"Play the game, see the world" is one of the Pro Tour's unofficial slogans. Nowadays, it's more "Play the game, see the part of the world Wizards of the Coast's Organized Play department can afford hundreds of plane tickets for," as there hasn't been a Pro Tour held in Japan since Nagoya's "Magic Weekend" in June 2011 and there won't be one through 2013, but the principle still stands within North America and Europe.
The list of premier events for 2013 has been released, but the known future is less interesting to me than the unknown. I've identified a few cities that have never hosted a premier event for Magic: The Gathering but have the resources (convention center with reliable Internet, flight access, etc.) to do so in the future—2014, to be exact. Most of the good Grand Prix and Pro Tour locations have been visited already, so there may be a whiff of the Neiman Marcus "fantasy gifts" catalog to my selections. Even so, my goal is different yet vaguely practical, and who knows? Maybe one of these locations is on a desk at Wizards as you read this.
Three Grand Prix Locales (That Begin With J)
Why "J?" Because without it, I'd just be "DB." (Not really. It just worked out this way.)
GP-Ready Venue: Balai Sidang Jakarta Convention Center
Why Jakarta? Indonesia has never hosted a premier event, but a significant in-country player population exists. Benny Soewanda is the most prominent Indonesian planeswalker, but over a hundred players qualified for the nation's World Magic Cup tournaments just off last season's Planeswalker Points. Its location within the Asia-Pacific region puts it close to Magic-playing hot spots such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. The stated Grand Prix goal of bringing high-level Magic to new locales dovetails well with a theoretical Grand Prix Jakarta.
Why not Jakarta? Indonesia's Magic-playing population is far from the largest within APAC, which has to accommodate countries as distant as Japan and Australia. With proven "island nation" Grand Prix locations in Manila (Philippines), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Hong Kong, and Singapore, does it make sense to take a risk on Jakarta? That's not even getting into issues of transit within the city; Jakarta's traffic is notorious.
Johannesburg, South Africa
GP-Ready Venue: Sandton Convention Centre
Why Johannesburg? No premier event has been held in South Africa since the Grand Prix and Invitational at Cape Town in October 2001. Turnout was low at 171 players but comparable to non-Japanese APAC Grand Prix events of the same format around the same time (195 in Brisbane in October, 184 in Hong Kong in November). There is plenty of precedent for countries and even cities with low turnout receiving future Grand Prix events: Melbourne, Australia, for instance, went 140-180-140 participants in its first three runs, the latest of those in November 2005, before attracting 416 and then 558 players in its two most recent events. Putting a South African Grand Prix in the city with the busiest airport on the continent would be a good step toward putting South Africa back into the rotation.
Why not Johannesburg? South Africa is the Magic-playing country most geographically isolated from its peers; participants would be almost exclusively South African or traveling professionals. Even the Grand Prix in New Zealand last year had some Australian participants. Speaking of the New Zealand GP, after that event and the Costa Rica GP drew fewer than 400 players each, the 2013 Grand Prix distribution was far more conservative this go around, hurting Johannesburg's chances. A final obstacle: South Africa is counted as "Europe" for the purposes of premier paly, and unless Wizards changes its policies to accommodate a Grand Prix Johannesburg, there is no reason to take a GP from the consistently high-attendance Europe pot and stick it in South Africa.
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
GP-Ready Venue: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center
Why Jacksonville? Simply put, it's the largest U.S. city that hasn't hosted a Magic Grand Prix. It just edges out Indianapolis for eleventh place and is the largest single city in Florida. It's also closer to the rest of the continental United States than past venues Orlando or Miami. Easy to travel to in Florida, easier to get to by car than most of the rest of the state...what's not to love?
Why not Jacksonville? Jacksonville isn't nearly as tourism-friendly as Orlando or Miami, and while the local airport is called Jacksonville International, it doesn't actually have any international destinations, making it harder for non-U.S. players to get to the city. Then again, neither does Albuquerque International Sunport, which will serve Grand Prix Breaking Bad.
Two Pro Tour Places
Pro Tours have different needs from Grand Prix events. Any Pro Tour destination must be able to stream over the Internet reliably—without that, the entire Pro Tour-as-online-event model fails.
