Hello Dominaria. The most-hyped, most-anticipated, most-Dominarian expansion in the past decade is finally here. By now you’ve seen the cards. You’ve maybe done a few drafts or hit up your local pre-release. You’re a Dominaria pro. This weekend, nearly 3,000 players across two continents sleeved up freshly opened packs of MTG history and battled it out in two team limited Grand Prix events. Here’s what we learned:

What We Learned at Grand Prix Bologna

Let’s look at Bologna, the first Grand Prix in Dominaria season, by the numbers. First, there were 479 teams in attendance, a total of 1,437 players. That’s down, not insignificantly, from the 524 teams that went to Amsterdam a month ago for Ixalan block team limited. Back in November, GP Lyon attracted 631 teams for Ixalan team limited. Italy of course is not the Netherlands or France but it seems concerning that European team limited GP attendance is trending downwards as we release the most popular set in a long time.

About 4,000 viewers tuned in for the live coverage of the event. That’s down slightly from 4,600 who tuned in for day two of Grand Prix Indianapolis last year, but those numbers are basically in line with each other and the sample size of team limited Grand Prix events with live coverage is incredibly small anyways.

4,000 viewers isn’t a lot overall though. Day two of GP Hartford (Modern) – 19k. Day three of GP Seattle (Standard) – 11k. Day two of GP Phoenix (Modern) – 17k. Day two of GP Madrid (Team Trios) – 7.6k. You have to go all the way back to January for a day two broadcast of a limited event, which was GP London, and that only attracted 5.4k viewers.

Coverage seems pretty good for constructed but its clear that the coverage model is struggling to attract and/or retain an audience for limited play. The launch weekend for Dominaria should have been a more exciting event and while maybe a lot of folks were playing in events at their local stores, or otherwise enjoying one of the first sunny Sundays of the year, the viewership numbers really don’t justify that Channel Fireball continue giving coverage to limited events until they change their production plan.

Grand Prix Columbus

Columbus also only attracted 443 teams to compete this weekend, also a drop off from the 514 and 550 teams that attended Grand Prix’s Indianapolis and Rhode Island, the last two team limited GP’s in North America.

That’s only 1300~1600 players roughly speaking which is actually up from the number of players who have been attending North American limited Grand Prix events otherwise. Houston only drew 900 players. New Jersey drew 1,135. Phoenix (2017) drew 1,115.

What’s causing the massive drop-off in limited event attendance? I went to a Grand Prix in Boston in 2009 for Magic 2010 limited and there were 1,500 players in attendance. Nine years later attendance should be growing, not stagnating.

Is it the cost of attendance? Is it the lack of prize support? Is it the repetitiveness of the GP experience? Is it card stock quality? Is it because of the problems in Standard’s metagame? Is it because of Wizards’ SJW agenda? Is it because Wizards isn’t executing their SJW agenda quickly enough?

By all accounts, GP Columbus was a great time, team tournaments are a great time, and Dominara is the most-hyped set since Return to Ravnica. So why is Grand Prix attendance dropping? It’s a deeply concerning question as we approach the halfway marker of Channel Fireball’s first year operating Grand Prix events and one for which we’ll continue to look for answers.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13

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