With the Pro Tour in our rear view mirror our sights turn to the summer, traditionally a slow season for the Magic community. This week brought us two new announcements from Wizards. The first, related to the bye system for Grand Prixs, has most of the community excited. The second, related to the ongoing disasters in MTGO, has most of the community deflated. Read on to learn more.

New Grand Prix Bye System

It’s been a very tumultuous few years for the Grand Prix circuit. Many of the changes have been beneficial, but they have been numerous. The primary goal of the changes has been twofold. First, Wizards is trying to control the number of multi-round byes at the GP events. One of the key changes they made in the past to address this was modifying the reward for Grand Prix Trials from a three-round bye to a two-round bye. Second, they are hoping to eliminate the need for players to participate in a large percentage of these tournaments. An example of how they’ve addressed this in the past was to put a cap on the number of Grand Prix results that contribute to your pro point total (currently capped at five).

The latest announcement addresses both of these goals. The byes awarded based on planeswalker points (PWP)  are changing from seasonal (every three months) to yearly. Instead of having to earn your byes within a three-month span and then having them only apply to the current and subsequent three-month period, you will now earn them over the course of the entire year, and they will apply to the current and subsequent year. The thresholds for byes have also been modified accordingly. 1,300 PWP will earn you a one-round bye while 2,250 PWP will earn you a two-round bye. There will be no more three-round byes awarded based on PWP accumulation.

Three-round byes will now only be awarded to Gold and Platinum-level Pro Players. A lot of Grand Prix regulars see this as a slight against them. However, it needs to be understood that with the tournaments capped at 15 rounds, a three-round bye is exceptionally valuable. Even though the number of events that contribute to your pro point total was capped at five, each event still contributed to your total PWP total. The impetus was on players to grind enough events every three months to maintain their three-round bye. No longer will that be the case.

If Wizards erred in any way in this announcement, it was in the timing. By the time you read this the changes have already taken effect. The announcement was made Thursday. The cutoff for accumulating points was Sunday. That means players had a total of one weekend worth of events to get to one of those two thresholds. For most, it was inconsequential. Players had either gotten to that point already by playing consistently for the past year, or they were well short. Then there were the vocal minority who were only one or two hundred points short, infuriated that they did not go to that one Grand Prix or PTQ they didn’t think would make a difference.

Despite the unfortunate group that will fall just short of the first season’s mark, the announcement overall should accomplish many of Wizards goals on the Grand Prix circuit. No more abundance of three-round byes will allow them to better manage keeping the playing field level while providing further incentive to the top pros to attend. The switch from seasonal to yearly awarded byes means players don’t have to grind events every three months to maintain their byes. You can play at your own pace throughout the year, attend the tournaments within your region, and still gain the benefits. This change is one of the best ones yet for organized play at the highest levels.

Magic Offline – Six Months Later

Now, we couldn’t possibly have a week with nothing but good news from Wizards. Thankfully, Worth Wollpert made sure we hada healthy dose of disappointment with the May update on the status of Magic Online. The short story is that the current PTQ season, which feeds Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir will not make its way to MTGO. Additionally, the MOCS also is not returning anytime soon.

However, on the MOCS front, there will be a free invite-only tournament for players who accumulated 35 or more Qualifier Points online in any of the past six MOCS seasons this year. Similar to the Grand Prix byes announcement, that is a huge slap in the face to everyone who fell just short of that mark, not knowing there would be some prize in store in the future. Not a great job by Wizards to appease their player base.

It’s hard to say that any of this is in any way surprising at this point. The PTQ and MOCS events were taken offline in November of 2013. Now, six months later, they remain offline and will likely be offline for the next three months. In the meantime, what has Wizards done to improve the experience? The only glimpse we’ve had has been a series of test events where the MTGO team has tested out some new tools they have to handle tournament crashes. I really can’t express how poor this decision-making has been, so let me try with a metaphor.

Imagine that Magic Online is a building on fire. That fire is being stoked by a magical elemental creature who continually charges up energy and releases it in the form of fire. The Wizards crew are the firefighters trying to keep the building from completely burning to the ground. Instead of spending a large amount of time and money researching a way to appease the elemental causing the fires, they have spent a small amount of time and money researching better fire extinguishers. So they have a building that’s still perpetually on fire, but they’re better equipped to keep it from burning to the ground.

