Planeswalker Points and You

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Joshua breaks down the new Planeswalker Point system, analyzing what these and the SCG Open Series changes mean for you.

The DCI replacing the old Elo-style ratings with a new point system has caused a drastic change in how events are perceived. Now, instead of sitting on their rating, players are encouraged to grind out events. Furthermore, the changes to the StarCityGames Open Series will have a major impact on the event choices of American players.

So let's look at what's changed and then we'll analyze what this means for PT-gunning players.


An event gets participation points based on the number of players. An 8-man event starts out with 1 point. Every time a power of two is reached (16, 32, 64, etc.), the event gains one participation point, eventually maxing out at 9 points for 2048 or more players.

Every win in an event gets you 3 points, while every draw awards you 1.

Those are the baseline points for every event. Depending on what kind of event it is, however, there will be a multiplier attached.

  • Most "local" events and tournament side events will simply be 1x.
  • Game Day events are 2x, as are WPN Premium Qualifiers.
  • FNM is 3x, as are GPTs and various WPN Premium events (for Americans, it's important to note that this is where SCG Opens are).
  • PTQs and National Qualifiers are 5x.
  • Grands Prix and Nationals are 8x.
  • Pro Tours and the World Championships are 12x, with a bonus given to top 8 finishers of the PT.

With the exception of the weird overemphasis on FNM, it's clear that the best way to rack up points is to play in high-level events. The fact that FNM is now a 3x event, however, means that skipping FNM is no longer a real option for people who are trying to qualify or earn byes off their rating.

Why Bother?

Lifetime points are—currently—completely meaningless, save for the label you get attached to your name. What is important are the seasonal totals. To view this on the Planeswalker Points page, select "Leaderboard", "Competitive", then, in the drop-down boxes on the left, select the current season instead of "All Time" and click "Filter".

Each season, the top 100 players, with some split by region, gets an invite to the Pro Tour. The top 300 players in a season get three byes to every Grand Prix in the next season. The top 2000 get two byes, and the top 15000 get one.

Of course, PTQs and GPTs continue to exist, so you don't have to grind rating if you don't want.

StarCityGames Open Series

StarCityGames has changed the point thresholds and prize payout in the Open Series. This image shows the point cutoffs.

The most important takeaway here is that there is absolutely no way to qualify for an Invitational off points until you get all the way up to 60 SCGO Points—a feat bordering on impossible unless you do something that would put you into an Invitational in the first place!

This means that grinding the Open Series is no longer a good idea.

The smart thing to do is attend your local SCG IQs and the local SCG Opens (people who played in SCG Atlanta last week scored 21 Planeswalker participation Points for Standard and 15 for Legacy), but flying around the country attending Opens makes very little sense unless you're merely a hair shy of 60 SCGO Points.

Save your money.

Instead, fly to Grand Prix events. Let's compare a real-world example:

  • I went 7-2 at SCG Richmond, earning 18 participation points and 9 points per win, for a total of 81 points.
  • I went 5-3 (including a first-round bye) on day one of Grand Prix Nashville last year. That got me 64 participation points alone, and 24 points per win, for a total of 184 points.

GPs now have a better prize structure and pay out Professional points as well, which can add up to a Worlds invite.

Pro Tour Qualifiers

The 5x multiplier on these mean that, while they may have a lower base participation score, you'll still get 20-25 points for playing in a typical PTQ. On top of that, wins rack up 15 points, so going 4-3 in a 64-127 player PTQ will be an 80 point boost to your total.

Naturally, making Top 8 and winning more will get you more points.

I had 9 wins in a PTQ last year, which was a 155-point payday for me. Obviously, if you win the PTQ, you won't need the points to score the invite anyway, but having the byes to GPs in the same season will help you stay on the train.

General Strategy

Obviously, you want to be playing in your local FNM every week. It's a bushel of points always available without much travel for most of the US.

In some places, however, it's simply not going to be feasible to do this. People living in these areas should consider traveling early enough to major events so that they may hit up nearby FNMs for more points.

Ideally, you'll also be picking events in locations with more players and more rounds so you can get more participation points and have more opportunities to win. The big problem here is that many players—myself included—preferred to skip FNM the night before big events, preferring the extra sleep. That now seems to be a bad idea.

