In the past two days Wizards of the Coast has unveiled the full 2018 Pro Tour schedule (including the 2018 World Championship) as well as the first half of the 2018 Grand Prix schedule. Combining these gives us incredible insight into what the Magic community has in store for it in 2018.

This will be the first year that Channel Fireball is organizing all of the Grand Prix events, so the first six months of the schedule give us insight into how CFB plans to take care of the Magic community. There’s no avoiding the fact that the Grand Prix circuit is one of the defining characteristics of the competitive Magic community and a significant segment of the overall community.

Overall things look good. We’ll dive into the details in a moment, but the big takeaways are that there will be 60 total events this year including significant increases in the number of team events, Modern events, and Legacy events. On the other side of the coin there will be decreases in the number of Standard and solo Limited events. It’s a fair trade. The Vegas Convention Grand Prix is returning and will be joined, in the first half of the year at least, by similar events in Seattle and Birmingham. What’s not to love about this announcement?

The Winners

60 events, up from 53 last year, is a big win for the entire community. Ultimately more Magic events should be good news for the health of the game and the health of the competitive scene. When we break this number down there are some very specific winners and most notably they are the United States which will have whopping six more events in 2018, going up from 22 to 28, and Europe which will be going up by three more events overall, going up from 13 to 16.

If geographical gains aren’t your cup of tea, let’s talk formats. Channel Fireball has decided to make some big shifts in which formats are going to get featured. The biggest winner here is definitely team competition. In 2017 there were eight total team events (6 Limited, 2 Unified Modern). In 2018 that number is doubling to 16 (9 Limited, 4 Trios, 3 Unified Modern). I think this is a move in the right direction not only because of the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour but because Magic is better with friends and the competitive scene is better with the team series.

Beyond team competitions though, CFB will be changing the landscape of solo events as well. While 16 team events is impressive, it means 44 events will still be of the one-on-one variety. While Standard and Limited will be featured more than any other solo format, Modern and Legacy fans should be excited to see big boosts. Modern will grow from 8 events in 2017 to 12 events in 2018 while Legacy will see its total doubled from two to four. Not too shabby.

Last but not least, fans of events like Grand Prix Las Vegas are in for a treat. The first half of the 2018 schedule has three such events taking place in Seattle (April 5th to 8th), Birmingham (May 10th to 13th), and of course, Las Vegas (June 14th to 17th). These events will each feature two Grand Prix main events (one constructed and one Limited) and are likely to draw huge crowds and large contingents of community members, content creators, pro players, celebrities, and Wizards staff.

The Losers

All in all that’s a lot of great news and I think the overall message CFB is sending is a positive one. That said there are definitely some things that I wasn’t too happy about in this announcement and some folks around the community will also be unhappy about. This list isn’t as long as the list of winners, but this is the Magic community so we have to complain about something.

First off, let’s give our condolences to the citizens of Canada and China who suffer from having a very large country that isn’t the easiest to travel around and will have a limited number of Grand Prix events. China hosted two tournaments in 2017 but has seen that number reduced to one in 2018. The event will be in Beijing in May. Canada hosted three events in 2017 and is still hosting three in 2018, but two of them will be in Toronto in February and then again in May. It’s likely that the third event will be on the western side of the country, but if it’s somewhere like Montreal that’s a huge blow to residents of the pacific northwest.

Brazil and the Philippines each lost a Grand Prix as well, bringing Brazil down to one and the Philippines down to zero. Both the Asia Pacific region and the Latin America region are down one total event as a result with Asia Pacific going from 11 to 10 and Latin America going from four to three. That’s a big loss for those parts of the world.

Last but not least, and this may not be a loss for those who aren’t too fond of it, but Standard was cut down from 20 events to 15. This is a big shift from Wizards organizing events to Channel Fireball but there’s definitely a strong sentiment that Standard did not fare well under the spotlight in 2017 as cards were banned almost regularly. In order to improve format diversity there had to be a casualty and Standard is it. Given the higher financial bar to play Modern and Legacy, this could be a bummer for a lot of folks. Then again, four team trio constructed events almost make up for the loss, so long as you have friends to play with.

Predicting the Rest of the Schedule

If you’re like me you enjoy reading between the lines of the schedule. From January through June of 2018 there are only three weekends without any Grand Prix or Pro Tour event on the schedule. Generally this means those dates are reserved for something else, and almost always that means Pre-Release weekend. The three open weekends are:

  • January 12th to 14th
  • March 2nd to 4th
  • April 20th to 22nd

It’s safe to say that January will be the pre-release for Rivals of Ixalan and the April weekend will be the same for Dominaria because we know those set release dates already. But what about the weekend of March 2nd to 4th? I suppose it’s possible that we’re simply getting a weekend off, but I hope that Wizards has something special planned and it could be related to 25th Anniversary Masters which releases on March 16th.

Lastly, I don’t know when the second half of the schedule comes out, but I’d very much like to see a convention-style Grand Prix in Japan next year. The community out there is incredibly strong. There was a major event in Chiba a few years ago, but things have changed so much and it would be good to see that happen. Japan gets five events next year and none of them are in the first half of the schedule so they could even be in store for a triple-event like the Grand Prix we just had in Vegas last month.

Make it so, Channel Fireball!

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