FINAL JUDGEMENT: DCI Tournament Structure

Over the past few months that we’ve been together, we’ve covered a good deal of territory on the rules of the game. We also went into a little bit on how to survive your first DCI tournament ordeal. Now we’ll talk about what’s out there besides your local tournament. DCI Premier Events are where you…

Over the past few months that we’ve been together, we’ve covered a good deal of territory on the rules of the game. We also went into a little bit on how to survive your first DCI tournament ordeal. Now we’ll talk about what’s out there besides your local tournament. DCI Premier Events are where you can play against the best in the world and maybe earn some cash.

It all starts with your DCI membership number. It costs nothing at all. All you have to do is sign up at a DCI-sanctioned tournament. After that, carry that card with you to each tournament. Your DCI membership earns you a DCI rating. Without going into too much detail, it’s just like the Elo rating used for chess. It starts at 1600 and goes up and down with wins and losses. Just how much is determined by the rating of the player you play against. If he’s higher, you win more points when you win and lose less when you lose. If he’s lower, the converse is true. The K-value of the tournament determines just how many points that is: The higher the value, the more points are at stake. Your DCI rating may get you into some tournaments or earn some prizes, but you’ll have to win quite a few matches before that happens.

So what are the types of Premier events you might attend? That all depends on how far you’re willing to travel. In your local area, you’re most likely to attend Prereleases and Pro Tour Qualifiers. If you live in or near a larger metropolitan area, you might see a Grand Prix or even a Pro Tour. For the rest, you’ll have to be invited (we’ll talk below about how) and travel quite a way.

The PRERELEASE is a tournament held about two weeks before a new expansion becomes commercially available. The Prerelease is intended to be a fun yet competitive tournament, where players get to see the cards from the new expansion. They tend to be the largest local tournaments, because they draw both the highly competitive and the casual player. For attending a Prerelease, you’ll get a special foil card available only at the tournament (though I suppose a few might make it to eBay). Prereleases are Swiss-style tournaments, with the number of rounds determined by the number of players. Recently, the DCI has instituted the "Flight" program, where the organizer can basically run several mini-tournaments instead of one large one. Once enough players for a flight arrive, they can begin playing. Players who arrive later can play in a different flight. This spreads the prizes around and keeps the waiting to a minimum. The format is always Sealed Deck using the new cards. Prereleases, run at Rules Enforcement Level (REL) 2, are open to all players. The K-value is always 16.

PRO TOUR QUALIFIERS offer invitations to the Pro Tour for top-finishing competitors. They’re open to all players who do not already have an invitation. This means you won’t run into the Pro Tour regulars when you’re trying to qualify. Much was made over the "exclude the already-qualified from PTQs" rule, because they might be the only highly competitive tournaments in a local area, and the only opportunity a particular player has to "warm up" before heading to the Tour. The intention of the tournament, however, is to qualify players for the Pro Tour, not to provide the pros with sparring partners. PTQs always feature several rounds of Swiss, cutting to a single-elimination Top 8. In the US, the winner(s) of a PTQ gets $250 in travel money for domestic events and $500 for overseas events. PTQs are run at REL 3 and have a K-value of 32. The format is dependent upon the Pro Tour event which the Qualifier feeds.

GRAND PRIX Tournaments are large-scale international qualifier tournaments, featuring cash prizes and multiple Pro Tour invitations. Players with high DCI Ratings in the format of the Grand Prix can earn multiple byes for the event. Additionally, there are special prizes for players whose DCI Ratings in the format of the tournament are below 1700, encouraging newer players to come and compete. GP’s are two-day events, with the Top 64 from the first day advancing to the second. For those that don’t make the second day, there are multitudes of Side Events to be found. Side Events are 8-player single-elimination tournaments in various formats, with a wide variety of product. Grand Prix are always run at REL 4, and the K-value is 40.

The GRAND PRIX TRIAL is a recent concept. About half the Trial tournaments are held within the same region as the GP; the other half are spread out across the country. The GPT offers winners byes to upcoming GP events. The format is dependent upon the Grand Prix that it feeds. They run with K-value 32 and REL 3.

The PRO TOUR circuit consists of six annual events held around the world. Showcasing the best players in the game, each stop offers a prize purse of $200,000. Competitors earn invitations by winning PTQs, earning slots at GPs, having high DCI Ratings or a number of Pro Tour points. The Pro Tour, however, is more than just the Main Event. It’s a huge Magic festival. There is always a PTQ and 24-hour Side Events (the overnight shift is run by WotC’s own Skaff Elias). Added to this are special Scheduled Events, such as Sealed Deck tournaments run with foreign product (Asian is always popular in the west). Several noted Magic artists are on hand for card signing, and the WotC staff (which includes Richard Garfield), are usually available for gunslinging. If a Pro Tour comes anywhere near you, I suggest attending. It’s a wearying but worthwhile weekend. PTs are run at REL 5 and have a K-value of 48. Upcoming Pro Tours are Chicago in the first week of December and Los Angeles in the first week of February.

