WotC announced its long awaited roadmap for competitive play today, and it’s a mix of good and bad IMO. The tabletop part of the announcement looks pretty good. We don’t have exact details, and there could be (and probably will be) some issues with balancing records needed to qualify for future invites, etc, but the path is clear. Do well at a PTQ or GP, put up good (but not lottery-ticket-difficulty) results at the regional PTs, and you get to keep playing. Do better than that and you qualify for the big PT finals. The regional PTs are like a Rivals league for the PT, and it’s a solution that allows more players into that ecosystem (meaning deserving ones are more likely to enter it and rise to the top) while also keeping travel costs more under control. GPs matter again, and officially partnering with major tournament series (SCG, etc) is a no-brainer and better than the informal discretionary awards that WotC sometimes gave out to their high finishers in the past.
When it comes to qualifying for the next season’s Rivals via tabletop, it’s an advantage to start in the Rivals series as opposed to starting from scratch because Rivals players get automatic invites to all the regional PTs even if they bomb out in the season’s first event. A random who bombs in the first event has to requalify from scratch, but given the unlikelihood of being a top-12 player anyway with a disaster finish in one of the season’s three events, it’s not that huge a handicap. The much bigger handicaps are a random having to be qualified for the *first* event in a season to have the best chance of accumulating the requisite point total, as qualifying later than that basically only serves the purpose of trying to do well enough to auto-qualify for the first event of the next season. Rivals members automatically get to play in the last PT of a season to try to auto-qualify for the first event of the next season. I don’t see a trivial fix for that if the seasonal nature of MPL/Rivals is taken as a given, but these are handicaps that clearly can and will be overcome regularly. Plenty of new players will make Rivals via tabletop.
The Arena qualification system has several serious flaws. The first is that the tournaments are much smaller, so a random has to hit a lottery-ticket finish in one of two tournaments with a gigantic field (top-16 out of several thousand) to even qualify for an invitational. Compared to the tabletop system, where over 1000 people enter the ecosystem across bunches of tournaments, it’s absurdly more difficult. Second, even if you qualify and do well- or even win- the corresponding invitational, there’s *absolutely no mechanism* for auto-qualifying to the next invitational other than hoping WotC likes you and gives you a discretionary invite, and we already have precedent for the previous PT champion not getting invited. This is in direct contrast to the tabletop system and doesn’t make any sense to me.
Because of this, starting in Rivals is a GIGANTIC advantage when it comes to qualifying for next season’s Rivals via Arena. Rivals players *automatically* qualify for either 2 or 3 invitationals (depending on unreleased details), but even a random who qualifies and does well in the first event has to requalify from scratch to play another one or rely on WotC’s generosity. Somebody might do that, but there are *twelve* spots up for grabs via Arena, and there’s no way in hell there are going to be 12 multi-time qualifiers across three 2x-16-spot-thousands-of-entrants qualifying events. Rivals players effectively get to play one or two extra point-earning events, which is completely unfair and an advantage that doesn’t exist in tabletop.
That’s not even touching on the discretionary invite system. I’m not going to bother talking about the 6 discretionary invites to the Rivals series, because I don’t have anything new to add to that conversation, but having extra discretionary invites to the invitationals on top of that is exactly the same problem as in the previous paragraph. A discretionary invite to a regional PT isn’t that big a deal. Every random with a shot at top-12 is already playing in it. A discretionary invite to an invitational is literally an extra point-earning event that some other people in contention don’t get to play in.. which is the kind of thing WotC just got roasted for, giving LSV a discretionary invite and an extra point-earning event in the race for Worlds. This level of thumb on the scale is a *really* bad look for the supposedly merit/performance-based slots.
In conclusion, there needs to be a merit-based way for randoms who qualify for an invitational via Arena to stay qualified for the next invitational, and it has to be realistic, not “win” or “make top 4” or something crazy. Discretionary invites to invitationals either need to go away completely or to award no points to the Rivals race (or towards Worlds, etc).