Pro Tour Fate Reforged has come and gone, bringing with it a new Modern metagame worth exploring, with a GP in Vancouver about to delve further into the format (I have high hopes for [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card]).
But that’s not what I’ll be talking about – in the midst of all the card slinging came announcements regarding what I see as two of the most important tournaments in the calendar year, the World Championship and World Magic Cup.
You can check the full article I will citing here for reference.
Let’s start with the more prestigious of the two, the aptly named World Championship.
So, what changed?
There are now an additional 4 slots for regional representation, bumping up the number of representatives in North America (by two), Europe and Asia-Pacific (each by one) – it’s worth noting the Asia-Pacific one is at the cost of losing the two slots for Japan, meaning in reality that there is one slot less for that region overall. There is also now a slot for the player who wins the most Pro Points through the Grand Prix circuit (uncapped by pro point limit on GPs). Finally, the date of the tournament is moved to the end of August and will take place in Seattle.
On a personal note, I’m a fan of losing the slots specifically for Japan as it singles out a country in the tournament in a way no other slot does. Why should Japan have specific slots but the United States doesn’t, a country with a much higher number of top players? This will change the composition of the field somewhat, as players from the Asia-Pacific region now have to directly compete with some incredibly talented Japanese players. However, it’s the only sensible approach to ensure the qualification system remains consistent.
The Grand Prix slot baffles me however – I can understand that you want to ensure pro players have an incentive to keep taking part in these tournaments at season’s end, but do we really want a slot rewarding the grinder who, while they have as many GP top 8s as the person they are competing with, would have entry to the World Championship on the back of a metric ton of X-4 and X-3 finishes? Frankly, when it comes to the most prestigious tournament Wizards can throw at us, we should not be watching the person who got there by chaining X-3 records infinitely. This is even worse as we are already midway through the season and there is no way to catch up if some players had already started declining to attend Grand Prix.
In the end, I would say that the slot changes due to regional representation and Grand Prix are largely cosmetic – it is quite likely that a person qualifying through these would have been awarded a slot through an “at-large” category (most Pro Points not otherwise qualified for the tournament).
On the flip side, removing the Rookie of the Year (RotY) slot is correct and a smart decision. It obviously is a prestigious award acknowledging the achievement of doing so well when starting out on the Pro Tour, but the RotY is not usually that well known (unless it’s for infamy ala Jared Boettcher) and simply had the handicap of starting their top-level play Magic career later than the others – a handicap for sure, but not worthy of having you play at the highest stage in the game necessarily. It’s also one of the few slots that remains hard to contest and difficult to follow, as the number of players who take part in the race is relatively small and tend to be nearer the 40th-50th position in Pro rankings for the season. Giving the Rookie of the Year guaranteed Gold status is a fine replacement reward.
And now for, the single best sentence in this article, regarding the World Magic Cup team captain slot:
“Inviting only the captain of the winning team goes against the spirit of teams competing for a prize; we therefore decided that after this year, the captain of the World Magic Cup winning team will no longer be given an invitation to the World Championship. As this was decided after the 2014 World Magic Cup, where it had been announced that Martin Müller of Team Denmark would be invited to this year’s World Championship, we are not implementing this change until next year.”
I have nothing to add but an echo, the sentiment that this is the right way to pursue in the future. Team competitions are not about the captain, they are about the team. This slot was an aberration that was suitable because France won in 2013 (with Platinum-level and hall of fame member Raphael Levy as the captain) but once lesser known players start getting there, the slot is dicey and makes for poor viewing.
You’d think with my sentiments on the team captain slot and the Rookie of the Year that I would express similar concerns regarding the Magic Online Champion. That is not the case – the MOCS may be, after the Pro Tour and World Championship, the hardest tournament series there is in terms of player quality. On average, the opposition I have faced in the MOCS end stages was already stronger than a GP Day 2 and only slightly less than at the Pro Tour (against an average opponent). On top of that, the winner has to play in a 16 person tournament where everyone else went through the same struggle and still win on top of it all! It is a very well deserved slot and the MOCS competitors have all defended themselves quite well once they reached the event (Reid Duke had the worst performance before bouncing back the year after into second place).
The final great change announced was decoupling the tournament from the World Magic Cup by changing the dates and location in which it takes place. The World Championship is its own entity and does not need to be attached to another tournament. Furthermore, it leads to situations where some of the best Modern play of all time is being shown early afternoon European time on a Tuesday, which seems like a very poor choice for viewers. Couple that with the players likely being less tired from having to play 5 full days of Magic and this is a winning change. The only bittersweet aspect is that the World Championship overlaps with some GPs, making it tough to view if you planned on travelling to these events. I’m sure this overlap will not occur in the future.
I have no comments on the 2014 World Champion, Player of the Year (although purely cosmetic) and Pro Tour winner slots. They are right where they belong.
