So, we are now a few months into the new Pro Tour Qualifying system and we’ve had a chance to see for ourselves how it works.
The PPTQs have rolled into town a few times now. They are different than the old PTQ we’re all used to – they are smaller and generally take up less time. Under the old system I’d have to be up very early and back very late to travel to a large store or conference facility somewhere in the middle of the UK. Don’t get me wrong – those were great days out and I’ve had some cool times with my fellow Magic enthusiasts. But nine rounds of Magic is a heck of a lot of thinking. The new smaller PPTQs can be run at mid-sized stores and they have fields of between 16 and 50 (sometimes more, but over 50 happens less common). This reduces the number of rounds and also makes the tournaments more manageable.
This last weekend I packed my cards and hit the road in search of a spot at the next Pro Tour Qualifier. Now, we don’t happen to live in the US where it seems like every week they have awesome tournaments like the SCG circuit or a big GP. In fact, it’s only this year that the UK got a 2nd GP, so it’s growing slowly. Playing your home shop PPTQ is a given, and the fact that people who wouldn’t ever think to travel get to play at a higher REL might mean they get bitten by the competitive bug.
We were heading to Bournemouth and a shop called Warez Gaming. It’s a shop I’ve been to a few times before and has a really cool crowd of players.
As is my way with these things, I turned up hours earlier than necessary, but that gave me a chance to check out all the great retro console games they had for sale there. And, of course, time for a few last minute deck checks and panics about my list.
In the end I went with my RDW list. It’s Mono-Red and pretty much the only additions from the previous iteration were 3 Zurgo Bellstrikers and 2 Dragon Whisperers in and a few Mardu Scouts and Hordeling Outbursts out.
(This isn’t going to be a deck tech, not a tournament report, so I’m not going to go into the match by match account of how I went 0-4. Actually 1-5 but I feel that claiming the bye as a win is unjustified. At every event there is someone who had a terrible time and this time it was me. But I played some cool guys and some known lists, so I’m not going to complain about my bad beats or my mana screw.)
Instead I’d like to spend my word count today talking about the system and what I see as its good points and its drawbacks. I won’t do a list of pros and then a list of cons – mostly they are two-sided issues, so I’ll take each thing separately and talk around it.
The new system adds an extra layer to the qualification process. Before, all you had to do was go to one PTQ and hit form and then bam you’re on the tour. One good day is all it takes to get on the train, but now there is this extra layer in the middle. You have to win the first event before you get to the actual PTQ. This feels bad for people who played in the old system, as you used to be able to just pay your money and get to play at the PTQ. However, I’ve seen it described as a two-day event, like a GP, except you get multiple day one attempts.
I live on an island, so time and expense have to be taken into account when traveling to these events. Me and the rest of the competitively-minded players at my local shop earmarked a total of 7 PPTQs that we felt were within our travel distance. During these discussions, jokes about people not having to travel because they would be already qualified were thrown about, but after a few of these it was true. Some members of the group had indeed qualified.
You can adjust your deck to cope with the meta. One of the PPTQs I attended was two days after the release of Dragons of Tarkir and that meant having the cards from the new set was something of an advantage. It also meant that I got a warning for having 2 Zurgo Bellstrikers on the battlefield at the same time. Oops. I happen to think that Control decks were at the biggest disadvantage there, because it’s harder to judge what to counter when there’s a lot of new threats. Something that ties into the meta thing.
If you and your friends are making plans to attend these events, then so are other groups. Mostly it will be the same people each time, so you get to see a familiar group of faces at these events. It used to be like this at the bigger events too… you would see the same players attending the GPs and the PTQs. Over time you get to be on nodding acquaintance with a lot of different players. It’s something I really enjoy. What I have found in the new system is that even though the events are smaller, I tend to bump into the same people a lot more, which is great.
I know that Manaleak.com has put a lot of effort into working out how to make the UK Magic community stronger as a whole. I think these more local events will help the community grow out from its shops and into a more vibrant, competitive community. Which in turn will affect how the UK performs at the higher stages. Getting more players into the competitive scene without them having to go to events that are hundreds of people is a good thing in my opinion. I wonder what the actual PTQ is going to be like? Will it stay just the 130-odd players and nothing else? Or will it grow to have side events and other attractions for players who have not qualified for the main event? I hope so.
Back to my day out at Warez. One of the good things about this new qualifying process is that stores like Warez get to hold them. There was twenty or so players in this shop on a Sunday. This is great for a business like that. Packs and sleeves are sold along with the entry fee. These are our places, and we tend to take them for granted, but they need to turn a profit, so players coming from outside their own areas to attend add much-welcomed income.
My day was a wash out, but I had fun. I played some good games and had some great conversations with the shop locals. My son had a great day too, despite losing his win-and-in for the Top 8. It didn’t ruin his fun because – like me – he treats these days as a bit of an adventure. He also got a Subway for his lunch, which is a great treat for a ten year old. On the boat back I asked him what the best bit about his day had been. With a huge grin on his face he told me it was that I had lost all my games. Oh, well.
You can find this LGS at:
489 Wimborne Road
Community Question: What do you like and not like about the new PPTQs system? What would you change about it if you could?
Thanks for reading,