Introducing the New Magic Online Premier Play Program

Posted in Magic Digital on December 5, 2019

By Chris Kiritz

Greetings, Magic Online players!

For 2020, Magic Online is introducing a revamped Premier Play Program that incorporates both the Players Tour system and Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) into a single program. Today, we'll discuss some of the logic behind the changes, but if you're the kind of player who is just looking for the facts, you can head over to the MTGO Premier Play Program Rules page and get nitty-gritty. If you're the kind of player who wants the tl;dr, jump to The Sum Up.

Now, on to the long-form non-nitty-gritty.

In the Beginning

Just over a decade ago, Magic Online launched two major Premier Play Programs: Magic Online PTQs and the Magic Online Championship Series. Over the years, these programs have changed and evolved just as Magic Online has. Through it all, amazing players too numerous to name have demonstrated their impressive skills at the highest levels of competition, in tabletop at the various Pro Tour, Mythic Championship, and Players Tour events, and online in PTQs and the Magic Online Championships.

Throughout the evolutions, however, these programs have effectively remained separate, with their own changes, seasons, and qualification procedures. From Preliminaries and Challenges to Qualifiers and Playoffs, PTQ tokens and Qualifier Points (QPs) to Format Points (FPs) and Leaderboard Points, the existing systems have a ton of moving parts and a lot of potential for confusion.

While nothing is broken, we wanted to evaluate both programs holistically and try to create a more refined, integrated MTGO Premier Play Program. With that in mind, we used the following goals to focus our review and guide any changes we made:

  1. Simplify the Premier Play system
  2. Provide players more flexibility
  3. Allow format specialization, but . . .
  4. Don't penalize players who dabble in multiple formats

So, let's look at where we ended up . . .

'Tis the Season

One of our earliest decisions was to move Magic Online Premier Play to a seasonal model. While the current MOCS system does a fine job of creating engaging ongoing play, we wanted to create more immediacy around Premier Play. We know based on past schedules the time from the start of the 2019 MOCS season to the final MTGO Championship will be somewhere around 18 months. While the Championship is a great event, it's so far removed from the end of the season due to scheduling constraints that it feels very disconnected.

For 2020, we're splitting the year into shorter seasons of about seventeen weeks each. Each season will have its own qualifying events and will culminate in an eight-player in-person Champions Showcase with its own prize pool of $70,000 and an invitation to an upcoming Players Tour Finals. Once the qualifying season is over, we will reset and start a new season.

Not only does this change let us highlight outstanding MTGO players multiple times per year in the Champions Showcase, but we also want each Champions Showcase much closer to the end of its qualifying season. The smaller event size makes that much more feasible.

Season 1 of the 2020 MTGO Premier Play Program begins Tuesday, December 10, 2019 and ends Wednesday, April 15, 2020. With the seasonal reset, all earned QPs will be removed from players accounts before starting the new season. For more details, check out the season calendar lower in the article.

One System to Rule Them All

Part of the previous system's complexity stems from having unconnected events scattered across the calendar. Constructed PTQs have different entry options from Limited PTQs which have different entry options from MOCS Preliminaries which have different entry options from Format Playoffs and so on. With a new seasonal model, however, we wanted to rein in this complexity to create a more focused experience.

We knew that in an ideal world we wanted to consolidate the available play systems, but during design, it became clear some of our goals were at odds with each other. How can we simplify if we want to allow format specialization? How do we make specialization feel rewarding while also supporting "omnivorous" players who like to play a little bit of everything?

Reconciling these conflicts was the most difficult part of the process. We started with a multi-point system similar to what we currently have for the MOCS, including Format Points, but with PTQs included. While this allowed specialization, it didn't do much to simplify things. Trimming to just a few categories, like Limited and Constructed, got us closer, but it still had a level of complexity we didn't care for, particularly for players who might end up straddling the two worlds because they like both Constructed and Draft.

