Last week we learned that a few aspects of Grand Prix and Pro Tours will be heading in a new direction next season. While I’m testing for the last Pro Tour of this season, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the changes, and how they may affect people, and me.
Changes to the Pro Tour
What I Like
How Pro Points Are Earned
Simply put, the season point totals rotate by quarters instead of by Pro Tour season. This means that if a player has a good finish at the end of a Pro season, they won’t be punished because of an arbitrary time line that ends the season. A player can qualify for their first Pro Tour for the last Pro Tour of a season, Top 8, and not lose all the points they earned immediately after. This is an overwhelmingly positive change in structure.
This season we were limited to 6 Grand Prix finishes for the year. Now since we can use 3 finishes per quarter, it’s possible to use 12 Grand Prix finishes over 4 quarters. This is a huge bonus to players willing to grind the Grand Prix circuit and who come up just short of a Pro Tour qualification. Think about it—if you play in an extensive number of Grand Prix and are finishing with 1- and 2-Pro-Point finishes you can hit Silver Level (20 points), which will earn you an invite to the Pro Tour. This is a way to get on the Pro Tour through dedication and determination, even if you fall short a couple of times along the path.
For Pro players who use 1 Pro Tour finish per quarter, this increases the number of Grand Prix finishes they can use to 8 instead of 6. This should make it easier to reach higher Pro levels, but incentivizes players to travel more for Grand Prix.
Another huge positive. At 10 Pro Points you now earn free invites to RPTQs. This is another bonus for competing on the Grand Prix circuit and just like hitting any level, it becomes much easier to accomplish with the 3-finishes-per-quarter limit. As someone who hasn’t participated in the PPTQ system, I think having more outlets to qualify for RPTQs through Grand Prix is great. Players were often conflicted between going to a local PPTQ or traveling to a Grand Prix, and this way if players want to travel the circuit they can be rewarded for hitting a lower, more obtainable threshold of Pro Points.
Removing the Worlds Edge
Magic Pros at the top echelon have the luxury of playing the World Championships and the World Magic Cup. As someone who had the privilege of competing in these events the season after I won the Player of the Year title, and as someone who played the last Worlds, I think balancing the playing field for all players is an excellent change. I don’t mind small advantages to players who had great seasons , but I had a very average 7-7 finish at Worlds this year, and with a Pro Point per win, I earned nearly the equivalent of a Grand Prix win in Pro Points without it counting against the cap. To me, decreasing the advantage for players at the World Championship is a good change.
A Modern Pro Tour
Modern at the Pro Tour was somewhat unpopular with the Pro players, but I never really felt that way. After a full season without Modern at the Pro Tour, I’m ready to admit that I won’t mind having it back. I like changing how I play Magic to keep it fresh, and after how Standard was this year I’m ready for something to break up the monotony. I also agree with reducing Worlds to only two formats, Booster Draft and Standard, and removing Modern from this event. It was difficult testing for three formats and reducing the work load for the Worlds competitors will mean that we get to see the best work from the best players when they narrow their focus.
What I Don’t Like
This change limits the number of finishes per quarter you use to three finishes. Generally, it will be much tougher to eclipse even a dead-last Pro Tour finish, but the real problem isn’t the limit itself—it’s the potential for unused spots based on outside factors, such as geography.
With a quarterly system, scheduling Grand Prix has to be much more balanced both within the quarters and geographically. If quarter 1 is all West Coast American Grand Prix, while quarter 2 is all in Europe, and quarter 3 is all East Coast American Grand Prix, then it becomes difficult for players unwilling and unable to travel for long periods of time, or many times, to have a balanced number of Pro Points per quarter.
As long as this is factored in when the schedule is made, I think the changes are positive, but the possibility of having multiple quarters with unused slots may balance out the fact that you can now use more Grand Prix finishes. As a Pro Player who usually was able to skip West Coast events because I live on the East Coast and could make them up later when the location was more convenient, I’m worried that I’ll push myself to travel more to fill out finishes. While being incentivized to play more events should be a good thing, these events are spread out all across the world. Balancing a life at home and a life on the road becomes even more difficult. An adjustment could space out the rotation into two halves instead of four quarters—that would make it easier for players to fill their slots and balance their traveling, scheduling would be easier for Wizards, and the end of the year finish not counting would still be mitigated by rotating halves instead of a rotating year.
