On Team Events and Skipping Tournaments

by Simon Nielsen on 17 April 2018, Tuesday

Simon Nielsen


On Team Events and Skipping Tournaments


We’re just in last days before Dominaria is entirely spoiled, so I’m going to hold off on my sweet brews until next week. But as somebody whose personal Signature Spellbook would be eight variants of Elvish Mystic, we all know which card I’m the most hyped about.


Instead, I will talk about a subject that I’ve been thinking about for the past month or so. Something that seemed weird to me.


See, last year I went on a degenerate hail mary trip across the Atlantic to play in GP San Antonio and GP Mexico City with my buddies from Switzerland for money I didn’t have. I did this BECAUSE it was two Team Grand Prix and I wanted to play in these rare and sweet events with my friends.


But this season, I’ve decided to skip both GP Amsterdam (which occurred a few weeks ago) as well as GP Toronto (which I could’ve gone to before GP Washington DC and the Pro Tour in Richmond). I did this BECAUSE they were team events.


How does this make sense? Why would I go out of my way to travel to team Grand Prix one year and then skip two convenient ones the next year? (especially with my lifestyle where it’s very important to play all convenient Grand Prixs).



The Value of Skipping

It’s widely known that the best way to achieve tournament success is to take as many tries as possible. This is especially true for someone like me where every opportunity for Pro Points is precious, so I really should attend every Grand Prix I can.

The problem is that there are multiple costs associated with attending so many Grand Prix. First of all is the monetary one. The EV (Expected Value) of going to a nearby Grand Prix for a Gold Pro is almost positive because Pro Points are worth so much. Also, you hit Top 64 a reasonable amount as well as the occasional Top 8. It’s still not quite a profitable, and traveling multiple times per month can leave severe dents on both your wallet and your general enjoyment of the game.

I believe that, at least for me, my enjoyment of the game is directly tied to my performance. For this reason, allowing yourself the occasional skip to save some money as well as just recharging with focus on your other interests, has quite a bit of value.

This means that any GP that isn’t quite as convenient could be reasonable to skip. As long as you skip only some of them and not half the GPs, you should still be in a healthy position to succeed, if not an even better position due to a lower chance of burn-out.



Diminishing Returns on Team Grand Prix

These six months leading up to Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, Wizards have been adding a ton of team Grand Prix. Usually, these were great events, which you’d always make sure to play. But it seems like there can be such a thing as too many team events.

The thing about team events is that they’re not without cost. Finding suitable team members takes some work, everything has to fit together, and you usually have to plan way so that the good players don’t get taken.

And if you don’t manage to find peers to work with and decide to enjoy the tournament with your less experienced/accomplished friends, well then you cost yourself quite a bit of EV compared to playing a regular Grand Prix.

Add into this that I’d go from 3 byes to 0 and that it’s harder to acquire Pro Points at Team Grand Prix (in Madrid we cashed but didn’t get any Pro Points), and it turns out that a Team GP is often significantly worse EV than a regular Grand Prix.


To make up for this though, Team GPs are fun. They are usually delightful events where you get to share the wins with your friends and go through a tournament together. I love team events!

But they lose some of their charms when they are no longer a rare occasion, but something you have to participate in and plan around every month. And unless you have a team that you always play with (which is what you should do, by the way, this also helps you know each other well enough to know when and how to help during games), the constant search for teammates is tiring.


Because there are so many Team GPs currently, they’ve lost a lot of their value to me and when I have to consider that the EV merely is worse, it gets harder for me to justify spending the money to go to every single Team GP.

For what it’s worth when you consider that a bunch of Team GPs in this half of the season make it slightly harder to accumulate Pro Points and that the points from the first half of the season count for less because of the rotational system, it’s a tough year to be a Magic pro.

Not that there is much to complain about, as I’m living a lifestyle that most people envy, doing what I love for a living. But I don’t think Wizards of the Coast had considered the invisible impacts their recent premier play choices have had on the pro community.



Closing Thoughts

I hope that Wizards will realize that Team GP attendance has been dwindling and reduce the numbers so that they’ll once again feel like these unique and rare events. Honestly, each region doesn’t need more than 2-3 team GPs per season. Otherwise, I seriously need to get myself that locked-in team for every GP.


I hope you will also use these thoughts to consider when you want to give yourself that ever so important weekend off now and then. And remember that while Team Grand Prix might have worse EV, they’re often still fun enough to warrant spending that extra money. It’s similar to enjoying a weekend at an amusement park or going on a day trip with some good friends, after all.


I’ll leave you with a fun standard decklist that I’ve so far gone 4-0 within 2-man queues on Magic Online while procrastinating this article. I don’t know if it’s good, as it has yet to be put to the stress test, but it had impressed me more than I thought it would when I decided to put Sky Skiff into a Standard deck. Enjoy!


Cranes on Thrones (Standard (RIX) - Others)

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Sky Skiff Throne of the God-Pharaoh Glint-Nest Crane

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