Ultimately, we decided that providing maximum flexibility would be the best way to support both specialists and omnivores, all while simplifying the system. This means that 2020 players will only be earning a single Premier Play entry object, Qualifier Points (QPs). No more tracking half-a-dozen different Premier Play currencies and rotation schedules. With a universal QP, you'll only need to know how many QPs you have, when the next event you want to join is scheduled, and when the season ends.

Qualifying, Like a Boss

When exploring how to distribute QPs, our goal was to give players as much flexibility as possible with how they play without rewriting the book on MTGO events. In the end, we settled on three options that look pretty familiar: Leagues (and Queues), Preliminary Events, and Format Challenges.

Leagues (and Queues)

Leagues are great at allowing players to play on their own schedule and reward sustained success, so keeping this option was a must. Leagues and queues will continue to include QPs as prizes for strong finishes, and the amount of QPs earned will depend on the league. We'll also continue to offer Queues for events that have more restrictive audiences, like Encore drafts of older formats and Cubes, where in-pod play has meaningful gameplay implications. The comparative distribution rate for these events is similar to previous years and can be found in the chart below.

Preliminary Events

While Leagues are a great way to earn QPs over time, we wanted to ensure that players who have more sporadic schedules could also earn enough points to qualify for Premier Play events. We ended up leaning on a familiar system: Preliminaries.

We currently use these five-round scheduled events for Limited Players Tour Qualifiers, so not only are we continuing that system, we're bringing back Constructed Preliminaries as well.

Standard, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Pauper, and our primary Limited format (which will usually be the most recent release) will have several events at scheduled times throughout the week. While we tried to provide a robust variety of starting times to give players who enjoy this style of event one or more that works for their schedule, please note that pleasing everyone isn't going to be possible. That said, we will continue to monitor and evaluate our event offerings and make adjustments as needed between seasons.

The other major change to Preliminaries is replacing Red and Blue PTQ Tokens with QPs. Going undefeated will award 40 QPs, which is enough to join a Premier Play event of your choice, while finishing the event with only one loss will award 20 QPs.* This means you can go undefeated in a Standard Preliminary on a Tuesday and use the QPs to join a Limited PTQ on an upcoming weekend.

*UPDATED December 12, 2019: Earning 4 wins now also earns 40 QPs and will allow entry into an upcoming Premier Event

Here is the complete Preliminary schedule:

Time (PT)

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

12 a.m.

Legacy

Vintage

Limited

Modern

Pauper

Pioneer

 

1 a.m.

             

2 a.m.

       

Limited

Limited

 

3 a.m.

Vintage

Modern

Legacy

Pioneer

Standard

   

4 a.m.

             

5 a.m.

             

6 a.m.

         

Standard Challenge

Pioneer Challenge

7 a.m.

Standard

Pioneer

Modern

Pauper

Legacy

   

8 a.m.

         

Modern Challenge

Legacy Challenge

9 a.m.

Limted

Limited

         

10 a.m.

       

Limited

Vintage Challenge

Pauper Challenge

11 a.m.

Pauper

Standard

Pioneer

Modern

Vintage

   

12 p.m.

     

Limited

 

Limited

Limited

1 p.m.

             

2 p.m.

             

3 p.m.

Modern

Pauper

Standard

Legacy

Pioneer

 

Vintage

4 p.m.

 

Limited

Limited

Limited

 

Limited

Limited

5 p.m.

             

6 p.m.

Limited

     

Limited

   

7 p.m.

Pioneer

Legacy

Pauper

Standard

Modern

   

8 p.m.

             

9 p.m.

             

10 p.m.

             

11 p.m.

             

Format Challenges

Finally, the very popular Format Challenges will remain the weekly focal point for all Constructed formats with Preliminaries. We will be adding a Standard Format Challenge on Saturdays to bring Standard in line with the other formats. While Leagues are great for building experience in a format, Challenges are where players can really demonstrate their mastery of a format.

