Wizards Announces Major Changes to Organized Play

If you’re a professional Magic player or hell, even an aspiring one, then this announcement by Wizards of the Coast regarding their organized play offerings for 2012 will blow your mind. This is the third of a series of announcements designed to dramatically modernize and improve their organized play program, starting with the Grand Prix announcement and Planeswalker Points in April. These new changes are aimed at the World Championships, National Championships and Pro Player Club Points and take a big bite out of them.

The announcement is earth-shattering for competitive Magic players. So be warned.

2012 World Championship

From the official announcement:

For the first time since the creation of the Pro Tour, Magic: The Gathering will have a single tournament to determine the best player in the world: the 2012 World Championship.

To accomplish this goal, the World Championship is changing from a Pro Tour-sized event to an exclusive sixteen-person tournament. These sixteen titans of Magic will battle for a $100,000 prize purse at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis (August 16-19). The field will be made up of the following players:

  • 2011 World Champion
  • 2011 Magic Online Champion (determined at the 2011 Magic Online Championship held at Magic Weekend San Francisco)
  • Winners of the previous three Pro Tours (Philadelphia, Dark Ascension in Honolulu, and the second Pro Tour in 2012). Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti is the first invitee to the 2012 World Championship.
  • The top-ranked player from each geo-region (Asia Pacific, Europe, Japan, Latin America, and North America) in the Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria.
  • The top-ranked players in the worldwide Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria sufficient to bring the total number of invited players to the 2012 World Championship to sixteen.

In 2012, a player’s Professional Points total consists of the Planeswalker Points earned at Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and the 2011 World Championships for a twelve-month period (see Premier Event Invite Policy for specific dates), so this will select the players who have done the best against the highest level of competition for an entire year.

“Think of the best Pro Tour Top 8 ever and then double it,” said Aaron Forsythe, Senior Director of Magic R&D. “The live coverage will be awesome as we showcase these players as the masters of the game. The 2010 Player of the Year playoff showed how Magic fans around the world got behind seeing the best play against the best.”

With live video match coverage each round, in-depth player interviews and deck techs, analysis from experts in R&D and the world of Magic, and more opportunities for fans to follow and support their favorite players through social media, the 2012 World Championship promises to be unlike any other Magic tournament ever.

“Under the current system, you can make an argument for several different players being the best in the world,” said Scott Larabee, Magic Organized Play Program Manager. “Is it the Player of the Year, who had the most top finishes but may not have won a major tournament? The World Champion, because that’s what the title suggests? A Pro Tour winner, because Pro Tours probably have the toughest field of players? We wanted a clear answer, and the new World Championship provides that.”

Further details about the format and schedule of the 2012 World Championship will be announced next year.

National Championship

Given the above, there will no longer be a higher level event for the National Championships to feed into (Worlds), but that doesn’t mean that the National Championships to go away, thankfully. From the official announcement:

National Championships will no longer be feeding a larger global event. With the World Championship moving to its new model, as well as a growing need for individual regions to tailor their organized play offerings, it was necessary to separate Nationals from a larger organized play path. This change helps individual regions develop the right tournaments and events—from Wizards Play Network events up to National Championships—to meet the needs of their region’s player base.

“As the Magic brand grows across the world, Wizards has faced challenges in attempting to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to certain programs, and Nationals was one of those,” said Helene Bergeot, Director of Organized Play Programs and Operations. “It is up to the regional offices to decide on the size and scope of their countries’ National Championships, and we’ve seen that in many of those countries, the pride of being your country’s champion is a primary motivation for players.”

National Championships will be run at a Planeswalker Points multiplier of 8x, the same as Grand Prix. Along with the expanded Grand Prix schedule, Nationals provide a good opportunity for many players around the world to experience a large-scale Magic tournament and earn high amounts of Planeswalker Points in a single event.

Expect to see the complete National Championship schedule by April 2012.

Pro Points & Pro Player’s Club

This is perhaps the most disheartening of the announcement, especially if you identify yourself as a “pro player”:

As previously announced, Wizards of the Coast will be honoring all Pro Players Club travel, invitations, and appearance fee benefits at 2012 Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and National Championships based on a player’s level at the end of the 2011 Pro season. Pro Points will no longer be awarded at events starting in 2012, and the current Pro Players Club will end after the 2012 season (concluding after the last Grand Prix of 2012). Wizards of the Coast plans to replace the Pro Players Club in 2013 with a new system that accomplishes the goal of making sure the most deserving players are recognized through Pro Tour invitations and other rewards.

