't happy with for another day to try for min-cash.
An interesting aspect of this change is that the bar for three-bye pro players to make Day 2 has changed to a more significant degree. Previously, a record of 4-2 (or 66%) was required to make Day 2 after byes. Accordingly, a record of 4-2 in each day of the Grand Prix would result in a minimum cash finish. In the new paradigm a 3-3 (or 50%) record will suffice to see extra action, but a 5-1 will be required for the min-cash. This probably doesn't make for a big change in terms of who earns money from the event, but it does make the bar for entry to the Draft portion much lower for those with byes.
On the whole, this round of changes is a giant positive for people who are interested in playing more Magic and for those who are trying to get the most out of Wizards Organized Play. This one facet of WotC seems to really take the interests of their player base to heart, listen to their feedback, and appears to be open to making changes based on that input.
What are your thoughts on these changes? What do you like or dislike about the new PPTQ/RPTQ system? Do you feel that 6-3 in a GP Day 1 should move on to the next day, or does it erode the accomplishment of making a Day 2? Leave your thoughts in the comments!