State of Organized Play

Posted in News on June 23, 2016

By Helene Bergeot

Hélène Bergeot started her career with Wizards of the Coast in France in December, 1995; afterwards, she spent a few years in the European headquarters based in Belgium and eventually relocated to the Renton office. She is currently the director of organized play and trade marketing.

As we regularly receive questions about Organized Play, I would like to give you an update on the state of Organized Play, and take this opportunity to answer questions that have been asked frequently over the past few months.

Let's start with the topic that raised the most discussion in recent months, and go from there.

The 2016-17 Pro Tour Players Club Changes

During Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, we announced changes to the Pro Tour Players Club system that were planned to start with the 2016-17 season. The Magic community united strongly against those changes. We subsequently reevaluated what we announced and decided to maintain the current system for the upcoming season, meaning that the 2016-17 Pro Tour Players Club will remain unchanged from the benefits awarded during the 2015-16 season.

What has happened since then?

We reached out to a number of pro players, each having different interests in the game and coming from various parts of the world, and engaged with them in conversations in order to gain their perspective on how to evolve Magic and premier play in a way that's healthy for everyone. These conversations have been very productive, and we even had the opportunity to hold the first in-person meeting right before Grand Prix Los Angeles.

This is meant to be the beginning of a regular collaboration between pro players and Wizards of the Coast. Once we have solidified a plan for the future—with the input of these pro players—we will share with the rest of the Magic community the shape of the Pro Tour Players Club for the 2017-18 season. We plan to make this announcement by Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney, Australia, so that players have a full understanding of what they will be playing toward throughout the 2016-17 season.

Of course, we are not limiting ourselves to the conversations with this group. I encourage all of you to continue sharing your feedback and thoughts with us, either through social media or in person at events. My team and I regularly follow these discussions, and your feedback continues to be appreciated.

2016's Grand Prix Changes

Another topic I would like to touch on is Grand Prix. Most of the feedback regarding our 2016 Grand Prix has revolved around a couple of key subjects.

The X-3 Cut and Prize Payout Updates

This year, we kicked off a revised, more top-heavy prize payout, and we also changed the cut to Day Two to X-3 when it was previously X-2, meaning a record of six wins (or five wins and three draws) on Day One will get you through to the next day of competition. A number of players and fans have remarked that it doesn't seem logical to increase the number of participants in a Grand Prix Day Two while limiting the prize payout to 64 players.

First, those two changes are meant to satisfy different audiences. The revised Day Two cut is intended to give more players the opportunity to experience playing on Day Two. For many, making Day Two is an accomplishment by itself. On the other hand, the more top-heavy prize payout is designed for the very competitive players and to acknowledge the fact that being a top finisher at a Grand Prix is a real achievement.

Additionally, some players have suggested that Grand Prix prize distribution be based on match points rather than standings, which is an interesting suggestion that we have looked into. Unfortunately, this is one of a few cases in which operating in many different countries, each with their own unique sets of challenges, means we can't easily make a change like this. In these instances, we generally favor consistency across events over varying approaches in each country, because we want players to know what to expect when they sign up for a GP, no matter where in the world it is.

Coverage and Financing It All

Last year, we announced that we were taking a different direction in 2016, focusing on building the narrative around the new sets while reducing the number of events we would cover.

Let me assure you that we're like you—we want to see and share Magic as much as possible.

So then why are we covering fewer Grand Prix this year? It is for the very same reasons we are not increasing the prize payout per Grand Prix.

The reality, and the bottom line, is that with roughly 50 Grand Prix per year, any increase has a significant impact on our budget. If we were to opt for an additional $5,000 per Grand Prix, it would translate into a quarter of a million dollars. While we are increasing our budget every year, we aren't increasing it that quickly. Somewhere along the line, we need to make some choices.

Over the past five years, we have significantly augmented the budget allocated to premier play. The total prize purse we were awarding in 2011 was roughly $1.7 million; it reached more than $4 million in 2016. There are other increases as well that are largely invisible to the public, but are still pretty substantial—for example, we are awarding more plane tickets to the Pro Tour than ever.

To put that plane ticket point into clearer perspective, we spend more for any given Pro Tour—no matter where it's held—in plane tickets than in cash prizes. Multiply this by four Pro Tours and factor in travel awards for events such as the World Magic Cup, and you start to get a bigger picture for how much goes into supporting premier play that is not as visible as a prize pool or the presence of video coverage.

Additionally, as Magic keeps growing, we are also augmenting our overall spend in other areas to continue building the future of Magic while offering innovative play experiences to Magic fans. A good example of this is the Shadows over Innistrad debut events that took place at Grand Prix Detroit, Bologna, and Melbourne. Experiences like those are possible because we have chosen to support innovative, new experiences and continuing to improve on the experiences offered to our Magic audience.

With all of that said, and with our own desire to show and watch more Magic, we fully realize the importance of live video coverage of our premier events. We are not only going to consider this when building our plans for 2017, but we are also looking at adding live coverage for a few Grand Prix events still this year.

Finally, we are planning to post updates like this one on a regular basis in order to create a more active dialogue between you—our fans—and everyone at Wizards of the Coast. Continually improving Organized Play, from Friday Night Magic all the way up to the Pro Tour and the World Championship, is our priority, and we know it's something the community cares about just as deeply. I truly hope you will find these updates useful and that they will give us an avenue to improve our communication and the direction of Organized Play. Your feedback will always be welcome, so please keep sending it our way.

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