Pro Tour Dominaria is coming up this week and like all things related to the Pro Tour it’s time to dust off a stack of notes and half-written articles I keep in a folder titled “only to be cared about once every three months.” And that’s basically how everyone treats the Pro Tour and by extension, the Pro Tour Team Series.

At the tail end of last year we produced a video series in partnership with Rich Hagon that was titled “Talking Points.” Rich’s commitments to the Grand Prix Coverage team prevented him from being able to continue the series this year but I still believe wholeheartedly in the goal, which was to bridge the gap in coverage from the previous weekend’s events to the coming weekend’s events.

The reality is that it’s very difficult to connect the Pro Tour narratives on a weekly basis in a meaningful way that keeps fans engaged with the game, with their favorite players, and with the competitive Magic scene overall. But, with Grand Prix events and video coverage on a near-weekly basis these days, why is it still so difficult to build up those stories?

One of the stories I feel gets terribly forgotten about in the 12-to-15 weeks between Pro Tour events is the fact that a large chunk of players on the Pro Tour Team Series are still trying to qualify for the next Pro Tour, or maybe the one after it, in order to help collect some more points for their teams. Coverage, however, is dominated by super-teams, especially in the week leading up to the Pro Tour like this past weekend in Washington DC.

This past weekend saw a large number of top teams representing half of their six-player Pro Tour Team Series squad. Brad Nelson, Brian Braun-Duin, and Martin Muller finished in fourth place bringing much respect and attention to Team Genesis who sit in third place in the team competition heading into Pro Tour Dominaria. That’s some easy home-run layup narrative storytelling. Similarly, the team of Eli Kassis, Shaheen Soorani, and Noah Walker finished in 6th at Grand Prix DC, while their team, Cardhoarder, sits in 24th place going into the third Pro Tour of the year.

But there were too many teams, in my opinion, especially in the week leading up to the Pro Tour, that were not comprised entirely of Pro Tour Team Series teammates. The banner image of the coverage page showing the winning teammates wearing the colors of three different teams is entertaining and helps build the “perfect strangers” narrative up for Grand Prix DC but, to put it bluntly, why have a Pro Tour Team Series at all if you don’t care about the teams outside of the specific Pro Tour tournaments in which they have to compete as teammates?

Owen Turtenwald, Reid Duke, and William Jensen have dominated team play (11th in DC this weekend) as Peach Garden Oath, and comprise half of the Ultimate Guard Pro Tour Team, currently sitting in first place going into the Pro Tour this weekend. Andrew Cuneo and Paul Rietzl are also on that team but they didn’t compete together in DC. Jon Finkel doesn’t need an introduction, but he generally doesn’t travel for Grand Prix events so Ultimate Guard is unable to field two teams at a Grand Prix.

Wizards of the Coast continually sacrifices the narrative of the larger Pro Tour and Pro Tour Team Series in order to push the narratives within a single Grand Prix tournament. And, I think, honestly, no one cares. Sure, from time-to-time someone cares because there’s a cool story like “oldest GP winner ever” or “first female GP winner” but for me, the headline that three players from different backgrounds came together to win a Grand Prix is completely in conflict with the idea of the Pro Tour Team Series.

Should players on a Pro Tour Team Series Team have to compete with their PT teammates while playing at Grand Prix events? As you can see, some do and some don’t. The fact that plenty of them don’t is indicative of the fact that many of the PT teams are separated from each other in name only while most of them work together in much larger groups of players in-between Pro Tours. Forcing them to play together at Grand Prix could help raise the visibility of both the Pro Tour and the Pro Tour Team Series.

Right now the team competition aspect of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix series feels like its added on. Players and fans demanded it and because we’re now living in the “feedback age” of Wizards of the Coast’s product offerings, they slapped together something that’s adequate but not actually productive in improving the brand or image of the Pro Tour.

I sincerely hope that whoever is in charge of Organized Play globally these days (it’s fascinating how hard it is to get an answer to that question and then get anyone to follow-up on it) is taking a long, hard look at the point of the Pro Tour Team Series and whether or not it’s justifying its own substantial costs. As a fan, I’ve provided this feedback before and I’m sure I’ll provide it again: Find a way to promote your top players between Pro Tour events, or you’ll continue to lose potential fans to other eSports.

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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