What Happened? Premier Play Announcements

It is fair to say that the announcement made over here at Wizards had a whole bunch of words in it. What does it all mean? I’m going to give you my perspective, as someone who occasionally battles in the Pro sphere, watches at home, and likes to travel to interesting places. Also, there was a Magic Online Announcement over on Tumblr. Let’s go!

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STUFF

A few changes to prize structure, invites and so on for the future. All seems fairly fine to me. Nothing seemed outrageous, and streamlining how to be at the World Championship makes it easier for people to keep track of at home. I guess removing the GP Master invite is fine, but I am a little concerned they possibly cut back too far on regional slots.

PRO TOUR TOP 8 BRACKET AND PRIZE PAYOUT CHANGES

Top 8s will now look like this:
news20160802_bracket

This looks a lot more like something you’d see at EVO than a Magic tournament. As a player, this looks terrifying since the difference between 1st and 8th or even 4th and 5th are rather large. However, they don’t want everyone intentionally drawing at the last round of swiss every time, so here we are.

7th to 16th place now all get the same amount of money, which is interesting. 1st place is still better than everything else by so much, that seedings based on tiebreakers are going to be so brutal.

I think it will definitely make for far more exciting viewing, so great! I do wonder if they considered just doing Pro Tours like, quadruple elimination brackets. They would need to get rid of draws, but hey. More sudden death!

2017 GRAND PRIX SCHEDULE

Looks fine, but I feel they largely played it safe with venues again. I know that safe is good, they want reliable venues for large events like this, but I was hoping for a greater variety in countries that aren’t ALWAYS getting GPs. I can’t speak for the non-EU ones, but I feel like nearly all of these venues have been done before, and part of the fun of Magic is travelling to new places. Given various political climates I totally understand avoiding some countries, but does say, Greece really have nowhere? Luxembourg? Andorra? Cyprus? Slovenia? Monaco? Lithuania? SCOTLAND?

Okay, I know, there are a list of requirements that need to be fulfilled, but unusual tournament locations are always a highlight.

88449438_vatican_st_peters_g
Coming soon (?): GP Vatican City?

Speaking of highlights, how about that triple Vegas GP though? I was excited when I thought it was 6 days long and you could play on all 3, but now I’m just mildly excited. I’ve never been one that *gets* the appeal of Vegas to the degree that it seems popular, but at this point the yearly Vegas GP is a popular fixture. It is fair to say I would almost definitely have gone to play in all 3 GPs, just 2… maybe not. They don’t need me though, it’s going to be awesome and exciting and everything that people want, pretty much.

The actual biggest downside is no non-US Legacy GP. What? They get 2, and everyone else gets nothing? I can’t speak for Asia, but Europe loves Legacy. Extra BoM events are fine and all, but they don’t lead to the Pro Tour.

I am sure this, and some regional event clashes can be fixed, part of the reason to announce the schedule so early, so generally everything looks fine.

MTGO PLAYER ADVISORY BOARD

Finally, we have this. The idea of actually asking some people outside of Wizards if certain ideas for Magic Online are good or not is admirable. I appreciate that they are giving it a go, and if the idea is to make MOCS and PTQ events better, then great! I would like to see someone on this board who would speak out in favour of things like Momir, multiplayer and that sort of thing, but hey, maybe they do and we don’t know.

I left the biggest section till last. While I mostly comment on things that may potentially be problems, I want to emphasise that I am excited to see how this goes. I think it can absolutely go well, I’m looking forward to how things shake out, and hoping that my concerns are simply unsupported in time. 🙂

2017–18 PRO TOUR PLAYERS CLUB UPDATES

The relevant parts are:
“Platinum players will receive a $500 appearance fee for the first six Grand Prix main events that the player competes in in the current season (currently, Platinum players receive a $250 appearance fee for each Grand Prix main event that the player competes in)”

This seems like a sensible change. Doesn’t give people so much incentive to grind in every GP they can possibly get to. Will probably give out around as much as they used to.

“Platinum players will no longer receive hotel accommodations for each Pro Tour during the 2017–18 season.”

Okay. I heard quite often they didn’t use this anyway, instead favouring their own choice of location (usually some kind of house for easier testing).

Neither of these changes matter to most people, but they also don’t seem unfair in any direction. No problems.

THE MAGIC PRO TOUR TEAM SERIES

There’s a lot to unpack here. This feels like a move to solidify the mostly informal teams that Magic players have had for a long time, but never seem to be sponsored by anyone outside of Magic-related companies.

