Hi folks. We’re going to talk a lot about Magic Coverage today, but first I want to direct you to this beautiful piece of writing by Heather Lafferty from LegitMTG that ran last week, titled “The Night a Magic Podcast Saved my Life.” If you haven’t read it yet you’re doing yourself a real disservice.

What an amazing week it’s been for Hipsters of the Coast. Fresh off of our own Hunter Slaton making the first cut of the largest tournament ever, Hipsters of the Coast unveiled the Top 100 Professional Magic Players worldwide ranking. It was very well received and the feedback was tremendous. On behalf of the blog I would like to thank Aaron Forsythe and Helene Bergerot for responding graciously on Twitter, along with a number of pro players who provided feedback and support including Hall of Fame members Brian Kibler and Patrick Chapin and all-around Magic legend Randy Buehler.

Now that the smoke has cleared it’s time to discuss a few important topics. First up will be the perspective that Wizards has on the role of event coverage, how it affects and is affected by the tournaments themselves, and where we can go to improve the experience for fans and players alike. Secondly, I want to discuss why we created the Top 100 list, how it was compiled, and some more specifics on the response we received from it. Finally, we’re going to address the most important topic, which is what comes next for these rankings.

Perspective is such an important topic and is really at the forefront of the discussions around coverage. PVDDR, who has been very vocal on the topic, said that what’s most important is what’s best for the players, not for the viewers. While I don’t think this sentiment was worded very well, many players shared it, and the crux of the matter is that pro players are concerned about Wizards sacrificing the integrity of the Pro Tour in exchange for increasing viewership of the events. These fears are totally understandable as the pro circuit is already very difficult to reach and remain on.

Many of Butler’s suggestions [see below for links to his four-part essay on improving coverage] appear to only involve the production value and consistency of the coverage provided. However, when it comes to things like a ranking system being used for reward levels, we are treading into the territory of changes that could impact the livelihood of the players. Some ideas that would impact the pro grinders, such as making the World Cup a race for Platinum Level in the Pro Player’s Club have some merit as well, but strong implications for the Tour.

Regardless of the impact however, players ought to realize that what is good for the brand is good for the game is good for the players. In the wake of many of the changes to Organized Play over the past year or two, I think there is a renewed confidence in Wizards’ ability to manage the structure of the Tour, the Pro Player’s Club and invitational events. Now though, the time is ripe for a shift in priorities from improving the structure of the Pro Tour, to improving the brand of the Pro Tour.

The Top 100 list was created because I felt very strongly that Butler’s talking points, while certainly interesting, were very nebulous and came from the position of an outsider. As an insider to the game, and community of Magic, and having played my fair share of Grand Prix events, I wanted to test some of his hypothesis. Since I have absolutely no control over a coverage team, nor do I wield any power in Wizards’ OP division, I turned to the only option left. I loaded the last 24 months of event results into a database and produced the list you all were presented last Friday.

It was a labor of love, but when my girlfriend and I finished it just after midnight on Thursday night, we knew it was going to immediately change the way people think about the Pro Tour, and I believe the desired effect was achieved. It didn’t matter that Yuuya Watanabe was first on the list and that Jon Finkel was in the top ten. It didn’t really make a difference where Kibler and Rietzl were and how many Americans dominated the rankings. All that mattered was that it had become a tangible thing that people could look at and talk about and create a conversation around.

So what’s next? If you noticed at the top of this page we now have a dedicated Top 100 Pro Player Ranking site. If you compare it to the results prior to GP Miami, you’ll notice that Reid Duke cracked the top 10. This is great information and something Reid should be proud of, on top of his Grand Prix victory. Does that mean that Duke is a better player than Jon Finkel? Not at all. The rankings are open to interpretation, and certainly have their shortcomings, but they remain a sound gauge of success, if not skill. It is important to remember that in a game with as much variance as Magic, success is a combination of skill and luck. Keep that in mind when reading the rankings.

For now I’ll be working on two important things. Firstly, we want to update these results on a weekly basis as new events happen and old events expire. Secondly, I intend to build out the rest of the history of results from major events tracked in Wizards’ coverage archives. This will give us the ability to look at any period of time historically and see what the rankings would have been. Why is this important, you might ask? Being able to track the rankings through events will tell us if they’re consistent. How often did players move in and out of the top 10? 100? 500? How many points were required to reach those thresholds? From there we can begin to tweak the algorithm used to extract the data and the sky is the limit. New algorithms can be designed, and tested, and perhaps we will come closer to an efficient metric for ranking the top pro players in the world.

Until then, we’ll be maintaining the list for everyone to enjoy. If there are things you want to see on the list, please let us know in the comments!

The Quick Hits

  • Here is StarCityGame’s John Butler’s epic on improving Magic coverage: [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]
  • If you quipped that “a ton” of Magic cards were opened in Vegas, you were technically correct. [Infographic]
  • Apparently not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Thanks Twitter! [20 Tweets]
  • Nassim Ketita uses math to try to deduce how much luck is required to make the top-8 of a GP. [Gathering Magic]
  • Josh Silvestri talks about the idea of having more Super GPs like Vegas. [Silvestri Says]
  • Why do you play Magic? Carrie Oliver wants to know. I can’t answer. [Carrie On]
  • A few more numbers on how large GP Vegas was for fans, courtesy of Helene Bergerot. [Daily MTG]
  • I’ve been told that the new Duels of the Planeswalkers doesn’t suck. [Magic Arcana]
  • Blake Rasmussen recaps his weekend covering GP Vegas. [Gathering Magic]
  • PVDDR has a lot to say on coverage and the future of the game. It’s worth a look. [PV’s Playhouse]
  • Finally, we wound down the week with this incredible video featuring Felicia Day. [Chandra Contest]

Wallpaper of the Week

This Chandra artwork has a whole lot going for it. Firstly, Chandra is exuding power and confidence for a female planeswalker in a way that we’ve really only seen depicted on Liliana in the past. Secondly, there’s more to look at than just the pyromancer. There’s a sense of motion from the grate that has been blown outwards and the far off direction that Chandra is looking in. Where did she just come from? Did she escape? Where is she going? What is she planning to do with that ball of fire? What else can I say?

Grade: A+

The Week Ahead

This weekend is a Modern GP in Kansas City, so we’ll see if Reid Duke can climb even further up our pro rankings. Also, it’s Independence Day here in the USA, so celebrate our nation’s independence in style!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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