As the 2016 Magic Online Championship Series ("MOCS") draws to a close, it's time to review its performance this year and look for improvements for next year. Our focus with regard to analyzing changes for 2017 was to improve the ability of competitive Magic Online players to be able to play in important events with large prizes.
To reach this goal, we've updated the MOCS Monthly events, added a new way to qualify, adjusted the pro-level benefits, simplified the leaderboards, adjusted how Qualifier Points ("QPs") are earned, and increased the overall prizes for the program, including qualifying eight more players in the Magic Online Championship and increasing the prize pool in it from $116,000 to $200,000!
You can find complete details on the 2017 Magic Online Championship Series Rules for complete details, but keep reading for some of the philosophy behind the changes we've made.
As you read these changes, keep in mind that MOCS Monthly and Playoff events on October 22 and earlier are part of the 2016 Magic Online Championship Series, and those events will follow the rules for that year. Qualifier Points for the 2017 series can begin being earned following the September 28 downtime.
More MOCS Monthly Events
One of the biggest challenges of the 2016 series was that Limited MOCS Monthly events grew huge, and took a very long time. This created frustrating event experiences for many players. To address this for the 2017 structure, we will be running two MOCS Monthly events each month, one Limited and one Constructed.
We're also changing these events to be eight-round Swiss events regardless of the number of players, and without a Top 8 playoff. Prizes will be awarded based on record, and invitations to the next MOCS Playoff will be awarded to anyone who finishes with six or more match wins.
Our goals here are twofold. First, we want players to have more opportunities to use their QPs in Limited or Constructed events based on their preference, not just on event availability. Second, we want to reduce the total time needed to participate while still making sure players are rewarded for that experience.
The invite structure will increase the total number of players participating in the MOCS Playoffs. While this may cause some of the Playoffs events to be a bit longer, we believe they will continue to be positive experiences for the players who qualify for them.
Updated Pro-Level Benefits
The 2016 Magic Online Championship Series offered Platinum members of the Pro Players Club invites to each MOCS Playoff event. This was intended to create a Pro Tour–style experience where Monthly winners play against high-level competition for excellent prizes, while drawing more attention to the Magic Online Championship Series.
Player feedback, however, overwhelmingly indicated this Pro-level benefit detracted from the identity of the MOCS as a Magic Online program and instead those players felt their role in the Magic Online Championship was marginalized. In response to this feedback, we are removing the Platinum Playoff invitations for the 2017 series. Pro Players Club members will continue to receive monthly QP grants, which can be used to join MOCS Monthly events, but all Playoff contenders will have to win to get in.
Additionally, we are ending the connection between the Magic Online Championship and the Magic World Championship moving forward, instead allowing each event to stand on its own. As new Magic World Champion, Brian Braun-Duin will be invited to the Magic Online Championship, and the winner of that event will still be invited to the 2017 Magic World Championship, but that will end the crossover. The Magic Online Champion will still be awarded Platinum status in the Pro Players Club, and most Magic Online Championship qualifications will still be invitations to a Pro Tour and Pro Tour Challenge.
Introducing MOCS Opens
With the Magic Online Championship expanding to 24 players, we've added a new type of MOCS events to qualify players for these slots: MOCS Opens. With each Standard-legal set release, we'll offer two Sealed events that are open to all players! No Qualifier Points are required. Instead, you'll join with Event Tickets or Play Points.
These premier events will be normal non-phantom Sealed (you keep the cards you open) with Swiss rounds based on attendance and a top 8 draft playoff. The winner will be invited to the Magic Online Championship, an upcoming Pro Tour, and the Pro Tour Challenge at that Pro Tour! Prizes also include booster packs and even sets for the next Magic Online Standard-legal set release. Full details on these new events can be found on the full Magic Online Championship Series Rules.
Last year we ran two leaderboards, a Quarterly and a Yearly, both of which provided entries into Playoff events and the Magic Online Championship. This system was more complicated than we liked, so we're simplifying it down so it's easier to understand and puts the focus where it matters most.