Dropping is not an option for serious players anymore, either.

Where Planeswalker Points are concerned, dropping from a high-multiplier event to play in a lower-multiplier event is a poor decision. If you know you're clearly out of contention or are safely in the point range you need to be in for your seasonal goal, you can drop if you wish, but grinding out the points is otherwise a necessity.

This is going to be a downright miserable sealed deck PTQ season for precisely this reason. If you open a marginal pool, you're going to be forced to tough it out for the rest of the day even upon being eliminated. If you're out of contention, consider using the remaining rounds to experiment with your deck while trying to grind out wins and stave off the misery.

Remember that if you're sitting at the 2-3 table, your opponent is as well, and his deck is probably just as bad as yours.

Event Selection

If you're qualified for a Pro Tour, Worlds, or a National Championship, you should obviously attend it, especially since now there is no way to qualify for the PT or Worlds that doesn't come with a flight attached.

The next level down are various third-party, high-dollar tournaments, mostly because you're playing in these for money rather than points. The SCG Invitationals and Championships are the best examples of this, though the championship was marred by the event being far too short compared to the number of byes handed out.

3-round byes simply shouldn't exist in a 9-round event.

If you can make it to a Grand Prix, you should.

The cash payout isn't bad. If you have any byes, those give you 24 points each, letting you freeroll 88/112/136 points just for showing up. The entry fee is minimal compared to the cost of traveling to the event and staying in a hotel (most of the time), so worrying about whether it's constructed or limited tends to miss the point. With Wizards saying there will be approximately 20 North American GPs next year, it should be possible for anyone who's been grinding the SCG Open circuit this year to easily make it to 5-10 GPs next year.

The next priority is the PTQ circuit. It's still an open question whether attending GPs is a better decision than attending PTQs, but the fact that GPs pay out Professional Points as well has me inclined to choose GPs for the meantime, especially if the Pro Players' Club remains intact, which has yet to be revealed.

However, once we have a couple of seasons' worth of data to look at, it should be possible to figure out which ones are the better choices in a more general sense. Naturally, if you've given up on making it on points, PTQs are a much better decision in terms of qualifying (though not in terms of money!), and it's possible that even if you do care about points you're better off going to a local PTQ than taking a long trip to a GP in which you don't have byes. If I had to guess, as a rule of thumb, I'd put the line at 2 byes to attend GPs and people with 0 or 1 bye to go to PTQs instead, but that's purely a guess.

After PTQs come the StarCityGames Open weekends. If you've got one nearby, it makes sense to go to those since they do pay out reasonably well in cash, especially if attendance goes down and the field becomes softer due to the reduction in top players flying around to all of them. The 3x multiplier, while equal to FNM, does get better as the player count and round count go up.

One thing to note about the SCG Open weekends is that on Sunday, due to the Draft Opens being 3x, you can actually drop from the Legacy Open if you're doing poorly and go draft instead. You'll even pick up more participation points this way.

After all this, you should attend GP Trials when available, since they're also 3x events, but importantly, the byes to a GP give you a much better shot at making the prize , or even just day two for more rounds and more points.

It may seem a bit silly to play in one of these if you already have byes, but if you're fighting for points and it's the best option available for the weekend, there's little reason not to. Ideally, however, if you already have three byes, you've hopefully already won the money to fly to some event which has better prizes than a GPT.

SCG Invitational Qualifiers are a decent choice if you can't make it to anything bigger, since the SCG Invitationals themselves have an amazing cash payout relative to the number of players in them. If you're level two or three in the SCG Open Series this year, you'll be invited to one or two Invitationals of your choice next year.

But there are a staggering four of them—and you want to make them all if possible.

To summarize, you can get in by winning an IQ, by making Top 8 of a Standard or Legacy Open, or by winning a Draft Open. The other way is to make it to 60 next year or be level 5+ this year, and that'll get you into all four of them.

Minor Events

Random 8-man events are extremely bad value under the new system. Consider this hypothetical:

You're 0-3 in a SCG Open or a PTQ, and you want to drop to go play in a side event. If you go 3-0 in an 8-man draft or a constructed 8-man win-a-box event, you get 1 point for participation and 3 points for each win, netting a total of 10 points. Meanwhile, if you had continued playing in the main event and won two rounds in the entire day, you'd have scored 18 points.

