On Wednesday morning, the Organized Play division of Wizards of the Coast announced major changes to their Premium level tournament structure. This grand announcement covered three major things:
1) The 2012 World Championship will be something more akin to the MTGO Championships held at Worlds every year. This new championship structure will feature 15 of the top players in the world from the current year, as well as last year’s winner – to defend his title. This tournament will be held at Gen Con, as opposed to being held at the end of the year, as they did in years past.
2) Nationals will no longer feed the World Championships (Read: OBV). STAY TUNED FOR HOW TO QUALIFY
3) The Pro Players Club in its current iteration is dead.
This announcement simultaneously provided a bunch of information and answered zero questions, which seemed to confuse the community at large. As the normal, sane human beings they are, the Magic community ran to Twitter and posted in the nicest way possible how they felt about the situation.
“I kind of wish they’d just kill the Pro Tour instead of slowly strangling it to death and then lying to us about it”
“Tonight I’m really glad I didn’t go the route of Professional Magic Player”
Well, sort of.
It seems like whenever Wizards makes an announcement that something major is going to change, everyone follows the same cycle. M10 rules changes, Double-faced cards, changes to the Magic Player Rewards mailing, and the initial switch to Planeswalker Points have all gone the same way.
Everyone proclaims the sky is falling. Out of everyone I have observed in my life, no group has been more resistant to change than Magic players. Everything that happens is “killing” Magic, and people refuse to even attempt to see an upside.
The community actually gathers facts. Once the initial blind rage subsides, the community realizes that there is nothing that can be done to immediately reverse WotC’s decision, and the more intelligent members of the Magic community look into the inner workings of the change and figure out how to use it to their advantage.
Word spreads that this change may not be so bad. After figuring out how to game the system, and how the system can be beneficial to some members of the Magic community, the community begins to accept the change and becomes accustomed to it.
The community accepts the change. After settling down and actually giving the change a chance, players begin to realize that they actually like what Wizards has done with the game.
The problem with this cycle of grief for Magic players is that we end up with every little change being another instance of Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling with no one seeing the potential upside. More importantly, the fact that Magic players eventually do like the change and don’t decide to quit the game entirely means that contrary to popular belief, Wizards actually does know what they are doing.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to point out that I am in the small subset of people this system actually does favor – people in the Midatlantic and Northeast regions of the United States who aren’t already on the PT train.
The changes to this system don’t seem like such a bad thing. 2012 has already been hyped up as being a great year to play Magic – not just by Wizards, but by players themselves. It has already been announced that there will be upwards of 40 Grand Prix next year. This allows more opportunities to attend a GP for those that see it as a cash tournament, or an excuse to have fun for the weekend. The removal of the Pro Players Club also makes it so that it isn’t a requirement to grind every single GP to squeak out those last few points to level up. Honestly, had the Pro Point system in its current iteration not been done away with, the increase in the number of Grand Prix would have required WotC to drastically change both the number of points required to level up as well as the number of points Pro Tours offer to offset the new “level-up” thresholds.
Just because WotC hasn’t completely fleshed out a new Pro Player reward system doesn’t mean that one isn’t coming, and I think now was a good time to let us know that we will not be accruing Pro Points when next year rolls around. Doing this gives players enough time to become acclimated to the change as opposed to finding out as the new season starts to roll around. For those players who are already on the train, this change actually seems to barely affect you at all, since the Pro Players Club benefits accrued this year will still be honored for the entire 2012 season. In addition, anyone who has had no problem staying on the train in the past should not feel abandoned just yet. As Helene Bergeot mentioned in an interview conducted by Aaron Forsythe (http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/167b):
“Aside from rewarding the best players in the world, our intent for the Pro Tour is to ensure that top-performing players are guaranteed Pro Tour invitations without the need to re-qualify for every event. In 2011, the current incarnation of the Pro Players Club is filling that role. Our intent is to replace the Pro Players Club in 2013 with a new system that accomplishes this goal of ensuring the top minds in the game always have a seat at the big game.”
This means that “the gravy train” is likely to still be a real thing. Even if it isn’t, for the whole of the game, isn’t cutting a couple of appearance fees a small price to pay for having everyone who qualifies for a Pro Tour attend that Pro Tour?
Should there always be mainstays on the Pro Tour circuit? Yes. The people that are the faces of the game should remain faces of the game. These people are one of the draws the professional level of Magic has. Pro players give the blossoming competitive player something to reach for, something to aspire to be. However, Planeswalker Points being one of the main ways to qualify for the Pro Tour fixes one of the problems the previous system had – stagnancy of the Pro Tour circuit. With ratings resetting at the beginning of every season, the new system creates the opportunity for a higher turnover of players on the pro circuit. This allows more opportunities for good players to get to and do well in Pro Tours. Changing the invite system so that everyone invited gets a flight also makes sure the people who deserve to go will be able to. Finally, forcing players to play well at the highest level to qualify for the Pro Tour as opposed to farming rating at local events and sitting on the rating until the season ends also fosters a high level of competition and a Player of the Year-esque race every season to be in that sweet spot for qualification.
Is the Planeswalker Points system for qualification flawed? You bet it is. From what I’ve observed over the past few months, many of the players in the Top 100 are from the Eastern United States – an area that has tons of PTQs, and StarCityGames.com Open Weekends. In addition, the 5x multiplier for side events is something that needs to be reworked. At 5x, it’s not very difficult for a competent and dedicated side event grinder to make more points than the person who wins the main event, and this is something that should never, ever be allowed to happen. Granted, the player who wins the main event gets more Professional points, but it still remains to be seen how these points even matter for those who don’t qualify for the World Championship.
While the announcement itself was a bit lacking in its delivery, giving us the “We’re taking this away, but replacing it with something awesome soon!” line we’ve seen all too much of in the past year or so, the overall message is a positive one. Wizards hasn’t steered us too far off course in the past, and they still know what they’re doing when it comes to Organized Play, even if they haven’t quite worked out the kinks yet. The powers that be are listening to us, but we have to at least give the new system a chance before we completely condemn it. The year 2012 is going to be a great year playing Magic. There are still tons of changes to Organized Play in the works, and they’re sure to be just as exciting. We just have to wait and see what the future will bring us.
Rhythmik on Twitter and Modo
DCI Level 2 Judge, freelance MTG writer and general degenerate grinder.
The thing about the boy who cried Wolf, is that when there really was a Wolf, no one believed him and he got eaten.
I know that story! I read it as a kid. Little house on the prairie… some obnoxious nephew kept buggering Pa and Uncle Whathisname until he got almost stung to dead by bees, because they didn’t believe his cries for help anymore.
@manadeprived @Jeph Foster “Foster Cares”
“It has already been announced that there will be upwards of 40 Grand Prix next year. This allows more opportunities to attend a GP for those that see it as a cash tournament”
This is only valid for US players.
Also, recalculating a PPC program based off the fact that there are more GP’s is not really an insurmountable task. You make it sound as if the idea alone is folly. (I’m not a Pro, nor have I aspired to get on the PT train).
As for cutting ‘Worlds’ down to 16 players, that is a pretty big dagger into your playing community. The previous changes have been met with doubt and turned out ok. Assuming this one will share the same fate, I think you might just be in for a surprise.