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.
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.
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.
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 TCGPlayer.com Championships are the best examples of this, though the TCGPlayer.com 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.
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 www.thedci.com 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.