Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour
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The Pro Tour (often abbreviated as PT), is the highest form of competitive play for the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. Pro stands for Protection, one of the first evergreen mechanics introduced to the set. It consists of a series of tournaments held throughout the world, each requiring an invitation to participate. Every Pro Tour awards a total of $250,000 in cash prizes, with $40,000 going to the winner. Pro Tour competitors also receive Pro Points, the amount depending on their results. Pro Points award special benefits to players, including automatic qualification and travel awards for subsequent Pro Tours. Currently, four Pro Tours are held during a twelve-month season.
The Pro Tour was introduced in 1996 with the first event being held in New York. Over 100 such tournaments have been held since.
Finishing within the Top 8 of a Pro Tour is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments a competitive Magic player can achieve. Professional players are thus often compared by the number of Pro Tour Top 8 finishes they have made throughout their career. The most successful players on the Pro Tour are Kai Budde, who won seven Pro Tours out of ten Top 8 finishes, and Jon Finkel, who won three Pro Tours, while making it to the Top 8 sixteen times.
The first major Magic: The Gathering tournament was the 1994 World Championship held at Gen Con '94. It was a single-elimination 512-person Constructed event run over three days of competition. The winner, Zak Dolan, received a trophy but no money. However, Dolan was also given a large number of booster packs from various expansions, Arabian Nights through Ice Age, along with a deck of poker cards with Magic: The Gathering backs on them and a T-shirt. The secondary market value of those packs today would exceed many tournament payoffs, but is still not quite equal to the cash prizes of the current Pro Tour payouts. Another World Championship was organized in 1995.
In 1995 Brand Manager Skaff Elias suggested that organized play needed to take the step to the next level. The idea was to run several tournaments each year that would gather the best players in the world and reward them with cash for their dedication to the game. Players should have something to aspire to. Elias and Mark Rosewater along with others started to work on the concept. On 16–18 February 1996 the first Pro Tour, very briefly called The Black Lotus Pro Tour, was held in New York. The first Pro Tour season included three more Pro Tour events, culminating in the final Pro Tour, the World Championship, held in Seattle. In the following years a Pro Tour season (one year) always consisted of five and later six Pro Tours. From 2003 to 2005 Wizards of the Coast made an effort to bring the Pro Tour seasons in accordance with the calendar year instead of having the seasons last from August to August the next year. This resulted in two seasons of seven Pro Tours. Afterwards Pro Tour seasons were reduced to five and later four Pro Tours a year. In 2012, the season schedule was again adjusted, now starting and ending in May. Additionally, the World Championship lost its status as a Pro Tour event, resulting in three Pro Tours to be held each season. In 2014, the amount of Pro Tours went back up to four a season.
Prize payouts have increased slowly over the years from ca. $150,000 per tournament in 1996–97 to $250,000 in 2012. In the first Pro Tour season each Pro Tour awarded more prizes than the previous one, though. Afterwards prize payouts had only minor fluctuations throughout a season with the exception of the World Championships which always award some additional prizes.
Pro Tours started as single-format events in 1996, alternating between Constructed and Limited, with the exception of the World Championships which have been multi-format events since the inception of the Pro Tour. In 2010 Pro Tours were changed to always have several rounds of Constructed and Limited play.
Up until the second season in 1997, qualifying was based on results in high-profile tournaments, or by invitation from the sponsoring company. Since 1997 the Pro Tour is a qualification-only tournament with qualifying events held throughout the world.
There are several ways to qualify, the most common being:
- By finishing in the Top 25 (replaced by 33 match points, equivalent to winning 11 out of 16 rounds, since 2014–15 season) of the previous Pro Tour.
- Through Pro Tour Qualifiers (PTQ) or Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers (RPTQ), tournaments open to those not already qualified for the Pro Tour.
- By reaching the Top 8 or having at least 39 match points in individual format Grand Prix; or reaching the Top 4 or having at least 36 match points in team format Grand Prix
In 2012 it was announced that Sponsor's Exemption invitations would be given regularly to players who "showed excellence in play and positive community activity during the qualifying season". Previously those invitations were given out very rarely (for example to David Williams for Pro Tour Los Angeles 2005 or Kai Budde for the 2006 World Championships).