Hope you enjoyed this month’s installment of how awful Magic Online is.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

Top 25

Normally a Grand Prix tournament doesn’t have a huge impact on the Top 25 rankings. However, with this past weekend’s event taking place in Atlanta, only a week after the Pro Tour in the same city, plenty of top-ranked players were on-hand to battle it out. The big winner was Canadian pro Shaun Mclaren who jumped all the way up to 7th place from 12th place. Huey Jensen, who made it to the top 8 of GP Atlanta, also jumped five spots, moving from 25th to 20th.

With no North American Grand Prix tournaments for a couple weeks, I don’t expect too many changes to the rankings. Between now and Pro Tour Magic 2015, the only significant-impact events could be GP Chicago (Standard, June 21-22), GP Washington DC (Limited, June 28-29), and GP Boston/Worcester (Modern, July 26-27).

Grand Prix Manchester

1,406 players arrived in Manchester, UK for block constructed. Among the top players to make the trip for one more romp at Theros block constructed were (13) Shahar Shenhar, (18) Josh McClain, Patrick Dickmann, Samuele Estratti, Martin Juza, and Hall of Fame player Kai Budde. By the end of day one Estratti and Juza had worked their way into the top sixteen while Budde sat in 24th overall.

151 players battled out through six more rounds of block constructed on day two. Juza and Estratti flirted with a top 8 finish all day while Kai Budde would end the day in 90th place. The final eight competitors featured a group of well-known European Grand Prix grinders and one Venezuelan Pro: Fabrizio Anteri. Anteri finished 57th at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx and was looking for one more shot at glory with Courser of Kruphix.

The road would not be easy. In the quarterfinals Anteri was paired with Portugese Grand Prix grinder Marcio Carvalho, who also has two Pro Tour top 8’s to his name. Anteri managed to win the match 2-1 and it was on to face Sebastian Knoerr, a German player who was in his first ever GP top 8. Knoerr’s mono-black aggro was able to make it to game three but Anteri pushed onto the finals. There he faced down Hungarian Tamas Glied who has several decent PT finishes and an MOCS top-4 to his name. Unfortunately Glied did not add GP champion to his resume as Anteri took down the title.

Grand Prix Sao Paulo

315 teams descended on the financial capital and largest city in Brazil, Sao Paulo, for a weekend of Theros block limited tournaments. A few pros made the trip including (23) Willy Edel, a native of Brazil. At the end of day one, Edel’s team was sitting in 24th place, good enough to join the top 40 teams for five more rounds on day two. As the day grew long however, the Brazilian pro slipped down to 28th place, just outside of the prize payout (top 24 teams for <400 teams).

In the end, the team of Carlos Esteves, Guilherme Merjan, and Tulio Jaudy took home the top prize of $8,100 and 6 pro points apiece. In addition, they and their final opponents, the team of Marcos Brandt, Eduardo Vieira, and Cezar Choji will get invites to Pro Tour Magic 2014 in Portland at the beginning of August.

The Quick Hits

  • Brian Kibler made a sexy playmat and shares the story behind its inception [BMK Gaming]
  • Graeme McIntyre suggests a few ways to help address gender inequality in our community [MtgUK]
  • Tim Aten shares his experiences as an editor for Wizards and wants you to join their ranks [DailyMTG]
  • Ethan Fleischer assigns color pie identities to members of the Greek pantheon [Magic Arcana]
  • Brian David-Marshall talks about the Pro Players Club and interviews Player of the Month Patrick Chapin [The Week That Was]
  • Corbin Hosler has the details of the latest wave of Chinese counterfeit cards [Quiet Speculation]

Wallpaper of the Week

Surprisingly not the god of Centaurs…

With Conspiracy spoiler season at an end, we get to continue the cycle of Journey into Nyx gods as wallpapers with Iroas, God of Victory. Iroas is the brother of Mogis. One of them has the torso of a man and the lower-half of a bull (that’s Iroas) and the other has the torso of a bull and the lower-half of a man (Mogis). As desktop wallpaper goes, Iroas is pretty boring. He’s centered, which is a no-no for wallpaper. Sure, he looks victorious, but what has he just won? Nothing obvious other than a few scale birds. Where’s the remnants of some battle of which he was just declared victor? Very disappointing.

Grade: C-

The Week Ahead

The Grand Prix circuit is taking a weekend off for the release of Conspiracy! As I’ve talked about in the past, this set looks amazing to draft. The full spoiler should be up today, ahead of this writing so I can’t give you a link yet. Anyways, I highly recommend giving Conspiracy drafting a shot, at least once. If it’s not your thing, so be it, but it looks fantastic.

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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