From one grinder to another, I essentially took most of this year off from competitive Magic tournaments. I only traveled to a handful of Grand Prix (all were nearby team events), and instead focused my attention on playing what I like, when I like, and how I like. I needed a break and I needed to be reminded why I play the game.
I play because I love to game.
I was already itching to get back into the competition even before Wizards’ new tournament announcement. I’ve been setting up to stream and focusing on competitive formats. A little time away has made it more enjoyable, so I guess it’s true when they say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Cliche, but true.
The grind requires hard work and sacrifice, but for all its various costs the upside is irreplaceable: gaming at the highest level against the best in the world, traveling to amazing destinations, and doing all of these things with great friends.
As I said before, I was going to come back anyway (it’s called cardboard crack for a reason), but the announcement made me even more excited because these changes directly address issues that caused me to burn out in the first place.
Magic Fest: An Event and Destination for Gamers
Summary: “Grand Prix will now take place at Magic Fests. A Magic Fest is a 3-4 day Magic event that includes more events that cater to a wider range of player interests.”
I love the idea of changing the focus of large Magic events to be about legions of fans coming together to celebrate gaming rather than being just about the competitive event.
There will still be a Grand Prix, but the Grand Prix is now the headlining act of Magic Fest. Aside from the obvious missed opportunity to call these events “Magic Gatherings,” I am a big fan of the direction Wizards has chosen to take their competitive circuit.
For a Nostradamus-style prediction about how the Magic Fest changes were both intuitive and necessary, check out this article from May about how the pro circuit was stale and joyless compared to alternate tournament experiences.
I even refer to them as Magic Festivals… so I guess it’s my own fault they are not called “Gatherings,” sigh.
To be clear, I’m not actually suffering from illusions of grandeur. Although, I’m happy with the result and proud to have been a voice on the right side of history with regard to the issue. It’s nice to make a called shot, but all I did was voice an opinion shared by the majority of players who wanted to see a better product and better tournament experience.
I also like that these events are going to be expanded to 3-4 days and include more events for players to participate in. Magic events already have a bunch of side events, but I like the idea of improving the quality and quantity of the side events. The announcement specifies that they want to cater to more types and levels of players, so I’m really hoping to see some sweet tournaments to give Vintage and Pauper fans some representation in the form of quality tournaments.
It also looks as though the prize support for these events is a little more evenly distributed and less top heavy. I love this idea. Doing well in a big event is almost its own reward since it leads to qualifications and money. The worst feeling in Magic is when you feel like you did well but get nothing but the bill. I like the idea of spreading the prize money out more rather than clumping it at the top.
The impact of this change will likely be straightforward: more attendees. Not necessarily for the Grand Prix itself, but for the Magic Fest experience.
Qualifying for the Pro Tour: Good Riddance PPTQs
Summary: “PPTQs are gone. Qualifying for the PT via an event doesn’t necessarily qualify a player for the next Pro Tour, but rather, the next PT in their region.”
Wizards has also made some changes with regard to how individuals will qualify for the Pro Tour. I’m a huge fan of these changes. If you want the specifics, check out the article here.
The biggest change is that WotC is getting rid of the PPTQ system. Thank you! The system was hot garbage and though I’ve made a concerted effort to be a more positive person, the system was so flawed and unpopular that I can’t help but throw a little shade.
I have to pay to play in a tournament and if I win, then I get to travel to another remote location to pay to play in another event that I have to make Top 4 to get an invite. Does this sound like something any reasonable person would want? No.
Also, as an aside, all of the local weekend tournaments with decent prize support will be PPTQs, which means that people with RPTQ invites are punished by not being able to play locally. In Michigan, we have multiple players who actively inquired into revoking their Bronze or Silver pro status because they couldn’t play at their LGS on the weekends.
The other big change is that qualifying via an event (Grand Prix or another qualifying event) earns a player a qualification for the next Pro Tour in their region, rather than the next Pro Tour.
I think this makes a lot of sense for WOTC since it will save them considerable money on buying tons of super expensive plane tickets. It may be a little bit awkward to have to sit out a Pro Tour and wait until the next one that is in your region. But it puts more funds into other projects that improve the tournament/Fest experience—I can live with that and recognize it as a positive change.
Why These Changes Are Important
I love these changes and the impact they will have on the tournament scene. In particular, they reflect the fact that Wizards recognizes that their player base isn’t comprised of just one type of person: the grinders.
Instead, Magic constitutes a wide range of individuals who enjoy different elements and aspects of Magic and want to see those views represented at Magic conventions. The new system addresses these concerns and is a great first step toward making Magic Fests an experience that a greater number of fans and players will find enjoyable and engaging.
I also see dropping an unpopular tournament structure, such as PPTQs, as recognition that players are only willing to endure so much, and that Wizards has a responsibility to do better in providing an enjoyable tournament experience for all players.
The entire announcement contained changes I wanted to hear from WotC, and I’m excited to experience these expanded Magic Fests in the coming months.