Introducing Planeswalker Points:

Posted in Feature on September 6, 2011

By Mike Turian

Before joining Magic Online as its digital product manager, Mike worked as a producer for Wizards's technology department, a product manager for organized play, and as an R&D lead developer. He has played Magic Online since it came out in 2002 and Magic since The Dark.

Organized Play events have always been a huge part of the Magic experience, and Wizards of the Coast has always used a single system to rate and rank players' success in sanctioned play—until now.

As of today, we'll be using a new system called Planeswalker Points. But it's not just a new rating system. Planeswalker Points is designed to let all players, from casual to competitive to pro, track and show off how much they play—and win!—in Magic events.

In this article, I'll explain what's changing, why we decided to change it, and how it will impact you. As the lead architect of Planeswalker Points, I can tell you that we arrived at this system because we believe it will be more meaningful to more players. Planeswalker Points will encourage more players to play more sanctioned Magic at all levels, from in-store casual events all the way up to the Pro Tour.

Let's get started!

What Is Planeswalker Points?

Planeswalker Points is a replacement for the system previously used by Wizards to rate and rank Magic players' participation in sanctioned Organized Play events. It's a point accumulation system built on a simple premise: Playing is good; winning is even better.

At its most basic, Planeswalker Points rewards players for playing in sanctioned events (with larger and/or more competitive events awarding more points) and for winning matches (with 3 points for each win, 1 for each draw, and zero for each loss). You can't lose points for losing matches and you don't have to "spend" them to get the perks of a high rating, so your lifetime total never goes down*.

Planeswalker Points tracks your points in various ways, including a Lifetime total that allows you to level up and gain ranks in an advancement system. There are also different totals, like the Competitive total and Friday Night Magic total, which are used to invite players to exclusive events and offer other rewards.

Finally, Planeswalker Points is retroactive. If you already have a DCI number and have participated in OP events, you already have lifetime points since we have applied the Planeswalker Points system to all the matches in which you have already played. In addition, you already have a level in the advancement system!

Why Planeswalker Points?

The biggest advantage of Planeswalker Points is that it always rewards you for playing Magic. If you play in an event, your lifetime total goes up—and it never, ever goes down due to losing a match.

Previously, losing matches caused you to lose rating points. The more your rating exceeded that of the player you lost to, the more points you lost. In addition to the satisfaction of success, top players wanted to use their high ratings to get certain benefits (primarily byes at Grand Prix and invites to Nationals, Pro Tours, and Worlds). These players were potentially discouraged from playing in tournaments at all, because a few bad rounds could harm their chances to succeed at—or even attend—major events!

As part of our market research about Organized Play, we spoke with local and Friday Night Magic players, players at the Pro Tour Qualifier and Grand Prix level, and Pro Tour players about the rating system. Again and again, we heard from players at all levels that players were "sitting on rating"—not attending events to keep their ratings high—and that it was bad for the game.

The best way to improve your play skill is to compete against highly skilled players. If local sanctioned play isn't "worth it" for highly rated players, newer players who want to get better lose access to that resource. The highly rated players, for their part, said that they want to play sanctioned Magic, but not if it would hurt their ratings.

In web articles, various social media platform discussions and in other public statements from players, we heard not only that this sort of ratings protection was happening regularly, but that players were unhappy and frustrated with it.

When we started internal discussions about a new rating system that would address players' concerns (and ours!), we knew that the new system needed to fulfill a number of requirements.

Specifically, we looked for the following attributes:

  • Legitimacy – Any Magic rating system needs to accurately rate Magic players on criteria that are important to them. Magic R&D worked with the Organized Play team to analyze prospective systems and ensure that the one we ended up with rewards play skill and incentivizes the tournament behavior Magic fans have come to expect. We didn't want to solve one issue just to create another one!
  • Retroactivity – Players' existing match histories had to count toward the new system. Many players have worked hard to get their present ratings, and we knew we couldn't enact any system that would start everyone over again at zero.
  • Simplicity – A good system makes it easy for players to understand what impacts their ratings. By echoing the way points are already tabulated inside individual tournaments (e.g., 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, zero for a loss), Planeswalker Points gives players a transparent and straightforward look at their success in the game.
  • Achievement – We knew we wanted a tier- or level-based advancement system. Your Planeswalker Points total isn't just a number; it's an advancement track. I'll show you what that advancement track looks like later in this article.
  • Fun – The ratings system for Magic should give people reasons to play Magic, and shouldn't give them reasons to not play Magic. (Most Magic players find playing Magic more fun than not playing Magic.)

How Planeswalker Points Works

Your Planeswalker Points are tracked in several different ways. Your Lifetime total records all the points you've ever earned, and is used to calculate your Planeswalker Points level. Your Competitive total counts points from competitive events in the current competitive season. Your Friday Night Magic Total counts points from Friday Night Magic Events. Lastly, your Professional total adds together the points you've earned at major events. These totals will be used to award invitations and byes to different kinds of events.

Casual Events

Casual events award players only for participation, not for match results. You are awarded a fixed number of points, at least 1 point for each event. Attending sanctioned casual events—or asking your store to sanction the casual games you're already playing—is a great way to build up your Lifetime total. There's no reason not to get your event sanctioned, even if it's just you and your buddies hanging around your local store playing Commander.

Points from casual events count toward your Lifetime total exclusively.

