What We Learned—PTQ Attendance Challenges (March 3)

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

Last week we spoke at length about the rising numbers in tournament attendance and what Wizards of the Coast can do to continue growing the game worldwide. This week we’re going to talk about why this isn’t necessarily a good thing, and the challenges that it creates for tournament organizers and local gaming stores. Specifically we need to talk about Pro Tour Qualifiers and the alarming rise in attendance at these tournaments and the strain being put on small gaming stores to try to support these events.

Normally I would save these for the Quick Hits but a number of Magic writers over at Star City Games this week voiced their concerns over the growth of the game and the alarming rate at which it is happening. Patrick Chapin gave his viewpoint as a pro player on what Wizards can do to help improve things but also took a look at the implications for tournament organizers [SCG Premium] who run Grand Prix events in the future. Cedric Philips presented some of the pros and cons of what GP Charlotte means for future events [SCG Select] from the perspective of just another player. Finally Brian Kibler, who did not have a great showing, discusses what went wrong at the event and what needs to be improved [SCG Premium] to handle events of this proportion.

Proportion is the key here. Attendance is on the rise and barring a major gaff on the part of the game’s designers, nothing is going to be able to stop it. But where Star City’s elite writers fall short is that they’re only looking at the Grand Prix events. Somewhere that we stand to see even more issues as a consequence of this growth is on the Pro Tour Qualifier Circuit where attendance is also seeing meteoric increases.

While I didn’t attend a single PTQ over the past two weeks I heard plenty about them. First, running against GP Charlotte last weekend was the PTQ in Brooklyn run by Twenty Sided Store. Second, this past weekend was the PTQ at the Palisades Mall run by Dragon’s Den. Both events had staggering attendance levels and in both cases problems arose as a result. Over 160 people attended the PTQ in Brooklyn and while I haven’t gotten confirmation yet I have to imagine similar numbers headed out to a mall in West Nyack, NY to compete for a blue envelope yesterday.

The obvious problem is where do you sit 160 ravenous Magic players in the middle of the densest county in the nation or inside of a suburban mall or let’s be honest, anywhere really? The logistics of the challenge can be unwieldy for a small gaming store. Thanks to the edict from Wizards that all events need to be run by brick-and-mortar stores, you end up with tournament organizers who normally deal with between 20 and 50 player events suddenly having to manage three to five times that number. Event space needs to be rented. Judges need to be brought in. Employees will need to be brought on for the event. The list goes on.

The average attendance for PTQ events is steadily increasing and approaching 150, but the variance is immense. So far this season we’ve seen events for 32 players (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and 249 players (Seattle, WA). Tournament organizers have a good gauge on how many players to expect, but variables like the weather and meta-game changes can never truly be accounted for and you can easily find yourself with a significantly larger event than you planned for.

All of a sudden you don’t have enough judges. You don’t have enough people processing match slips. Maybe you don’t even have enough chairs.

This is a recipe for disaster, and Wizards needs to address it ASAP. A lot of the suggestions from Patrick Chapin, Cedric Philips and Brian Kibler that are directed towards the Grand Prix tournament structure can, and should, be applied to PTQ events as well. Online preregistration should be improved. Round times should be better managed. The list goes on and on but ultimately Wizards put gaming stores in this position and the onus is on them to help store owners out before the problems start costing people business.

While its difficult for players to skip out on Grand Prix events because of a sour relationship or experience with a tournament organizer its very easy to skip one of the half-dozen or so PTQs in your region because of this. The problem facing PTQ organizers is much more immediate than Grand Prix organizers and if something isn’t done soon the breaking point will be hit much quicker.

The Quick Hits

  • Travis Woo does his best Jamie and Adam impression this week and busts some Magic myths. [Woo’s Brews]
  • A new infographic from thatguyjames outlines the epic battle between Elves and Goblins. [thatguyjames]
  • Jim Davis talks about finding his happy medium for balancing Magic and life. I can relate. [SCG Select]
  • Does the Vorthos inside you wonder about the technology level of various Planes in Magic’s multiverse? John D. Beety has answers. [SCG Select]
  • The new Chandra playmat for the World Cup Qualifiers might be worth returning to the game for. I’m qualified, so I have a couple months to think about it. [DailyMTG]
  • Is there an award for short-form fiction in the fantasy genre on an internet medium? If there was it would be called the Fblthp. [DailyMTG]
  • Natasha Lewis Harrington takes a deep psychological look at playing games and specifically playing Magic. [Gathering Magic]
  • I’m expecting this to get some more coverage this week, but LegitMTG is first on the scene with Cockatrice being served a C&D by WotC. [LegitMTG]
  • The new art for Sorin and Tibalt will not go over well with the writing staff of this blog. [DailyMTG]
  • Gerry Thompson is now Level 50. Does he get to start a new Planeswalker now with unlocked content? [Magic Arcana]
  • Finally, Vintage Workshop decks just got a little bit sweeter with this new judge promo. [Gathering Magic]

Wallpaper of the Week

Wow. What a change of pace as we go from majestic fantasy scenes and wizardry to the gruesome horror of Ryan Barger’s Wight of Precinct Six. While we’re still getting an image that’s basically a solo action shot it’s much more in your face than the usual stuff. There’s plenty of color and excitement in this one. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Grade: A-

The Week Ahead

The new SimCity game comes out on Tuesday so… I’ll see you all in a couple months or something.

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