The first Pro Tour season featured events only in the United States. Beginning in 1996–97 one Pro Tour was held in Europe each season. The first Pro Tour to be held in Asia was the 1999 World Championship in Tokyo. Subsequently, the amount of PTs every continent gets has varied, with North America hosting the most Pro Tours and Asia the least.
Originally, all Pro Tours other than World Championships were a single format. Beginning with the 2009 season, Pro Tours consist of one constructed and one limited format. Constructed Pro Tours utilized either Block Constructed, Standard, or Extended (succeed by Modern in 2011 season), while Limited Pro Tours were usually the Booster Draft format. Rochester Draft was also used, but no such events have been held since the 2006 World Championship. At least one team Pro Tour event was every season between 1999 and 2006, and each World Championship between 1998 and 2011 had a team portion. On July 19, 2017, Wizards announced that a team Pro Tour event would return as part of the 2017-18 season, to be held August 3-5, 2018 in Minneapolis.
World Championships feature multiple formats, which usually include standard with a constructed format (with exception of 2007, which Legacy replaced the second constructed format), and a limited format (either Booster Draft or Rochester Draft).
All Pro Tours are run using a modified Swiss system. Typical Pro Tours were held over three days with 7 rounds (Limited) or 8 rounds (Constructed or Mixed) of Swiss the first day. Players with fewer than 4 victories (Limited or Mixed) or 5 victories (Constructed) after day 1 were eliminated. 8 more rounds of Swiss followed on the second day after which the eight best finishing players constitute what is called the Top 8. On the third and final day, the Top 8 players play single-elimination until the winner is determined. Starting with the 2009 season this system is modified to accompany the fact, that each PT utilizes constructed and limited formats, in which three rounds of a booster draft will be held followed by five rounds of constructed.
Team Limited Pro Tours were run the first day using the Team Sealed format, the second day using the Team Rochester Draft format. The top 4 finishing teams advanced to the last day of competition, which was also run in the Team Rochester format.
World Championships (before 2011) used to be held over four to five days, which typically used Standard on the first day, Booster Draft or Rochester Draft on the second, and another constructed format on the third (second day since 2007). The final eight have always been played using the Standard decks from the first day. The fourth (third since 2007) day of Worlds also featured national championship as for the national teams to compete in.
Traditionally the payout at the Pro Tour has been based only on the finishing place. Currently the prize pool for Pro Tour events as well as the World Magic Cup amounts to $250,000 each. The Magic: The Gathering World Championship, while technically not a Pro Tour event also features a significant payout, currently amounting to $150,000. The largest prize pool in the history of the game was paid out for the combined 2006 World Championship event, comprising $465,245. The Pro Tour payout extends down to 64th place with the current payout structure being:
In Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005, a different payout system was tested. The tournament was run using triple-elimination (with a draw counting as a loss for both players) and each match was run with money at stake. The amount of money earned by the winner of the match increased from $100 in round one to $1,500 in round twelve. This system had the result of distributing the money more evenly among competitors (out of 311, only 40 failed to make money) but the top finishers earned significantly less money than they would have under the old system. This layout was largely criticized by players and internet writers and has not returned since.
In the 2017–18 season, Pro Points for participating are awarded by ranking for the players that make it to the top 8. All other players earn Pro Points based on their total match point in Swiss portion of the event. The points are awarded as follows:
For players who finished in Top 8:
For players who finish outside the Top 8:
|Total Match Point||36+||35||34||33||32||31||30||28–29||27||26 or less|
Additional Pro Points are awarded for participation in the World Magic Cup, the World Championship, and for good finishes at Grand Prix, and Nationals. For Grand Prix, only the best six results in a season will be counted towards their seasonal Pro Points. For players that finish in the top 8 Pro Points are awarded as follows:
For players who did not get into the single-elimination stage:
For the World Magic Cup each player earns Pro Points based on the ranking of their respective national team
At World Championships, a player is awarded one Pro Point for every win in the Swiss part of the tournament upon their fourth win, and two Pro Points for every win in the elimination stage.
At Nationals, the Finalists will receive three points, the semifinalists will receive one point.
