£20 PTQs & Dinosaurs by Magic by Mark Pinder

£20 PTQs & Dinosaurs by Magic by Mark Pinder


Today I want to talk about one of the more controversial sides of Magic and a bugbear to many players. Last Wednesday was our regular Magic night, what happens? It rains solid for an hour, the drains flood, roads are closed and it is a struggle to make it to the club to play Magic! Anglian Water, what do you think you are doing???

Ahh, sorry, that is a more local topic for those of us who play Magic in Grimsby, I better discuss the more important article that affects far more many players.


The Rising Cost of Magic

With the country being in the icy grip of a recession, the advent of £20 Premier events e.g. PTQs and WMCQ’s has had me considering whether it is worth attending these events with the ever rising cost. Are the costs truly fair, are the players getting a really good deal or are the TO’s running these events your Modern day Highway Robber?

This scenario reminds me of a quote from Jurassic Park.

John Hammond ( Richard Attenborough ):
“All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956 nothing worked.”
Dr. Ian Malcolm ( Jeff Goldblum ):
“Yeah but John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

Oh sorry, I meant another quote :-

Dr. Ian Malcolm ( Jeff Goldblum ):
“Yeah but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Or in Magic terminology

“You were so busy working out that you could charge £20, did anyone really consider that they should?”


So this is where I intend to tackle the subject first by going through each area that makes an event possible and the estimated costs involved. With the recent growth in attendances I am going to estimate for 150 players attending. So why does it cost £5 on a Friday at FNM to play but the next morning it is £20.

The Venue

The first thing to consider is that not many shops are actually now able to use their own premises to run the event, this also means that the shop still has to be open and the organizer tends to have to run the bigger event.

What does a venue cost? Well I suppose it really depends on where you are in the country and what venue you take on. I’m going to pitch in at £600, its hardly a wedding with a buffet but decent size venues are not cheap.

Now the thing about venues is that recently we have seen some pretty shoddy arrangements with regards to venues and space to play. Sorry, but an inch either side of your chair is not comfortable, neither is back to back chairs wedged in like sardines when everyone is sat down. God forbid someone needs a judge call and they have to disturb half a dozen matches moving chairs in or standing up to let them through and then the same when they leave. Reminds me of a quote from Jurassic Park, just because you can fit ten at a table, should you actually do this?


So how many staff do you need, do you have a score keeper or does the TO run the event. For arguments sake lets allow for one person to do the results, then we have judges to account for and Wizards no longer underwrite this expenditure. I believe the going rate is actually quite cheap at a “Booster Box” each on average say £85 (less to buy wholesale I know and can a Judge really sell it for that) and then add in costs for travel expenses and food, say £50. I have to say that Judges and score keepers do tend to enjoy their job so this helps mitigate the remuneration. A couple of years ago I managed to qualify for Nationals early in the season, another TO was really short on staff  for his Nationals Qualifier and because of the venue was going to be flipping burgers all day, so asked me did I fancy helping out? I have to say it was a really nice day score keeping even when DCI reporter decided it wanted to throw a wobbly, oh yes there was unreliable software even before Wizards Event Reporter.

So how many staff do you need? I believe 1 judge per 30 players in considered reasonable.

Now if it is a big event like Nationals then you may well have the factor in accommodation as well but at that point you do have more events to spread the costs over.


Okay, when it comes to PTQ’s first prize is a virtual blue envelope and a flight to the Pro Tour.  That is what the majority of the field are aiming for.

The contentious issue is the other prizes, namely booster prizes, the pot has been varied from 2 to 5 boosters per player this season. I personally think 2 boosters per player is tight and borders on exploitation of a captive audience as if you wish to qualify, you have to attend. After doing a bit of research with other attendees 4 boosters per player or the equivalent seems to be the number players are more comfortable with. This is what I’d like to recommend to TO’s but with monopolies and mergers legislation, TO’s who are fixing rewards could get themselves into trouble.

Hmmm, prizes are a contentious issue and something where we can learn from the movies.

John Hammond ( Richard Attenborough ):
“Don’t worry. I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
Dr. Ian Malcolm ( Jeff Goldblum ):
“No, you’re making all new ones.”