What would the World Championship field look like if we had the cut today?
2014 World Champion
- Shahar Shenhar
2014–2015 Player of the Year
- Lee Shi Tian
Captain of the 2014 World Magic Cup winning team
- Martin Müller
Magic Online Champion – TBD
Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir Champion
- Ari Lax
Pro Tour Fate Reforged Champion
- Antonio Del Moral Leon
Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Champion
Pro Tour in Vancouver 2015 Champion
Top Pro Points—North America
- Slot 1 – Eric Froehlich
- Slot 2 – Owen Turtenwald
- Slot 3 – Ari Lax (double invitation, additional at large slot created)
- Slot 4 – Shaun McLaren
Top Pro Points—Europe
- Slot 1 – Shahar Shenhar (Wizards classifies Israel as part of Europe; double invitation, additional at large slot created)
- Slot 2 – Ivan Floch
- Slot 3 – Antonio Del Moral Leon (double invitation, additional at large slot created)
Top Pro Points—Asia-Pacific
- Slot 1 – Lee Shi Tian (double invitation, additional at large slot created)
- Slot 2 – Yuuya Watanabe
- Slot 3 – Yuuki Ichikawa
Top Pro Points—Latin America
- Slot 1 – Thiago Saporito
- Slot 2 – Willy Edel
Top Pro Points in 2014–2015 Premier Play Season Grand Prix (Uncapped)
- Eric Froehlich (double invitation, additional at large slot created)
Top Pro Points—At-Large
- Jacob Wilson
- Samuel Black
- William Jensen
- Jelger Wiegersma
- Seth Manfield
- Paul Rietzl
- Andrew Cuneo
- Reid Duke
WORLD MAGIC CUP
Confession time – the World Magic Cup and the defunct World Championship team tournaments are by far the ones I care the most about. The old Nationals remained my favourite tournament until the year it was made extinct. I was quite vocal about my views when the initial changes were made in 2011, before the World Magic Cup was announced and created (in short, I would state I was strongly opposed).
Trust me when I say that the World Magic Cup is the best tournament you can realistically qualify for. If I had to pick between a Pro Tour or being part of the National team, I would be already making plans to go to Barcelona this year. It’s that important that I decided to win a World Magic Cup Qualifier (WMCQ) the year I was most likely to guarantee a seat as captain, just to be 100% sure I would be on the team (the irony of qualifying twice is not lost on me).
With that in mind, let’s look at the changes announced.
There are a few major ones – Modern is now going to be a WMCQ format for one of the three week-ends and certain countries will now have WMCQs spanning two days. The two-day tournament is based on the criteria of expecting 227 or more players at WMCQs, I would say England is on the verge of having these.
The format change is probably what most of you will care about and that’s with good reason. On a personal level, playing more Modern is awesome and makes me ecstatic, a solid move from Wizards listening to the player base. But it’s not without its costs – it means for those who do not travel as much that they can get hurt by the change. Let’s say someone lives in the North of England, has a family and does not have time to travel too far for a full week-end, so they decide to play just one WMCQ. They have a Standard deck which they have tweaked and refined to full efficiency, with the goal of taking down the slot.
And then BAM, the only WMCQ they can make is in Modern, leaving them frustrated and theoretically not able to compete as they do not have the same expertise. It’s worth noting for international readers that with some of the larger countries (say, the USA, Canada and Australia), this could be a real problem. On the flip side, Modern players tend to be more invested in the game, may be more willing to travel across their country and make those WMCQs in certain countries quite large (in Italy and Spain, I suspect the Modern WMCQ to be the largest by a wide margin).
All that said, I still feel it is a net positive – more Modern gets played and we avoid the issue of a stale Standard format about to rotate out by the time we take part in the 3rd WMCQ. So not too shabby.
Having the WMCQ over two days is more a logistical call until details are announced. Unless more rounds are added to allow for the possibility of getting into the top 8 with X-2 or even X-3 records (as was the case with the old Nationals system), this just makes the TOs life easier and means player don’t have to duke it out at 2am when they would rather sleep. Personally, I would love it if it was a proper 2 day tournament similar to how GPs are run (not 15 rounds but say 12-14) as it would give WMCQs an epic feel that cannot quite be matched by the PTQ system of old. And honestly, that can only be for the better as having to go 8-1 (or 9-1 & 10-1 in some countries) is very similar to just rolling the dice and hoping for the best.
One very positive aspect of two day tournaments is that creative TOs can put together an attractive side event schedule, allowing for an enjoyable week-end of Magic and creating a community feeling that may have been lost in other play programmes. So, look forward to some great side events if you drop out of the WMCQ!