For 2012, all players qualified for a Pro Tour via Planeswalker Points will earn airfare to that Pro Tour. Players who win Pro Tour Qualifier tournaments will continue to receive invitations and airfare to the Pro Tour.

As with any new system, Wizards of the Coast will be evaluating the effectiveness of the new tournament structure and Planeswalker Points into 2012.

“We are making important changes to our organized play system,” Larabee said. “Planeswalker Points is a major step in this process, and it is important to better understand how the new system will impact the players. That gives us the flexibility to adjust our programs accordingly. While we’re in this transition phase, honoring the 2012 benefits is a priority.”

Added Forsythe, “As we see how the new system works when released into the wild, we’ll be looking at ways to make sure players who represent the game well at the highest level are rewarded for their dedication. The idea behind the Pro Club is sound, but we need to do some amount of reconfiguring.”

The Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards as they currently exist will end with the 2011 season. The 2012 World Champion will replace the function of the Player of the Year award. Wizards of the Coast is investigating a new version of Rookie of the Year award, as well as other new end-of-season awards that are not dependent on the outgoing Pro Points system.

Because the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame is tied so closely to Pro Points, Wizards will be adjusting the process by which players become eligible for induction and how the voting committees are determined. More information on the changes to the Pro Tour Hall of Fame eligibility and voting systems will be coming next year as we approach the voting period for the Class of 2012.

You can learn more about these changes, too, from a Q&A with Magic Organized Play Manager Helene Bergeot.


This. Is. Awful. Wizards just, unfortunately, kicked competitive Magic in the teeth to the point I have to ask myself, why I bother playing Magic competitively. We do have to bare in mind that at the end of the day, Wizards of the Coast is a for-profit company and they need to do what they feel is best for their bottom line. In a way, this is a good thing: if WotC’s balance sheet is better, it stands to reason that Magic will remain for that much longer.

However, organized player, the Pro Tour, etc. is a major reason why Magic is as successful as it is. The fact that Magic is an aspiration game is what drives a vast majority of players to continue playing! Therefore, any time there are major cut backs like this, it calls into question what the future of a very important aspect of Magic is going to be.

That said, what about those folks at home who enjoy reading and watching the coverage; checking up on their friends or their favorite player? Is the new Worlds make up really a good indicator of who the best in the world is? I doubt it, based on the qualification standards. In addition, a part of what makes Worlds so special is the fan fare it receives between the opening ceremony, the pride of all the National champions, the coverage and more. This seems like a set back. Moreover, cutting the prize purse back from $250,000 to $100,00 is certainly a deterrent. Why would so-called pro players want to play in this event now?

With Nationals, it seems like these events will become more like Grand Prix events with little else changing, which is a good thing. However, while the pride of being the National Champion of one’s country is important, there will certainly feel like something is missing when this event doesn’t qualify one for Worlds or any other event, for that matter.

Finally, we have perhaps the biggest blow to the pro player community – the removal of Pro Points and the Pro Player’s Club. It’s good that WotC has decided to honor current commitments. However, the future looks bleak. It is a surprise that Pro Tour Qualifiers – now the best shot at qualifying for the Pro Tour (which there is technically only three per year now!) – will still have the air fare award; and even though WotC claims that they plan to allocate the resources into some other kind of reward program, it will never be the same and it stands to reason that the rewards will not favor the players so much. Again, this begs the question, why aspire for pro play at all anymore? Why not just play in a Grand Prix, win some money and call it a day?

Overall, a sever blow to the competitive player community, the lasting effects of which are, naturally, unknown at this time. In the end, the aspiration aspect of the game of Magic is a very important aspect to what makes Magic the Gathering so incredibly great and sets it apart from every other collectible card game on the market place. Hopefully, Wizards has not forgotten this.

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One Response to Wizards Announces Major Changes to Organized Play

  1. The Pro-Tour community will definitely shrink, but I’m not sure if it’s as bad for grinders and aspiring players as you think. The changes make getting there that much harder and, for me, it makes it feel that much more daunting and impressive.
    I beleive harder things are more rewarding, not the other way around.

    as for right now, I’ll give WotC the benefit of my doubt.

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