MagicFest London: The Good, The Bad and The Strange by Kirsty McIntyre

A rundown of what we - and Wizards of the Coast - can learn from MagicFest London.

Commence the endgame - image by Noah Bradley via @wizards_magic
Image by Noah Bradley via @wizards_magic

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.

I spoke to judges, players and attendees to gather their thoughts, good and bad, on the biggest event the UK has ever seen.

Competitive Prerelease

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 incite in how she helped make MagicFest a more welcoming place, read her previous article on how to be a good ally in the Magic Community.

MagicFest London: The Good, The Bad and The Strange
MagicFest London: The Good, The Bad and The Strange
Kirsty McIntyre explores what we - and Wizards of the Coast - can learn from MagicFest London.
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