Now, there is one additional change that will not affect too many people but is important enough to highlight. Representing a nation at the World Magic Cup is now a lot less fluid, with residency now needing to be active from the beginning of the previous year (before, it would have been for the year of the World Magic Cup season) and a harsher approach to country affiliation.
Now, while I had written what I felt was the best phrase in the whole article regarding the World Magic Cup captain slot, this one is the worst:
“In addition, if you decide to change your nationality to another country, that change will be permanent.”
Top of the list among words that terrify people with nomadic tendencies is “permanent”. Honestly, it’s hard to think of a more scary word then this when you have a desire to move across the globe and integrate new cultures on a consistent basis. Those who know me understand I move around a lot but more than that, my allegiance is not to a particular nation – it’s to a number of them. When giving the opportunity, I cheer for France, for Canada, for England, for Spain, for Slovakia and for Peru – the truth is, all of these countries are a part of my identity and it’s nearly impossible to say which one I am affiliated to if I could only choose one. I could easily move, live and identify myself in any of those first 4 countries I listed, because they are all a key part of the person I have become, defining me.
Personal story aside, Magic involves playing with your local player base – it’s a little weird that if you moved to another country, established yourself there, were in constant contact with the player base and made great friends that you would not be allowed to play WMCQs, or that doing so would be at the cost of not being able to play again with the country you originate from, a valid concern if one thinks they will come back. For some people, these countries may be as far apart geographically as England and New Zealand, meaning these players would lose out on trying to qualify for the best Magic tournament out there.
Fundamentally, life situations change and it’s important to be accepting of this. There were some quite vocal echoes about the England team being full of Italians last year (3 of the 4 players). What really got to me is people not thinking that, just maybe, these players had established themselves in England, have lived in the country and play with people in the local community? One of the reasons I enjoy living in this country is that it is one of the most cosmopolitan nations on the planet. In a way, the 2014 England team was just a representation of this reality.
Frankly, what really bugs me is that there were complaints about this when these players were brilliantly defending the nation at the World Magic Cup, but few if any about players that are captains of their teams and have not played with their local player communities (or very little). It’s one thing to have to go through WMCQs and qualify the hard way, it’s another to waltz into a virtually guaranteed slot by virtue of double citizenship – this was not so much an issue with National Championships as the team competition at Worlds was much more discreet, you had to still make your way into the top 4 and be physically present to have a shot. When the team competition is the whole tournament and you invite the top pro player directly, it becomes much more acute as a problem.
Is there a solution? Maybe a proposition is to require a commitment before the Pro Point season starts counting towards the World Magic Cup regardless of a player’s situation (about 13-14 months before WMCQs start), with residency working the way Wizards has changed it to (the 2015 season needs a player to have residency since 1st of January 2014, the 2016 season since the 1st of Jan 2015, etc.). That would mean that some players would miss out a WMCQ season but fundamentally, it’s ok to take one year off when your circumstances change and you first need to discover where you belong. More importantly, it makes sure there are no surprise changes in nationality and you know who you are competing against within your country.
I unfortunately do not have a solution at the moment for the scenario where the top pro point player slot is taken by someone with no contact in that community but happening to have citizenship. Maybe you, as a reader, do.
For reference and full disclosure, it is possible for a player to appeal. You can see below the official text for Nationality Eligibility Appeals, which is vague regarding the number of times one player can change nationality over multiple seasons (implying that it’s possible to change nationality criteria more than once, if a good enough reason is given):
iii. NATIONALITY ELIGIBILITY APPEALS
Appeals to change a player’s current country of nationality for the purpose of nationality-specific participation or invitation criteria (listed in Section 4 – Nationality Eligibility) must be submitted in writing and received by Wizards no later than March 1 of the year in which the tournament for which the player is submitting the appeal takes place. Players should indicate in detail the reason they are requesting the change.
In order for a nationality appeal to be considered, a player must be either:
- a citizen of that country, or
- have been a continuous resident of that country from January 1 of the previous year through the date of the participatory tournament or award of invitation.
Nationality eligibility-based appeals must be submitted through the Wizards Help System at www.wizards.com/customerservice with “Nationality Eligibility Appeal” in the subject line.
If a nationality eligibility appeal is granted, the change is considered permanent. Decisions by Wizards of the Coast regarding any appeal are final and cannot be further appealed. By participating in sanctioned tournament play, you agree to be bound by any such decision made by Wizards, in its sole discretion.
Community Question: What do you think of the recent changes to national representation at the World Magic Cup? How would you improve it?
And finally, Malta will now be represented at the World Magic Cup. Considering countries with a similar population like Luxembourg have a team, this addition seems quite fair.
And that finishes my overview of the World Championship and World Magic Cup changes. If I missed something or you wanted to raise a question on anything I wrote, I will leave it up to you to comment after this article or get in touch with me @Walaoumpa on Twitter.
Thank you for reading, I look forward to hearing your thoughts,