This past weekend featured the first ever RPTQ tournaments across the globe. These 31 events spanning every region were the culmination of the first season of the re-designed Pro Tour Qualifier circuit. Five months ago I wrote about the newly announced RPTQ events and what my expectations were. Today we take a look at the reality of the  ending of the first RPTQ season and see how it lived up to those expectations.

RPTQ Number One

With the RPTQ events in the books it’s time to take a look at the aftermath. The next season is already underway without any changes, but there are certainly changes on the horizon. Wizards has already announced a change in the formats for PPTQ events going forwards. One has to wonder though if there are more changes on the horizon. I think that with anything Organized Play handles we can expect it to be a growing process. One of the keys to understanding this process can be seen in the attendance numbers, which I will get to momentarily. Also, I think Wizards should take a hard look at the coverage of the weekend. Last but not least, I will provide, to the best of my knowledge, the winners that have been made public so far.

Attendance Numbers

When the events were announced I was a little concerned about the distribution of RPTQ tournaments to PPTQ tournaments. This thread on Reddit has been compiling attendance numbers and I’ve been working to confirm as many of them as possible. Attendance overall was lower than expected. There were just under 2,300 PPTQ tournaments registered with Wizards of the Coast, but the total approximate attendance, based on our current reports, is just under 2,000. Almost 300 fewer than the expectation. That may not seem like a lot at first, but it means that roughly 13% of PPTQ events either ended up being canceled, or the winner simply could not attend an RPTQ.

Attendance by RPTQ

Canceled events were certainly one of the problems of PPTQ season. The requirement to have a Level 2 Judge available was one that at least some stores were unable to meet. We know of at least some instances where there would be four or five stores in a region running RPTQ’s on the same day, but only two or three L2 judges even live within driving distance. This is one of the aspects of the PPTQ system that Wizards will need to urgently address. Local stores running events in the same region simply need to coordinate their dates better. But, what’s the incentive for the stores? Will they be inclined to work with their competition? I would assume that in many cases this will not be a problem. But, we all know store owners who are not very cooperative, and Wizards may need to intervene.

Of course, a lot of players simply couldn’t attend an RPTQ event either because they were already busy this weekend or they simply couldn’t afford to travel. Many events may have simply been too far, especially in regions like southeast Asia, Latin America, and Australia. However, what about Europe and North America, where there were plenty of tournaments but the attendance drop-off was actually the greatest. The combined North American events were 139 players short of projection while Europe was 110 players short. Most of this, I believe, can be chocked up to the high cost of travel, especially in Europe were events were not all held near major transportation hubs.

Attendance by Region

Also, as I predicted back in November, there was a lot of migration away from the major tournament centers in Rome and Chicago. Rome was projected to have 240 players but only had 129 while Chicago was projected to have 163 players but only had 113. Eight events ended up having higher than expected attendance and they were almost all relatively close to Rome and Chicago. Stockholm, Albuquerque, London, Portland, Kansas City, Prague, and Jacksonville all ended up having more players than projected (Jacksonville only by one player). Meanwhile, four of the biggest drops were Rome, Chicago, Madrid, and Dusseldorf. Tokyo and Beijing were likely the only large events to come almost exactly to their attendance, though we don’t have an exact report out of Beijing yet.

One of the interesting stories from migration comes from Salt Lake City, UT, where East Coast players Mike Flores and Chris Pikula traveled and competed in the RPTQ there instead of the ones that were literally within miles of their homes.

In the end it paid off because Mike Flores ended up finishing in the Top 8 and earning one of the four invitations handed out to the 38 players in Salt Lake City. That’s right, 38 players. Ultimately this is where the problems of the RPTQ system are going to be most obvious. Only St. Petersburg ended up being 5 rounds with 30 players, but a large number of the 6-round events only barely crossed that threshold. Vancouver (33), Santa Clara (34), Buenos Aires (35?), San Diego (38), Salt Lake City (38), and Montreal (39) all came in under 40 players. In total, 20 of the 31 events were at 64 players or fewer, meaning they were six rounds. Just crossing into 7 rounds were Philadelphia (65) and Kansas City (71). Meanwhile, Chicago (113) and London (106) fell just short of needing an 8th round, but still had very stiff competition.

If there is a desire to improve the quality of the competitors who make the Pro Tour via the PPTQ/RPTQ system, I don’t think we’re going to quite get there. With all due respect to the winners, there just isn’t the same sort of competition in a 34-person event in Santa Clara as there is in a 113-person event in Chicago. If Wizards really wants to weed out the players who manage to get a good run of luck and make their way to an invitation with it, then they’re going to have to balance out the distribution of these events in the future. Hopefully we’ll see some changes sooner rather than later.

Event Coverage

Several of the RPTQ events had coverage. I spend my Friday evening watching the opening rounds from Melbourne, Australia. The next morning I caught the middle of the London event. I didn’t watch but I heard the event from Catskill was also broadcast. But that’s just under 10% of the RPTQ tournaments. To me that’s simply unacceptable. I wish there had been complete around-the-clock coverage of the entire event from the first round in Australia to the final round in San Diego.

Imagine, if you will, a Magic News Desk studio in Seattle, headquartered at Wizards HQ, featuring some of the names and faces we’re used to from the Pro Tour like Randy Buehler, Marshall Sutcliffe, and Rich Hagon. Now, setup a few satellite teams across the globe with personalities like Luis Scott-Vargas from California, Brian David-Marshall in New York, Raphael Levy in France, and so on. Next, you liase with the local coverage teams at each of the 31 RPTQs to, at the very least, provide up-to-date information such as standings and decklists. You don’t need every event to have live streaming coverage, but it helps to have more than three of them.