There will be a single yearly MOCS Leaderboard for 2017. It will only be used to invite players to the Magic Online Championship at the end of the season, and will not affect invites to Playoff events. This means the only way qualify for a MOCS Playoff event is to win six or more matches in a MOCS Monthly event, reinforcing the fact that you need to win to get in.
Players still earn Leaderboard Points in both Monthly and Playoff events, though when reviewing the leaderboard for 2016, it was clear players who performed well in Playoff events dominated the leaderboard, making Monthly events and accomplishments in them feel less important. We have reduced the number of points available in the Playoff events in order to provide better balance. Doing well in a Playoff is still more valuable than doing well in a Monthly, of course, but there isn't as great a disparity as before.
Earning Qualifier Points
Players really seemed to enjoy being able to save up their Qualifier Points and use them throughout the MOCS season, rather than being locked into seasons where you had to use them or lose them, so we are not making any changes in this regard. We want players to play on their schedule as much as possible, and this philosophy embraces that. That said, we are changing where QPs are earned.
QPs can currently be earned in nearly all Magic Online events. After looking at player behavior data, we felt that some events with QPs as part of the prizes were not segmenting players in the right way. MOCS is designed to reward the highest level of competition in Magic Online, but we were adding QPs to prize structures for events that weren't designed to be hyper-competitive experiences. As a result, when the new MOCS year begins on September 28, we are removing QPs from friendly Leagues, phantom events, flashback events, and Pack-per-Win Draft Leagues. Even though it is phantom, the single-elimination Cube queue is an exception to this rule and will still award a QP to the winner.
We'll also be reducing the number of QPs in the five-round preliminary events for Pro Tour Qualifiers and set championships to bring them in line with their competitive League counterparts, to avoid players trying to earn QPs feeling the need to play in scheduled events over Leagues.
With twice as many MOCS Monthlies and the introduction of MOCS Open events, along with our other organized play programs, the schedule became very crowded and it was difficult to fit everything in on only Saturday and Sunday. As a result, we are expanding premier play programs to Fridays.
Leading up to each MOCS Playoff event, you should expect one of each MOCS Monthly event, Constructed and Limited, to appear on a Friday, a Saturday, and a Sunday. Not only does this help us fit in all these events, it should also help accommodate players with a variety of schedules. We will not schedule MOCS Playoff or MOCS Open events on Fridays, however.
Compared to last year, we've increased this year's Magic Online Championship Series total prize pool. Most of this gain comes from having more opportunities to play in Monthly events, and making it easier for more players to play in them and have the opportunity to earn a meaningful prize.
In order to help accomplish this further, we also moved some of the prizes in the Playoffs to the Monthly events. We have also somewhat smoothed out the curve of prizes in the Playoffs in order to lessen (though not eliminate) negative player feelings when tiebreakers place them in a lower prize bracket.
Additionally, we've increased the Championship money from $116,000 to $200,000! This change includes supporting the additional finalists as well as increasing prizes for each possible position, including raising the first-place prize to $40,000.
With the focus on providing events with high-level competition, however, we are moving away from having individual promotional cards awarded as prizes as part of the Magic Online Championship Series. We never found a good balance between rewarding players for great performances with cool promo cards and minimizing the impact to the general Magic Online economy. We do know players like to get awesome cards, however, and have a plan we'll be unveiling soon to continue to distribute these kinds of cards to more Magic Online players. Look for more details in an announcement later this month!
So, with all of this in place, here is how the 2017 Magic Online Championship structure shakes out. The following players will have guaranteed invites to the Magic Online Championship:
- The defending champion (1 slot)
- The top two finishers in each of the MOCS Playoff events (8 slots)
- The eight winners of the MOCS Open events (8 slots)
The rest of the invites will be filled from the top MOCS Leaderboard to bring us to a total of 24 players with a prize distribution that looks like this:
The winner will also be advanced to Platinum status in the Pro Player's Club, as if they earned enough Pro Points to advance to that level at the time of the event.
I hope you're pleased with the changes and are excited to see the Magic Online Championship Series unfold for 2017. I know I'm looking forward to greeting 24 of you at the Magic Online Championship in 2018, so good luck!
Digital Product Manager—Magic Online