Four thousand, three hundred and three players descended on Richmond, the capital city of the state of Virginia, to play in the largest ever constructed tournament of Magic. The format was Modern, with its ever-growing popularity and ever-climbing prices as well. If there were any questions about the demand of Modern in the community they should have all been put to rest thanks to Star City Games and the most important constructed Grand Prix in a very long time.

Grand Prix Richmond

After I watched the end of Christian Calcano getting slaughtered in round five on day one, I noticed that 13.5k people were currently watching Patrick Chapin and Matthias Hunt broadcasting live from the main hall of GP Richmond. According to the front page of Twitch, this was currently the sixth most popular channel. Here were the top five streams at the time:

  • 15k Viewers – Twitch Plays Pokemon
  • 18k Viewers – Minecraft
  • 29k Viewers – Dota 2 Monster Invitational Tournament
  • 30k Viewers – TakeTV Hearthstone Tournament
  • 209k Viewers – Riot League of Legends Championship

When John Butler wrote his manifesto on coverage, he pointed out that the Pro Tour was barely pulling in over 10k unique viewers for a marquee event. He also made sure to point out that the viewer numbers for coverage were peaking at the start and end of events. Now, during the middle of the day one grind of a Grand Prix, there were over 13k unique viewers, putting the SCGLive channel at the top of Twitch’s listings. In the 13 months since SCG published Butler’s recommendations they were delivering one of the best Grand Prix presentations to date.

If Wizards, working with groups like SCGLive and GGSLive, can really polish the presentation of coverage then they should be able to double that number and be one of the top five Twitch channels. Realistically though, can they compete with League of Legends? The SCGLive channel has had 33 million views. The Riot channel has had 418 million. The numbers for League of Legends are on par with legitimate televised competitions that get air time on ESPN2. Magic isn’t there yet, and it’s questionable if it ever will be.

I flipped back and forth between the two events and the big difference becomes obvious pretty quickly. League of Legends is an exciting fast-paced game. Magic the Gathering  is a methodical complex game. It’s easy to watch LoL because viewers can see the action happening on screen and follow, in a sense, what’s going on. It’s loud. It’s violent. It’s colorful. Magic is none of these things. Where even a game like poker has tension and excitement and colorful characters, Magic often has none of these things.

The coverage is getting better and the presentation is becoming phenomenal. But what’s the next step? How does a Magic tournament draw 200k viewers? I think it’s possible, but it’s going to require vast improvements to the way that the game is presented to the public. More focus will need to be given to the team aspect, the big-picture championship, and even the larger narratives such as the Top 25, and the Player of the Year race.

It falls to the coverage producers to take the initiative to not settle for the improvements they’ve made. In my mind, League of Legends is the target. It is an amazingly successful game with coverage and a tournament circuit that attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers. Magic should be aspiring to the same lofty heights and help prove that there is a voracious audience for competitive gaming of all varieties, not just computer games.

Here’s a quick list of improvements that I believe would help bring us to the next level for Magic coverage:

  • Capture the player audio for the broadcast – The players are clearly talking during the match but we never hear what they’re saying. The broadcasters are knowledgeable and explain the game well, but we want to hear the players speak. When you watch professional poker, one of the entertaining factors is the banter that goes back-and-forth between players. It will help build a connection between the fans and the players. Today, we only get a connection with the broadcast team.
  • Add statistics and other info to the presentation – The only information on the presentation today is a player’s name, their deck, their record in the event, and their life total. However, there’s so much more to know, and it should be easy to present it on-screen. Where are they from? What are their career achievements? How have they been doing this season? Are they in the pro player club? Silver level? Platinum? Hall of Fame?! This would greatly enhance the experience and fans love statistics because it gives them something to talk about in regards to their favorite players.
  • Ticking information about the tournament – While I’m sure the match we’re watching is very interesting, what about some of the other interesting matches? In ESPN style, why not have a ticker at the bottom of the screen rolling match updates from the top X tables plus the top 25 ranked players? This could include information from simultaneous tournaments as well. Next week, while I’m watching GP Montreal coverage on video, maybe I could see a ticker updating me on GP Buenos Aires. Why not? The goal is to keep the viewers engaged in the larger tournament, not just the match they’re watching.
  • A focus on team-driven coverage – The highlight of Pro Tour Born of the Gods was the way coverage was driven by the different teams attending. A four-thousand player Grand Prix doesn’t work the same way, but there are still a lot of members of the premiere tournaments playing. Why is this focus not presented for Grand Prix events? It will be a bit of work, but I think this level of fan engagement and association with the different teams needs to be cultivated at Grand Prix events and not just highlighted four times a year at the Pro Tour.

