Insider: PTQ’s, PPTQ’s & RPTQ’s

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So you want to qualify for the Pro Tour...

This past weekend was the end of an era--the era of the PTQ. Some of us will mourn, others will reminisce, but most of us will just try to figure out what happens next.

When I first heard the news that our love-hate relationship with PTQ's would come to an end, I was ecstatic. The possibility exists that I may have been under the influence of losing-the-win-and-in syndrome at the time, but there weren’t any witnesses to confirm it.

There will always be changes to this great game we love. Every time people will proclaim that the sky is falling. Once the panic settles, the hive mind will dissect every nuance and develop a game plan and we will modify our behavior accordingly. The community of dedicated players devotes their time to making sure this past time continues into the future. The pros won’t hesitate to splatter their opinions across all social media as well as write about these situations in their articles.

That recurring sequence is a positive thing. When a change comes that is negative, there will be not only hostility, but also a plan. It’s not all complaining; there will also be suggestions for improvement.

So, with the end of the PTQ system, comes a new animal altogether (and with more letters). Let’s dive right in.

The New System

I’m sure you all know by now that in order to play in the new PTQ's, Regional PTQ’s (RPTQ), you must first win a store tournament called a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. These events have been abbreviated in a number of ways. The most common is Pre-PTQ, or PreTQ for short. In other games, they have Store Championships. I think that Magic should adopt that instead of tons of letters, but then we don’t have the association with the old system. Either way, you must win a local event in order to play in the Regional PTQ.

The main reason for the update to our previous system, was that attendance for PTQ’s was going through the roof and there were lots of horror stories about how poorly stores were running these events. Most stores were not accustomed nor large enough to handle this type of event where over one hundred players regularly showed up.

I know I personally have many bad memories associated with PTQ’s that were run by stores. There were also some stores that excelled and held amazing events with thousands of dollars of prize money in addition to the Pro Tour qualification. The majority of PTQ’s run by stores were not well run though, and so a changed needed to take place.

When Wizards dropped the bomb on us that they were redoing the entire system, they projected nearly the same attendance for these Pre-PTQs as they were getting from the previous system. From my experience, that has not been the case at all. From the data I’ve collected, mainly East Coast US, the new system is drawing on average less than 64 players per event. These numbers are well under what we expected them to be.

I think the main reason for low attendance at these events is that stores are not incentivizing the event beyond the additional tournament qualification. If this system is going to be successful, stores are going to need to step up their game. By increasing their prize support, they will also increase their attendance and this system will thrive.

If you want to qualify for the Pro Tour, you will need to win one of these Pre-PTQ’s, but for most of us, we will have multiple opportunities to do so. Within driving distance, you should be able to play in at least a couple different events. Winning an event like this is no walk in the park, but it’s a manageable goal.

These new qualifiers are definitely more accessible than those in the previous system. You should be able to drive over to your local game store and play in at least one of these events per season. If you are serious about qualifying, you can drive and find many more opportunities. We had players drive from over two hours away to play in our event. This is not typical, but it is possible.

Regional PTQ's

So you won a Pre-PTQ, now what?

Last week, I wrote a detailed report about winning a Pre-PTQ with my unique Abzan Aggro list. If you haven’t read that article yet, make sure you take some time and read about my epic adventure. Once you have won an event, you can make plans to attend a Regional PTQ. If you have pro points, you can also qualify to play in one of these events based on your pro level, but for most of us, we need a win to get us qualified.

The first of these Regional PTQ’s takes place on April 25, 2015. I will be there, so I will be able to give you some firsthand knowledge about what these events are like. I expect them to be quite similar to what our PTQ’s were like before the new system updates.

We do get perks, just for qualifying. Take a look.

Liliana Promo

Snagging a Liliana of the Veil promo foil is a great boon for your accomplishment of qualifying for this event. Additionally, you will get a promotional deck box, which certainly isn’t as exciting as a valuable foil that sees tons of play in Modern, but it is a nice bonus.

Once you are at this event, if there are 129 more players, you only need to Top 8, but if there are 128 or fewer players, you need to win a round in the Top 8 to make it to the Top 4. Either way, these events will give out four to eight Pro Tour invites instead of just one. As a consolation prize, if you don’t win that round in the Top 8 in one of the smaller events, you are qualified for the next regional PTQ.

Making arrangements to go to one of these events will probably be similar to that of a Grand Prix. Most likely, you won’t have a Regional PTQ close to you but there will be one within driving distance. That’s the plan anyway, we will see if that ends up being the case or not. For me, there are two within driving distance and a total of 13 in the US that the players here could fly to. The rest of the world only gets 18 events, so if you are outside of the US, it may be harder to compete in one of these events.

