That is one helluva number!
If you weren’t one of those 2,693, I sincerely feel sorry for you because you missed out on an amazing weekend.
Normally, I let my performance dictate how good or bad my weekend was, but going 5-0 0-3 in the main event couldn’t bring my spirits down.
Because I saw what the future of Magic tournaments is going to look like.
And the future?
The future looks good!
As you’re probably aware, I do a lot of different things with Magic. I play at a competitive level, commentate twice a month for SCGLive, write an article twice a month for this here website, stream three times a week, and do a podcast every Monday.
There are times when I wonder if all the work that I’m doing is actually worth it. Is anyone taking notice? Does anyone really care?
After this weekend, I know the answer is a resounding yes.
If you follow the work that I do, you know that I am hypercritical of things. The reason that I am hypercritical is because Magic is the best game in the world and I believe it should be treated as such. And today, unsurprisingly, I’m going to be hypercritical again.
Today I’m going to point out the good and the bad of Grand Prix Charlotte.
I will be doing that not as a commentator who works for SCGLive.
Not as someone who writes for this website.
But as a player who was in attendance just like 2,692 others.
The reason that I didn’t do coverage for Grand Prix Charlotte was because I had a feeling I wouldn’t want to be behind a curtain all weekend and that this Grand Prix would be one of the most memorable I’d ever attended.
I wanted to take it all in.
And take it in I did!
This article is going to be about what good came of the Grand Prix, what things should be changed moving forward, and what to expect from large tournaments in the future.
1.) It starts at the top.
At the SCG Invitational in Los Angeles in December of last year, I had the pleasure of unveiling the promotional video done by Evan Erwin and Jared Sylva about Grand Prix Charlotte. I remember the exact conversation I had with my show directors about the contents of the video and the immediate reaction once the conversation was over:
"Can I book my flight right now?"
I’ve been playing competitive Magic for a decade. And within that decade, I have never seen a Grand Prix taken to this level:
But none of what they’re doing matters if people don’t know about it.
Advertising is a funny thing. As someone who very successfully sold it for a little under a year, I know firsthand that it’s incredibly annoying for both sides but works wonders when done correctly. From December until February, StarCityGames.com would not shut up about Grand Prix Charlotte:
– It was the first thing you saw when you went to their website.
– They had their own Facebook event page.
– They gave away free Premium on Twitter to promote the event.
– They ran promotional videos about it on SCGLive during all Open Series events.
– It was mentioned in their newsletters about a thousand times, among other places.
– They even erected their own website dedicated to the damn thing!
Was it annoying to be constantly reminded that this event was coming up?
Should it surprise you that with that amount of advertising that we had the largest GP ever?
I’m not saying that every tournament organizer moving forward should do what StarCityGames.com did to promote this Grand Prix, but if they want to have these kind of numbers at their GP—and I can’t imagine they wouldn’t—they need to consider doing something similar in the future.
2.) Preregistration moving forward.
If you have ever been to any Magic tournament ever, you’re familiar with the registration process:
– Fill out some paperwork.
– Stand in a gigantic line.
– Wait forever in said line.
– Make it to the front of the line.
– Realize you don’t have cash.*
– Consider committing suicide.*
– Decide that you would rather play in the tournament.*
– Find the nearest ATM.*
– Realize that the ATM has never been and will never be the bank that you do business with.*
– Pay the ATM fee in disgust.*
– Get back into the gigantic line.
– Finally register for the tournament.
* Maybe these only happen to me.
When I arrived in Charlotte on Friday morning, the first thing I wanted to do was sign up for the Grand Prix since it’s always nice to get that over with right away. Then I took a look at the line to sign up for the Grand Prix and decided that I would rather do literally anything else.
After going to the Charlotte Bobcats game and having dinner with a few friends Friday night, I realized that it was 12:30 AM, I hadn’t registered yet, and that I would have to get up at who knows when to register Saturday morning.
It was then that my friend Nick Becvar told me that I could preregister through the gpcharlotte.com website. I couldn’t imagine that being true, but I gave it a shot anyway.
And in three clicks it was done!
This needs to be a thing for all Grand Prix moving forward. Not only is it insanely convenient for morons like me who are too cool to stand in lines with cash, but it makes it incredibly easy for those who want to pay via credit card, PayPal, or just don’t like carrying cash on them (something I actually hate doing).
I was a little bit skeptical about the ordeal, so when I arrived Saturday morning I asked some of the fine folks at the registration desk if I needed to do anything else upon my preregistration.
The answer was no.
