Wizards went and did it.
They finally made a Pro Tour Qualifier for Magic Online.
And no, it wasn’t just any, Pro Tour, no no no! This qualifier will win the qualified an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Magic World Championships in the lovely city of Berlin.
On the surface, this might seem like a great promotion. Play on Magic Online and win a chance to hang with the big boys! But just below the surface, this”contest” seems to be the breeding grounds for the biggest logistical nightmare ever thought up by Wizards’ marketing.
Before I wrote this article, I asked several Magic Online Adepts if there were any other rules and/or stipulations regarding this qualifier. As of yet, none have been posted to the public. What you see so far is what you get, and here are a few scenarios about just how bad this whole qualifier could turn out.
NOTE: In the following scenarios, I’m going to use completely theoretical situations to illustrate my points. While I’ll be using the names of pros in certain instances, it’s only to drive home a message, and not to insinuate in any way, shape or form I think badly of these people. They are just examples to which many people could relate.
Scenario #1) The Banned Player qualifies.
Since Magic Online could not offer sanctioned play (given that proving who was playing the game versus their given DCI number would be impossible), it would stand to reason that players presently banned by the DCI could play in the Magic Online Worlds qualifier. Imagine for a minute that Nick Eisel won this event. Then what? Would the prize slip down to second place? Would he be compensated monetarily for the value of his winnings but not be allowed to compete at Worlds? Could the DCI effectively bar banned players from playing in this event? What if Nick played under an assumed name to win, just to prove that he could win, and then revealed his true identity after winning the finals?
Scenario #2) The Half-Banned Player qualifies.
The Magic Online qualifiers take place on April 25th, 26th and 27th. David Jafari, banned for bribery for a year, will be unbanned by the DCI on May 22nd. World championships take place sometime in August. If David Jafari won the Online Worlds Qualifier, would he be allowed to participate in Worlds? At the time of winning the qualifier, he was banned, but at the time of the event in question, he would not be.
Scenario #3) The Hire
Joe Schmoe decides that he really, really wants to play at Worlds, but really doesn’t have the talent to get there on his own. He contacts Jon Finkel, and offers Jon $1,000 to come play under his name for the weekend, with a $9,000 bonus should Jon qualify Joe. Would Wizards have any way to detect this duplicity? Not unless they put active homing devices on every pro in the world, and closely monitored their location during this event. There would be nothing to keep people from hiring Pro to play under their name – or for Pros to play under a friend’s name to help their friend qualify.
Scenario #4) The Prize Money
Gary Wise decides that yes, it would be nice to have free airfare, room and board to Berlin for a week. Even though he’s already qualified for the event, the prize involved with this online contest would clock in at the upwards of $1,000 in travel savings. Gary Wise then proceeds to win the event. Or would already qualified players be barred from the event? Is there any way to tell, this early in the season, which players are qualified for Worlds? Would the qualification pass down but not the prize money?
Scenario #5) The Committee
Your Move Games has a pretty tight-knit play group. The core members (Rob, Darwin, Dave, Alex and Zvi) most likely are all qualified for Worlds already. Let’s assume for a moment that poor, likeable Danny Mandel is not. Why shouldn’t they all get together the day of the qualifier and play by committee, to try to get Danny into Worlds this year? (Technically speaking, Danny’s quit Magic – The Ferrett)
While it might not seem fair to have Joe Schmoe playing against six of the best Magic players in the world at once (even if he’s hired Jon Finkel to at least make it two-on-one), would there literally be anything Wizards could do to stop this?
Scenario #6) The Mega-Committee
Alex Shvartsman, proprietor of King’s Games in Brooklyn, loves renting out the computers in his shop so people can play Magic Online by the draft/hour. On the days of the qualifier, he hires several New York area pros to stick around his shop, and offers them as”advice givers” for people who really want to qualify through the Magic Online Worlds event. Wow, suddenly a dozen players are getting tips on how to play games from a half-dozen very knowledgeable pros.
Do you think this is what Wizards had in mind when they decided to pitch a Magic Online qualifier that, at least in spirit, seems to be pitched at getting the”everyman” to Worlds?
Scenario #7) The Two-Headed Giant
Kai Budde has decided that while he’s won everything else in the world, he’s never won a Magic Online Worlds qualifier before. He just can’t decide whether to play Psychatog or R/G beats. Since he’s quick on the draw, he decides to set up two separate accounts on two separate computers, and play simultaneously. Suddenly, he makes the cut to Sunday and ends up playing himself in the finals. Good thing he could run interference for himself all day long!
I’m sure Wizards of the Coast will put some fine print on this event in the coming weeks, but they literally cannot monitor people playing under assumed names, playing by committee, or playing under multiple accounts (since the player in question could just set up a fake name on one account, and run interference for their real account all day long).
Can this qualifier end up being anything less than a disaster? Maybe by some machinations of God, a true amateur/non-serious pro player will end up winning this event, but let’s be serious: The people who are most likely to do well are those who have the desire to win, the ability to win, and the means to win. Could you fault Your Move Games if they wanted to try to qualify a teammate, given that there literally could not be an enforceable rule about one person to one computer?
Maybe I’m missing something here, but as far as I can see it, this entire promotion can only lead down the path known as”bad public relations.”
Coming Next Week: 18,000 Words: Everything you wanted to know about Onslaught Block Constructed, Period.