Competitive Events

In competitive events (all events that are not casual), the number of Planeswalker Points you earn depends on the number of people in the event, your match record, and type of event (FNM, Pro Tour Qualifier, World Championship, etc).

Points from competitive events count toward your Lifetime total and toward your Competitive total for the current Competitive Season. Depending on the type of event, points from competitive events may also count toward your Friday Night Magic total or your Professional total.

Participation points: Competitive events award participation points based on the total number of players. The more players facing off—or, to look at it a different way, the more friends you bring—the more points everyone gets for playing. You get participation points even if you don't win a single match. All you have to do is play!

Match record: In competitive events, you earn 3 points for each match win, 1 point for each draw, and zero points for each loss.

Event multiplier: Your participation points and match record points for each competitive event are added together, and then multiplied by an event multiplier determined by the type of event. For example, Friday Night Magic has a multiplier of 3x, while a Grand Prix has a multiplier of 8x.

You can find more information about participation points and event multipliers on the Planeswalker Points information page.

Leveling Up

As your Lifetime total increases, you'll earn levels in the Planeswalker Points system.

Here are the levels, and the points you need to get to them:

To see how your Lifetime total affects your level, let's take a look at a case study: me, Mike Turian!

Under the old system, my Total rating was 2316, making me the highest-ranked player in the world—even though I haven't played sanctioned Magic since I joined Wizards of the Coast in 2004. If I'd been playing regularly during that time, that number probably would have gone down, because a rating that high is hard to maintain. But because I've been sitting on my rating (even though it wasn't for the usual reasons), I'm still the world's top Magic player according to the old rating system.

Under the Planeswalker Points system, the very same record of events and matches makes me a Level 46 Archmage with over 25,000 Lifetime points. That's a respectable total that reflects my success at high levels of play... but it's no match for the top-ranked player: fellow Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel, a Level 50 Archmage with over 65,000 Lifetime points!

My Lifetime total shows off my past accomplishments, but because I haven't played in seven years, my Competitive total for the current season is zero. If someone with my exact match record (who didn't work at Wizards and wasn't in the Hall of Fame) wanted to get back onto the Pro Tour, he or she would have some work to do!

Earning Invitations and Byes

Planeswalker Points gives players like you an opportunity to qualify for exclusive invitation-only events like Pro Tours and the World Championship. You can also earn byes at Grand Prix events, the biggest, most exciting open tournaments on offer from Wizards of the Coast.

Because we know that competitive players take their ratings seriously and manage them carefully, we'll continue to calculate invitations and byes based on the old rating system for the remainder of the 2011 season. Starting in 2012, we'll issue invitations and byes based upon the Planeswalker Points rating system.

Grand Prix Byes

At the end of each competitive season, we'll tally up everyone's Competitive total and award byes according to global ranking. Until the next season's end date, eligible players with byes will start each Grand Prix they play in with the corresponding number of wins. That's right—you'll be able to use your byes in each Grand Prix you play in until the next season's end date. And with more Grand Prix events than ever before, there are more opportunities than ever before to use those byes.

Pro Tour Invitations

Invitations and plane tickets to the next Pro Tour will be awarded to eligible players based on their Competitive totals at the end of each Competitive season. Starting in 2012, Grand Prix events no longer automatically award invites to high finishers, but their high attendance and high event multipliers make them great places to rack up points for your Competitive total.

Friday Night Magic Championship

One of the most exciting things we're introducing with Planeswalker Points is the FNM Championship. One hundred players among the players with the top Friday Night Magic totals will be invited to this championship and may also be awarded a plane ticket in addition to the invite.

World Championship

The best players in the game will meet to determine the World Champion, and their Professional Planeswalker Points total will get them there.

Planeswalker Points and You

Whether you're a veteran pro or just starting out, the new Planeswalker Points site lets you track your event and match records, your current level, your global ranking, and your Lifetime, Competitive, Friday Night Magic, and Professional totals.

If you already have a DCI number, the Planeswalker Points site will let you see how many lifetime points you've already earned. Using your DCI number, you can also go to the Planeswalker Points site and set up a Planeswalker Points account* to view your points, your ranking in competitive play, and your current level. If you don't have a DCI number, now is a great time to jump in. Use the Store Locator to find a store near you, and they can sign you up for a DCI number and get you started in sanctioned events right away.

And if you've accumulated more than one DCI number, this is the perfect time to get them combined. Since your Lifetime total never goes down*, it's all upside to get all of your points in one big pile and see what level you are! You can log into the Planeswalker Points site and use the DCI Combine form to choose your preferred number and make sure all your points count toward one Lifetime total.

The Point of Points

Ultimately, our goal in creating Planeswalker Points was to provide the best possible experience for players like you. You can play in as many events as you want, rack up points, level up, and maybe even make it to the Pro Tour.

The new Planeswalker Points site is live and waiting for you. If you've got a DCI number, you can log in right now and set up your account to see how many points you have, what level you've reached, and how many more Lifetime points you need to level up. You can also check out the Planeswalker Points FAQ, which has more details about the system and a bunch of helpful links.

*Your participation in the Planeswalker Points Program including, without limitation, your eligibility, managing your account, getting event invitations and byes, are subject to the terms and conditions of the Planeswalker Points Program Official Terms. Wizards reserves the right to remove points that have been gained fraudulently or remove points as a result of cheating or otherwise disreputable behavior. Please go here for more information.

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