National Pride – National Championships with Mark Pinder

£20 PTQs & Dinosaurs by Magic by Mark Pinder


Well summer is upon us and we’ve just had the latest core set come out but something is missing in my life right now, Magic National’s! I had the honour twice to compete for the National Title and whilst I never made a major impression in the event, the weekends were always enjoyable and I’ve always felt a warm feeling that my play has been able to compete with the best. Other years I did not qualify but I still managed to have fun in my annual weekend away.

Whilst we have more Magic coverage than ever before with Grand Prix’s and SCG Open events it was also great to see how the National Championships in other countries would pan out, you would almost always see a new deck every week coming out.

So why should National’s come back, we’ve got Team Worlds and  a competitive new qualifying system. The Team Worlds is yet to take place but I feel it is right to comment now on why we should have a return to Nationals in 2014 and throw in some suggestions to freshen up the event.


There are many  issues with the WMCQ’s with the first being they are just another Standard PTQ but with smaller numbers due to the Planeswalker points limitations. I actually achieved the threshold this year to compete but decided as I wouldn’t be able to get the time off work to attend, I just couldn’t be bothered. This was a case for many others too and with it also being another Premium event @ £20 entry I wasn’t that bothered about spending my money on something I couldn’t benefit from. Maybe it would have been a bit different had the format not been Standard but we will never know.

Would Nationals be Better ?

I do believe Nationals would be fairer and in many markets be a boon to the growth of Magic, you see if I am at work talking about Magic they don’t understand what a PTQ or WMCQ is, it just sounds like a holiday to play that geeky game I like. When I said I was off to play in the National Championships this got me a lot of respect and instant understanding from my work colleagues.

The National Championships was also home for a myriad of side events, more casual players would come along to take part in these and support their friends competing in Nationals, you don’t see friends coming along to a WMCQ as there is usually nothing else to do. I’ve attended Nationals now over half a dozen times, more of those have been in the side events than the main event and I’ve never had a bad weekend.

In Sheffield in 2012 there were over sixty teams in the Two Headed Giant Championship and you had a mix of skilled players, casual players and more importantly a few female partners playing as well. Nationals and its side events calls out to all players, it was also a key rung in the Magic Pyramid for developing play.

The National Team

I like the idea that the top pro qualifying as team captain is a nice idea and supplies the team with an experienced head but maybe that could be retained for a future event,  why not have the top pro joined by the Top 3 at Nationals ? Most people would prefer that Worlds as we knew it. However, when all is said and done Nationals is more important than where it leads as far as I am concerned though it should lead somewhere.

What should Nationals itself contain?

I feel Nationals should be a challenge but it should also be more varied than the old system. Yes, Standard and Draft should be key components but I would also look at making the event more varied. Each draft should be of a different format e.g. one Block Draft and one Core  Draft, the Constructed element should not be restricted to Standard, Modern is a PTQ format and Block has been a GP format, either of these could be used to test players skill. 

How do we qualify for Nationals ?

You could say we revert back to the old system with Nationals Qualifiers (“NQs”),  with the top x players qualifying on ranking which with no ELO system now would be PWP, your Pro Players and the last years worlds team. I’d actually like to think things could be made a lot fresher.

With the success of PTQ’s and WMCQ’s it is apparent players will pay £20 to enter an event. We pay entry to a Grand Prix so maybe it is not unreasonable to buy into National’s . My only concern is how this would affect players on a more modest budget who would like to attend, but I’m sure there are ways around this.

Firstly, I believe that winning Nationals is a significant achievement in your Magic career, so I would say that any former National Champion eligible to compete would automatically be invited and as a perk of winning even if there was an entry fee it would be waived. Any former world’s team members could be eligible to compete.

Secondly, I have no issue with PWP determining entry, in fact I am positively enthusiastic about a realistic threshold rewarding those players who have competed regularly in events and had winning records to rack up the required points. We accept a PWP ranking for GP byes for National Qualification should also be an option. I feel this should be more expansive than the previous top 50/75 players who got in.

You hear a lot about FNM not being a good practice for PTQ’s and you should be on Modo etc. I disagree with this opinion as we need to grow our communities and develop the skills of others so they do become a test, today’s kid who makes sloppy play mistakes and lets you off the hook on yours, may be the extra guy in a couple of years helping to pay the petrol money or ensuring the events continue.

Thirdly, Nationals Qualifiers should change to become a true symbol of the National game and not who are the best road warriors. I would have a Nationals Qualification Weekend like a Game Day, every store would be eligible to host a qualifier to send their best four players to the National Championships, also their scores at the main event would form a National Store Championship as well. Now many of us play at multiple locations so there is no reason why we couldn’t still try out at a couple of our haunts over both days. This also gets a buy in from every shop with organised play, fellow players may wish to travel up for side events or at least follow the coverage.

Fourthly, no change to inviting pro players, you need the best of the best present.

Fifthly, I feel Wizards may wish to invite people along, they’ve recently let players into the Pro Tour for work in the community etc so why not let the local offices look at who is helping their market or being an inspiration for others to invite those special people. It doesn’t just have to be work in the past year, it could date back to allow an old pro back into the limelight as well. Just think about how many Hall of Fame players who are now back in the main event and doing well.

Three examples at this point could be allowing Richard Hagon to compete for all his work within coverage for MTG, Nick Sephton  for his work in the Judge Community and Glen White for both his judging/organising of high profile events.

Sixthly, so you haven’t made it yet but still want a chance ? We would of course keep Last Chance Qualifiers for those who haven’t been able to make it any other way. Whilst I am sympathetic to those players who have real life commitments and maybe cannot play as much as they like I can see why Wizards would focus on their more regular paying customers.

In conclusion I would love to see National Championships back for all countries, but for me the dream of being English National Champion should at least be an option to dream about.

So, what do you think?

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.



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