Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast made an organized play announcement that I've been patiently waiting for and it came with the caveat that there would be more announcements forthcoming. Overall, I think it's a good but not great announcement and today, I'll go through each one individually and share my thoughts.
Pro Club Lifestyle Improvements
We've heard a lot of feedback over the past year about the uncertainty caused by Pro Club status lasting just one cycle (three months). Like the Grand Prix attendance caps of recent years, we're looking to help alleviate some of these difficult lifestyle choices players have to make, so we're increasing the duration of member benefits from three months to six months.
This change starts with statuses gained by the end of the 2017-18 season. So, if a player achieves Platinum by the end of this season (in September), that status will last for the next six months into March 2019. This is a small improvement we believe will immediately help players, and we'll be looking at potential longer-term changes to the Pro Club system in the future. Until then, we wanted to make sure to do what we could to alleviate some of the issues pros have been having with the cycle system.
When I watched the organized play announcement live on Twitch and saw the first announcement included an alteration to the pro points cycle system, my jaw dropped to the floor immediately. The cycle system is abhorrent, and I would like to see it abolished as quickly as possible. It's caused consternation in the pro player community for as long as it's existed, and we haven't been shy about it because we hate it. I also hate how Wizards of the Coast has made no effort to make the information easily digestible and the onus is on the players to track their own points. Evidence of this difficultly is that the best way to track your points is through a fan-made spreadsheet by Sveinung Bjornerud (@Sene1 on Twitter).
By the way, Sveinung Bjornerud is an animal. He enters 100% of Magic results manually and he maintains this spreadsheet out of the goodness of his heart, and I greatly appreciate his efforts. Using myself as an example, look at this hideous eyesore (of which there is no alternative) that we're expected to learn the ins and outs of this spreadsheet to help plan travel and accumulate points.
Can you think of a better way to rip the fun out of playing in Magic tournaments than to make people study this document so they don't fall of the gravy train by misremembering exact dates of points earned? I certainly can't.
Now to the positive aspects of this aspect of the announcement, which should be clear at first glance: they're giving the pro players more money. They're outright stating that they do hear us, they're aware of our thoughts and feelings on the issue and to help extend the olive branch, they're showing us that because the cycle system sucks so much, they'll be granting us additional time on the Pro Tour based on the status we earned over the past twelve months. We wanted more money and although this isn't long-term prize added but instead a temporary band aid solution, I still like it.
I've seen a lot of talk on social media lately about professional Magic being too hard and the reward for our efforts is too little. Personally, I love the fact that I'm a full-time professional Magic player and I do not feel as if I'm underpaid. I'm proud to say I love my job and I hope I can do it for the rest of my life.
Team Series Rules
You can find updated Team Series rules posted here . There are two items in particular we want to highlight.
The Top 8 teams after the third Pro Tour in the 2018-19 season (the second Pro Tour of calendar year 2019) will receive invites and airfare to the fourth Pro Tour of the season. This is not actually a change in rules, but we wanted to call it out because the Top 16 were invited this past season due to the special nature of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.
Finally, the Top 8 teams after the final Pro Tour in the 2018-19 season will receive invites and airfare to the first Pro Tour of the 2019-20 season.
This was billed as two different announcements, but it's just one, and the way it reads to me is a huge sign of dedication to the Team Series. Maybe I'm biased, since Ultimate Guard Pro Team crushed all year and made it as one of the top 2 teams at the end of the season , which are invited to compete in a special team finals event at the World Championship to see who will be crowned Team Series champions.
I feel like the Team Series was a huge hit, and on Pro Tour Sunday even Team CFB seemed to care more about making the Top 2 teams rather than win the entire PT. I don't think anyone fully appreciated how much they would care about it until the time came, but it was huge and I personally can't wait to play. Good luck to Hareruya Latin because me and the rest of Ultimate Guard Pro Team are bringing our A-game.
As a member of the Hall of Fame, I receive invitation to every Pro Tour for the rest of my life so announcements like this do not affect me in anyway whatsoever. In fact, this is a change that puts money into the hands of new players, but I still like it. I was a grinder once and staying on the Pro Tour can be tough with the amount of randomness there is in tournaments, but when you get knocked down you must get up again, and I always looked at adversity as an opportunity to show my dedication once more. I wouldn't want to say Magic is too hard or that being a pro player sucks. Instead, I would try my best and when something like this announcement happens, I would be thankful.
