World Magic Cup Qualifiers: A First Look At The Data

The first round of World Magic Cup Qualifiers took place this past weekend, and professed lover of crunching numbers John Dale Beety has analyzed all the available data for you! Find out more about World Magic Cup Qualifiers.

The invitation list for the World Magic Cup Qualifiers has been posted on the official Wizards of the Coast site, and it’s a doozy—more than 16,000 players strong, all hoping to hop into one of three slots on the appropriate national team. That list isn’t sortable and so doesn’t lend itself to analysis, but with a little laundering through a couple of programs, I came up with a sortable spreadsheet that allowed me to manipulate data right up to my deadline. It’s my element: I may be an art-and-story geek, but I love crunching numbers and diving into Compulsive Research as well.

Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter (especially the feed of Helene Bergeot, head of Organized Play) and some spreadsheet wizardry, I came up with some intriguing results from the invitation lists and the first round of Qualifiers held this past weekend.

The Invitation List: By The Numbers

Among the numbers, there’s one obvious place to start:

16,515 Players in the List

That’s not the actual number of qualified players, as 44 players from Scotland were omitted by accident when the list was compiled; the 44 Scottish players had at least 50 Planeswalker Points on the season, making them eligible for the qualifiers in Scotland, but not 100 points, where the list cut off. The actual number, barring the almost inevitable single-player point total discrepancies, is 16,559 players spread over 70 countries (shorthand for “countries and separately counted areas such as Hong Kong and Puerto Rico”).

Some fast facts about those players:

Just 92 players qualified exclusively on Pro Level, not meeting the Planeswalker Points threshold. A number of these players are inactive Hall of Fame members, though a number of inactive Level 2 players also are present.

Eligible players with at least 50 Planeswalker Points but fewer than 100 points: 1003. This figure includes 959 in the list plus 44 left off from Scotland. These players would not have been eligible for the World Magic Cup Qualifiers anywhere but in 50-point countries. Out of 70 countries, 42 have a 50-point threshold.

By contrast, 10,383 players had at least 300 points, which would have made them eligible for any participating country. Of those players, 7,805 lived in one of the “Big Seven” countries with a 300-point threshold. Those countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the USA.

70 Countries

The breakdown of eligible players per country is in this spreadsheet. Some fast facts:

Malta was supposed to have a World Magic Cup Qualifier series, but only five players met the 50-point eligibility threshold and the organizer canceled. Granted, Malta is an island of fewer than half a million people out in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, but it’s still disappointing. Luxembourg, a European Grand Duchy of just less than 1000 square miles, will send a delegation of four players out of fourteen individuals eligible—pretty good odds!

Out of 70 countries sending delegations, 26 of them have eligible populations of 100 or fewer players. Hong Kong is the only locale neither in Latin America nor close enough to Europe to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, which covers countries such as Cyprus, Israel, and Turkey. (For those of you who don’t know what the Eurovision Song Contest is and are gullible enough to click on a link after I warn you it’s cheesy, here you go.)

Of the “Big Seven” countries with 300-point thresholds this year, all have at least 300 players eligible for their respective qualifiers. Germany is in last place with 303 eligible players.

China has the largest eligible pool from outside the “Big Seven” countries listed above, with 424 players accumulating 200 or more Planeswalker Points over the season. Had the Planeswalker Points threshold been 300 for China instead, just 126 players would have been eligible for that country’s qualifiers (125 on points, one as a Level 2 pro).

 4,982 Qualifying Players from the USA

That’s more than the next eleven countries put together, including all other 300-point threshold locales. I’ve compiled a state-by-state (plus the District of Columbia and Guam) breakdown of the qualifying USA players in this spreadsheet. Some fast facts:

The state with the most qualified players isn’t California (my first guess) but Texas. With 366 players eligible to play in the World Magic Cup Qualifiers (at a 300-point threshold), if Texas were its own country, it would have the tenth-highest number of eligible players, slipping in just behind Mexico and ahead of England (both of which have 200-point thresholds).

The top five states by number of qualified players in descending order: Texas, Florida, California, New York, and Washington. Washington almost exactly swaps with Illinois in terms of overall population versus qualifying Magic players; Washington is 13th in population, while Illinois is 12th in the number of qualifying players.

Out of 50 states, 45 are out of the “Luxembourg zone” (i.e., more than fourteen eligible players—again, at the 300-point threshold). This includes Alaska at fifteen players eligible. New Hampshire and South Dakota tie Luxembourg at fourteen eligible players, while Hawaii (thirteen), Vermont (eleven), and Delaware (seven) fall short.