As the clock ticks across the globe you can switch up the main news desk and the local coverage teams to get different points of view. Bring on some special guests like Helene Bergeot and members of R&D or the Pro Tour Hall of Fame to give their two cents on the RPTQ’s.

I just think there’s a lot of potential to start building player narratives at the RPTQ tournaments, feature the Pro Tour coverage team, and then get people invested emotionally in these players so they’re more inclined to watch the Pro Tour in a few months. Is that too much to ask?

The Winners

As of right now I don’t believe Wizards has released a complete list of the winners of each RPTQ. I am putting out feelers and trying to compile my own list which I will update here as I get responses.

  • Albuquerque, NM – TBD
  • Beijing, China – TBD
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina – TBD
  • Catskill, NY – TBD
  • Chicago, IL – Louis Kaplan, Fanchen Yang, TBD, TBD
  • Dallas, TX – TBD
  • Dusseldorf, Germany – Marc Tobiasch, Ilja Tchernomazov, Wenzel Krautmann, Benjamin Dupont
  • Greensboro, NC – TBD
  • Jacksonville, FL – TBD
  • Kansas City, MO – Ryan Overturf, Jason Schousboe, Sam Berkenbile, Will Erker
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Chye Hwee Heng, Suripat Maikhu, Joshua Mamboyo, Wee Pang Ming
  • London, England – Sean Thompson, Karim Al Takrouri, Antonis Fyssas, Chris Foster
  • Lyon, France – Yann Teoh, Erwan Maisonnueve, Andrea Ciotta, Pierre Sommen
  • Madrid, Spain – TBD
  • Melbourne, Australia – Luke Mulcahy, Tye Soens, Matthew Rogers, David Williams
  • Mexico City, Mexico – TBD
  • Montreal, QC – Michael Goud, Dustin Little, Nicholas Leahy, Alexander Gorecki-Kuzma
  • Nashville, TN – TBD
  • Philadelphia, PA – TBD
  • Portland, OR – Brian Weller-Gordon, Jackson Knorr, Anders Jones, Nate Sletteland
  • Prague, Czech Republic – TBD
  • Rome, Italy – Marco Panteghini, Simone Locatelli, Stefano Gerardis, Giuseppe Reale, Federico Del Basso, Riccardo Biava, Mancini Matteo, Marco De Togni
  • Salt Lake City, UT – Daniel Gardner, Spencer Stephen Howland, Travis Padilla, Mike Flores
  • San Diego, CA – Basil Nabi, Michael Hantz, Patrick Lewis, Vidianto Wijaya
  • Santa Clara, CA – Philip Arcuni, Paul Cheon, Zach Mandelblatt, Tyler Clark
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – TBD
  • St. Petersburg, Russia – Dmitry Medvedev (Not the Prime Minister), Mike Kranitski, Artem Razumov, Valentin Soloviev
  • Stockholm, Sweden – Peter Vieren, Arnaud Soumet, Jonas Gillberg, Jeppe Sorensen
  • Tokyo, Japan – TBD
  • Toronto, ON – TBD
  • Vancouver, BC – Percy Fang, Kevin Trieu, Sean Gifford, Kyle Maas

The Quick Hits

  • Level 5 Judge Riccardo Tessitori tells his stories from being Head Judge of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, including the infamous Round 6 incident with Patrick Chapin [Black Border]
  • Reid Duke talks about the challenging concept of “win more” scenarios which often cost players victories they could otherwise secure [Daily MTG]
  • Sick of Tiny Leaders? Abe Sargent has created Behemoth, which is basically the complete opposite of Tiny Leaders [Star City Games]
  • The Erik Friborg classic is coming up in a week so make sure you check it out if you want to play in a free, awesome MTGO event [Pure MTGO]
  • Randy Buehler sits down to talk about the Super League and its origin story [Daily MTG]
  • Vincent Borchardt decides to tackle a fictional theoretical reprint set and lays out the basis for Mercadian Masques Remastered [Pure MTGO]
  • Mike Linnemann and The Meadery will be hosting a charity tournament in Minneapolis on July 25th to raise money and awareness for M.S. [Gathering Magic]
  • On the tenth anniversary of Matt Cavotta’s invention of Vorthos, Ant Tessitore re-envisions the concepts of Vorthos and Melvin [Gathering Magic]
  • In case you missed it last week, our very own Shawn Massak wrote some true things about the perceived hygiene issue in the Magic community [Ensnaring Cambridge]
  • Danny West believes that this is currently the greatest Standard environment of all time but he missed out on Necro summer and I think we can all agree that Affinity was just the dandiest thing ever [Star City Games]
  • Channel Fireball unveiled the side event playmat for Grand Prix Las Vegas along with the reveal that Vendilion Clique would return to Modern Masters and I guess now you don’t really have to click this link [Channel Fireball]
  • You know that article Shawn wrote, three bullet-points up? Well not everyone understood it so our own Jess Stirba helped to clarify some things [Command of Etiquette]
  • The greatest thing Modern Masters 2015 brings us might be playable Friday Night Magic promos [Magic Arcana]
  • Last but not lease, please go check out the Magic Judge Hall of Fame. This is vital to the growth of Magic as a legitimate competitive activity like Golf or Poker [Magic Judges]

Wallpaper of the Week

Dragonlord Kolaghan takes no shit from no one and gives absolutely zero fucks. The artwork had to represent that and I think it does a pretty good job. I guess there could have been more ass-kicking and less name-taking but you know, can’t win them all when it comes to sweet dragons.

Grade: B+

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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