I spent this past weekend in Louisville, Kentucky for Grand Prix Louisville, which was Legacy. I hadn’t played the format in years, so saying I wasn’t prepared would be an understatement. I had a friend who was in the same boat as me who said, “I’ve never had this low of expectations for a GP in my life,” and I knew exactly what he meant. I decided to play the only deck in the format I was somewhat comfortable with in Shardless Sultai, despite the deck being mostly reactive.
But this isn’t a tournament report. No one cares about my decisions leading up to my mediocre 5-4 miss of day 2, but a key point is that I missed day 2. This meant that I had to decide what to do on Sunday. As I’m sure you know, Wizards of the Coast decided to discontinue the Super Sunday Series, which was an event that took place on the Sunday of every Grand Prix and qualified you for a tournament in Seattle at Wizards of the Coast’s headquarters, plus a travel award. This exclusive event offered over $10,000 in total prize. It just so happened that the very last Super Sunday Series Championship was taking place on the same weekend as the Grand Prix (still don’t understand that scheduling, but that’s an article in itself), and it included 45 players such as Sam Black (previous champion), Andrea Mengucci, and Luis Salvatto.
Needless to say, qualifying for this tournament was a big deal. It used to be easy for Spikes (competitive tournament players) who had a rough time in the main event to decide what tournament to play on Sunday. It was always the Super Sunday Series. When Wizards of the Coast removed the tournament, it left a gap. I didn’t realize how big that gap was until I had narrowed my options for the day down to playing one or two Challenges or going to the zoo. If you don’t know what Challenges are, they’re glorified 4-round side events with a $20 entry that pay out in prize wall tickets. The zoo eventually got ruled out due to it being like ten degrees outside and me being from the South.
I decided to play in a Modern Challenge with my friend’s Jeskai Geist deck. I ended the tournament at 3-1, which was good enough for $25 store credit and two packs. I was not satisfied. The fact that these are now the only scheduled events offered during day 2 of Grand Prix is mindboggling. Just to give you an idea of the untapped market, GP Louisville had 1610 players, and less than 500 made day 2. Add that 1100 to the 1000+ people who were on site but didn’t play in the main event, and you have a lot of competitive players looking for an outlet.
On the long car ride home from Louisville, I started thinking about how ridiculous it was that Wizards of the Coast didn’t replace the Super Sunday Series with another type of tournament. I decided to make a suggestion to Helene Bergeot, Director of Organized Play, over Twitter:
As of me typing this, I have yet to get a response from her, but to better explain, when I say “old school PTQs” I’m referring to the old system of qualifying for the Pro Tour before they changed it to the PPTQ system, which I wrote an article about here. PTQs, or Pro Tour Qualifiers, were one day events where the winner won an invite, plus travel, to the subsequent Pro Tour. It was a simple, sleek tournament design that was attractive to many players.
Adding a PTQ to Sundays of GPs would make a lot of sense for Wizards of the Coast to implement. It would give Spikes a competitive outlet if they had a bad main event. They’re looking for a tournament that makes them feel like they’re working towards something, and grinding Challenges is not something that satisfies that hunger. Happy customers = happy stockholders. The community seems to be split on whether the new or old system is preferred. Every time the topic comes up, there will always be people arguing over whether the new system or the old system is optimal, but adding something like PTQs to Sundays of GPs would please both parties. Pro Tours are where most players want to play. Some play every one, some have played a few, and some dream of making it to the big stage. Adding another method of promoting Magic’s flagship event and giving players another route to qualifying would only elevate the glory of the Pro Tour even further. The Sunday PTQs would even attract some players who are already qualified for the Pro Tour. Not all Pro Tour qualified players receive a travel award, and in some cases, that could be over $1000. Having the potential for professional players to join these PTQs would attract a lot of players who simply like playing in the same tournaments as the people from the game they look up to. That was an exciting part of the Super Sunday Series. Seeing that pros even have bad tournaments and play events on Sunday gives players the assurance that you can’t win every tournament.
The reasons listed above have more to do with marketing than raw numbers, so let’s talk finances. Does it make financial sense for Wizards of the Coast to implement these tournaments or for the tournament organizers to host them? Let’s assume that the Sunday PTQs would attract roughly the same number of people as the Super Sunday Series, so we’ll use 250 as our estimate as to how many people would play on average. Super Sunday Series tournaments usually used to cost around $20 for Constructed and $30 for Limited. This is about as much as PPTQs cost nowadays, so I think charging $30 for Constructed and $40 for Limited would be acceptable; however, we’ll only be discussing Constructed today. 250 players at $30 each means $7500 in revenue. Travel to a Pro Tour has a lot of variables, but we’re going to assume that a round trip costs, on average, costs $750. We’re going to say these tournaments will pay out to 32nd place and the payout is in boxes of the current set. It’s hard to determine exactly how much tournament organizers pay for boxes, but I think $70 is close. Let’s make the payout as follows:
1st – 9 boxes (1.5 cases) + invite and travel to subsequent Pro Tour
2nd – 9 boxes (1.5 cases)
3rd-4th – 6 boxes (1 case)
5th-8th – 3 boxes
9th-16th – 1 box
17th-32nd – half a box
These numbers could obviously be adjusted, but the total cost of prize payout for 54 boxes would equate to $3780. After subtracting $750 for the travel award, we’re left with $2970 to pay the judge staff and any other necessary expenses.
I think Sunday PTQs would be an excellent way to fill the void left by the Super Sunday Series. I’m interested in hearing more opinions on the topic, so leave a comment and let me know!
P.S. Shout-out to MTG Training Grounds. Had it not been for their podcast Legacy’s Allure, I doubt I would’ve won a single match. Legacy’s Allure is a podcast focusing on the Legacy format. They bring in well-known Magic personalities to discuss specific Legacy decks they’re known for playing or certain strategies and cards. I recommend anyone considering jumping into the format or looking to get a better understanding of it to check them out.
P.P.S. Wizards of the Coast announced the new updates to the Banned and Restricted List as I was writing, and it’s a doozy. Reflector Mage, Smuggler’s Copter, and Emrakul, the Promised End are banned in Standard, and Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll are banned in Modern. Do you think these bans were good or bad for Magic?
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