Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast finally announced the Silver Showcase, an invite-only event that will precede the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour. The Silver Showcase is going to be an eight-person Rochester Draft of Magic’s oldest sets, Beta, Arabian Nights, Antiquites, and Legends that will be streamed live before the Pro Tour. After the extremely positive response to the Beta draft at GP Las Vegas, one could safely assume that the Magic community would be equally excited about the Silver Showcase. Except they’re not, and it’s for a good reason.

What is the Silver Showcase?

The Silver Showcase is an invite-only Rochester Draft that will be held before the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour on Thursday, August 2nd, with a total prize pool of $150,000.

The event will feature the top Pro Point earners from each of the four geo-region—Raphaël Lévy, Shuhei Nakamura, Jon Finkel, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa—as well as four guests invited “as recognition for their contributions to competitive gaming history”: Brian Kibler, Stanislav Cifka, David Williams, and Jason Chan, better known as Amaz.

Those eight players will start by Rochester Drafting three packs of Beta, one pack of Arabian nights, one pack of Antiquities, and one pack of Legends on Thursday, August 2nd. They will then play the quarterfinals and semifinals after Day 1 and Day 2 of the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour, respectively, and then play the finals on Sunday before the Pro Tour Top 8.

The winner of the Silver Showcase will receive $35,000, with $25,000 going to the second place finisher, $20,000 for third and four places, and $12,500 for fifth through eighth places. The cards that the players draft, on the other hand, will be donated to Child’s Play and auctioned off at a later date.

The Magic Community’s Negative Reaction

Unlike the positive reaction to the Beta Draft at GP Vegas, Wizard’s announcement of the Silver Showcase was met with intense negativity from Magic pros and fans alike.

The first point of contention is about the Silver Showcase’s prize pool, which is an insane $150,000 for this eight-player draft. For reference, a normal Pro Tour has a total payout of $220,000 for around 400 players, though the 25th Anniversary Pro Tour has a greatly increased payout of $850,000. The Silver Showdown awards a cash prize for all eight places; so no matter how you do, everyone is guaranteed at least $12,500 just for getting invited. This really didn’t sit well with Magic pros, since if you manage to win a Grand Prix, a tournament with 15 rounds, a Top 8, and thousands of people, you can only win $10,000.

The second thing the community took issue with is who was invited to the Silver Showcase in the first place. The first four invites were given to the top lifetime Pro Point earners from each geo-region, which makes total sense—these people obviously know Magic and have been in the game for a long time to hold that title. But the other four invites truly baffled the Magic community because they were given to well-known Hearthstone streamers and a poker player, rather than players that are currently dedicated to Magic. Yes some of them, like Brian Kibler, Stanislav Cifka, and Dave Williams, have relationships with Magic that span from being a Hall of Famer to being a Pro Tour winner or getting disqualified at the 2001 World Championship. But most of them make their money doing something other than playing Magic, be it streaming Hearthstone or playing poker, which came off as a poke in the eye to Magic’s underpaid pro players.

Wizards’ Questionable Marketing Choices

From a marketing standpoint, I first assumed that Wizards wanted to use the Silver Showcase to reach out to Hearthstone players and interest them in Magic. They are the perfect target audience, after all. But the Silver Showcase is a Rochester draft of older sets, which will be nearly impossible to grok for someone who is unfamiliar with Magic. I would have better understood their choice to target Hearthstone players if Wizards had structured this as an Arena tournament, since Arena is definitely designed to be a shot across the bow of Blizzard’s Hearthstone. I can understand Wizards wanting to invest in some marketing that will lure players over to Magic, but that effort seems a bit premature since Arena is still in a closed Beta.

Wizards has a history of questionable marketing choices. The Silver Showcase is far from their first, but it has left me the most confused. What is their goal here? Who is their target market? What are their expected outcomes? The Silver Showcase doesn’t feel like a good investment of time or energy on Wizards’ part. The format would make a lot more sense if they were looking to excite existing Magic players, but then why didn’t they invite current pros? If they were aiming to connect with Hearthstone players, why not play something that they could easily relate to and get interested in? The community’s reaction to the Silver Showcase seems to be the result of Wizards trying to achieve too many goals at once. Instead, Wizards needed to break down their goals into different marketing efforts instead of cramming them all into one giant event watering down their message.

I’m afraid Wizards has committed too much to this event to possibly make any changes at this point. I’m also sincerely worried about some the marketing decision-making at Wizards. The questions I asked above aren’t groundbreaking—they are simple questions that you learn to ask in any 101 level marketing class. I’m curious to see how the Silver Showcase turns out—who knows, maybe we’re all wrong!—but no matter what happens, I can’t imagine they will get their $150,000 worth from the event.

Kate hails from Worcester MA and also does a bit of card altering. Check her stuff out on Facebook! She mainly plays legacy and modern though will occasionally find herself playing EDH.

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