Planeswalking In Atlanta

Glenn Jones discusses the major changes to the Open Series and how the new Planeswalker Points system affects the Opens. Come to Atlanta this weekend and check out all the action.

Well, this has been quite a week, hasn’t it?

The StarCityGames.com Atlanta Open Weekend is here, but the last Standard and Legacy Opens before Innistrad enters the format in Indianapolis is hardly the only thing on players’ minds today. Even the dazzling action at Pro Tour Philadelphia for the first major Modern tournament last weekend has taken a backseat to some pretty sweeping changes among Magic’s tournament structure that were effected this week.

The primary point of discussion has been the debut of Planeswalker Points. I’m not going to use this article to discuss in depth the efficacy of this rating system according to my own personal opinion, although I’ll certainly be doing that on my blog at some point. For now, let’s just look at what Planeswalker Points mean in relation to you and the StarCityGames.com Open Series.

Evan Erwin pointed out how successful our Open Series grinders appeared to be in this new system, and I expect you’ll see these kids lighting up the Pro Tour on the back of their 2011 performances on our circuit. Planeswalker Points promote playing and succeeding in as many tournaments as you can—the tougher, the better, and Opens are pretty tough. Our tournaments will enjoy a 3x multiplier under this new system, which many have pointed out is the same as your local Friday Night Magic event. While that’s true, StarCityGames.com Opens have been and will remain one of the best sources of Planeswalker Points on the planet; let’s take a look at why.

That 3x modifier means a win in the Standard Open is equal to a win in your local FNM, but what many haven’t fully realized are the effects that tournament size and participation points have within this new system. While a single match win is worth 9 points at both levels, a larger tournament means more matches, which in turn means more opportunities to accrue points over the course of the event. With the average Standard Open lasting 9-10 rounds—compared to the 5-7 rounds of an FNM—the gains are obvious. The point benefits of our large-scale tournament structure don’t end there, of course.

The average FNM will be worth 6 or 9 points for participation, including their 3x modifier in the total. A Standard Open, however, will generally be worth 18, and occasionally 21—and that’s just for playing Round 1. Showing up for a Standard Open and losing the first round will earn you just as many points as winning the first round of FNM would, and sometimes even more. Bigger events have always offered more prizes, and now they’ll offer more points as well!

The other tricky thing about Friday Night Magic is clear from the name, as it only happens once a week. Each StarCityGames.com Open Weekend will offer multiple tournaments on a 3x modifier once you factor in the Sunday Legacy Open and our Draft Opens—none of which overlap with Friday night. If you’re in town for an Open Weekend, drop by the local card shop on Friday before hitting us up for all the points you can pillage. It won’t be unusual to see a successful weekend pack on triple-digit points to your score, making it easy to level your way all the way to Archmage while grinding out qualifications for Premier events. Double Top 8 performances on an Open Weekend will make 200-point gains a very real possibility!

Planeswalker Points are definitely a boon to the Open Series—they add a ton of value to playing in these events and have already proven to be a major factor in current rankings. Alongside this major change to the organized play structure for Magic tournaments, it only seemed fitting that StarCityGames.com announce its plans for the 2012 Open Series Player’s Club. Along with his first look at Planeswalker Points, Evan Erwin debuted those changes on Tuesday.

The Player’s Club has been significantly shifted, no doubt about it. The structure we used this year placed a heavy emphasis on grinding tons of events, offering major appearance fee gains to committed players. That meant a lot of money going to a relatively small and talented subset of people. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding such skills—in fact, that’s one thing the Open Series has always strived to do, by providing players with a legitimate tournament series to compete in outside of Wizards’ circuit. Those same players have now been given considerably more options following Wizards of the Coast’s promises to massively enhance their Grand Prix offerings. Our system has always aimed to complement the organized play structure that Wizards implements and avoid competing with it, but the 2011 structure no longer suited that goal. As the 2011 season began to close, the question had to be asked: could that money be better spent?

Appearance fees may have disappeared, but that money certainly has not. We’re investing that dough in new arenas for competition by offering twice as many Invitational tournaments and expanding them to three-day events. It’s no secret that each StarCityGames.com Invitational has offered incredible potential returns for competitors—just one look at the $10,000 checks hoisted by Gerry Thompson and Pat Cox should prove that, with each event offering $50,000 in total prizes. We’ll now be offering one of these events in each quarter, with the first one scheduled for Baltimore, Maryland, on March 23-25.

More Invitationals will mean more Invitational Qualifiers, of course. That program will be in full effect throughout 2012, so urge your local stores to get in contact with us if you’d like additional chances to qualify beyond grinding the Open Series.

It’s not all qualifiers and Invitationals. You’ll notice we’ve already got twelve events lined up for the first three months—you can expect similar schedules to follow as we expand our program to offer even more Open Weekends than ever before! We’ll continue to do our best in coordinating with the Wizards’ Grand Prix structure in the hopes of offering players all over the country an opportunity for competitive play every weekend in 2012.

Beyond those additions to our tournament structure, we’re also very proud to offer a new line of sleeves this year, following the success of our previous foray into this young market. The 2012 sleeves will feature tribal themes and matching deckboxes! Justin Treadway, one of the finest and most original talents in the Magic community, produced some top-notch illustrations that we’ve used for these products, and they’re gorgeous. You can see the products here, and you can hear about how Justin created these works of art on his own site.

It’s only September, and I’m already gearing up for the 2012 season—how silly of me! Let’s talk more about the fine tournament we’re hosting in Atlanta this weekend. The Gwinnet Center at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway will be hosting the Atlanta Open Weekend, with the adjacent Holiday Inn offering room rates at $69/night and free parking to our tournament attendees.

Once again, three alterists’ tables will fill the room. Open Series staple Lindsay Burley continues to expand her offerings in the 3-D cards department. I’ve discussed her original works before, and you can see quite a few of them by browsing the Facebook photo albums from our other Open events this year. If you’re a Commander fanboy in need of a pimped commander, or just a Constructed player who likes having sweet tokens, Lindsay is your girl. Her process can be seen on her YouTube page, while her email ([email protected]) is available for commissions. Order in advance and she’ll be able to arrange a pick-up on-site.

I’m excited to announce that we have a new alterist attending the Atlanta Open: Ron Faris, of Black Wing Studio. Ron’s got a gallery set up on DeviantArt if you’re interested in seeing the style he’s bringing to the table, and you should check out http://blackwingstudio.deviantart.com/ to browse his wares. You can email him at [email protected] if you’re interested in commissioning work over the internet, or you can wait to chat with him on-site.

My personal favorite alterist and Pauper Cube creator will also be in attendance for Atlanta: Mr. Eric Klug! Klug’s precise and elegant alters continue to draw attention wherever they turn up, and his strong lines give all of his work a very distinctive style. Known for popular animated characters and for emulating artistic styles from centuries past, Klug is definitely a master of his craft. You can check out his blog, http://klugalters.blogspot.com, or email him at [email protected] for information on commissions.

I feel like I’m forgetting something…SCGLive, of course! It’s a big weekend for our outfit as Atlanta marks the debut of yet another new commentator. Columnist, Pro Tour champion, and Hall of Famer Brian Kibler will be joining us in the booth for the entire Open Weekend alongside veteran commentator Gavin Verhey. Gavin and Brian are both known for their Constructed prowess, and I’m excited to hear their dual insights over the course of the weekend. You’ll be able to send messages to Gavin and Brian using our @SCGLive Twitter account, and keep in mind the weekend’s hashtag of #SCGATL.

That’s all for now folks—the Atlanta Open looms before me, and there’s still plenty of work to do!

Glenn Jones

Coverage Content Manager