Players who finish in the Top 8 will earn QPs, with both first place and second place earning enough to join a Premier Play event. In addition, we've heard your feedback around the prize structures of the more popular formats, so we are splitting challenges into two structures based on format popularity. While the entry options won't change, the minimum number of players and prize structures will be updated to better account for average number of players expected in the Challenges. The full details can be found on our events page.

Qualifier Points Distribution

Source

Result

QPs

Draft League

3 Wins

1

Swiss Draft or Sealed Queue

3 Wins

1

Single-Elimination Draft Queue

1st

4

2nd

2

Competitive Sealed League

5 Wins

4

4 Wins

2

Constructed League

5 Wins

4

4 Wins

2

Preliminary Events

5 Wins

40

4 Wins

20

Format Challenge

1st

40

2nd

40

3rd–4th

20

5th–8th

10

Get to the Points

Now that you know how you can earn QPs, let's review the events you'll use them in. As stated, a key goal was to provide players with more flexibility, and this is especially true when it comes to using QPs. Regardless of how you earned your QPs, you can use them in the events described below.

In addition, we want to make sure you have many chances to use the QPs you earn before the season ends. Under the old system there were roughly eight opportunities to use QPs (plus an addition four Format Point-specific events) during a 17-week period, or the equivalent of a new Premier Play season. Season 1 of the MTGO Premier Play Program has over 40 options in the same time span!

While we have added more ways to use QPs, the number of events that consume QPs each season is fixed. While each event that accepts QPs as an entry option will have a cap of 672 players, we expect the events at the end of each season to have higher demand and a higher risk of filling up early. If there are specific events that interest you, please plan accordingly.

Now, let's take a look at the Premier Play events.

Players Tour Qualifiers

First, we'll continue to offer a suite of roughly 25 PTQs over the course of each season. Players will need 40 QPs to join each PTQ and the winner will earn an invite to an upcoming Players Tour. It is worth noting that the MTGO Premier Play seasons and the tabletop Players Tour seasons will not necessarily be aligned, but players can refer to the MTGO PTQ schedule to see which Players Tour an event feeds.

As in previous years, we'll offer a mix of formats for our PTQs, but the focus will be on the most popular MTGO formats. Each season, you can expect a dozen or so Limited PTQs, four or five Modern and Pioneer PTQs, with the remainder allocated to Standard, Legacy, and Pauper. The MTGO PTQ schedule will indicate the format for each PTQ.

While we are supporting Vintage formats as a place to earn QPs, the current participation levels are too low to support more dedicated Premier Play support, such as PTQs. Of course, we'll be watching play levels each season, and if the number of players engaging in Vintage events increases to the levels of other formats, we'll revisit this decision.

So, to recap PTQs:

The Champions Showcase

The other way to use QPs is by entering Magic Online Champions Showcase events (or MOCS . . . see what we did there?). This program has its roots in the Magic Online Championship Series but has been modified to meet the goals outlined above. With this in mind, the new MOCS has several components to discuss:

  • Showcase Challenges
  • Showcase Last-Chance Events
  • Showcase Qualifiers
  • Showcase Opens
  • Champions Showcase

Let's dig in.

Showcase Challenges

Showcase Challenges are the first step in the Champions Showcase path and a place where players can specialize in their favorite formats. Three times per season, each Format Challenge—excluding Vintage—will be replaced with a Showcase Challenge for that format. We will also add three Limited Showcase Challenges each season, so players who prefer Limited will have a chance to qualify for the Champions Showcase that way.

As with PTQs, players need 40 QPs to join these events that culminate in a Top 8. Players who finish in the Top 8 will earn a token to enter the Showcase Qualifier of the matching format (see below). Beyond qualifying players for the Showcases, the prizes for these events will match those of PTQs (without the Players Tour invitation).

