If you already follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you know that I run an account that posts pictures and jokes about Magic. Most of the time the stuff I post isn’t serious, but lately I’ve been posting a lot of serious feedback, mostly about Magic Online. The thing about Twitter is that it’s hard to express complete ideas in just 140 characters. So I reached out to ChannelFireball, and today I’m going to be talking about a few changes that I think could improve Magic Online events.
1. Remove the QPs from Casual Drafts & Add a Pack to 4-3-2-2
One of the most recent Magic Online changes was the addition of two more Qualifier Points to the finals prize pool in 8-4 Drafts. Constructed 8-player queues have awarded 3 total QPs for a long time, so it was a great change on their part to make it the same for Limited events. Now this may seem backwards, but I think that the 1 QP that is awarded to the winner of Swiss and 4-3-2-2 queues should be removed. The majority of players on Magic Online don’t actively try to accumulate Qualifier Points for the MOCS, and removing the QP prize from these pools would further distance these queues from the more competitive 8-4 queue.
I am also calling for the addition of a pack to the 4-3-2-2 Queue prizes. Every other draft queue awards a total of 12 prize packs except the 4-3-2-2 queue. Historically, the reasoning for this was that an additional prize pack would make the queue more appealing for competitive players instead of casual players, but the lack of Qualifier Points should accomplish that same goal.
2. Create Two Entry Options for Each League
I posted my suggestion for new league prizes a few weeks ago and since league prizes have not changed since then my suggestion is still the same. What has changed since then, however, is that I no longer believe that some formats can support more than one league. At the time I had suggested that the more popular formats like Modern and Standard should each get multiple leagues—one with top-heavy competitive prizes and one with a friendly league and a flatter prize structure. After playing a few leagues I now think that each format can only support one league, so my new suggestion is to allow for multiple entry options into that league. The entry cost would be the same, the only difference would be that the prizes are awarded to each player based on which entry option they choose. This is my suggestion for the league prizes:
(Click to enlarge.)
You’ll see that the only change I made for the friendly prizes was to remove the 10 Play Points for zero wins and instead award it to the player with five wins. I think that the current prize structure works well for a casual or friendly event, but isn’t top-heavy enough for a competitive event. My suggested prizes for a competitive entry option took the prizes from the bottom finishes and distributed them among the top finishers.
When I posted this prize layout on Twitter a while back, some people seemed to be confused by my math and thought that I had added additional prizes to the prize pool. The reason there is some confusion is because you can’t just add up the total prize pool from the prize charts shown above. You have to remember that for every 32 players, there will be approximately:
1 Player at 5-0
5 Players at 4-1
10 Players at 3-2
10 Players at 2-3
5 Players at 1-4
1 Player at 0-5
The only other change I made was to replace some of the Play Points awarded with boosters. The logic for this was that originally those points where in smaller amounts for the lower placings, but once they were moved to the 5-0 and 4-1 players the number of Play Points that they received was becoming too much.
3. Trim Some of the Existing Queues
For starters I’m calling for the removal of the 4-Booster Swiss Sealed queue. The 4-booster queues were largely appealing when pack prices were cheap. Since the advent of Play Points, the average price of boosters on the secondary market is at an all-time high which makes these queues much less appealing. This queue was also created before Phantom Sealed events existed, so it’s hard to justify joining this event when you could just do a Phantom Sealed instead.
I also think that the Pack-Per-Win Swiss Queue for the current set should be removed. This queue seems to actually fire more events than the 4-3-2-2 queue, but I don’t think it’s achieving its goals. When I’ve played Swiss draft queues in the past, the reason was usually because I cared more about playing 3 rounds than I did about prizes—usually for flashback Drafts. The problem is that players often drop when their decks are bad which means that you constantly get byes in these events. If the 4-3-2-2 loses its QP but gains a booster as I have suggested, then I think that it would become the friendly queue of choice. I could also see an argument for instead removing the 4-3-2-2 queue, but regardless I think that there should be two distinct queue options instead of three. By having both the 4-3-2-2 and the Swiss queue right now, the wait times for both are increased since they generally appeal to the same demographic.
