State of Organized Play—PT Kaladesh

Posted in Competitive Gaming on October 6, 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 are approaching Pro Tour Kaladesh in Honolulu next week, I would like to share with you a few updates.

New Tournament Procedures for Pro Tour Kaladesh

At Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney, we tested three new procedures:

  1. Electronic Decklist Submission

For the first time, decklists were collected electronically. The original deadline for submitting the deck list was 7 p.m. local time, and was adjusted to 11:59 p.m. local time after receiving some feedback from the Pro Tour competitors.

We received great feedback from the players and will continue to look at ways to improve the process, primarily to allow players to check their own list after submitting it. In the meantime, we will proceed with electronic decklist submission for Pro Tour Kaladesh with the same deadline of 11:59 p.m. local time.

  1. Anti-Scouting Measure: Pairings in the Tournament Hall

Over the past few years, scouting increased significantly to the extent that it was negatively impacting the Pro Tour experience. Playing a game of Magic is about your ability to react and adjust your strategy to a deck you discover turn after turn, rather than having the resources to be able to gain knowledge about the deck your opponent is playing before the match even starts.

After discussing several options with the pro group we assembled a few months ago, we decided to test a different procedure for posting pairings, summarized as follows:

  • Pairings are posted in the venue, but do not list the names of opponents.
  • Once the pairings are announced, players cannot use electronic devices until the end of that round's matches.
  • Pairings are posted to the Wizards of the Coast website a few minutes after the round starts and players have begun playing.

This test triggered very productive conversations, as many pro players had not realized that we did not endorse scouting. As this procedure was received positively, we plan to continue with this system at future Pro Tour events. This procedure will not impact Grand Prix.

  1. Effort to Limit Concessions: Special Pairing Method for Rounds 15 and 16

With all events, and especially the Pro Tour, we strive to run tournaments that create meaningful matches of Magic that are played to their natural conclusion. With this goal in mind, we altered the way players were paired in the last two Swiss rounds of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon (Rounds 15 and 16) in order to prevent concessions that occur when players with mismatched incentives are paired against each other.

In a nutshell, what we did in Sydney was make sure players with incentives (for example, "I'm playing to become the National Champion" or "I'm playing to reach the Top 8") would be randomly paired against each other within their respective score groups.

While this system did reduce the number of concessions, it proved to be far from ideal. First off, it forced the tournament to halt for approximatively 15 minutes. Players commented that at this stage of the tournament, these 15 minutes were really damaging to their experience. Additionally, we realized that our motives were not well understood by the players, and some of them felt it was simply an attempt to reduce the number of players who would reach Platinum.

As the procedure presented more cons than pros, we have decided to try a different approach. Our philosophy at the level of the Pro Tour is that concessions make for a poor viewing experience, a sentiment that is already shared by many of you. As such, we are exploring ways to change the culture and possibly the rules or tournament structure to reduce both the feeling that conceding is the "correct play" and the desire to do so. In order to facilitate that shift, we'll continue working with players on a variety of solutions that incentivize playing matches out in more instances than not. While we recognize sometimes the incentives are simply imbalanced for two paired players, we believe there is a middle ground between the attempted fix in Sydney and the status quo.

We realize that changing a culture is a lengthy process and might have limited impact, but we're willing to give it a try. If, however, we do not see a significant shift, we will look at other ways to prevent concessions at the Pro Tour level of play, up to and including simply making concessions illegal.

Additionally, the revised Top 8 bracket that was announced before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon will become effective at Pro Tour Kaladesh, which we expect to limit the number of concessions in these rounds.

Revised Pro Tour Players Club Thresholds

After the conclusion of each professional season, we re-assess the thresholds for each level of the Pro Tour Players Club against the goals we had in terms of number of players per level.

Over the past few years, our goal has been to see about 30 players start a professional season with the status of Platinum, about 60 as Gold, and between 80 and 120 players at Silver level, as we feel that these targets help strike a balance between prestige, aspiration, and accessibility.

An alternative way to reach our targets would be to determine that, as an example, the first 30 players to reach 50 Pro Points would become Platinum, but it would result in an arms race that would be detrimental to the players' experience. Adjusting thresholds therefore seems like a better option for the players.

An assessment of the past season showed that the thresholds we had set were too low, as the change to X-3 cut for advancing to Day Two of a Grand Prix resulted in twice as many Pro Points being distributed compared to the previous year.

We are therefore re-setting the thresholds as follows for the 2016–17 season:

  • Platinum: 52 Pro Points (previously 50)
  • Gold: 35 Pro Points (previously 33)
  • Silver: 20 Pro Points (previously 18)

This change is effective immediately, as it impacts the 2016–17 season.

Grand Prix Adjustments

We have a few things to announce today with regard to 2017's Grand Prix schedule. But first off...