There Should Be Some Edge
While I think reducing the advantage of players who get to play the World Championships and the World Magic Cup is a good thing, I don’t like how drastically they reduced the importance of the World Championships and Nationals. I think both not getting a Pro Point per win until you hit 3 wins and introducing a cap on results in a quarter will make the World Championships less important than it should be. One of the two restrictions should be removed so that the players who earn the invitation can at least garner some advantage for getting there.
When they first announced Nationals, everyone got at least a little bit excited. Many of the Pro Players suggested giving out Pro Points for the event to make it feel like a Professional event. I was disappointed when I learned winning the event was only worth 4 points—but it’s still a bonus event right? Wrong. With the event cap, points earned for winning Nationals are even less important. For some context, a normal Pro player will mostly fill up their Grand Prix slots with all 2-point finishes and higher, and occasionally a 1-pointer. Winning Nationals and replacing a 2-point finish means you only really earned 2 Pro Points for becoming the National Champion. I think the points given out for this event should be increased at the top to reward the players who win these events. It doesn’t need to be drastically increased but increasing it to say 6 points to the winner would be a meaningful difference.
The Team Pro Tour
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first heard about the Team Pro Tour. Team Pro Tours were what kept me playing Magic for so many years. The feeling of succeeding with good friends and teammates is unmatched for me, and I value it more highly than individual success. With all that said, I have some reservations about the event as planned.
What I Like
First of all, the fact it exists at all is a huge net positive. It’s been many years without Team Pro Tours and I’m glad we got our foot back in the door to begin with. Making the decision to include a Team Pro Tour can’t be praised enough in my opinion.
Originally they said this Pro Tour would be detached from the Team Series, which to me seemed counter-productive. In fact, I think the Team Pro Tour should emphasize the new Team Series, not move away from it. It would be confusing to watch players from different Pro rosters compete on the same team against other teams with players from their own roster of the Team Series. They fixed this and now strongly incentivized players to join teammates from their own roster by only awarding points for the Team Series if players play together. Awesome change from the original announcement.
What I Don’t Like
My strongest objection to the Team Pro Tour is the lack of Limited. The formats have been announced as Standard, Constructed, and Legacy. While I think this is a great Constructed Grand Prix format, removing Limited from the Team Pro Tour eliminates an enjoyable part of the tournament and differentiates it from the individual Pro Tours, which have both Limited and Constructed events.
To me, making decisions on the spot with your team while deck building is one of the most fun and skill testing forms of Team Magic. Having three minds come to the same conclusion while building team Sealed decks is a skill that should be rewarded.
One problem with Limited for the Team Pro Tour is the logistics. It may be too many teams for Team Draft (my preferred format), in which case it can be Team Sealed just like the Team Grand Prix.
Another issue with having Limited at the Team Pro Tour could be that Limited gets less viewership than Constructed portions of the Pro Tour. If this is the issue, a suggestion brought up in a recent conversation I had with Brian Braun-Duin was that they could just have Sealed deck be one of the three formats. A team could get together, build one single Sealed deck, and one of the three players plays Limited while the other play Constructed, and the coverage could focus more heavily on Constructed if it’s more interesting to the viewers. This would make players happy and satisfy the viewers as well. I think players whose strengths are in Limited, and help a team throughout the year, shouldn’t be less useful come time for the Team Pro Tour.
Without Limited at the Team Pro Tour it won’t feel as much like a team event to me. It’s quite possible that teams test Standard, Modern, and Legacy on their own, and simply play their own matches without much of the team aspects of the tournament involved. Making decisions as a team has always been part of the fun to me so I hope we later see Limited added to Team Pro Tours for this reason.
What’s odd is that they also announced that the Team Series finals will be all Limited, and I think there should be a mix of both so that both Constructed and Limited skill sets are valuable in both events.
Overall the changes made to the Pro Tour were a huge step in the right direction. Even with good changes we should keep pushing and looking for further ways to improve the system to be the best it can be. Pro players at the top of the Pro Point ladder will have fewer advantages than they did, and it will be easier for everyone else to earn and retain Pro Levels, including the new level Bronze, if they buy into the Grand Prix system.
I wish the Team Pro Tour would focus at least a little on Limited so that there are some real-time team decisions to be made, but I will take what I can get for now and maybe if there are future Team Pro Tours, we will see some more Limited. An increase in Team Grand Prix is on the horizon as well, which is just a great thing for Magic.
That’s it for me for now, it’s time to get back to testing for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. Wish me luck!