A Look at the European Grand Prix Events

Posted in ARCHIVES - ARTICLES on September 13, 2015

By Oliver Gehrmann

A little less than a month ago, Fabrizio Anteri was tearing through a field of a whopping 2,152 players back in his chosen home of London, making sure that the title would stay right where it was. Since he was no stranger to cashing in at the Grand Prix, we wanted to hear from him what he thought about the important announcement that was published this past week: Next year, prize payouts for Grand Prix tournaments will be greatly increased.

Anteri's Undefeated Streaks

One of Anteri's most valuable cards in London, in his Standard deck, had been Hangarback Walker. Fate smiled on him again this weekend as he ended up playing that very same card in his Sealed Deck. When I first spoke with him, his goal for the day had been seven wins, but he had readjusted his sight in the meantime, aiming a little higher: "When you're 7-0, you don't want to end the day 7-2. I want to go undefeated now, just like I did in London."

During deck construction, Anteri had a feeling that his deck was solid, but due to the absence of 5- and 6-drops, he didn't feel like he could go undefeated. In that regard, his 40 cards were performing well above expectations. In fact, he did manage to go 9-0 on Day 1 and found himself once again in the familiar position of being able to make a run at the Top 8.

Fabrizio Anteri

Unfortunately for Anteri, the higher prize payout would only be given out in 2016, so he wasn't going benefit from the changes this weekend already. Asked about the increased prize support, Anteri admitted that he was extremely happy with the announcement: "It is basically twice the money for Top 16."

He went on and explained that it might not be too much of a motivation for new players as their realistic target is the Top 64. "It is, however, a massive improvement for the top players that are investing a lot of time into the game as they can now reap a much bigger reward."

Anteri added that it didn't make much of a difference whether you ended up with 250 dollars or 300 dollars if you made the Top 64, the only drawback of the new prize payout. At the end of the day, you won't make your money back for the trip.

Regarding his preparation for the events, he admitted that the new prize structure wouldn't make too much of a difference. He said he couldn't put any more time into testing anyway; he'd already reached his limit. Still, it might serve as additional motivation to attend an American Grand Prix toward the end of the season to lock up Gold as it was going to be that much more lucrative to play come 2016.

Planning the New Year

Asked about the schedule for the new year, Anteri said that he would most likely not attend the Legacy Grand Prix in Prague but make an appearance at all the remaining events in Europe. On top of that, he'd try to make the GPs that are on the week following a Pro Tour.

For 2016, the number of European Grand Prix was reduced slightly (one fewer than this year), which led me to the question whether Anteri preferred the extra event or the higher prize payout. "I would definitely choose the bigger prize payout. I have a number of friends who told me that they are getting tired of traveling so much, so I think it's a great trade-off. It will be a welcome change to spend another weekend at home."

Anteri was also full of praise for Wizards of the Coast's organized play policies in general. He shared that he loves seeing the game grow and Wizards giving back to the community: "They increased the number of Pro Tours and now they are handing out more money. It's a great development for the game in my opinion!"

Getting into Organized Play

In case you didn't know, life in London is very expensive. Recently, Anteri had to start a job, working part time in a Magic store. He was very thankful to the store owner. Also, he was now getting to know a whole new side of the hobby he loves. He admitted that he still had to learn a lot about the business side of things. However, he was feeling confident that sooner rather than later, he would be able to help grow the business and attract more players.

Interestingly enough, Anteri was sporting a shirt that didn't promote his local store, but rather his other sponsor, tournamentcenter.eu, also the tournament organizer of today's event. He told me that he thought they were doing a great job and on top of that, they were always eager to improve.

Many players in attendance that I asked about this were in full agreement with Anteri. One of the nicest recent additions to their huge bag of tricks were even more social media updates than ever before. One example was the tournament organizer telling players that one of the subway stations close by was shut, in turn helping them to avoid a lot of disappointment after they had made the long walk there.

Wouter Maenhaut from tournamentcenter.eu explained to me why they were sponsoring Anteri together with a handful of other players: "We want to make more players aware of our brand. And it helps us collect more feedback as other players are asking our sponsored players about their sponsor and very often the conversation will then continue in a way that is beneficial to us. Many of our sponsored players pass on the feedback they hear from their friends."

Truth be told, this marks the first time I have seen a tournament organizer (rather than, say, a vendor) sponsoring players to improve their brand recognition. I like the idea and it was obvious that they were taking the feedback to heart. This way, and with changes like the new prize payout, organized play was looking to have a very bright future indeed.