There are generally two high-profile events in the MTG calendar which call to attention the state of statistics for this community. The first was a few weeks ago and is an annual event known as the “2018 Pro Player Dung Flinging Extravaganza” and formerly known as “Pro Tour Hall of Fame Voting Season.” The second event is coming up this week and it’s still known as the “Magic: the Gathering World Championship.”

The first “professional-level” Magic event was arguably the 1994 World Championship held at GenCon just over 24 years ago, and approximately one year after the game of Magic was first introduced to the world. (That’s right, we can spend all of next year celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the World Championship, this party never stops.)

In the 2017-18 professional season, which just concluded in spectacular fashion with Grand Prix tournaments held in Stockholm and Hong Kong (resulting in a playoff being required to award the Player of the Year title), there were a total of 73 pro-level events not including national championships which award a few pro points.

As we head into the 2018-19 season, Wizards of the Coast has already announced an expanded schedule of Pro Tour events, growing from four to at least six. The Grand Prix schedule has yet to be announced but there’s no reason to believe there won’t be some growth throughout the system.

Magic has more fans, and more players, than ever before. The growth of the competitive scene is evidence of that fact but more important (to me, at least) is the growth of Magic’s casual audience. There’s virtually no metric by which Magic’s growth cannot be seen (including the elusive increase in troll-generated shit-posting to Reddit) which is why it’s difficult for some fans to believe that the state of stats-keeping and analysis for the game are in such a poor state, and why several community content creators and outlets are working independently to do something about it.

If you’re a fan and you want Magic stats there are a few places you can go to. Here’s a quick list of my Google search history terms when I want to look up Pro Tour stats:

  • DailyMTG “official” stats page
  • Paul Jordan’s Hall of Fame analysis articles
  • The MTG ELO project
  • That, uh, spreadsheet the one guy has for the Pro Tour Team Series?

Do I put “official” in quotes because I think it’s funny or because no one takes these stats seriously? You be the judge.

After that, you’re pretty much on your own to figure anything out and the only resource you have is the coverage archive on Daily MTG. Of course, Wizards of the Coast has, in theory, the entire history of every competitive match reported to the DCI, but we’re not here to sharpen our pitchforks for WotC.

[Ed. Note – We would totally sharpen our pitchforks for WotC for access to DCI data but it turns out y’all took all the pitchforks when you tried to burn WotC down to the ground over card quality. Womp womp.]

The reason I bring this all up is because we have a small side project here at Hipsters of the Coast—the Fantasy Pro Tour—and as part of it we’ve been working on different angles for statistics and the sad state of the field has been painfully apparent. All of this came to a head with a simple question:

“How should we rank the 24 players in the World Championship to make recommendations to Fantasy Pro Tour users for making their picks?”

Our World Championship Fantasy leagues will launch today at some point, and with it the default power rankings of all 24 participants. Later this week we’ll dive into how we came up with our ranking because I think some folks will be genuinely interested, but for now it’s enough to just highlight how difficult the process of evaluating Magic players has become.

I don’t have any conclusions or hot takes for you today. If you’re interested in our rankings check them out and come back later this week for an in-depth look at how we came to our list. What I do have for you is a list of questions we found ourselves trying to answer, and the current state of stats coming up woefully short on helpfulness in answering. If you want to share your answers hit us up on Twitter or sign up for our free public Fantasy league and put your (no) money where your mouth is.

  • Should winning a Pro Tour automatically result in a World Championship invitation?
  • How do you weigh Shahar Shenhar’s two World Championships versus his zero Pro Tour Top 8’s?
  • What does it mean that Brad Nelson’s ELO Ranking and Top 25 Ranking are both 14? Is he the 14th-best player in the world?
  • How likely is it that Ken Yukuhiro goes 6-0 in draft and 0-8 in Standard?
  • How likely is it that Brad Nelson goes 0-6 in draft and 8-0 in Standard?
  • If we had access to individual performance stats from team tournaments would we be able to rank one of Ben Hull, Greg Orange, or Allen Wu higher?
  • Is John Rolf, going into this event, a better Magic player than Pro Tour Hall of Famer Ben Stark?

It’s not easy is it?

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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