When talking about Magic, it is VERY easy to get caught up in jargon and specialized terminology that can go over the head of newer (and sometimes even not-so-new) consumers of content. It is one of the reasons we try very hard (and are not always successful) to not just reference board sweepers as "wraths" and spells that generate more mana than they cost to cast as "rituals." Players who have been playing Magic since Standard was called Type 2 know that Wrath of God and Dark Ritual are iconic spells that have become descriptive of similar spells that have come in their wake. Newer players may not have even seen a "ritual," and the only "wrath" they know is Supreme Verdict. (I am still waiting for that back-aching, "get off my lawn" moment when some young player references a Wrath of God as a "verdict.")
It is not limited to cards, either. I got a very helpful reminder from a reader last week who enjoyed hearing the stories and seasonal goals from the players who finished in 9th through 16th place at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, but who was not clear on some of the recurring terms that players were using to frame their experience.
"I think the whole Silver/Gold/Platinum pro levels are not very understandable to the casual viewer/follower of Pro Magic. In an article like this, where the Pros talk a lot about their goals for which level they want to reach, it would be awesome to have an intro section about what those levels mean and how many Pro Points it takes to get there."
Thanks Dagny! This was a great reminder and a good jumping off point for this week's article as we continue to look at the results from Pro Tour Journey into Nyx and last weekend's Grand Prix Atlanta. Let's start by explaining some of the goals players have when they play in a Pro Tour. The first thing anyone wants to do is make sure he or she is going to be able to get back there without having to fight through another PTQ or GP. Starting to work your way up the levels in the Players Club is the best way to do this.
Silver Level: 20 Professional Points
Professional Points are awarded for high finishes at Grand Prix and World Magic Cup competition, as well as for participating in Pro Tours and the World Championship. Denmark's Martin Müller finished in 45th place at the Pro Tour, which earned him 6 Professional—or Pro—Points that pushed him over the threshold for Silver; that will keep him qualified for the last remaining Pro Tour of the season. It will also keep him alive for the Rookie of the Year race, which Jared Boettcher is all but running away with. You can see how crucial each and every round of a Pro Tour can be when you look at the big picture and not just the immediate desire to make it as far as possible.
Müller is sitting on exactly 20 points, and finishing even a handful of places lower, in 51st, would have left him shy of the level and crossing his fingers for some modest GP success to find that final elusive point. You need only look at Joe Demestrio languishing at 19 points on the outside looking in at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx to understand how critical every single point ends up being in the year-long quest to keep playing Magic at the highest level of play.
Sometimes players can lock up their next level by virtue of the points they are guaranteed from playing in the next Pro Tour. Just playing in the Pro Tour awards a player 3 points. For Petr Sochurek of the Czech Republic, that means he gets to play in Portland because he showed up in Atlanta. He had 18 points coming into the tournament and now has locked up Silver and one more chance at the bounty of Pro Points that can only be found at a PT.
Gold Level: 35 Professional Points
Getting to Gold means you are qualified not only for the remainder of the season in which you cross that threshold but throughout the upcoming season. The sooner you can get to 35 points, the more time you can spend perfecting your game without having to fret about qualifying. Even the most seasoned of PT veterans can breathe a hard-earned sigh of relief with a Gold membership card to the Pro Players Club.
Andrew Cuneo has been playing Magic for as long as just about anyone on the Pro Tour and has been stringing together finishes for the past couple of seasons to remain qualified. He worked with ChannelFireball—Pantheon for the Pro Tour and was credited as the primary force behind their Prognostic Control deck. The deck carried him into 20th place at the Pro Tour, and the 10 Pro Points that came as a result of that finish means the two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor is, at minimum, Gold through the end of next season.
Gold looks good on players of all experience levels. Michael Majors, who I spoke with last week, also locked up Gold with the second Top 16 finish of his Pro Tour season. Also from last week's column, Joel Larsson is "virtually" Gold at 32 points on the season. As long as he finds his way to Portland for the PT, the minimum 3 points means the Pro Tour Gatecrash finalist will be at minimum Gold for next year.
Of course, Gold is not the ultimate goal for players.
Platinum Level: 45 Professional Points
Just on the face of it, getting to Platinum means an extra $12,000 over the course of a full season in Pro Tour appearance fees—and that is assuming no Grand Prix, World Magic Cup, or WMCQ appearances. If you look a little deeper, you see that it also alleviates the cost of travel and accommodations to those four PTs. Getting to Platinum also advertises that you are among the elite players in the game, which opens up other opportunities to make money from the game in the form of sponsorship and sharing your expertise about the game on strategy sites.
William "Huey" Jensen is a Pro Tour Hall of Famer who has been putting up increasingly amazing results ever since he returned to this level of play courtesy of the Gold standing granted to members of the Hall of Fame. He has been utterly dominant at the Grand Prix level—so much so that he merely ticked up a single point in the Player of the Year standings with his Top 4 finish at GP Atlanta.
Players only accrue points for their best five finishes at Grand Prix during a season, and Jensen is in excess of five Top 8 finishes, which means that his Top 4 merely displaced a Top 8 finish for a net gain of 1 point. Fortunately for Jensen, he finished 39th at PT Journey into Nyx, for exactly the 6 points he needed for virtual Platinum status. The Pro Tour Boston Champion will be fun to watch next year now, that he has the stress of chasing status off his back, and there are no PT observers who don't expect a sixth career Top 8 from him before very long.
Other virtual Platinum players include Boettcher, Lee Shi-Tian, Nam Sung Wook, Kentaro Yamamoto, Shahar Shenhar, and many others. Players who don't need to worry about their connecting flight to Portland include two players we talked to last week, in Paul Rietzl and Tom Martell. One player I had not spoken to yet about his Pro Tour finish is recent World Championship Qualifier winner (aka Pro Tour Champion), Patrick Chapin.
Chapin, who automatically gets to Platinum by virtue of winning the event, also locked up his seat at the World Championship. He has cited winning that tournament as his single-minded goal coming into the Pro Tour. Already a Hall of Famer, Chapin finally won a Pro Tour after earning previous Top 8s in each of the decades there has been a Pro Tour.
I interviewed Chapin about his sweeping Magic career and the evolution of the Pro Tour from the mid-90s through his crowning triumph in Atlanta.
I am open to listening to suggestions as to why you think someone else should be the Player of the Month. You can make your case to me using the hashtag #MTGPoM, but for now I am just going to pencil him in and be fairly obstinate about using my eraser.