At Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad, Helene Bergeot announced a wide variety of news and changes to Premiere Play for the upcoming season. Some of them were mundane, such as the full Pro Tour schedule for 2017. One change was the removal of Modern as a Pro Tour format, which Aaron Forsythe wrote another article about. Two changes, however, dealt directly with pro player compensation. Specifically appearance fees are going way down for the top players while compensation at the World Championship is going way up.

Appearance Fees

Let’s start with the Pro Tour Hall of Fame changes because it seems like people unanimously couldn’t care less. Currently, HOF members get $1,500 for every Pro Tour and World Magic Cup tournament that they attend. This will be changing for next season to HOF members getting $1,500 if they attend the Pro Tour that hosts the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and another $250 if they participate in the World Magic Cup. This is traditionally the fall expansion Pro Tour (e.g. Battle for Zendikar last year and Khans of Tarkir the previous year).

So how much money is Wizards going to save by cutting back on HOF perks? Let’s look at the 2014-15 season to find out (since the current season has yet to conclude). There were 39 Pro Tour Hall of Fame members for the 2014-15 season after Makihito Mihara, Paul Rietzl, and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa were inducted at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. If every single Pro Player attended every event that was eligible to pay out an appearance fee, it would cost Wizards of the Coast $292,500 to fund HOF appearance fees.

Obviously this number goes up every year. Each new inductee potentially costs $7,500 for Wizards every year. Adding three more inductees at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar added $22,500 to this pool, which is almost half the prize pool of a Grand Prix event. Starting this fall, each new inductee will only be a potential cost of $1,750 annually.

So, how many HOF members actually attend Pro Tour events currently? In total, during the 2014-15 season, Wizards paid out $1,500 appearance fees to HOF members at the Pro Tour 91 times, and another 3 times at the World Cup. In total then it cost Wizards $141,000 to run this program, and with the changes going into effect for next season they would have saved over $100,000. Without making too many more assumptions I think it is safe to say that Wizards expects this to save them about $100,000 annually in the short term, and in the long-term it will depend on the growth of the Hall of Fame.

Let’s not forget, however, that it is not only Pro Tour Hall of Fame members who are getting a pay cut. In fact, there’s a more drastic pay cut coming to Platinum Pro Players, who currently receive $3,000 for each Pro Tour they appear at, $1,000 for playing in the World Magic Cup, and $500 for playing in a World Magic Cup qualifier. This represents a potential cost of just under $15,000 per player, double what it costs Wizards (currently) to support a Hall of Fame member. These appearance fees will be dropping to $250 each for the 2016-17 season, a potential cost of $2,000. Yikes. Platinum Pros are getting an $11,000 to $13,000/year pay cut?

Before we get crazy let’s note that going into Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad there are only four players who’ve reached the 50-pro-point threshold. But, 25 players made the cut last year, and status carries over to this year, and there’s no reason to think that number is going to change. At $15k/each that cost Wizards a potential purse of $375,000. The new payout will cost Wizards about $50,000, a savings of just over $300,000.

So what gives?

Obviously the elite members of the Platinum club aren’t happy. Why should they be? They were told that they’d get money this year and that their club level and benefits would carry over into next season. Now they’ve put all that effort into something they won’t get the full expected value for. Is that shitty? Yeah. Should Platinum pros be pissed? You bet. But should the other 999,950 competitive Magic players in the world care? Not really.

Wait, why shouldn’t you care? Think about it, why do you play competitive Magic anyways? Did you sign up for your DCI number thinking that you’d be a Platinum Pro or a Hall of Famer one day? Probably not. You probably thought to yourself that you wanted to win a draft, or maybe just a match in a draft. Then maybe you wanted to win FNM, or Game Day. Pretty soon you wanted to win a Pro Tour Qualifier, make day two of a Grand Prix, and move on to bigger and better things. Maybe one day you wanted to win a Pro Tour. Along the way maybe you picked up a few pro points, or even made it to the Silver Pro Club. But Platinum? Hall of Fame? That’s a club of about 100 people at any given time, it probably wasn’t your primary incentive.

Here’s the bottom-line: being a Platinum Pro Player is the equivalent of being an All-Star Magic Player. Think about your favorite sportsball sport. The players who represent the league at the annual All-Star game tend to be the most talented and most skilled and usually the most consistent. This is exactly who the Platinum Pro Players are. Now let me ask you who won the most recent All-Star game in your favorite sport? You probably have trouble bringing it to memory. Do you know who even represented your favorite team? It was probably that really good player, right?

Now let me ask you who won the last championship? Who won the Super Bowl? Who won the Stanley Cup? Who won the World Series? Who won whatever they call the NBA title (sorry basketball fans)? You can probably spit up this information even if you’re only a casual fan of the sport or read the news regularly.

So let me ask one more question: Can you name last season’s Platinum Pros? How many can you name? You can probably rattle off the Pro Tour winners but what about the rest of the Platinum Pro Players? How about last year’s World Champion?

The World Championship

World Champion should mean one thing: the best Magic player in the world. Maybe the Platinum Pro Players are the best in the world just like the players at the Pro Bowl or the Home Run Derby are the best players in the world. But they’re not the champions. Only the champions get that title.

Wizards wants people to want to win the World Championship. They want people to want to watch the World Championship. No one is interested in Platinum Pro players. Sorry Paul Rietzl, I know making Platinum means a lot to you but the viewers back home couldn’t care less. Rich Hagon might be the only one who gets excited over this. You know what I want? I want to see Paul win another Pro Tour. I want to see Paul captain Team USA at the World Cup. I want to see Paul win the World Championship. I don’t care if Paul makes the All-Star team. I want to see Paul as a winner. Winners are easy to cheer for.

Wizards has a limited amount of money to spend on marketing Magic and a large amount goes to the Pro Tour. They took away the money from appearance fees for HOF and Platinum club members and decided to put it into the World Championship. Wizards is saying that they don’t think there’s any value in marketing the Hall of Fame and the Platinum club to the extent they have in the past. Instead, they want to market the World Championship to the tune of a half-million dollar prize pool.

This isn’t rocket science. You can’t take any sport seriously if they would rather spend their money promoting their All-Star selection process over their Championship event. Wizards has had things backwards for a long time by rewarding players for being consistently good instead of awarding players for becoming champions.

The Pro Players are pissed because the money is being taken out of the pockets of about 100 of them and being put into the pockets of 24 of them. But in reality the Pro Players should be thrilled because the World Championship should be the marquee event of the Magic calendar and with increased prize support it may finally become that. This is good for the game which means it’s good for the Pro Players.

Tell someone who doesn’t play Magic that they should get into it because they can aspire to qualify for the Platinum Club which gives them an appearance fee for showing up to each of four major tournaments throughout the year and you’ll probably get a lot of blank stares and questions requiring you to explain the entire tournament structure. Tell that person they should get into Magic so they can play in a tournament with a $500,000 prize pool and you’ll create a new competitive Magic player more often than not.

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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