Showcase Last Chance Events

These new Showcase Last Chance Events (LCEs) are the final way players can spend their QPs each season. Our goal with LCEs is to provide players a way to use leftover QPs at the end of the season, prior to the reset. If you've been engaged all season and have a lot of QPs but haven't earned a spot in the Showcase Qualifiers yet, this event is for you.

LCEs happen during the gap between the final Showcase Challenges of the season and the start of the next season. For those couple of days, the scheduled Preliminaries will become LCEs, and each requires 40 QPs in addition to its regular entry requirements. The format, schedule, and prize structure of each of those events will remain the same, except for undefeated players who will earn an entry token for the Showcase Qualifier of the corresponding format in addition to the normal prizes.

Showcase Qualifiers

At the end of the season, after all the Showcase Challenges and LCEs are done, we'll run a series of Showcase Qualifiers. These will be scheduled over the first few weeks of the next season and are format-specific, so if you qualified through a Pioneer Challenge or Pioneer LCE, for example, you can only enter the Pioneer Showcase Qualifier.

There will be a total of six Showcase Qualifiers: Standard, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Pauper, and Limited. The winner of each Showcase Qualifier will earn an invitation to the Champions Showcase for that season as well as an invitation to an upcoming Players Tour as indicated in the schedule.

Showcase Open

The final two invitations to the Champions Showcase will come from the Showcase Opens. These scheduled Top 8 events allow anyone to try their hand at earning an invitation to the Showcase. Players don't need to earn points or another qualification to enter (other than Event Tickets or Play Points), and because these events are Sealed, players don't even need a deck.

The winner of each Showcase Open will get an invitation to the Champions Showcase and an upcoming Players Tour, while the runner up will earn an invitation to an upcoming Players Tour event.

To see how all these events interlock, this list shows all of Season 1 and how it overlaps with the end of the 2019 MOCS and the start of Season 2:

  • December 10: Season 1 begins
  • December 14: 2019 MOCS Open
  • December 15: 2019 MOCS Q4 Preliminary
  • December 21: 2019 MOCS Open
  • December 28: 2019 MOCS Playoff
  • January 4: 2019 Modern Championship
  • January 5: 2019 Legacy Championship
  • January 11: 2019 Vintage Championship
  • January 12: 2019 Pauper Championship
  • January 25–26: Showcase Challenge Weekend – Season 1
  • February 29–March 1: Showcase Challenge Weekend – Season 1
  • April 11–12: Showcase Challenge Weekend – Season 1
  • April 13–14: Last Chance Events – Season 1
  • April 15: Season 2 begins
  • April 18: Limited Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • April 19: Legacy Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • April 25: Standard Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • April 26: Pioneer Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • May 2: Modern Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • May 3: Pauper Showcase Qualifier – Season 1
  • May 9: Showcase Open – Season 1
  • May 10: Showcase Open – Season 1
  • May 30–31: Showcase Challenge Weekend – Season 2

Magic Online Champions Showcase

The end of each season culminates with the Champions Showcase where the eight qualified players will battle in person for their share of a $70,000 prize pool and an invitation to an upcoming Players Tour Finals.

The prizes for the Champions Showcase are as follows:

Finish

Prizes

Invitation

1st

$20,000

Players Tour Finals

2nd

$14,000

 

3rd–4th

$8,000

 

5th–8th

$5,000

 

And to recap, the competitors include:

  • The five (5) winners of each of the Constructed Showcase Qualifiers.
  • The winner of the Limited Showcase Qualifier
  • The two (2) winners of each of the Showcase Opens

The first Champions Showcase will be held in person in the Seattle, Washington area at a time and location to be announced in early 2020. Dates and locations for following Champions Showcases will be announced near the end of each season.

To recap the Champions Showcase process:

Cleanup Step

So, now that we've covered most of the changes for next year, it's worth discussing some transition details.