PT-Ready Venue: Kipsala International Exhibition Centre
Why Riga? The Pro Tour hasn't been to the Baltic states—the northeastern European nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—in part due to the small (though passionate) Magic fan bases in the area. That won't stop a Pro Tour, though. Riga, the Latvian capital and largest city in the Baltic states, has air links throughout Europe and considerable history. Riga is close enough by time zone to broadcast the Top 8 to the rest of Europe at a decent hour, though the timing for the United States is dicey (one advantage western European countries such as Dublin have over central and eastern nations).
Why not Riga? Besides the question of timing, the winters are bitterly cold, and even spring and fall can be chilly. The only direct link between North America and the Riga International Airport is on Uzbekistan Airways, so most players arriving from outside Europe will be making a connection. The transport issue seriously impacts the viability of the Baltic states as Pro Tour destinations; if a Grand Prix were to be held in one, it almost certainly would be in Lithuania, closest Baltic state to non-Scandinavian Europe, in the capital of Vilnius. (Suggested venue for Vilnius: the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre.)
Panama City, Panama
PT-Ready Venue: Atlapa Convention Center
Why Panama City? Using the Grand Prix in San Jose, Costa Rica as a template, the most plane-friendly Central American locale is Panama City, served by Tocumen International Airport. Check the map of direct flights—between Los Angeles, New York City, and Amsterdam, there are few Magic-playing nations more than one connecting flight away from Panama City. An additional useful feature from a logistics perspective: the long-term United States presence with the Panama Canal (which didn't come fully under Panama's authority until 1999) means a larger pool of English speakers than might otherwise be expected in a Spanish-dominant country.
Why not Panama City? Latin America, as defined by Wizards, has not hosted a Pro Tour before. (San Juan, Puerto Rico may beg to differ as to its Latin American status, but Wizards bundles Puerto Rico with North America.) It isn't particularly close to any major PTQ-hosting nation—not in North America or Europe or even the east coast cities where most of Brazil's Magic is played. Every flight is going to be a sizable expense, one way or another, and Panama City would be a "candy" destination on the order of Honolulu.
A Neutral Ground for the World Magic Cup
Paradise Island, Bahamas
WMC-Ready Venue: Atlantis Resort Conference Center
Why Paradise Island? Close to the United States but not of it, the Bahamas are a non-World Magic Cup nation that can serve as a "neutral ground" for the event—a neutral ground that happens to be filled with gorgeous scenery and fun touristy adventure, plus a handy casino to keep the cards flying even when Magic shuts down for the evening. The Atlantis Resort has hosted the Miss Universe pageant among other major events.
Why not Paradise Island? The rent's not cheap, for starters, and neither are plane tickets. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: so long as Wizards is paying for transport to Pro Tour, World Magic Cup, and World Championship venues, there will be an emphasis on cost savings. Dublin is the "candy" destination for Pro Play in 2013; Paradise Island may be too much for 2014.
An Out-There Idea for the World Championship
Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
WC (Outside WMC)-Ready Venue: Arctic Winter Games Arena
Why Iqaluit: Much as the Invitationals of yore were able to go to far-off destinations because sixteen people are far easier to shuttle around than several hundred, a World Championship independent of the World Magic Cup could be held in many more venues. This small city just a few degrees shy of the Arctic Circle, capital of the majority-Inuit Canadian territory of Nunavut, has hosted the Arctic Winter Games, a White Stripes concert, a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers, and so on. Holding the World Championship in Iqaluit would put an exclamation point on "Play the game, see the world!"
Why not Iqaluit: Flight access is limited, and if everyone has to fly in through Montreal, why not just revisit the location for Pro Tour Gatecrash? There are also other "near-arctic" destinations that are more urban and more accessible by air, such as Reykjavik, Iceland. Iqaluit is a total pipe dream of a destination...which is why part of me loves it.
I hope you've enjoyed this look at a few possible new places for Magic premier play to visit in 2014. As Organized Play's goals and needs shift, it looks to destinations where no Grand Prix or Pro Tour has been held; in 2013, for example, Albuquerque and Miami will make their Pro Play debuts. Where will Magic go for the first time in 2014? I'm excited to find out.
As always, thanks for reading.
@jdbeety on Twitter