With two Grand Prix events taking place this weekend in two different formats we have a lot to cover this week. Grand Prix Brisbane was up first, featuring Modern with Theros from the land down under. Next up will be Grand Prix Oklahoma City, where we get our first look at Theros limited at the highest levels of the game. Before we dive into this weekend’s pro play, the big news of the week was Wizards’ official Top 25 list of Pro Players.

Wizards Top 25 Magic Players

You may recall that several months ago StarCity Games ran a week-long series of articles by John Butler which was a sort-of manifesto on improving Wizards’ coverage of Pro Tour and Grand Prix events. Part one is here for your viewing pleasure. In the third part he proposed some solutions that would improve coverage. These were, predominantly, based on Butler’s experience in the world of the Professional Golf Association and the associated PGA Tour. Chiefly among them was the system of Pro Points being used by Wizards to rank players. Butler suggested,

As Organized Play is set up right now, it is pretty much impossible to tell who the “best” players in the world are by any reasonable metric. We attempt to do that right now through the accumulation of Pro Points. Actually, this does a reasonable job of approximating who the best players in the world are but only in the last month or so of the season. … It wouldn’t be all that bad if WotC had some other way to tell us who is actually the best, but instead we have to settle for ambiguous, non-quantified discussions where we have to argue who may or may not be the best. … The Magic Pro Tour is the only professional tour I have ever seen that resets its Pro Points at an arbitrary time every so often and in such a short timeframe (in this case, twelve months). Golf, tennis, fishing, and virtually every other sport rolls its points forward in a certain way, and those that don’t only reset on a very long scale (five-plus years). Regular events last for only one year, but points earned from marquee events last for much longer. It is set up in this way to reinforce to the fans of the tour who the best players are.

The argument is clear enough. The inability to identify the best players in the world was a hindrance to Pro Tour coverage. It was denying fans knowledge that was fundamental to the success of so many other tours that are otherwise similarly structured to the MTG Pro Tour. Furthermore, fans like you and I were missing out on narratives and story-lines that exist on a week-to-week and season-to-season basis. In the system Wizards has, the only stories were taking place in isolation at individual events.

A solution to this was not very clear but Butler made one suggestion which we took it upon ourselves to implement. We simply took the top pro point earners from the past 12 months of Grand Prix events and 24 months of Pro Tour events and built the Hipsters of the Coast MTG Pro Tour Top 100 List. The list has not been updated since July because we have been hard at work making improvements to the system in our free time. As bloggers with day jobs however, we have much less time to do this than we would like. At the time however, Aaron Forsythe, Helene Bergerot and Randy Buehler all contacted us to express that they believed this was a good thing for the game, and while they weren’t going to endorse it they were very interested in it’s existence.

Fast-forward three months later to last week when Greg Collins unveiled Wizards very own Top 25 rankings. This was a long awaited change to come in the event coverage and so far has been very well received. Josh Utter-Leyton has the honor of being the first #1 Overall player ranked by WotC. The method they’ve implemented is detailed on their site, and while it is a fine method to use, I don’t think it is the best way to rank players.  This is fine though, because similar to College Football, there’s no reason we can’t have multiple ways to rank players.

Over the next few months as the 2013 season comes to a close and the Player of the Year race winds down, the points earned at every Grand Prix and Pro Tour event left on the schedule will become more and more important to these rankings. That is a very good and very bad thing. The downside is that the rankings early in the season are skewed by the previous season’s POY race. The upside is that as the season comes to a close, the rankings become a “race to the cup” type of entity as they close in on the POY victor.

I’m looking forward to Wizards improving on this and am excited because it will re-energize the fans as the season carries on and help build more narratives in the Pro Tour and Grand Prix events. Kudos to WotC for taking the initiative to put out these rankings and hopefully this will be a sign of more positive changes in Pro Tour coverage coming in the future.

Grand Prix Brisbane


Justin Robb (AUS), winner of GP Brisbane

Most of the talk this week was around the new Standard environment now that Theros is live and Innistrad block has left the format. This is rightly so as the majority of events around the world are in the Standard format. However, very little focus was on the new Modern environment heading into GP Brisbane, the first ever Modern Grand Prix in Australia. Justin Robb won the event piloting Affinity through all 14 rounds and the top-eight, with zero byes to his credit at the start of the event and a Pro Tour invite at the end of it.

If Theros is going to make a splash in Modern, it’s going to have to wait for Grand Prix Antwerp in a few weeks time. None of the top-eight decks in Brisbane contained a single copy of a card from Theros. This is not surprising since Modern, being an eternal format, has a fairly established meta-game which is very difficult to change by only introducing ~200 cards to the environment. Theros seems devoid of a format-warping or even defining card such as Snapcaster Mage. Also, the mechanics in Theros don’t lend themselves to the quick pace of Modern. Scry is the only which has real meaning in Modern, but Magma Jet already existed in the format, and nothing else in Theros is terribly impressive in that arena.

Grand Prix Oklahoma City


Ben Stark (2,USA) at GP Oklahoma City

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, 1085 players showed up in Oklahoma City to try their hand at Theros limited. 130 of those players made it to day two and as I am writing this as I watch Pierre-Christophe Mondon (Unranked – USA) take on John Penick (Unranked – USA) in the finals. The live display on Twitch doesn’t display the “unranked” bit, but we’ll get there. They have been flashing the Top 25 rankings on the screen periodically and talking about them. This is a great thing and the fact that commentators are mentioning it, and that it exists at all is a good sign. It’s a bit rough, but it’s a promising start.

The coverage for GPOKC was back to what we’ve come to expect in the aftermath of GP Detroit. Full video and text coverage has been provided, the former of which was notably absent in the Motor City not too long ago. While 1,000 players is not the mega-event that GP Vegas was, Wizards would be wise to ensure that all Grand Prix events in North America, where the majority of fans are, get equal treatment. While going through the coverage again I noticed this little gem. In the Quick Hits section where several pros were asked their thoughts on playing first vs. drawing first they were captioned with their Top 25 ranking where applicable. AMAZING. This is exactly what Wizards needs to be doing. They have a ways to go however. As far as I can tell, Ben Stark, the highest ranked player in the event remaining, hasn’t been given a feature match. That will get fixed with time I suspect/hope.

The Quick Hits

  • Wizards previews ‘Waste Not,’ the winner of You Make the Card 4 [DailyMTG]
  • Felicia Day sort-of announces the Ignite Your Spark winners [Magic Arcana]
  • Conley Woods wraps up his Theros review [TCGPlayer]
  • TeamSCG revealed their awesome website for Pro Tour Theros [TeamSCG]
  • SCG’s Commander Battle of the Blocks rages on as Mirage and Mercadian Masques go head-to-head [Battle of the Blocks]
  • Matt Jones blurs your perception of Theros [Arting Around]
  • Hunter puts out the call for a new writer to take over for the departing Giaco [The Scrub Report]

Wallpaper of the Week

Continuing with the art of Theros wallpaper series, cue the generic creature art of Nylea, God of the Hunt. Snooze.

Honestly though, how boring is this artwork compared to the rest of the Theros gods?

Grade: C

The Week Ahead

Pro Tour Theros is only a week away. Coverage begins early on Friday morning as the event comes to us from Dublin, Ireland. In the meantime, check out this round-table discussion that Brian David-Marshall put together with the rest of the coverage team. Also be sure to prime yourself on the players and teams attending with Lauren Lee’s helpful team guide for the Pro Tour.

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. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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