First, the new Premier Play Program starts on December 10, so there will be a small overlap in seasons. We will be using a new QP object for the new season, so players will briefly be accumulating both kinds of QPs. QPs earned for the 2019 MOCS will expire after the MOCS Q4 Prelim on December 15. All events distributing the old QPs will be updated the Wednesday after the final MOCS Preliminary. This means there will be a few days where players earn extraneous QPs from the previous season that they will be unable to use. All expired QPs will be removed from players' accounts in January of 2020.

Second, if you've earned a Players Tour token, we're honoring that token until it expires. This means you have three opportunities to use your Blue PTQ token (December 13, December 22, and December 29) before they expire. Players who have earned Red PTQ tokens—the last of which will be distributed with the Preliminaries on December 9—will be able to use them on PTQs, including Constructed PTQs, throughout Season 1 of the new MTGO Premier Play system. They will expire with the end of Season 1 on April 15. PTQ tokens will be removed from players' accounts the month after they expire.

In addition, since the previously announced PTQs on December 13, December 22, and December 29 are now the first events of Season 1, we will be adding an entry option of 40 QPs to each of these events.

Third, all earned Format Points (FPs) will expire after their Q4 Playoff begins. Each League that is distributing FPs will have their prize structures updated the Monday after their associated Playoff. This means there will be a few days where players earn FPs that they will have no way to use. In January 2020, all FPs will be removed from players' accounts.

Fourth, the new Premier Play Program doesn't have a leaderboard structure, so this program will be eliminated after the 2019 MOCS Championship finalists have been locked in. Note we'll continue to use this Leaderboard in the case where a previously qualified player is unable to attend the 2019 Magic Online Championship.

None of these changes affect Event Tickets, Play Points, Treasure Chests, League Trophies, or Prestige Avatars and how they earned or used.

Fifth, Digital Event Coordinator (DEC) coverage will continue to be available for some event types. If you have questions or issues with a PTQ, Showcase Challenge, Showcase Qualifier, or Showcase Open, open your in-game chat and join the event channel by clicking on the Chat icon in the main navigation at the top of the client and typing #DEC. If your event has coverage, a DEC will be available in this channel to answer questions and provide support.

Note that some events may only have coverage for the portions of the event. In these scenarios, you'll need to contact Game Support through our normal support channels.

The Sum Up

Whew! That's a lot of information, so here is the tl;dr:

  • The Magic Online Championship Series and the Players Tour Qualifier system have been combined into a single, seasonal program.
  • Seasons will be about seventeen weeks and will culminate in an in-person Champions Showcase with a prize pool of $70,000 and a Players Tour Finals invitation.
  • Players earn a single Qualifier Point to unlock access to Magic Online Premier Play events in either the PTQ path, the Magic Online Champions Showcase path, or both.

And for you visual folks, here is a chart for how a season works:

The new Premier Play Program isn't the only big change we have in store for 2020, but I'm going to save that information for an update early next year, as this article is already too long.

Let us know what you think of the changes on Twitter @MagicOnline or via email at magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com. Don't forget to queue up for some Vintage Masters Encore drafts (now playing) or Vintage Cube drafts starting next week on December 11.

Have a great holiday season and may all your Magic wishes come true.

—Chris Kiritz

Senior Product Manager – Magic Online

Latest Magic Digital Articles

MAGIC DIGITAL

November 10, 2020

MTG Arena: State of the Game – November 2020 by, Wizards of the Coast

Kaladesh Remastered Gather your crew, inspect your Aether, and, for your safety, please remain seated inside your Vehicles until scheduled maintenance has come to a complete stop. It's ...

Learn More

MAGIC DIGITAL

November 10, 2020

Return to Kaladesh in Kaladesh Remastered by, Amazonian

Rev up those engines and start piling up the energy counters, because Kaladesh Remastered is coming to Magic: The Gathering Arena. The set combines the best of both Kaladesh and Aether Re...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Magic Digital Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All