I don’t know that this will bring Magic coverage up to the number of viewers that League of Legends gets but it can’t hurt. Let’s hope this time next year we’re talking all about more improvements and an even winder audience for Magic.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

GP Barcelona shifted a few players around in the Top 25

GP Barcelona shifted a few players around in the Top 25

It wasn’t quite the major shake-up that Pro Tour Born of the Gods resulted in, but Grand Prix Barcelona had a significant impact on the Top 25 rankings. Many pros remained in Spain, making the short trip from Valencia to Barcelona to compete in team limited. Reid Duke managed to creep up to the 2nd overall spot, but is still a full five points behind Jeremy Dezani. At the bottom, Hall of Famer Raphael Levy was able to come back into the rankings, bumping out Shota Yasooka.

The Quick Hits

  • Wizards announces the May FNM promo to be Tormented Hero, continuing a streak of rubbish FNM promos [Magic Arcana]
  • Conley Woods talks about the tough decision to leave Team CFB for Team TCGPlayer, and how they prepared for PTBNG [TCGPlayer]
  • The 2013 MOCS will heavily feature Cube drafting, and at this point the folks running MTGO must be really glad they have the Cube format to push instead of, I dunno, fixing leagues or one of the other hundred things they promised [DailyMTG]
  • Daryl Bocket is Gathering Magic’s new ‘casual magic’ writer which is a bit of an interesting role if you think about it. Don’t think about it too hard. Think about it casually [Gathering Magic]
  • Mike Linnemann discusses how to expand your network of Magic-related friends and colleagues [Gathering Magic]
  • Top Deck Games will once again host Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia this fall. This was a phenomenal event last year and should be even better this year. [DailyMTG]
  • Melissa DeTora and Raphael Levy both wrote about the preparation and performance of Team Revolution at PTBNG [TCGPlayer (DeTora) & TCGPlayer (Levy)]
  • Magic TV continues their “top 8” series with the top eight ‘spell lands’ of all time [Magic TV]
  • Ryan Bushard has some advice for sorting and storing your collection. If you have thousands of cards this could be a big help [Gathering Magic]

Wallpaper of the Week



Well this is quite the change from the past few months of wallpapers. Drown in Sorrow is a very dark piece of art, both in tone and actual color. I am really surprised by this change of pace and have to wonder if whoever picked this week’s selection was having a particularly bad week at work. Either way, Noah Bradley’s artwork is really well done in capturing the sadness in the skull-shaped clouds and distant breaks of light in the cloud cover. All in all, a refreshing, if melancholy, change from the norm.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

Two Grand Prix tournaments are on the schedule next week. The first will be a Theros Limited event at Grand Prix Montreal. With so many folks in the relative area for GP Richmond, it will be interesting to see how many people make the trip up north to Canada. The Pro Tour most recently traveled to the Quebec capital over a year ago for Pro Tour Gatecrash. This will be the fourth ever Grand Prix held in Montreal. Live coverage will be provided by GGS Live.

After Montreal, things will get underway at Grand Prix Buenos Aires which will feature the Standard format. Buenos Aires is hosting a Grand Prix for the third time ever, but only the first time since 2008! Unfortunately, while the game is growing in Latin America, there will not be any video coverage of GP Buenos Aires. Make sure you get all the text coverage and check out the recap here next week.

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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