Even slightly larger events, such as local Standard or Legacy tournaments throughout the week, only score a few additional points over the baseline. Wizards' system, despite its flaws, managed to create a world where grinding a bunch of events at a local shop won't be worth very many points, successfully avoiding punishing people who live near a shop that only runs FNM.

Since Legacy is not currently a legal FNM format, it won't receive 3x events at local shops, which could cause Legacy’s appeal to slowly deteriorate for those aiming for points, especially outside of the United States. It has been confirmed that the SCG Open series will continue to keep running Legacy on Sunday, so it's unlikely to see a meaningful drop in popularity in the US.

When an entire event is worth less than a single round of FNM, it's not worth it to spend a bunch of money on entry fees just to grind out points unless you already know you're right on the line of making it or not. And if that's the case, you're still better off just biting the bullet and flying to a random PTQ somewhere you normally wouldn't go.


This system heavily rewards actively playing the game rather than sitting on rating, but doesn't promote spending every single day of your life at the local cardshop playing 8-man drafts.

Overall, the system seems like a great improvement over the prior system, and the mathematical purists can still go to and look up their rating under the old system—it just doesn't count for anything, much like the Lifetime points under the new system.

Looking at point totals for previous seasons isn't really very instructive. Players who care about points won't be dropping from events with a 3x or higher multiplier, so the number of points needed to make a particular level will go up. This season will help a little bit, but, due to the fact that it doesn't have the massive number of GPs that we'll be seeing next year, the cutoffs to the various levels will be a lot higher.

Joshua Justice

Joshua Justice is a Magic player in Atlanta who's been to the Pro Tour twice. College put him on hiatus from the game until January 2010, and 5 months later he won his first Pro Tour invite with Super Friends. After a series of narrow misses in the second half of the year, Joshua won a GPT and used that to make top 16 of Grand Prix: Atlanta and secure his second Pro Tour invite in just over a year. While Nagoya was a bust, Joshua has been grinding points on the SCG Open Series, and is a virtual lock for the second Invitational. His focus is primarily on metagaming and deck tuning, and partially-open formats are his favorite playground.

View More By Joshua Justice

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13 thoughts on “Planeswalker Points and You

  1. This article is pretty well laid out. describing a pretty common-sensicle Higherarchy of DCI event. Obviously The higher the multiplier the better the event is for someone to attempt to Grind their PP. attending event X is a simple cost vs. reward analysis. if going to some event can reasonably progress your seasonal total as much or more than you place a monitary value on that timeenergy then attend the event.

    As for the precieved "over valuation" of FNM under this system. I would wager that a vast majority of WPN locations only really fire off their weekly FNM. And under this system you're going to increase attendance for 95% of the WPN locations (if only by 3 players), so it's a benifit to these valuable retail partners.

    The way I see it is FNM is no longer the "casual" WPN tournament (It's arguable that in some locations it hasn't been). it's a competitive event where people will be either Grinding their PP and testing last minute tweaks for their PTQOpen Series decks. I am telling our Non-Grinder players to expect more Teir-1 decks at this event. I'm also asking them what would they like to see in a purely casusal event. Because these 1x events shouldn't hold value to grinders this might be the perfect place to park the guys who don't want to have to deal with the latest metagame king every event they goto.

    1. I'm pretty sure the over-valuation of FNM is being done precisely so that the 1x events have almost no value. If FNM weren't 3x, then there'd be a tremendous advantage to people with access to multiple events a week. By tripling the "universal" Magic event, it greatly devalues everything else. The real issue is that the events "higher" than FNM aren't high enough compared to FNM. This is particularly notable with SCG Opens, which are 400-600 player events in which each round is equivalent to a round at FNM… a datapoint which seems fairly absurd. However, the higher participation points offset this to some degree and SCG Opens still offer a decent chunk of points, more than most events lower than the PTQ level.

      This past year I skipped PTQs in favor of SCG Opens several times. That probably won't happen next year- PTQs are worth more points and actually qualify for the PT directly; and grinding Open Series points is an exercise in futility unless I end up in the high 40's or 50's off the two Invitationals I'm already Q'ed for.