The End of the Super Sunday Series

I would like to announce that the 2017 Super Sunday Series Championship, to be held January 6–7 at Wizards of the Coast headquarters, will be the last event, as we are discontinuing the program.

We kicked off the Super Sunday Series a few years ago to offer an exciting and consistent side event on Sundays of all Grand Prix events. Over the past years, each Grand Prix has run a qualifier for the Super Sunday Series Championship, held at Wizards of the Coast headquarters at the beginning of the following year.

While the program has met its goal, it has also created some challenges. Despite many attempts to resolve the problem, it turns out that the Super Sunday Series Qualifier is always the very last event to conclude on Sunday evening. It results in a pretty poor experience for the players, staff, and judges. Who enjoys playing a game of Magic while the venue is being torn down, or while the friends you are carpooling with are waiting in the car?

Removing this constraint will give Grand Prix organizers the opportunity to customize their Sunday programming while continuing to improve the players' experience. Super Sunday Series Qualifiers will still be run until the end of the year (Grand Prix Milwaukee in December will be the last Grand Prix to feature this side event).

2017 Grand Prix Changes

When we unveiled the 2017 Grand Prix schedule, one of the stops was marked as "APAC—TBD." I'm excited to share with you that this Grand Prix is now confirmed as Grand Prix Hong Kong, and will be hosted in the Kowloon International Trade and Exhibition Centre October 27-29. The format of this event will be Limited.

We would also like to share with you two venue changes:

  • Grand Prix Lille (August 25–27): After two consecutive years facing some significant issues with the climate control system at the venue where the Grand Prix was hosted, we came to the conclusion that that venue was not suitable for a summer Grand Prix. We have therefore decided to move next year's Grand Prix to Metz at the Metz-Expo venue. The dates and format of the Grand Prix remain unchanged.
  • Grand Prix Sydney (June 23–25): The original location of this event was the Sydney Olympic Park. In order to improve the players' experience, the Tournament Organizer decided to move the event to the newly renovated ICC.

Lastly, the formats of the triple Grand Prix main event experience to be held in Las Vegas the week of June 12 were announced as Legacy, Standard, and Modern. After processing the feedback shared by the Magic community, the Tournament Organizer decided to change the formats to Legacy, Limited, and Modern.

Pro Tour Team Series

An exciting development we also announced before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and that was the creation of the Pro Tour Team Series.

Over the past years, teams have become a growing part of the Pro Tour experience. However, teams tend to be very fluid, as their composition can fluctuate significantly from one Pro Tour to the next.

The Pro Tour Team Series is meant to incentivize existing pros to form more stable and professional teams, around which we will be able to create season-long narratives for Magic fans.

A number of players, specifically from Asia-Pacific, expressed the concern that the required size of the teams (nine players) would limit the ability of smaller regions to participate. We have taken this piece of feedback seriously, as we want to encourage global participation.

After discussing with the pro group that was referred to earlier, we decided to change the size of the teams to six players.

Additionally, as not all players from a given team may be able to attend a Pro Tour, we are also altering the way scoring for teams will work:

  • For the 2016–17 season (soft launch): We will count the Pro Points from the five top competitors for Pro Tour Aether Revolt in Dublin, Ireland, and Pro Tour Amonkhet in Nashville, Tennessee. All members of the Top 4 teams at the end of Pro Tour Amonkhet will be invited to Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto, Japan, where we will count the Pro Points of all six members.
  • All members of the Top 4 teams will also be invited to the first Pro Tour of the next season (Pro Tour Albuquerque). The Top 2 teams will receive an invite to the 2017 Magic World Championship for the team finals playoffs.

The prize payout for these finals playoffs have been adjusted as follows:

Place Per Player Per Team
1st $6,000 $36,000
2nd $2,400 $14,400
Total   $50,400
  • For the 2017–18 season: We will count the Pro Points from the five top competitors for the first, second, and third Pro Tours of that season. All members of the Top 8 teams by the end of the third Pro Tour in the 2017–18 season will be invited to the fourth Pro Tour of that season, where we will count the Pro Points of all six members for scoring.
  • All members of the Top 8 teams at the end of the 2017–18 season will also be invited to the first Pro Tour of the next season. Top 2 teams will receive an invite to the 2018 Magic World Championship for the playoffs.

The prize payout for the top performing teams at these playoffs will be adjusted as follows:

Place Per Player Per Team
1st $17,000 $102,000
2nd $8,500 $51,000
3rd $4,000 $24,000
4th $4,000 $24,000
Total   $201,000

Last but not least, I'm really thrilled to share with you that the 2017 Magic World Championship will be held on Oct 5–8 in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Castle at Park Plaza. We're looking forward to bringing you the best of Magic's professional play during that event.

Thanks for reading. As always, please let us know about any feedback, questions, or observation you may have!

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