One player from Guam is eligible for the World Magic Cup Qualifiers in the USA. Neil Pendon, a Level 1 judge, won’t be able to play in the Maryland qualifier because he’s scheduled to judge Grand Prix Manila that weekend. The trip from Guam to Manila is about 1,600 miles. From Guam to Oakland, California is over 5,800 miles as the crow flies, and with the almost inevitable flight up to Tokyo first for a trans-Pacific flight to Los Angeles, there’s even more distance to consider. I don’t know if Mr. Pendon would be interested in playing in a World Magic Cup Qualifier, but if Organized Play wanted to do something splashy, figuring out how to get him from Guam to California and back would be pretty awesome in my book.

The First Weekend Of Qualifiers: By The Numbers

Considering there are 3 WMCQs per country, we cannot really draw conclusions re: overall acceptance rate after only 1 event.” —Helene Bergeot

This is true enough, but already it’s fascinating to see certain trends emerge in attendance. While Ms. Bergeot’s Twitter feed mostly reported raw attendance figures, when combined with the spreadsheet data those figures become far more interesting:

Austria: 95 players (of 133 eligible)
Brazil: 93 players (of 381 eligible)
Dominican Republic: 35 players (of 80 eligible)
England: 120 players (of 354 eligible)
Ireland: 43 players (of 50 eligible)
Lithuania: 21 players (of 43 eligible)
Luxembourg: 10 players (of 14 eligible)
Netherlands: 110 players (of 204 eligible)
Northern Ireland: 38 players (of 51 eligible)
Philippines: 198 players (of 290 eligible)
Poland: 118 players (of 191 eligible)
Russia: 94 players (of 256 eligible)
Scotland: 49 players (of 105 eligible)
Spain: 84 players (of 351 eligible)
Sweden: 51 players (of 126 eligible)
Wales: 26 players (of 60 eligible)

The only patterns that emerge (aside from Ms. Bergeot’s comment that the attendance in several places was hovering close to PTQ attendance) are themes of compact versus spread-out nations, as well as a handful of anomalies that may be explained partly by outside events. StarCityGames.com own Dan Barrett noted that an important steeplechase horse race, the Grand National, was going on in Liverpool on the same weekend, which may have drained away attendance through Scotland, England, and Wales. Spain was less than three weeks removed from a general strike.

Larger nations (geographically) had lower participation percentages than smaller ones. Russia’s World Magic Cup Qualifier was held in Nizhniy Novgorod, several hours away from the largest cities of western Russia, and according to Valeriy Shunkov, not many Moscow residents made the trip. A similar dynamic may have been at play in Brazil.

By contrast, in many smaller countries well over half of the eligible players showed up for their respective qualifiers. The data of Austria, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, and Poland fit here. All are relatively compact and had qualifiers close enough to the Magic-playing population centers that relative attendance was high.

This was only one weekend, and countries went both above and below expectations according to Ms. Bergeot. What, if anything, can be drawn from the weekend’s play and applied to the future? In the short term, there are a few telling implications for the USA qualifiers in June, namely that attendance at the qualifiers will have proportions far more like Spain than Poland. I fully expect that on a percentage basis, the USA will have the lowest numbers even as it sets records for sheer attendance.

The state-by-state breakdown for the USA also shows how difficult it is to pick any set of three cities that will allow all Magic-playing population centers fair access to at least one qualifier location. Texas in particular is in a bad spot this year, with Houston, the fourth-largest city in the USA, more than 800 miles away from the closest qualifier in St. Charles (read: St. Louis), Missouri. What would be a better set of cities, though? Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Portland (Oregon)? Even that leaves, for example, North Dakota players at a huge disadvantage, to say nothing of Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.

Last year was a learning experience for Organized Play, and this year is and will be, too. I have every confidence that Organized Play will learn from the data they collect and improve on the program for 2013. In the meantime, though, we can collect our own data, anecdotal and otherwise, and express our thoughts. Wizards is happy to listen, but it’s up to us to speak.

Here’s my concluding thought: one size never fits all. The World Magic Cup in 2013 needs to take into account countries’ diverse geography and demographics when deciding how those nations will pick their respective teams. Wizards has found what works for the big countries (pre-2012), and I think they’ve found what works for the small ones this year. Now I hope they find a way to combine the strengths of both.

 As always, thanks for reading.

 — JDB

@jdbeety on Twitter