The MASTERS tournament series is composed of four tournaments each season that highlight the most accomplished players in the world. Three of these events invite 32 players, and the fourth invites eight three-player teams. Every participant in a Masters event wins money, and the competitors battle for a total prize purse of $150,000. Each Masters tournament is held in conjunction with a Pro Tour stop. Competitors earn invitations to a Masters tournament by placing highly in a Masters Qualifier tournament held the day before the appropriate Masters event, or by being rated highly in either DCI ratings points or pro point standings.

The JUNIOR SUPER SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP (JSS) is the culminating event for players 15 and under. It’s held at the end of a Pro Tour season. Players earn invitations by placing first or second in a JSS Challenge, by placing highly in the JSS Open the day before the championship, or being highly rated in their age category. Winners receive scholarships and product prizes. The format for the Open and the Championship is Standard. This event is run at REL 3 with a K-value of 32.

JSS CHALLENGES are feeders for the JSS Championship. A total of 300 Junior Super Series Challenges will be available in the 2000-2001 tournament season, each with a $1,000 scholarship prize, premium card prizes, and "Magic for a Year." These events are open to all players ages 15 and under who do not have any pro points. The first- and second-place finishers of each Challenge earn an invitation to compete in the Junior Super Series Championship. The format for all JSS Challenges is Standard. At this time, JSS Challenges are available only in North America. The DCI Judge Coordinator, James Lee, enjoys running these events at Pro Tour stops. REL is 1 and K-value is 16.

STATE AND PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS are available in selected countries. These non-feeder tournaments are for bragging rights in the State or Province and some nice prizes. They’re open to people who reside in the appropriate State/Province (as opposed to residents, which is a legal term; I live in Alaska, but I’m not a resident – else I’d get that friggin’ PFD*). The format is Standard. The REL is 2 and the K-value 24. I’ll note that Alaska’s State Championships are Saturday, November 4th, and Invasion will be legal (Urza’s Block will rotate out). If you want to attend, email me at [email protected].

FRIDAY NIGHT MAGIC is available only through official Wizards of the Coast Premier stores. It’s the most casual level of play. Each week, prizes are distributed to the winner, the most sporting player, and a random participant. We have a Premier stop right here in Palmer, Alaska, called "Adventure Stores," run by the Carringtons. They have a Yahoo club web page for the shop at http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/adventurestores. I highly encourage everyone to stop by their local Premier store and get involved with the locals.

The remainder of the Premier Events lead up to the World Championships. There are Regional Championships, National Championships and Continental Championships, which eventually feed the Worlds.

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS provide an opportunity for players to earn invitations to their country’s Nationals. The format for Regionals is Standard. Any citizen or permanent resident of a country is eligible to compete in any Regional Championship held in that country. Regionals have a K-value of 32 and are run at REL 3.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. There are two types of National Championships: open and closed. Any citizen or permanent resident of a country is eligible to compete in open Nationals, whereas closed Nationals are invitation-only events. Competitors earn invitations to closed Nationals by placing highly in an appropriate Regional Championship, or by being rated highly in either DCI ratings or pro point standings. In the US, players can also earn invitations to Nationals by playing in the famed "Meat Grinder," an all-night event ending just before the Nationals begins. Four players from each Nation are invited to the Worlds to compete in both the Individual and Team Championships. Like the Pro Tour, Nationals are huge Magic parties, with a host of events other than the Main Event. Closed Nationals are run at 40K, REL 4; Open Nationals 32K, REL 3.

In Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America, CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIPS are multiple-day tournaments that are open only to citizens and permanent residents of the appropriate region. Competitors earn invitations to Continental Championships by placing highly in their National Championships, or by being rated highly in either DCI ratings or pro point standings. The winner of a Continental Championship is invited to the Worlds if he or she is not already qualified. This slot doesn’t pass down. Continentals are run at 40 K, REL 4 and are required to have a Level 4 Judge.

The World Championships are the culminating event of professional Magic play for the season, and the biggest Magic extravaganza you could imagine. The 2001 World Championships will be held in August in Toronto, Canada. Competitors earn invitations by placing high enough in their respective National and Continental Championships, or by being rated highly in either DCI Ratings or pro point standings. This year’s World Championships will use the following formats: Rochester Draft, Extended, and Standard. I had the pleasure of Judging at this year’s Worlds in Bruxelles, Belgium (did you see me on ESPN2?) It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m sure hoping they’ll invite me to Toronto (Jeff Donais, are you listening?). REL is the highest possible at 5, and the K-value is a lofty 48.

As you can see, Wizards of the Coast has put a great deal of effort into the Premier Event scheme. There are big wads of cash and fat loads of other prizes available to you, not to mention the challenge of playing against the best players in your local area, regional, country, continent or the world. There are no more excuses – get out and play!

And that’s my Final Judgement.

Sheldon K. Menery

* – Sorry, I channeled Rizzo for a second. The PFD is the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, paid to residents. This year it was just under $2,000 per person. (I didn’t get it either, since I’ve only lived here ten months. Gah. – The Ferrett)