MagicFest London was, by anyone’s standards, the most unique event we’ve seen in the UK for quite some time.
It was the first “MagicFest+” event in Europe – namely a MagicFest and a Mythic Championship in the same venue at the same time – and the main event took the form of a prerelease, which is almost unheard of.
Naturally for an event that was so far removed to what we’re used to over here, people weren’t shy about letting their thoughts be heard.
Theres no way this was properly planned. Complaining hats FIRMLY on.
— Hour of Devastation (@hofdcast) February 11, 2019
I spoke to judges, players and attendees to gather their thoughts, good and bad, on the biggest event the UK has ever seen.
This was, by far, the most unanimously disliked aspect of the event.
When the announcement was made, the reaction was mixed to say the least. Several judges found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to pull out of an event they’d already applied to in order to run prereleases locally.
There was also a lot of bad faith around the fact that people had booked accommodation and arranged travel prior to the format being announced – it left players without the opportunity to opt to support their local store on prerelease weekend without taking a significant financial hit.
The event itself wasn’t a huge hit with the players who did attend.
This was partly because of the competitive nature of what is usually a fun chance to try out new cards, and partly because it meant that side events (with the exception of the Mythic Championship Qualifier), vendors, and prize wall had no War of the Spark boosters. With limited time and experience for players to familiarise themselves with interactions within the set, judges also found the number of calls they were taking to be higher than usual – the sealed MCQ on Sunday had one penalty entered for every three players, which is far more than you’d usually find at a competitive event.
War of the Spark not being available for prize ticket redemption at #MTGLondon is a huge bummer and killed my desire to play any more side events.
— Athena 🐝💀🐝 (@_Elantris_) April 27, 2019
All in all, the message on this one was pretty clear – it was a fun experiment from Wizards of the Coast, but not one people would be falling over themselves to do again.
#MTGLondon recap: flight system sucks, as expected. I will not take part in such event if it was ever going to happen again. In the MCQ on Sunday I finally managed to open a strong pool and went 3-0 into 4-2 to win some prizes at least. War of the Spark sealed seems unfair 1/4
— Buja 🍸 (@bujanowicz) April 30, 2019
The flights system
MagicFest London was the first time a “flights” system had been used for the day one main event, as opposed to the traditional Swiss.
The event consisted of four main event flights (two on Friday and two on Saturday) in which a 6-1 record or better would get you into day two of the GP.
In theory this sounds okay, but it hit some pretty significant problems.
The second flights on both days were scheduled to end at 11:30pm – significantly later than the end time of a usual GP day one, for both players and judges. The cutoff for making day two was two losses, which meant people were potentially paying £70 to open a sealed pool and play two rounds of Magic.
In the end, there were far fewer players than expected playing.
Between 1000 and 1200 competitors were projected per flight, but all four events had under 1000 players, with some settling around the 500 player mark.
This meant that the total number of players making it through to day two of the GP was 151.
No, I didn’t mistype that.
This led to another anomaly – the GP was intended to pay out cash prizes to everyone from 225th place up, but the small number of players meant that not only did everyone in day two cash the event, several people who had been eliminated in the flights also received cash prizes. Unfortunately this didn’t become evident until after the majority of people had already dropped once they’d hit two losses, meaning people who could have qualified for cash almost certainly didn’t.
On the whole, the flights system itself was met with positive feedback. However, it’s almost certainly going to have to be rethought to avoid similar issues going forward.
The Mythic Championship
A few people have mentioned that having the Mythic Championship on the same weekend as a Grand Prix is disappointing if you’re attending the latter – they felt less invested in the results from not being able to watch it live, without streaming on their phones in the main event hall.
On the other hand, many people told me they felt having the MC next door was great.
It’s not very often we get events that draw so many pro players in one go, so being able to bump into LSV or Reid Duke while walking into the convention centre was a huge thrill for a lot of players.
It's not every day you get to play your favourite game against it's lead designer! @maro254 – it was great to meet you today at #MTGLondon and an honour to be entirely destroyed by one of the best cards in #MTGWAR. pic.twitter.com/8TVWxecxcs
— James Ball (@James_Ball) April 26, 2019
The event as a whole
Generally, for people who didn’t play in the main event, the feedback was positive.
There were some little points of contention – the packs available for chaos drafting left people disappointed, for example – but overall there was praise for the staff and judges, the range of side events, and the general running of the event.
There’s definitely room for improvement in the future.
I think the almost unanimous consensus from talking to people is that a prerelease Grand Prix main event should never happen again. However, there were enough positives to ensure that the future of MagicFests looks bright – with some tweaking of the flights system!
Last night of #MTGLondon and I can't think of anything besides how amazing the MTG community is.
This community gives me purpose. It gives me friends. It gives me family. For goodness' sake, this community helped save my life.
The #mtg community is wonderful. You're wonderful.
— Wedge (@TheManaSource) April 28, 2019
For more of Magic musings, follow me on Twitter @heyworstartist.
Editor’s note – For more advice from Kirsty on how to be an awesome person, as well as an insight into how she helped make MagicFest a more welcoming place, read her previous article on how to be a good ally in the Magic Community.