At Pro Tour Origins, Helene Bergeot made several announcements involving changes to Premier Organized Play for Magic. These covered a wide variety of events including PPTQs, RPTQs, Grand Prixs, the World Magic Cup, and independent circuits like the Star City Games Open Series. I’ll take a look at each announcement, tell you if it’s good for the game, and how Wizards should take things even further next year.

Independent Circuits

Qualifiers will award a 2x Planeswalker multiplier, and Finals events will award a 4x multiplier

Good. The importance of independent circuits cannot be understated. If competitive Magic is ever going to reach great new heights, Wizards and the DCI will need to focus on the elite level of competitive play (Pro Tours and Grand Prixs) while independent organizers can handle the grassroots level of competition. As more and more people are interested in playing competitive magic, the onus will have to fall on companies like Star City Games and TCGPlayer to better accommodate the masses. Most importantly, these tournament circuits need to start existing overseas as well.

If a Series is comprised of more than 20 qualifying events, we will consider awarding a Pro Tour invitation to the winner of the culminating event


In case you missed my last few articles you should know that I think the SCG Open series is the future of competitive Magic at an entry level. I think that Grand Prix tournaments should be invitation-only with last-chance qualifiers and that the Pro Tour should be even more exclusive. The only thing that would make those changes viable is to legitimize the SCG Open series. Now, Wizards has begun down that path by allowing for Pro Tour invitations to be given to winners on the SCG Open circuit. It’s not quite what I’ve been looking for but it’s a good start.

Grand Prix Changes

The Grand Prix schedule will consist of 48 events

The GP circuit should be more exclusive and players should really spend more time improving their skill at the SCG Open series. See my previous paragraph for more on this topic. GP tournaments get tons of coverage and while it’s admirable that they’re completely open to the public it isn’t very helpful for spring-boarding player’s competitive careers. For many years the Grand Prix was the entry point into competitive Magic but that simply should no longer be the case.

All GPs hosted during a weekend are the same format

I’m not sure this change is going to be beneficial but it certainly can’t hurt. What would be more interesting would be if this leads to consolidated tournament coverage. For example, there is a weekend in March that will feature a Grand Prix in Melbourne, Bologna, and Detroit. If they’re all the same format, then can we have collective coverage? I’m talking about having a central desk in Seattle talking about the format with pro player and hall of fame player analysis, members of R&D doing interviews, and satellite teams covering the individual tournaments. If we’re going to have theme weekends I want to see the coverage reflect that.

The revised payout per number of players will be as follows:

  • Up to 2,999 players: $50,000
  • 3,000+ players: $75,000

Additionally, all players who will earn a Pro Tour invite at a Grand Prix will also be granted a travel award to the Pro Tour that the Grand Prix is tied to

Yes, the Grand Prix tournament needs to pay out more money. This will help improve the exclusivity of the event. Also, I think it’s about time that we started having Grand Prix tournaments be sponsored to bring in some additional revenue to further bolster the prize payout, but that’s a topic for another time.

All players with an X-3 record at the end of Day One will have the opportunity to continue playing on Sunday

I hate this idea and I know that this is going to be an unpopular opinion. Day one of the Grand Prix is already polluted with no-name players who may have interesting stories but ultimately dilute the narratives being covered. Adding more of these players to day two is only going to further water down the level of competition at a Grand Prix. As I’ve been saying, we need to improve the quality of GP competition and relegate the grinders to the SCG Open series and the PPTQ/RPTQ circuit.


Preliminary PTQ rounds will last from twelve to fourteen weeks. Regional PTQs will occur after a break of approximately five to eight weeks following the end of the PPTQ round, with the Pro Tour taking place six to nine weeks after the Regional PTQs.

This is a step in the right direction but it’s not enough in my opinion. Fourteen weeks for a PTQ season plus eight weeks until RPTQ plus another nine weeks until the Pro Tour is a maximum of 31 weeks from the start of PPTQ season to the start of the Pro Tour. It takes an additional five weeks to have a baby, just to put it in perspective. Of course, the minimum timeline outlined above is 23 weeks which is two months shorter and much more agreeable. 23 weeks is in line with how Grand Prix events feed Pro Tours. For example, the first Pro Tour of 2016 will take place 21 weeks after the first Grand Prix that awards invitations to that Pro Tour. Bringing GP and PTQ timetables in-sync would be a vast improvement, and it is hopefully where we will end up in the future.

Regional PTQs will be held during two consecutive weekends, in order to offer more flexibility to players

The fact that RPTQ’s are in conflict with Grand Prix tournaments is a big problem but this is only a temporary fix. What’s to prevent a player from having two Grand Prix events in close proximity on consecutive weekends, for example? Also, isn’t this overkill? Looking at the weekends chosen, we have Feb 20/27 during which there is only a Grand Prix in Houston on the 27th. Why not have all the RPTQs on the 20th? The same goes for May 28/Jun 4. There are no Grand Prix on June 4th. Aug 20/27? Okay, there’s GP NYC on the 20th and three GP on the 27th. Dec 3/10 also both have Grand Prix events, but they’re in Denver and Milwaukee meaning people are likely going to be attending both.

A better fix would be having RPTQ events hosted at the Grand Prix. Problem solved.

Starting with the round tied to the second Pro Tour of 2016, Regional PTQ organizers will have the option to host a Last Chance Qualifier that grants winners entry into the Regional PTQ taking place that weekend. Details on those Last Chance Qualifiers, including the time they take place, their entry fee, and more will be determined by each Regional PTQ organizer.

