Something To Ponder: The Pro Tour Is A “Promotional” Tour

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the last few weeks of articles from me, however I want to take a brief detour from that to talk about The Silver Showcase recently announced by Wizards of the Coast, the immediate feedback from that, and why we’re looking at the Pro Tour through a different lens than we should be.

For those new to my writing the “Something To Ponder” series of articles were started this year on my page (where I wrote previously to being here), and was made to discuss what was happening in the game beyond just the game play. In previous editions of this series I talked about the problems with Standard that caused cards being banned, a brief history of competitive Magic in the last few years, and the problems that finance is causing many of us. I hope you enjoy them if you have not read them yet.

Today though we’re going to talk about the Pro Tour. Before I begin I do want to state I know a little about the Pro Tour which is mostly general information. I also don’t have any aspirations to become a Pro player. I know many who do, and that’s completely awesome if they can do it. Maybe one day I will try, but at the moment I’m focused on other things.

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The Pro Tour was created to take the game to the next level very early in it’s existence. Magic’s first big tournament was a World Championship, which they still have today, but a desire to elevate organized play was needed. Thus the Pro Tour was born.

This tournament is one where, once qualified, players compete in both Constructed (60 card main deck, 15 card sideboard), and Limited (draft) formats. These rounds are a best 2 out of 3, with the top 8 being single elimination where the format is what the Constructed format was for the main event. There are several ways to qualify to play at a Pro Tour event, and the more Planeswalker Points you receive the better your status (Bronze, Silver, etc) which would allow you to continue playing at these events.

Coming up this August is the Pro Tour to mark the 25th anniversary of Magic: the Gathering. That’s a long time! How many of you were playing the game 25 years ago? Probably not many, and if you have then we have something in common. During these last many years there have been several players who have become well known in the Magic community for their success in playing the game. Names such as Jon Finkel, Randy Buehler. Bob Maher, Jr., Brian Kibler, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (just to name a few) have become synonymous with excellent game play. Some of them have also become involved further with Magic, or have developed other games.

However how does this lead to our topic? I’ll explain. The Silver Showcase I mentioned earlier was recently announced. There are 8 TCG players who have been invited to a special Rochester Draft hosted at this event. “The Silver Showcase will be a Rochester Draft event like no other, as the players Rochester draft three packs each of Limited Edition (Beta), one pack each of Arabian Nights, one pack each of Antiquities, and one pack each of Legends.

So who has been invited? Well let’s take a look at the announcement:

We invited a total of eight players to participate in the Silver Showcase. The first four of those players are the top lifetime Pro Point earners from each geo-region as of the conclusion of Pro Tour Dominaria.

  • Raphaël Lévy
  • Shuhei Nakamura
  • Jon Finkel
  • Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

The above four players will be joined by four individuals who were hand-selected by Wizards of the Coast as recognition for their contributions to competitive gaming history, either on the Pro Tour or elsewhere.

  • Brian Kibler
  • Stanislay Cifka
  • David Williams
  • Jason Chan

The biggest stink from the community is targeted mostly at the last four, and especially at the last two. Jason Chan is better known as a video game streamer named Amaz on Twitch, and David Williams has not only done well playing poker (as well as Magic), but was a runner up on the “Reality” TV show Master Chef. I’m not a fan of “Reality” TV shows, hence the quotes, as they never feel real. That’s a story for another time though.

So let’s break down a few things now that we have all of this layed out:

1. These players did not have to go through the same path as those who drafted Beta at GP Vegas.

I agree with those who point this out, however these special anniversary drafts were not made to lead one to the Pro (Professional) Tour. They were a part of the 25th anniversary of Magic. In my opinion I feel this Silver Showcase, which is an odd name, was done due to the popularity of coverage of the Beta draft at GP Vegas. WotC initially did not have plans to cover it until social media demanded it, and they made it happen. I don’t think this showcase was in their plans until they saw the success of that, and made the plans to make this event.

2. Why grind for the Pro Tour when people get free invites?

Sure. I get it. You did what you could to scratch out a few pro points, and someone who was on a “Reality” TV show gets invited. Let me clue you in on something:

The “Pro” in “Pro Tour” stands for Promotional, not Professional.

If you are already a fan of some of these pro players then you are already invested in watching Magic. There is nothing additional to draw you in further. The only thing WotC has to do is retain your business, which requires less effort than bringing in new players.

If you look around at your FNM there are players who have not played Magic at that level for more than a few years (at least regularly). These are the players that WotC is trying to target to invest more into Magic. They want them to attend GPs, play PPTQs, and do more with the game than they are right now.

In the case of Chan and Williams they are going to bring in new people to watch Magic. Kibler of course has access to the Hearthstone community who may not watch (or play) Magic now. This increased viewership will help draw interest to the game.

One thing I wish they would have done is found a more gender diverse group of players to invite. It would have been nice to see some ladies mix it up with the guys.

3. …but why draft OLD cards for NEW viewers?

This I will agree with. What they should have done is run a Dominaria draft. Showcasing the most recent expansion to draw new players in would have been great as the set was designed very well for a draft format. However they could have either drafted Magic 2019 as the Core Sets are aimed squarely at new player aquisition, or run a special Guilds of Ravnica draft to not only highlight the cards in the upcoming fall set but bring every viewer to the stream getting everyone to watch this event.

Alas, no. That did not happen. They are drafting some of Magic’s oldest sets that were (spoiler alert) not developed to draft. How will these “special invite” players enjoy seeing a pile of Beta cards being four lands plus a useless Circle of Protection: Green? The new players watching will not be able to duplicate the draft they are seeing, and have to go buy packs that were not…wait for it…PROMOTED…on the stream.

With all that said WotC is doing something good.

Yes that was intentionally bold to point that out. “The cards that each player drafts for the Silver Showcase will be donated to Child’s Play to be auctioned off later this year!“. So essentially this event that does not take away from The Pro Tour will be a charity event as the cards opened will go to this charity. That’s a great thing, but honestly I didn’t see anyone talk about it. The vast majority of the feedback was negative, but we need to keep in mind that WotC uses these opportunities to Promote the game to the masses. If you have made playing Magic a Profession then kudos to you, and good luck in your events, however the focus is the growth of the consumer base first and foremost.

So while I understand why some people are upset we need to keep in mind these events are made to help promote the game first, and provide an outlet for professional players second. Wizards of the Coast makes more selling packs, and there are way more players in The Kitchen Table League than anywhere else. Even those on the Pro Tour.

I hope you enjoyed reading this week’s article. Please remember to leave your comments below. You can also follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter. Next time I’ll talk about the impact of today’s Banned & Restricted announcement.

Until then…

TAP MORE MANA!!!

Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.

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