“Once a player has been registered for a team for that season, they are locked on that team roster for the entirety of the season and cannot join another team for participation in the Team Series for that duration.”

Who was on what team was always confusing for the folks at home, so I assume it will help when players are locked in. However, this has downsides, I will mention below.

“After the third Pro Tour of the season, we will cut the competing teams down to the Top 8. The team members registered with those eight teams will be given invitations and a travel award to compete in the fourth Pro Tour of the season.”

Scoring for teams is accumulated over the whole season, hence locking in the teams. Best part about this is the consistency. If sponsors DID happen to want to get involved, then they will know what players they are paying for, for a whole year. Viewers at home can see the same players even more often in feature matches. Coverage get to sculpt narratives more easily.

My main concern with this set up is that it might be too rigid: favouring the established players from the previous season a massive amount. In prior years, players struggling to break through could join up with teams for a while, learn from them, and perhaps transition to high level of  Pro Player. They also found it if they were good enough friends to thole each other’s company for a whole year!

However, any serious teams will not consider anyone that is not already certain to be qualified for every Pro Tour, thus cementing all the previous years Gold+ players into the best testing teams, and getting them more money and Pro Points, which is a good cycle if you’re in it, intimidating if not. (it is unclear to me at the moment whether the Team Playoffs at the end of the year also give additional Pro Points).

I am sure that there will still be some ‘unofficial’ team members, for the Hall of Famers and so on that might not be able to commit to everything, and ‘rookie divisions’ of big teams. But, while changes to the top 8 structure are introduced to cut down on Swiss round IDs and concessions, teams can bring them right in. If you are a Silver Pro, testing with a big team but not on the team, I hope there won’t be too many ‘do it for the team’ concessions in the later rounds. With more players impacted, more pressure is created.

But hey, these issues will always pop up in some form or another while trying to inject full team dynamics and incentives into a single-player tournament.

These changes are basically great for coverage I suppose (assuming the current crop of Pro Players are the ones they want to cover for years) but Wizards need to be careful they don’t make ‘the dream’ of the Pro Player Lifestyle that they are trying to sell us end up based too heavily on being part of a big team. 9 players seems like a lot to get together if your team is just starting out, if the support of established players is harder to come by.

Wild suggestion: after making each core team, the teams get a ‘wildcard’ slot for each PT if they want, that can be different people each time and contribute to team totals. They don’t go to the end-of-year playoffs, but can allow teams to play with friends who aren’t always on the PT, and can act as a ‘developmental’ slots.

“While the Magic Pro Tour Team Series will not officially kick off until the first Pro Tour of the 2017–18 season, we will be conducting a soft launch of this program in the 2016–17 season for players who are interested in participating.

The soft launch is slated to begin at Pro Tour Aether Revolt in Dublin, Ireland, February 3–5, 2017″

This is great! They have learned from prior initiatives that they don’t always get things correct the first time round, so a trial run is perfect. Just because I’m concerned about a few things doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see where more formalised teams goes. Will we end up in a real ‘Team Draft’ situation in future years? Will there be trades between teams?

Aside on cheating

One thing not mentioned (understandably, it’s time to be excited, not bring up bad things) is what happens with cheaters. I am already aware that certain teams are more… sympathetic than others when taking on people with a history of shenanigans. I am also aware that in group settings, it has been known for people to encourage others to cheat if it is believed they are all in the same mind set. I hope that official teams will be a force for good in players self-policing for bad apples, the last thing anyone wants if for a team to make the playoffs at end of year with multiple players under investigation.

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I’m sure Muttley could have turned him in.

I hope that if a player would be caught, found to be cheating, not only are they stripped of their points and entitlements for that season (+length of bans) but also any prior points earned for the team be removed also. I would suggest a system to encourage teams to keep things above board by giving them the chance to root out underhand behaviours on their own.

Let’s say, it turns out a player on a team weaves and stacks their deck at a GP, and a teammate spots them. If that team is close to making the playoffs, then while the teammate might be generally honest, he might be close to potentially losing themselves and many of their best friends a lot of money. We hope they would call a judge anyway, but everyone has a limit where temptation to look the other way or to write it off as a mistake comes in.

Okay, that’s everything. Thanks for reading. Did you know I am still doing some Youtube stuff? Look if you feel like it!

Tchau for now.

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