The only change I would make here would be to remove the “option” and make this mandatory. If a tournament organizer can’t handle adding LCQ’s then they shouldn’t be handling an RPTQ to begin with. As I outlined last week, you need to give the public as many opportunities to qualify for the next tier of competitive play as possible.

We are adding two Magic Online Regional PTQs per round

People in remote areas of the world need ways to qualify as well, and Magic Online will unfortunately have to suffice for now. I wish I had a better solution to this one.

World Magic Cup Qualifiers

World Magic Cup Qualifiers for 2016 will take place on the following dates next year:

  • June 18, 2016 – The format for this WMCQ is Standard
  • July 9, 2016 – The format for this WMCQ is Modern
  • September 17, 2016 – The format for this WMCQ is Standard

Yeah, okay. Why is this still structured this way? We spend the entire year jumping through tons of hoops and weekend after weekend of Grand Prix until we get to the World Championship. But for the World Magic Cup we just have three qualifier events which are essentially no different than the PTQ’s of the olden days. Why is that? Why can’t we rank players from their seasonal performances and build a national championship event from there like we used to have. This public qualifier system just seems so out-of-sync with everything else.

The 2015-16 Premier Play Schedule

Last but not least, we’re happy to announce where the Pro Tour will take us next year.

  • February 5–7, 2016: Pro Tour #1—Atlanta, Georgia (Modern/Booster Draft)
  • April 22–24, 2016: Pro Tour #2—Madrid, Spain (Standard/Booster Draft)
  • August 5–7, 2016: Pro Tour #3—Sydney, Australia (Standard/Booster Draft)
  • October 14–16, 2016: Pro Tour #4—Honolulu, Hawaii (Standard/Booster Draft)

Is it so difficult to release sets every three months? This four-month/two-month split between the large and small sets of a block does not seem like a very productive way to structure things. It leads directly to the problems with PPTQ/RPTQ scheduling discussed above. It also results in formats getting very stale in the fourth month, and then not lasting long enough for the two-month period.

We are planning to run the 2016 Magic World Championships in Seattle, Washington during PAX Prime next year

I’m expecting this will run smoothly for 2015 and hopefully this becomes a permanent fixture of PAX Prime.

The World Magic Cup will be in Rotterdam, Netherlands on November 18–20, 2016

Similar to the World Championship moving to PAX Prime I think we should relocate the World Cup to PAX East or another major convention. Perhaps its more difficult to acquire visas or some other technicality but I think the absence of a major event around the World Cup somewhat diminishes its grandeur.

Last but not least, by combining the Grand Prix and Pro Tour Schedules I can tell you when each expansion comes out next year. It’s not much, but if you like to plan this kind of thing out in advance, enjoy:

  • Winter 2016 Expansion: Pre-Release Jan 16-17, Release Jan 22, Pro Tour Feb 5-7 in Atlanta
  • Spring 2016 Expansion: Pre-Release Apr 2-3, Release Apr 8, Pro Tour Apr 22-24 in Madrid
  • Summer 2016 Expansion: Pre-Release Jul 16-17, Release Jul 22, Pro Tour Aug 5-7 in Sydney
  • Fall 2016 Expansion: Pre-Release Sep 24-25, Release Sep 30, Pro Tour Oct 14-16 in Honolulu

You’re welcome.

The Quick Hits

  • Henry Druschel analyzes some raw Pro Tour data to try to determine how players perform as they get older. Spoiler alert: I’m almost too old to play on the Pro Tour [Channel Fireball]
  • In the wake of the Hall of Fame voting, Henry Druschel continues his statistical analysis with a look at how competition has improved over time on the Pro Tour [Channel Fireball]
  • Speaking of which, congratulations to the 2015 Hall of Fame class: Willy Edel, Shota Yasooka, and Eric Froehlich [Daily MTG]
  • Adam Styborski recaps the Magic experience from this year’s Gen Con, which contrary to popular belief has a lot of support from Wizards [Gathering Magic]
  • Danny West takes a deeper look at how we observe matches of Magic and how we need to change the discussion around what we see [Star City Games]
  • Mario Ludwinski reviews the new Magic Duels video game, which I have to admit I played for about 30 seconds before turning off [MTG UK]
  • MJ Scott interviews Magic artist Ryan Yee, the creator of notable pieces such as Endless Ranks of the Dead and Command Tower [Gathering Magic]
  • Commander 2015 is on the way in November and one interesting thing to note is that the concept and design team includes Chris Tulach who is the head of Organized Play for Dungeons and Dragons [Magic Arcana]
  • There won’t be any reprinted fetch lands in Battle for Zendikar but there will be full-art lands and a new set of dual lands. Let the speculation engine begin [Gathering Magic]
  • In case you haven’t been reading the latest installments of Scrub Report, my nephew is now obsessed with Magic. So it will be easy to shop for him for the holidays [Magic Arcana]

Wallpaper of the Week

I have to say that I’m really just not fond of this piece of art. I don’t even know where to start. The flames aren’t roaring. Chandra isn’t roaring. It’s more like she’s just meditating on the fire while hanging out on the front stoop to the monastery. There’s just nothing enjoyable about this and I wish we can go back to emotionally-charged Chandra artwork in the future.

Grade: D

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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