3.) The Sleep-In Special.
I’m only going to touch on this briefly because this is becoming the norm for tournaments now, but any tournament organizer that isn’t offering the Sleep-In Special or cool new ways to obtain it is simply doing it wrong. This is incredibly easy to implement logistically, it makes the players who purchase it incredibly happy, and it makes tournament organizers more money.
Do it. Seriously.
4.) Communication is king.
For those of you who attended Grand Prix Charlotte, there were a lot of announcements that took place leading up to the 11:30 AM start time from Chris Richter and Jason Lems (two unbelievably good head judges by the way). Some may have found announcements like "We are getting more tables and chairs set up" annoying.
I find those to be the exact opposite.
If you’re going to delay a tournament, people want to know why. One can assume that you’re getting more chairs and tables due to attendance, but actually communicating with 2,693 people is a gesture of good faith. It shows that you have the players’ best interest in mind and aren’t afraid to show them that.
Consider the other side. The tournament is delayed for 90 minutes, and there is never an announcement as to why or what they’re doing in the meantime.
How would that make you feel?
They say nothing to you for that 90-minute delay and then fire the tournament like nothing ever happened. Personally, I would be insulted because it shows that they don’t value my time at all, but it can be taken a lot of different ways—all of them negative.
Other examples of fantastic communication over the course of the weekend:
– Because the tournament fired 90 minutes later than it was supposed to, the Sleep-In Special times were completely ruined. That problem was cleared up almost immediately by the staff on hand and was even tweeted for those who were in their room hanging out.
– Once the staff found out the final number of players at the tournament, figuring out how many rounds there were going to be was quite the process. Such a process, in fact, that they had to take multiple hours to decide how to cut the tournament. Instead of leaving us in the dark about that information, we were informed that they had to figure out how they were going to do it and would let us know by the start of round 4.
As a hospitality and event-planning major in college, it is stuff like this that may seem minor to a lot of you but is a huge deal to me. Do not be fooled. Yes, this is a Magic tournament. But in reality, this is a large venue to display how and how not to do customer service.
I paid money to play in a tournament just like 2,692 other players did. That means that StarCityGames.com had 2,693 customers to service. I may write for this website and do coverage for SCGLive a lot, but this weekend I was a customer just like each and every one of you.
Communication is important in a lot of facets of life, and it’s no different in the customer service world. People want to know what’s going on. They do not want to be left in the dark.
And thankfully all 2,693 of us were not.
1.) 10:00 AM start times are archaic.
This is a tournament that proved that better than any tournament ever could. It is my belief that all Grand Prix moving forward need to start at 9:00 AM and possibly earlier. There are multiple reasons for that:
– Starting early means not staying late. One thing about most Grand Prix is that having time to eat dinner is becoming increasingly difficult. The first day of a Grand Prix is often nine rounds, but ten rounds is not uncommon nowadays. Between announcements, turning over rounds, disqualifications, and matches that go to time, players are often looking at a ten to twelve hour Day 1. By starting a tournament at 10:00 AM (and we all know that the tournament doesn’t actually start at 10:00 AM), it isn’t uncommon to be done with your final round of play by 10:00 PM or later.
Sit down restaurants often close at 11:00 PM, and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant (or seen the movie Waiting…), you know that being the group of people who walk into a restaurant 30 minutes before close sucks for both sides.
And if you don’t want to be that group?
Looks like it’s time to try out the local Dominoes/Pizza Hut/Papa Johns of whatever city you’re in.
Did I mention that right after you devour that horrible chain pizza that you have to go straight to sleep so you can wake up in the morning to either play Day 2 or play in whatever awesome side event the tournament organizer has planned?
It’s a lose-lose situation far too often. I would be perfectly fine with starting tournaments at 9:00 AM moving forward and don’t believe that 8:00 AM is out of the question. Trust me when I say that leaving the convention center at 9:00 PM is a helluva lot better than leaving it at 11:00 PM.
– It gives those purchasing the Sleep-In Special some actual value. The Sleep-In Special at Grand Prix Charlotte was both a blessing and a curse. Purchasing it or winning it in a Grand Prix Trial is an awesome way to get some extra sleep before the tournament to ensure that you are well rested and prepared to compete. But when that Sleep-In Special means that you’re going to be asked to arrive at 3:30 PM to build your Sealed deck, what are you even paying for? You weren’t going to sleep that long anyway!
By starting the tournaments earlier, those who opt to purchase the Sleep-In Special are actually getting something with their purchase. Grand Prix Charlotte can be seen as a corner case because the attendance was so high that it delayed things unexpectedly, but as I will talk about shortly, this kind of attendance is not a one-time thing.
