I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about and then talking, with you dear audience, about the purpose and goals of competitive Magic and especially the (mostly) weekly phenomenon that is Channel Fireball’s Grand Prix tournament series. Two of the key performance indicators I like to look at from week to week are the attendance at each event, as reported by Wizards of the Coast, and the Twitch live streaming audience, as reported by twitchtracker.com. This weekend at Grand Prix Birmingham was a success for the Legacy format in both metrics.

First up, lets talk about attendance. 1200 players signed up for a Legacy tournament that began on a Friday morning and the early start means that we have to temper expectations somewhat. That said, Grand Prix Seattle’s Legacy tournament, just over a month ago, also began on Friday and attracted 1600 players. While that’s more than Birmingham, North American GP events tend to have higher attendance rates, especially for constructed.

Looking at other events in the United Kingdom, Grand Prix London back in January featured 1,979 competitors for a limited event and Grand Prix Liverpool back in October was host to 1,209 players. A Modern event in August last year in Birmingham itself featured 1,743 players and it begs the question, how many players would have signed up for Legacy if it had been held on Saturday instead of Friday?

Then again, the Legacy portion of Eternal Weekend Europe did not even have 300 players in attendance and the last European Grand Prix to feature Legacy, Prague in 2016, had more players with 1,477 playing in that event. There’s no doubt that there’s a significantly-sized community of Legacy players in Europe and the format deserves more love than it gets, but while being the eldest sibling among the three major constructed tournament formats, Legacy is still trailing Standard and Modern in popularity.

Here’s something I did not expect to learn this week: Day one of Grand Prix Birmingham is the most-viewed live stream for Magic’s Twitch channel since November 2016 when twitchtracker.com began keeping track of this information. According to the tracking site, day one of the Legacy event in Birmingham, on Friday, drew a total of over 900k viewers with a peak concurrent viewership of just over 14k. That 900k number is almost 300k more viewers than day one of Grand Prix Denver back in 2016, and more than 300k over day two of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.

What’s interesting though is that number plummets to 300k viewers on day two, while the peak concurrent number only drops from 14k to 11k. So what exactly is going on here and how did nearly half-a-million more people than normal end up tuning into a Magic Grand Prix event on Twitch? Are there more people watching on weekdays? Did people want to tune in to see the crazy wacky decks that you can only get on day one of a Legacy tournament?

The numbers ticked back up on Sunday to 500k viewers for Standard and 16k concurrent watching the final rounds. That indicates that, to be honest, a lot of people of more interesting things to do on a Saturday than watch a Magic tournament, something that requires a significant time investment.

So what do our key performance indicators tell us? First, the Legacy community in Europe is sizable and stable and willing to travel to events even if they start on a weekday. Second, the audience for Legacy and Magic in general is perhaps much larger than previously indicated, and the success of day one of an interesting event on a Friday is a very, very fascinating data point that Channel Fireball and Wizards of the Coast should be deeply interested in.

Here are some closing thoughts, send me what you think on Twitter:

  • Should Grand Prix events begin on Fridays? Yeah, they absolutely should. If attendance goes down slightly but viewership skyrockets, then I think it could work out profitably for Channel Fireball.
  • Should there be more Legacy Grand Prix events? Yes, but only because there should be more constructed Grand Prix events overall. From the viewpoint of pure entertainment value, every weekend should be Modern weekend, but in reality that could get old quickly. Still, we should get rid of coverage for limited events and replace them with constructed events including Legacy.
  • If more people watch Legacy won’t more people want to play Legacy and drive up the price of cards even more? Yes, which means if Wizards wants to make money off of Legacy, which they absolutely can and should based on the audience of GP Birmingham this weekend, they need to solve the problem of card availability and the current iteration of Magic Online is not a viable solution.

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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