The Grand Prix circuit is not the Pro Tour but that doesn’t diminish its importance to the Magic community. In fact, for many members of the community from casual attendees of pre-releases to weekend tournament grinders, the Grand Prix’s inclusion of amateur-status players makes it the highlight of many players’ social calendar.

Every few months players in your local area will embark on a ritual of sorts. You spend weeks getting ready by tuning your decks at the kitchen table or Friday Night Magic. You make your travel arrangements. Car rental. AirBnB. The perfect playlist on your iPhone. Finally, you pack your bag full of dice, sleeves, and granola bars, fill up your water bottle, and head to the convention center for the most fun you can have in a weekend of playing Magic the Gathering.

On Thursday, Wizards of the Coast announced that every single one of these sacred Grand Prix events in 2018 would be run by a single tournament organizer: Channel Fireball Events, a combined enterprise including the California-based Channel Fireball that we all know and love, as well as a UK-based company most of us had never heard of called SiteLine Productions. The announcement caused immediate waves throughout the Magic community.

Many folks, like pro player Ben Stark, viewed the announcement in a positive light. Channel Fireball has built a reputation for hosting fantastic Grand Prix tournaments. That’s not to say other tournament organizers don’t deliver. Many, for the most part, are very successful and enjoyable. A few poor events have certainly left blemishes on the reputation of several organizers.

But there were also plenty of people who were concerned and viewed the announcement in a negative light. The word “monopoly” got thrown around more often than at your childhood family game nights. The fears grew along two clear lines of thought. First, without competition could Channel Fireball Events raise the price of entry to Grand Prix without consequence. Second, will there be an impact to favoritism of certain pro players sponsored by certain companies to be featured on-camera in Grand Prix coverage.

The concerns over the cost of events were much more prevalent.

I could go on. Obviously the cost of entry into a Grand Prix is a major concern among the fans of the game. Magic is for everyone, but the continued escalation of costs for cards, tournament entry, and travel, has been pricing players out of the event hall for many years. Fans are rightly concerned that this decision could continue that trend.

Wizards of the Coast realized that they had perhaps not been as forthcoming with information as they should have, and created an FAQ Page to address some concerns. Here’s the main takeaway:

One of the primary benefits of a single organizer managing GPs globally is that it lets CFBE invest in the infrastructure necessary to focus on delivering a consistent, high-quality and accessible experience to players worldwide. They can also partner with other organizers to leverage their existing skills and knowledge to run events around the world.

The logistics of organizing events like this can be a nightmare. A Grand Prix is much more than just a Magic tournament. It’s a complete convention including artists, vendors, judges, concessions, a VIP area, side events, panels, and so on. And they take place 50+ times annually. The costs of running these events are very high, and the experience is wildly inconsistent. That’s not to say other organizers don’t produce quality events, it’s just that the consistency of quality varies greatly.

But, on the topic of cost, Wizards brings up a good point. Everything costs less in bulk. Logistics are easier to manage at a large scale, believe it or not. If you’re organizing travel arrangements for five or six events a year, you can use some travel rewards and make things a bit more cost effective. If you’re organizing travel arrangements for 50 events a year for the next five years, you can really cut down your costs.

It remains to be seen if the cost savings will manifest itself in a reduction in the entry fee for Grand Prix tournaments. However, this is not a monopoly in any sense of the word. Magic the Gathering tournaments are not a commodity being held hostage by Channel Fireball and Wizards of the Coast. Anyone can run them. Star City Games, who made this statement about the future of organized play, run a wildly successful tournament series completely independent of Wizards of the Coast.

Grand Prix events don’t compete with each other for your money. They never have. There’s never been two simultaneous Grand Prix events in your region in the same weekend. The only competition might be that you only go to one tournament a year, and you have to pick between two near you, and that decision is almost never going to be based on the tournament organizer but rather logistics and budget constraint.

The concern over price increases is real, but it shouldn’t lead to mass-hysteria over the idea that Channel Fireball Events has a monopoly on your competitive Magic the Gathering experience. There are other tournaments out there and if you think that there isn’t enough competition but that the community can support yet another tournament circuit then by all means go and start one.

There is still a lot to unpack about this announcement, and we’ve reached out to plenty of folks involved to learn as much as we can, but for now you can rest assured that no one has a monopoly on how you enjoy Magic the Gathering.

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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