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Posted April 25, 2016 by Scott Gerhardt in Card Games

Broken Promises and Shattered Dreams – The Magic Pro Tour Story

What Did They Do?

So I want to open with this:  This does not affect me in any way.  I am not nor have I ever been even Silver (though I got close once), and highly likely after this announcement I won’t care to try.  For those of you unaware, the following announcement was made at Pro Tour – Shadows Over Innistrad.  Let me break it down for you.

  • Hall of Famers get their $1,500 appearance fee only at the Pro Tour for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony (previously all Pro Tours)
  • Platinum Pros get their $3,000 appearance fee at Pro Tours reduced to $250.
  • Platinum Pros get their $1,000 appearance fee at the World Magic Cup reduced to $250.
  • Platinum Pros get their $500 appearance fee at World Magic Cup Qualifiers reduced to $250
  • The 2016 World Championships total payout is increased to $250k (previously $150k) with a top prize of $70k (previously $50k)
  • The 2017 World Championships total payout is increased to $500k with a $100k top prize

Yep, that seems about right.


Why Are They Doing It?

So, first, here is why Magic is doing it: they want to compete in the e-sports market.  Other games have higher payouts for their tournaments, and this now gives WotC a chance to say they have a $100k first prize tournament with a half million dollar total payout.  It’s a smoke and mirrors advertising trick – that’s it.  Mind you, qualify for the World Championships, especially starting in 2017 where LAST place gets $12,000, its great for you.  But if you’re everyone who isn’t in those 24, well, screw you.  Now, Helene did say they were going to make some changes to how people qualify for the World Championships in Sydney.  Unless it is the previous year’s World Champion plus the top 23 pro players, or 4 PT winners plus Top 19 players (which I’m sure it’s not), then that’s pretty BS.  Now, if it IS, then the $11,000 lost in PT appearances will basically be given back to them at the World Championships.  This still says “screw you” to a certain number of Platinum players, but it certainly would cover that loss of money.  Now, you could just say this:  If you’re Platinum + reigning World Champion, you play in the World Championships.  Maybe reduce the last place prize to $10,000 to compensate, but that gives the Platinum Pros all their money back, though delayed.  THIS change would be acceptable IMO.  But if that’s what they were going to do, Helene and WotC would not have been stupid enough to wait 3 more months before announcing it since this obviously is causing outrage.

The Math Behind The Money

Please note: as of the end of PT-SOI, there are 39 Platinum Players.  Of those, 34 were Platinum from last year, 2 gained it from winning a Pro Tour, and 3 have made it on points.   Only 7 people thus far have locked up Platinum for next year so far (though 1 is guaranteed to hit it simply by attending the last 2 PTs), but that’s not surprising since we are only at the halfways mark.  I do not have the numbers from last year, but obviously the numbers for the 4th PT of the year will be the highest since it’s all last year’s, plus any that qualified this year.  I’m going to guess that will be around 45-47 or so as I suspect a number of them will lock up Platinum on points between Sydney and Honolulu. We’ll be conservative and say 45.  Based on current point totals, I am going to guess zero new people will get to Platinum between now and Sydney, as the closest person is still 10 points away After the first PT, the only new Platinum Pro was the winner, so only +1 going into PT-SOI.  Now, let’s run some math on the amount of money that WotC will save if next years payouts had happened this year, and mind you, this is only on PT appearance fees and not other tournaments.

PT #1 – 34 players = $93,500
PT #2 – 35 Players = $96,275
PT #3 – 39 Players = $107,250
PT #4 – 45 Players (estimate)  = $123,750

Total WotC Savings= $420,775
Total Increase in 2017 World Championship Prize Pool over 2015 = $350,000

Total WotC Net Profit (so far) = $70,775

Hall of Famers who attend Pro Tours only get their appearance fees at one of them.  I don’t have an easy way to figure out how many of them have played in tournaments this year, but I’m suspecting the number is somewhere around 30 per tournament, though that is somewhat of a guess as there are presently 42 Hall of Fame players.  With this number, that makes 90 appearances that do not count, so that’s another $135,000, but I’ll be more conservative at 25 and say $112,500

Total WotC Net Profit (so far) = $182,500

Lastly, WMC and WMCQs.  Last year, 22 of the 24 players were Platinum.  Lets assume the other 12 each played in 2 of the 3 WMCQ events.  The 22 at the WMC lose $16,500 combined and the other 12 all lose $6,000 combined.

Grand Total WotC Net Profit:  $205,000

Mind you, this is me using what I feel are conservative numbers all around.  The total is likely larger.