I was quite curious about what attendance would be like at these events. Certainly they will be difficult because every player there will be highly skilled, but how many players should we expect? If this reddit article proves to be correct, then we are looking at events as small as 25 players up to ones with a whopping 240! Average attendance seems to be in the 64-player range though.

The numbers in the post are based on the number of qualifier tournaments that took place and don’t take into account the pros that have automatic invites to the events. Additionally, the numbers were calculated with the shortest distance in mind. My first thought was, should I book a flight to a location with a projected lower attendance? I’m sure I’m not the only one with that thought process either so we could see drastically different a turnout than what seems logical, because players are willing to fly in order to qualify for the Pro Tour.

I hope this write up was clear, concise, and provided some information you didn’t know about the new system. My goal was to be informative and help everyone understand what we are getting ourselves into. If I missed an aspect about the event, please share in the comments. Here is the link to the Wizards info page on RPTQ's.

Standard Thoughts

[cardimage cardname='Wingmate Roc'][cardimage cardname='Whisperwood Elemental']

This past weekend we saw a surge in price from Whisperwood Elemental due to competitive play. The card did see significantly more play in recent events, which makes this price bump based more on demand than hype. My thoughts the whole weekend surrounded comparing Whisperwood with Wingmate Roc though, rather than what his price was.

Most of the green decks can or do play white mana, so this dilemma of which card to play can come up in a variety of strategies. Because I’ve been playing Abzan Aggro lately, my question was which card is better for that deck, but I think this question should be asked of any deck that could play both cards. Let’s break it down.

When we look at the similarities of both cards we find that both have the potential to give you six power for five mana, but you have to complete some task in order to get your bonus power. In the case of Wingmate, attacking is the task, whereas with Whisperwood, merely surviving to the end step will get you your extra power. Both creatures provide virtual card advantage because they give you multiple creatures to work with. They are also both quite good against control decks for this reason.

With Wingmate, we have evasion. That is something that Whisperwood is definitely lacking. To make up for it, the elemental gives you his manifest ability every turn he sticks around. Additionally, with manifest you have the potential to hit a creature so you may be getting more than six power for your five-mana investment. In that case, Whisperwood is definitely better, but that doesn’t happen every time.

One part about Wingmate that I have found essential to my success is the lifegain ability. Many times it is correct to play your flyer before combat so you can trigger the lifegain ability on multiple creatures. This line of play can help you win many games.

I think the key difference between the two cards comes down to the fact that Wingmate will give you two creatures more often than Whisperwood. Combine that with the lifegain trigger and I think we have a winner in most cases. I have concluded that I would rather have my flyers in Abzan Aggro because they help you close out the game much better.

Whisperwood, on the other hand, I think is better suited to decks like Abzan Midrange that aim to control the game. In those decks, Whisperwood is much more powerful because they have set up a game state where generating a manifest creature every turn will put them so far ahead that their opponent will break under the pressure.

Both are great cards but consider which you should play and base that on your specific version of your deck.

Naya Tokens

A new deck has been putting up results in the last couple of weeks, headed up by Craig Wescoe. Naya Tokens utilizes strong cards from multiple archetypes and glues them together with the all-or-nothing card Dictate of Heliod. Nothing in this deck is new. Literally every card in the list sees play in other decks, but the innovation is combining these cards together in this setup.

There is not only synergy in this deck but also lots of power as well. Every threat in this deck is a home run and there are no sub-optimal cards. I would say that’s the part I like most about this deck. Naya Tokens matches up well against the other midrange decks because it can attack from multiple angles and it does a great job overloading their removal. Prepare for this deck because you will start seeing it at your events. The Dictate seems like a great pickup and should probably increase a little in price due to the increase in play.

[cardimage cardname='Hero's Downfall']

The metagame has shifted. While many of the decks and cards are still the same, there are definitely more planeswalkers running around the metagame. With that, we should start seeing an increase in Hero's Downfall. I know it was one of the best cards in my deck last weekend and I wished I had the fourth one in my 75. Even if your opponent gets a token or some other effect, killing those planeswalkers immediately is paramount to your success. If you ignore the ‘walker and don’t win the game, then the advantage they gain will overpower you.

I’ve been seeing this happen a lot with Xenagos, the Reveler. Players are not taking that guy seriously and getting punished for it. He was run out of the metagame because of Mantis Rider and Lightning Strike. If your deck isn’t running both of those cards, you need to focus your fire on Xenagos to take him down immediately otherwise he will halt your assault. Short version: start playing more Downfalls.

Thanks for reading today. Good luck to all of you qualified for the first Regional PTQ!

Until next time,

Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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