For the record, all the extra invitations to the Pro Tour that are accompanied by airfare will actually end up giving more money to pro players. When I won Grand Prix DC in 2013 first prize was $3,500, and when I won Grand Prix Houston in 2016 first prize was $10,000. When I got second at Worlds in 2015 first place was $50,000, and when William Jensen won Worlds in 2017, first prize was $100,000. The prize pool for a normal Pro Tour is $250,000 and for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary the prize pool was $850,000.
The prizes are going up. They are paying the pros.
First Pro Tour of 2019
We'll be rolling out the full schedule for Pro Tours in 2019 in September. In the meantime, we can say that the Pro Tour will be taking its talents to Cleveland, Ohio, United States, February 22-24. So, mark your calendars!
The format will be determined at a later date after consultation with our new Pro Player Advisers.
The real kicker on this part of the announcement is that they're intentionally not announcing a format of the Pro Tour. They expressed displeasure with committing to a format too early which hinders excitement and overall hype and hurts their ability to be flexible. Allowing themselves more time to make a better-informed decision seems clearly great, and I'm surprised it took this long to adapt. Kudos!
As for the full PT being announced in September, I dislike an announcement to make an announcement, but hey, I'm not the target audience since I barely plan my own travel more than a couple weeks in advance. This barely registered as news to me at all and when it came up I was seen yelling "Boring!" at my TV.
Pro Player Ambassadors
We are currently in the process of reviewing pro player candidates to work with Wizards of the Coast as consultants and help us shape the future of the Pro Tour and Magic pro gaming. These players will be direct conduits to the pro community, but will work with us at Wizards of the Coast to provide a consistent, open feedback loop to make our competitive gaming experience awesome at all levels. We will be selecting up to three players to come work on the Pro Tour and the Pro Club structures with us. This will not affect those players' eligibility for the Pro Tour.
This is part of the reason we are staggering our announcements about the 2018-19 season. Aspects of that season will be discussed with these players, and we want to provide space for those players to give some level of input before we announce final plans. While the bulk of their work will be looking beyond that season, we want to get those players inside the door before we make any final announcements.
The takeaway here is they do care about what the pro players think, and they now realize we're in a unique position to give the best possible feedback. Almost every time Wizards of the Coast announces a change that's negative or easily worked around, it takes the Pro Players a very short amount of time to poke holes in these plans. The professional players I've met in my travels and ten-year long career on the PT are the smartest people I've ever met and continue to be my pack 1 pick 1 of quality human beings, so I see no reason why they wouldn't use professionals as a resource. I personally intend to apply for this position and believe I would be of great help, but there are a ton of qualified candidates who I know would perform beautifully at this job.
I hyped up the announcement to others and myself, and it ended with more of a fizzle than a bang. Anyone dancing on the line between qualification and not got a serious boost as a result of the Team Series, and I think anyone in the middle of the pack better gather their allies and submit a roster. I like wearing the same shirt as my friends, and I like rooting extra hard for others because it does benefit me to see them do well. I'm proud to represent Ultimate Guard.
There was a period of time where we were finalizing our sponsorship deal, but it was not yet public and during that time I went to Nationals and a few GPs. Each time my opponent would sit down and pull out an Ultimate Guard Xenoskin deckbox I would ask them what they thought of it and each time they would light up, smile, and explain to me exactly how much they loved that deck box. People all over the world use this product and many swear by it. I think the Team Series is an effective way to promote the social aspect of Magic at the highest level while also allowing for a perfect situation for branding for the players.
I forget where I heard it, but I recall that Magic has doubled in size recently and may double in size again, and I firmly believe that. I decided to go pro in 2011 after I won Player of the Year, and I started the year with a small amount of money in my bank account. After a record-breaking season with seven GP top 8s, a Nationals top 8, twelfth place at Pro Tour Paris, and 33rd place at Worlds, I had the exact same amount of money I started with.
Each year that's passed that I've continued to be a pro, I've been at the highest level of the Pro Players Club every single year, and I show no signs of stopping. Each year I find new ways to improve as a competitor, a human, and a self-employed Magic player. Magic is the best game in the world, I love being a pro, and announcements like these show that it just keeps getting better and better.