Accumulated Pro Points can grant players benefits when they exceed certain thresholds. In the past, the number of levels and the associated benefits have varied. If a player achieves the level which awards qualifications to all Pro Tours, he or she is said to be "on the Gravy Train." Currently this would be equivalent to the Gold Level. The Pro Club consists of the following levels:
- Bronze level (10 Pro Points): The player receives a bye at Individual Grand Prix tournaments; invitation to Pro Tour regional qualifiers and Nationals;
- Silver level (20 Pro Points): The player receives two byes at Individual Grand Prix tournaments; invitation to Pro Tour regional qualifiers and Nationals;; and invitation to one Pro Tour event that had not qualified by other means in that season.
- Gold level (35 Pro Points): The player receives three byes at Individual Grand Prix tournaments; invitation with one bye to Nationals; and invitation to all Pro Tours with expenses paid for air travel.
- Platinum level (52 Pro Points): In addition of Gold level's benefits, they receive an additional bye in Nationals (i.e.: two byes). They also receive free Sleep-In Special for attending Grand Prix, and appearance fee in selected events ($3000 in Pro Tour, $1000 in World Magic Cup, $500 in Nationals and first 6 attended Grand Prixes)
In April 2016, WotC announced that the Pro Tour/World Magic Cup appearance fees for Platinum level players would be reduced to $250 from the beginning of the 2016-17 season. However, the decision was largely criticized by players, and WotC dropped the planned change. A revised version was later released for 2017-18, removing the hotel accommodation of Platinum level and setting the cap of appearance fee available for Grand Prix to 6 events while the appearance fee is doubled.
The above-mentioned Pro Club levels are achieved the moment a player earns the required Pro Points in a season, and benefits are granted from that point on. The status and the associated benefits will be kept until the end of the season after the season in which they were earned.
Special promotion was also introduced in 2013 season for players winning certain title: In 2017-18 season, if a player wins in any Pro Tour, World Championship or Magic Online Championship, they are treated as if they are a Platinum level for a specific period (roughly a Year) regardless of their current Pro Points. Similar to Rookie of the Year, which treated as a Gold level in the following season.
The number of pro points awarded in a season also decide the seasonal ranking, which affects the eligibility of World Championship and captaincy in World Magic Cup. With the exception of deciding Pro Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, if multiple players finished with same amount of pro point, tiebreakers, which based on the performance of that season's Pro Tour and Grand Prix performance will be used.
Pro Player of the Year
The Pro Player of the Year title is awarded to the individual who has accumulated the most pro points over the course of a season (with the exception of 2012 season, which was awarded to winner of the Magic Players Championship, a tournament that replaced that year's Magic: The Gathering World Championship.). Previously, the Player of the Year received invitations to several high-level tournaments throughout the following year, as well as travel and other accommodations to each of the following season's Pro Tours (including the World Championship). Since the 2016-17 season, there is no additional benefit as a Player of the Year.
If there is a tie for first in the Player of the Year race at the end of a season, a playoff is held to determine the winner. The first (and currently only) playoff was held in 2011 as a side event at Pro Tour Paris, deciding the 2010 Player of the Year race between Brad Nelson and Guillaume Matignon (both finished with 66 points in the 2010 season). In the best-of-7 single match playoff, Nelson won 4 games to 2 to achieve the title.
Rookie of the Year
The Rookie of the Year title is awarded to the player who has accumulated the most pro points over the course of a season and has not participated in a Pro Tour, World Championship, nor World Magic Cup before that season.
|Season||Rookie of the Year|
|2012–13||Felipe Tapia Becerra|
|2013–14||Raymond Perez Jr.|
Players who have reached the final day of the Pro Tour several times are recognized for their skill and dedication to the game. The following table shows all players who either achieved five Pro Tour Top 8s or two wins. 26 players have made the Top 8 of five or more Pro Tours, and only eight have won more than once.
Before 2011 World Championships were Pro Tour, thus World Championship Top 8s from before 2011 are counted as career Top 8s. The following table is accurate as of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon:
|Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa||2||12|
|Lee Shi Tian||0||5|
Most successful countries
Players from the following countries have won Pro Tours (for a more detailed country breakdown, see the list of Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour events article):
- List of Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour events
- Magic: The Gathering World Championship
- Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame
- Duelists' Convocation International
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