      1. Here's some more examples of why the 1x events are so bad.

        An 8-man swiss 1x event averages 5.5 Planeswalker Points per player, as follows:
        1 player gets 1 point.
        3 players get 4 points.
        3 players get 7 points.
        1 player gets 10 points.

        An 8-man single elim 1x event averages 3.625 Planeswalker Points per player, as follows:
        4 players get 1 point.
        2 players get 4 points.
        1 player gets 7 points.
        1 player gets 10 points.

        By comparison, going 2-2 at a 16 to 31 player FNM gets you 24 points.

  2. As an addendum: the full technical version of which seasons are used to qualify for which events can be found in the Premier Event Invitation Policy, which can be found on this page:

    The most important thing to point out here is that it's Season 1 (Jan-Apr) which qualifies for invite-only National Championships based on ranking. We don't yet know how many ranking invites there will be for Nationals, though.

  3. The annoying thing for me is that all of the FNMs around here are Standard, and I really only care about playing Limited competitively. Only getting a x1 multiplier for my weekly drafts eliminates any possibility of me keeping my one or two (ratings) byes at GPs, so maybe attending there isn't worth it? There's also only one season with Limited PTQs, and points reset every four months… so I'm feeling pretty marginalized, overall.

    1. That's definitely an issue. On top of that, a 3-round draft has fewer points available to it than a Constructed FNM with 4 or 5 rounds; so limited players do pretty much bite the bullet. However, there's an argument to be made that the Pro Tour and Nationals are mixed formats. It's pretty clear that you don't "belong" at the pro level if you only play Limited, except for when Limited is the PTQ format. So you have one season each year where the PTQs are Limited and you can get 5x multipliers playing sealed; and you have SCG Draft Opens (if you're in the US) that are 3x Draft events year-round.

      If you insist on remaining a limited-only player, you're never going to be able to get on the train unless you're willing to convert to an all-around player the minute you win one of the sealed PTQs. If you're going to refuse to do that, just don't bother with the ratings at all. It's clearly a system for dedicated grinders only, and if you're not willing to commit to it in a given season, there's nothing to be gained by going halfway and skipping your local drafts in favor of FNM.

  4. What are your thoughts on dropping from high multiplier events to play in lesser multiplier events? For example, someone sneaks into day 2 of a GP/Nats, but for whatever reason, doesn't believe day 2 will go well. Hopping into the PTQ the next day, while giving less points-per-win, will give a secondary participation multiplier.

    1. I don't think that they are going to be having the day two PTQ's. That may just be a rumor because I can't remember where I saw that information. I think though that staying for day 2 of a GP is more likely to net you the most money and points.

      @JoshJMTG Thanks for a great article. Well thought out, well formatted, and easy to read. I really appreciate a numbers crunch break down of the new system.

    2. Entering a day 2 PTQ will net you 30 points (assuming that it's a 256+ event) and each win will score 15 points. Getting 3 wins in the GP day 2 would get you 72 points.

      On top of that, being in the GP is going to get you Professional points, and payout goes down a lot farther than the PTQ payout does. Even if you're out of top 8 contention you can still win $100 (note that GP payouts are changing next year, sliding based on attendance, and the details haven't been fully revealed AFAIK).

      Unless you're giving up on points because you already knew you needed to top 8 the GP for the bonus points, I can't see why dropping from an 8x for a 5x with a garbage payout (a 300-man winner-take-all event is not something I want to involve myself in) would be a good idea.

      Again, this gets back to the general GP vs PTQ debate, and we don't have enough data to solve that one under the new system, and won't until the end of season 1 next year.

      (As Mike says below, rumor says the day 2 PTQs are going away, but I don't think that's confirmed yet.)

  5. Josh, one this I got out of Reedy's comment is that the multiplier is dependent on what the host organizer/shop puts into their DCI sanctioning paperwork. It may be that some could be run at 1x (if the organizer does it that way) and maybe some like the big dual slot IQ could be run at 3x if the organizer does that. I'm not sure what the process is for an organizer getting approval to run events at different K values or multipliers but I think that it is up to them and not SCG to make it happen.

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