4. Get Rid of Daily Events
I was under the impression that the MTGO team was trying to move away from Daily Events and this quote from Lee Sharpe on the MTGO Tumblr page confirms that suspicion:
“Increasingly, we plan to move in the direction of offering less queue and scheduled event experiences and shifting more play to leagues generally, not just for Pauper. These changes on November 25 make Pauper the leader for this shift. We will also be looking at expanding which league structures are offered as we proceed step by step down this path.”
When Play Points were added to Magic Online there was also a big change made to the entry and prizes for Daily Events. Before Leagues, Daily Events were the biggest events on Magic Online, but after the change they have slowly been withering away. The problem was that the entry fee was doubled while the prizes were not. This new higher entry fee priced out some of the more casual players, and worse prizes than before chased away the competitive players. Standard Daily Events were filling up to capacity days in advance earlier this year, but now some of them aren’t even firing. Some of that may be from the creation of Leagues, but I think the new Daily Event structure has chased people away from playing them. If the entry fees and prizes aren’t going to be changed then Daily Events should just be removed.
5. Bring Back Premier Events
Before Daily Events, the big events on Magic Online were Premier Events. If Daily Events are going to be removed, then they should be replaced with a new schedule of Premier Events. During the week there wouldn’t have to be too many, but the weekend is the perfect opportunity for even more of these. Right now, the only events that are similar to the Premier Events of old are PTQ finals, MOCS finals, and the occasional Festival event. To explain further, what I am calling for are Swiss events that cut to a Top 8 after a certain number of rounds and usually pay out a (relatively) large amount of prizes to Top 8. League play is great in that it allows you to play individual matches at your own convenience, but what it doesn’t replicate well is the feeling of a large tournament. Magic Online players want big, top-heavy tournaments and I think that the return of some Premier events could work well in that role.
6. Outside of Pre/Release Events, There Should Always Be a Special Queue
When I say “special queues” I’m mostly talking about flashback drafts and the different Cube formats. At any given time, I think there should be one Draft option that isn’t from the current or recent formats. People love flashback and Cube and a lot of people only use Magic Online when they come around. There should still be some restraint in scheduling, but I think that there should always be one of these unique formats running when it’s not during the prerelease or release time periods for a new set. During those time periods, it makes sense to focus interest on the new release. The same is also true for the release of any online-exclusive sets like Vintage Masters.
7. Change Prereleases & Release Events
The title is vague, but so is the problem. Players aren’t thrilled with current Prerelease and Release Events largely because of how long you have to wait after the paper prerelease. The current wait time between paper and online release is actually the smallest it has ever been, but that doesn’t really help players that are trying to get in practice for the Pro Tour. It makes sense to wait until the paper events are over to support local gaming stores, but I think that there’s still some time that can be chopped off here. I’m also not entirely sure what the point of Release Events are since they’re pretty much the exact same thing as regular events with the exception of awarding an exclusive avatar.
For starters, I think that the prerelease can be moved up a few days, from the Friday after the paper Release Events to the Monday after. The online prerelease could run from that Monday to Thursday, with the Release Events starting the Friday that currently belongs to the prerelease. 4 days doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a big deal for players that are qualified for the Pro Tour. This would also close the gap a little bit between paper and digital releases without stepping on the toes of local gaming stores. In terms of events, I would certainly add an 8-4 single elimination queue to the draft offerings during the prerelease.
8. Run Four/Five Festivals Each Year
In the last year, Magic Online held a big tournament for Modern and Vintage called Festivals that were qualification only and awarded lots of prizes for the highest finishers. These seemed to be an overwhelming success and if I had any say at WotC, I’d be planning four or five of these for next year. Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage seem to be the likely candidates in terms of format, but I could also see justification for a Pauper one due to how popular the format is online. Players have been calling for more big events online, so I see no reason to run more of these in 2016.
• Remove the QPs from the 4-3-2-2 Queue and add a pack (This would become 5-3-2-2).
• Remove the Pack-Per-Win Queue.
• Remove the 4-Booster Swiss Queue.
• Create two distinct entry options for leagues (friendly & competitive).
• Remove Daily Events.
• Bring back Premier Events.
• Always have a Flashback Draft or Cube, except during new set releases.
• Start Prereleases & Release Events earlier.
• Add an 8-4 queue for the prerelease.
• Run 4 or 5 Festivals per year.