If I Were Running It

Holy crap!  That’s nearly a Pro Tour in payouts they are saving.  I’m sorry, I try not to say much bad about WotC, but in this case, the numbers just don’t lie.  But let’s not even focus on that.  I want to focus on what *I* would do if in charge.   First of all, I would go to Hasbro and say “we need a little extra money to make this all work, please”.  If/when they say no, redistribute it differently.

  1. I know they just raised them, but cut GP Prize pools slightly.  Slice 9-16 to $750 (from $1k, perviously $600), 5-8 to $1250 (from $1500, previously $1000), 3-4 to $2k (from $2,500, previously $1,500), 2nd to $4k (from $5k, previously $2,700), 1st to $8k (from $10k, previously $4k).  This saves them $7,000.  With 52 GPs this last year, that is $364,000.  Hell, there is your World Championship prize increase right there.  Mind you, this change screws me as a GP grinder, but it leaves places 17 down alone, and still has prize payouts that I’m pretty sure everyone would have been quite happy with if they were announced after the previous $4k top prize one.
  2. If you don’t like that idea or are just hellbent on screwing over Platinum Pros, wait a year.  People have invested considerable time and money to become a Platinum Pro for 2016-2017.  People should know from Day 1 what to expect the next season so they can plan accordingly.
  3. Change the Hall of Fame benefit to $500 per Pro Tour.  The lowered amount is still a savings of $4k a year (about $100k over the year) will likely mean a lowered attendance per PT, so the savings will go even higher, and not stack it all in one PT and then give them very little incentive to show up for future PTs.  Yes, it’s $500 per HoF more than you’re planning over the year, but the drop in attendance will cover that, likely easily, and there is still some incentive for them to come to the events and have marquee names.  Hell, you could even go $1k for the HoF PT and then $250 per other PT – give them the same the Platinum Pros get.  Stacking it all in one place, IMO, is dumb.  I’ve never seen major events planned around new Hall of Famers doing things with old Hall of Famers, so what’s the point?

Fixing Some Other Pro Stuff

While I’m on my soapbox, let me put out one more thing that irks the crap out of me:  Grand Prix byes.  I’m gonna outline crap here too:

  1. I don’t like, but I’m okay with Gold/Platinum being the only ones who can get 3 round byes.  I think that GP Trial winners should also get 3 byes since that requires you to win a tournament, but that’s just me.
  2. For the other people, you NEED Seasonal byes.  Hell, slam the old system back in place in addition to the yearly system:  400 points gets you 1 bye for this and next season, and 750 gets you 2.  The yearly system only is ridiculous.  Having to hit 1,300 in a year to get 1 bye and $2,250 in a year to get 2 byes is very discouraging and makes you not want to care as much since you will likely play 4-6 months without getting a bye even with good performances and grinding relatively hard.  In my case, I have had 3 (then 2) byes for every GP I have played since returning to Magic, sans GP Oakland 2013, my 3rd back, where I had 2 byes.  I did not get to play as much this last year, at least in paper.  I need GP-Los Angeles to simply secure a one round bye moving forward.  That’s fine, I only earned one, but if I want to go gangbusters next year and pick up 750 points in 3 months for two byes(a 3k yearly pace, 133% of the pace needed to hit it over a year) or even 400 points for one bye (still 123% of the pace needed to get one yearly) then that should be possible.  The 1k bonus for winning a PTQ is gone, so why the hell not?
  3. Sleep In Specials should be free.  You can’t get it if you don’t have a bye, but you get it automatically for having 1 or more.  This is one of the more ridiculous things I have ever seen.
  4. Be able to earn PWP on Magic Online.  I don’t give a damn if the tournaments are 1x multipler.  Hell, it could be even less if you really wanted to, but for god’s sake give the online people SOMETHING.  They are still playing organized Magic and they deserve the same ability to earn PWP that people playing paper Magic do.  Hell, if you could earn PWP through online play, I am quite confident I would have eclipsed 2250 quite some time ago.  I am punished for playing a PTQ Prelim or PTQ finals online rather than drive to an area PPTQ, GP Trial, or even a damn local booster draft.

I’m off my soapbox.  This announcement is complete and utter crap.  When you look at the numbers, it becomes clear that not only is WotC using smoke and mirror advertising to artificially boost their e-sport standings, but they are making a nice little profit doing so.  I quite greatly dislike dishonesty, and right now, that’s what we’re getting from Magic.  I stream a LOT of MTG, and right now I am questioning if I can promote playing this game on a pro level in good conscience.  Maybe Hearthstone, Duelyst, Faeria, or Hex is worth more of a look now.  Time will tell.

Keep playing (some form of game, even if not MTG) everyone!

Scott Gerhardt

Scott has....thoughts. They can be about this, that, or just about anything. Seldom at a loss for words, you can find his thoughts chronicled here