There Can Be Only One – PPTQ/RPTQ Musings
The highs of the weekend (I qualified for the Pro Tour again, yay!) got me thinking about how I really feel about the new PPTQ/RPTQ system and the good and bad things it brings to the table. I thought I would share my thoughts with you in order to see if we can start a discussion on Facebook as I see a lot of varying views on the subject. I’ll list, in my opinion, the good, bad and ugly and see if people agree with me.
Let’s start with The Good.
• Well, the first place to start is the attendance on PPTQ’s as opposed to the PTQ’s of old. While it’s great that UK PTQ’s were getting huge attendances (seriously, some of the biggest in the world), what’s not great is a 200-300 man, winner takes all slugfest where an early loss could knock you out of contention. Battling back from an early loss to finish X-1 and 9th is depressing and thankfully no longer a thing unless in extreme circumstances like highly attended RPTQ’s (there was only 3 in the world that had attendance higher than 100). Playing in a 20-30 man PPTQ is just nice. Having the option to stop for lunch is nice. Not returning home past midnight is nice. Everything about it is just nice.
• Next on the list is the sheer number of PPTQ’s there are each weekend within a 2 hour drive from most major English cities. I am based in the South West, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of UK Magic, and I think I could have played in a PPTQ almost every weekend last season if I was prepared to drive, at most, 2 hours in any direction. While bad for our wallets, it’s great for local stores and players as they get a feel for playing and running bigger events than FNM. Experience is how we make events better and the opportunity for small stores to run events like this is priceless.
• I’ve said a little about getting newer players into the competitive play circle above but I think it needs its own point. They really are the future of the game. The PPTQ’s I’ve been too have never felt aggressive or had that ‘all or nothing’ feel to them like the PTQ’s of old. Players feel welcome and the prizes are a lot more spread out than they used to be. With PTQ’s, most players would drop at X-2 because they couldn’t be bothered to play another X rounds for a few boosters but with PPTQ’s most players, at most, only have to play 3 more rounds for prizes even if they started at 0-2. It’s not for everyone but PPTQ’s aren’t as ‘Ringer’ filled as PTQ’s were and more players are finishing the events. More players playing MTG for longer can’t be bad.
• While the number of overall players qualifying for the Pro Tour is less (4 at the RPTQ as opposed to 6 UK PTQ’s), having 1 event that qualifies 4 players is a lot better than 6 events that qualifies 1. Everyone loved Nationals and we basically have them 4 times a year now. It’s a little harder to get to but it’s great once you’re there.
• Expensive Promo’s at RPTQ’s. Everyone loves free money. Also requalifying for the next RPTQ if you lose in the quarter finals. Free perks is good.
Ok, we’ve got the good out of the way. Let’s get to The Bad.
• I used to go to PTQ’s with all my mates, now I go with 1 or 2. Playing in and knocking out your mates at PPTQ’s is a pretty common occurrence. Obviously there’s no fix to this but it sucks all the same. At least at million-man PTQ’s the chances of playing someone in your car were minimal.
• Location of the RPTQ’s. While I have nothing against both stores who ran the events (they were both fine, although a little hot) I do have something against London’s insane hotel prices, congestion charges and lack of free parking. I also have something against driving 9½ to Huddersfield! If someone from WOTC UK is reading this please, for the love of god, hold it in the Midlands somewhere. Or even better, hold it near the SW, which continues to get left in the cold with events despite having a pretty high number of stores and players. Our last PTQ was 2005ish! Plus, people get to come to Devon, probably the nicest place to visit in the UK. Maybe Devon is unrealistic. Cardiff however, has a huge store in Firestorm Games who, I’d imagine, would be happy to accommodate a RPTQ. 3 Hours from London, 3 Hours from most of the SW, 3 hours from Huddersfield. You’ve got most of the country covered in 3 hours or less, and it has a major airport for Irish and Scottish players. Sort it out. /end rant.
• When I used to go to PTQ’s I knew I had to beat the top players the UK had to offer. For whatever reason it’s not quite the same at the RPTQ’s. You would expect, in theory, that all the top players in the country would qualify for the RPTQ each time but in reality it’s just not happening. That’s no disrespect to all the unknown players playing at these RPTQ’s, for all I know you might be the next big thing for the UK and just haven’t had that breakout performance yet. That might be testament to the improving state of the average UK player’s ability. I know I haven’t had a weak opponent at the RPTQ’s I’ve played in so far. Maybe this should be in ‘The Good’ for improving ability rather than ‘The Bad’ for the ‘top’ players not qualifying.
• I’ve had time to think this next one through since I had a little debate about it. Players with the same record as people who top 8’ed who didn’t top 8 should probably qualify for the next RPTQ. I think this should only be a rule for 100+ players though as people on 5-2 can sneak into the top 8 at less attended RPTQ’s and you’ll end up having 15 odd players auto-qualifying for the next one going 5-2. The whole point of these events is to get the number of players down from the previously insane levels of past PTQ’s. A lot of people hated playing in them but felt they had to in order to chase the Pro Tour dream so having all those players auto-qualifying at X-2 is counterproductive.
• Having to spike 2 tournaments instead of 1 to qualify for the Pro Tour. This one I disagree with but I’ve heard a lot of rumblings from others. I think that the road to the Pro Tour is a little more attainable for the average player now. I understand that you need to spike 2 events, but the hard part really is qualifying for the RPTQ. Once you’re there things get a little easier if you think like me. Instead of having to battle vs 200 players, I had to battle vs 74 in Huddersfield. While this is still above the world’s average for RPTQ attendance, it’s less daunting than the 200 man slugs we used to have, and allowed me to break any psychological barriers I may have had at the beginning of the event. I knew that one early loss wouldn’t hurt my chances of top 8 (I actually lost round 1) and that allowed me to relax and concentrate on playing my best.
• The costs of the PPTQ’s mount up if you don’t win one straight away. While paying £20 to do your hobby for a day isn’t too bad, having to pay that every weekend is pretty harsh on your wallet. Not much you or I can do about this one unless you want to play events with no prizes but I felt your pain in season 1.
OK, let’s end with The Ugly.
• The players qualifying for the Pro Tour don’t auto-qualify for the next RPTQ. This is mind-boggling. So you are qualified for the PT but you still have to play PPTQ’s? What the…….! I don’t understand this rule but I’m sure there’s a good explanation. Maybe WOTC has faith that we can all top 50 the PT? Either way, this is insane.
So, after reviewing everything I’ve said above, I believe the new system is better overall than the old system. The main reason being the Good qualities the PPTQ’s bring to the table are good not just for selfish reasons (like lower attendance), but for the community as a whole (more stores dipping their toes into promoting competitive play), and the majority of Bad qualities I brought up revolve around personal experience (being a Billy no mates) and definitely aren’t shared by a lot of others. Although I miss being at bigger events with mates in my immediate play circle, I get to play in the PPTQ’s with them weekly if I choose to.
Anyways, that’s enough from me today. I may have missed some obvious points so if you feel I have let me know in the comments section on our Facebook page. You can find the link on our website homepage at www.unioncountygames.com
Thanks for reading.
Lewis McLeod .