(Jurassic Park – The Lost World this time)

Now several players have also commented it doesn’t matter where you finish after first, any booster prize is going to be an anti-climax. This may well be the case for regular grinders but many others will like to see decent prizes for a good day, I’ve made one PTQ Top8 in my whole career and whilst I would like to achieve that again I also am realistic about my real world commitments which prevent me from putting the level of dedication to the game that would need to be a consistent performer at a higher level. Several TO’s cut the prize support at a cut-off point, does this detract certain players from entering or offer a measly participation prize. For £20 you’d think a couple of boosters would be fair unless something significant is happening at the top end of the scales.

So what other prizes can you get and what would be better? A trophy, I’ve won a few of these in my time and they take pride of place on my cabinet as visible proof of my achievements.

Store Credit, I may want boosters, I may not, but if I get the choice then all the better. I remember getting store credit at more than one store picking up some rare sleeves, deck boxes and even some singles. If you have a shop it also may reduce your exposure slightly as you don’t have to get in as many boosters.

Travel Award, sure you have the flight, can you afford to attend? If £1 was factored into helping pay accommodation and living costs then I’d not begrudge the winner that. We’ve seen several GPT’s offer a small bursary toward travel to the winner. These awards are always a nice touch.

How much does it cost the player?

To be fair the headline figure of £20 for a constructed event is scary, let’s be honest here it does frighten off some players from attending. However, you then have to allow for food, travel, possibly parking and even accommodation. My petrol cost is always higher than my entry fee and a day out playing Magic at a Premier Event is around the £50-£70 mark unless you can get others along to share the expenses. If this is coupled with low prize support, I may not even bother to get up in the morning which was the case more than once during the recent Modern season.

Value for Money?

So now we have a £20 event, do we expect a certain level of service, do we get it? Are Magic players inherently a moaning bunch who exaggerate the situation? Now something must be right as we now have PTQ’s consistently over 100 in attendance and just had our biggest GP ever. However, what has shifted at these events. For a start your usual 0-2 drop and draft player seems to have vanished, couldn’t make the start time for a recent PTQ in Nottingham but no fear I thought, I’ll drop in for side events in preparation for Senior’s Open the following day, four hours I waited for an Avacyn Restored draft to start before I gave up and called it a day. It was really frustrating but you cannot blame the players who know are more than ever staying in until the end aiming to maximise value for money and no ranking points to lose. Also, local events suffer as well, everyone has a budget to play Magic and if going to be spending £20 on a event plus expenses it may well just mean you skip a local FNM or two.


This is where Tournament Organisers can rise or fall, we have some excellent guys running events who give advance notice and justify their decisions promptly. There are many others who have left themselves wide open to criticism for appearing tight, disorganised and deceitful. Whilst it may appear totally reasonable to say “Prizes based upon attendance” this gives customers, because that is what players are and you are providing a service to them, expect better. The environment magic has to go against is not other TCG’s, it’s the Cinema, dining out or any other form of leisure or entertainment activity.

Financial Summary

Okay, this is only a rough guestimate but how does our event stack out.

Entry Fees           150 players @ 20 per player          £3,000

Prizes                       £2.50 x 4 boosters per player       £1,500

Room Hire                                                                              £600

Staffing Cost      £140 x 6 staff                                       £740

Sundry Costs      Paper and Ink                                      £10

Total Estimated Cost                                                     £2,850

Estimated Profit Margin                                            £150

(Please note costs will vary, and the figures used above is to represent the higher cost estimations)


Final Thoughts

No one objects to someone running an event making money, though that should be commensurate with the service supplied. Also, there is a great risk running events, remember the snow of December 2010, a sealed PTQ was all but wiped out and the organiser left with a substantial amount of booster boxes to unload, there is a definite risk verses reward element to consider too.

Well, what does this all mean? Well the fact we are actually attending these events and in record numbers it would appear we are on the whole getting value for money and happy to pay our entry fees. However, Tournament Organisers should not sit on their laurels, they have improvements they can make in many areas.

One closing thought for you all, we’ve had the Modern Season, We are in the Standard Season, when Return to Ravnica comes out we’ll be in Sealed Season! What price do you think a Sealed PTQ with its Top Eight draft going to be? Who will be the first TO to announce a £50 entry fee?

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.





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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.