The game has changed.
In the past two years the growth of Magic and the tournament scene has been both a boon and a curse. I’m sure everyone has heard a horror story or two about a PTQ that was run catastrophically. Too many players, not enough seats. Registration gets delayed by 60 minutes. A top 8 playoff being moved into the Tim Horton’s next door because the event ran past midnight and the venue is closing. All kinds of issues have surfaced with the growth of the number of tournament players, especially those harbouring the Pro Tour dream in their hearts.
All that may change starting in December with what Wizards has called The New Path to the Pro Tour.
In the new scheme, Advanced level or higher stores can now hold one PPTQ/PTQQ tournament per season. Winners of one of these events are invited to participate in a now regional level PTQ event where the top 4 of that tournament are awarded an invite and a plane ticket to the Pro Tour. The format of the preliminary is up to the tournament organizer’s discretion between Standard, Modern, and Sealed.
There is some concern from players that this change makes it more difficult for those with a full time job or other life commitments to qualify for the Pro Tour. They have to essentially win/do very well at two events rather than just one. While this is true I feel this was a necessary change. Also, when has a major change in Magic not prompted a “magic is ruined” response.
Attendance keeps growing which causes a slew of problems even for experienced organizers to manage. If nothing was done to alter this trend we would eventually be facing players being turned away from events due to maximum capacity. This would only exacerbate the problem since the number of PTQ’s in any given area are pretty limited. Already some stores are known for taking advantage of the fact that if players want to qualify for the Pro Tour, they are the only game in town. Breaking the tournaments apart will solve this issue quite neatly.
Why the changes are good for players
- More local events to play in.
- A more comfortable experience than the current PTQ system by making the events occur in a player’s home store.
- The disappointment of losing in the finals is lessened by the top 4 getting an invite. There will be multiple local events occurring each season so players will have lots of opportunity.
- PTQ’s will likely become a region’s premier tournament after Grand Prix’s.
- Preliminaries will likely be some of the most well supported tournaments for a local area.
Why the changes are good for stores
- Any store at Advanced level or higher will be able to run an extremely popular event that will likely draw between 40 and 60 players up to 4 times each year.
- More opportunity to differentiate and show their customers why they should play at their particular store.
- A good chance to cooperate with other local stores to help build the community overall.
For the store chosen to organize the regional event this change will be an excellent opportunity to show they understand their player base. Hopefully most stores will choose to make their PTQ a large, celebrated event with side tournaments and other ways to play besides the main event. This would be an excellent way to attract players who haven’t won a preliminary but still want to compete. It would also help the players who are invited by giving their friends and team mates a reason to travel with them.
As with all things, change is inevitable. Magic will continue to change and evolve while also hopefully growing as well. Much like the introduction of Planewalker Points this new system will likely be adjusted as Wizards tries to strike a balance between what we as players expect and what has to be done.
What would you like to see if you were to design a new system for qualifying for the Pro Tour? Do you think Wizards made the right choice? Are there other strategies that players or stores could use to take advantage of the new system? Let me know. Also if you liked this, you may also enjoy Game Store Operation 101. Whatever you’re doing, just remember to crush it.