2.) Day 1.5.
A lot of people were upset about how the cuts were made for GP Charlotte due to the attendance:
– After round 9, everyone who was 7-2 or better got to come back and play on Sunday morning.
– After round 10, there was another cut. Anyone with three loses got the axe, which basically made the matches between those who had two losses a single elimination match at 8:00 AM.
Obviously, there is a lot wrong with that scenario, but that is the one that was drawn up. The reason that they had to have this single elimination round at 8:00 AM Sunday morning was because Saturday morning got delayed by 90 minutes. As a result, there wasn’t enough time to run round 10 on Saturday like a traditional tournament would have. This of course goes back to starting tournaments earlier, but I digress…
This situation feels like an outlier to me and simply an instance of doing the best given the situation. I 100% do not expect to ever see something like that happen again, but I was perfectly ok with it happening for this tournament due to the obscure circumstances.
StarCityGames.com even did a nice job of making people happy about such a wild thing taking place. For those that got knocked out on "Day 1.5," they received free entry into the Win A Trip To Miami 5K Challenge.
And by 5K Challenge, I mean 10K Challenge. Because there were so many people in attendance for the Grand Prix and because of the crappy situation with "Day 1.5," the 5K Challenge was changed to a 10K Challenge.
3.) The complaining by professional players.
I’ve had just about enough of this. Over the last few weeks, I have seen a lot of complaining by a lot of professional level players saying that Grand Prix are a horrible way to go about accumulating Pro Points but you have to attend them because there isn’t anything else. And to a certain degree, I agree with them.
As someone who was on the Pro Tour train for 1.75 years before willingly taking myself off for personal reasons, I understand what it is like to grind out all of these events. I know what it is to travel all over the world chasing Pro Points to stay on the train. It is a grind both physically and mentally.
But one thing I will not stand by and watch is how some players believe that Grand Prix attendance would decline if they stopped attending tournaments. That is outlandish to me. As someone who wrote a very long-winded piece about the pitfalls of coverage and the need to make stars in this game to help create an emotional investment, I find it incredibly insulting that some players have come forward and basically said, "We won’t attend tournaments anymore if X, Y, and Z don’t change, which will kill your attendance."
This isn’t professional sports. You can’t threaten a lockout to those who run the show because the show will go on with or without you.
Tournament attendance is going to continue to be high. That’s the world that we live in. You can choose to accept it, or you can choose to move on with your life. And while I think that our invite system and Pro Point distribution is far from perfect, threatening to walk away because there are a lot of people at tournaments now so you have to win more rounds than before is completely absurd.
To quote Adam Prosak: "If being a professional Magic player was easy, everyone would do it."
For some people, it is incredibly easy:
a.) Ben Stark, the best Limited player in the entire world, made Top 8 of another Limited Grand Prix.
Everyone knew that "Day 1.5" was a crappy situation from the second it was announced. I’m sure all 2,693 people thought the exact same thing when Chris Richter finished his final sentence:
"I sure hope that isn’t me!"
So being that mad about something that will likely never happen again is simply ridiculous to me. Yes, it sucks. I would have been annoyed by the situation as well if it had happened to me, but consider what it felt like to be on the other side of things.
Grand Prix Moving Forward
As I said earlier, there are some who believe that GP Charlotte was an outlier. That it was a perfect storm of things taking place. It is my belief that that simply isn’t true. I think a lot of work was put in by StarCityGames.com to make this an epic Grand Prix and they succeeded.
So what does this mean moving forward?
Magic is more popular than it has ever been, and it is only going to continue to grow. If you are a tournament organizer and are reading this, please be aware that your preparation for Grand Prix is going to have to be different now. People will travel great lengths to come to your event if you market it accordingly.
A lot of people are excited to see the attendance numbers for GP Pittsburgh in a few weeks. Some say it won’t come close to Charlotte. Others say that it will be right around the same mark. Regardless of the number of people who actually show up, it is imperative that tournament organizers prepare for tournaments of this size moving forward.
Pittsburgh may not be that large, but I can think of a tournament in Las Vegas that will be.
Lastly, for those who don’t like Grand Prix being this large, shame on you for being selfish. I loved every minute of GP Charlotte, and I won eight matches over the course of the weekend.
Be happy about the growth of the game.
Be happy at the prospect of Magic becoming more mainstream.
And be happy that there are so many people in the world that love the same thing that you do.
Have a good week everybody.