MPL/Rivals qualification via Arena is rigged super-hard against outsiders compared to qualification via tabletop

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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.

Tabletop

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.

Arena

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).


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Be very, very skeptical of Judge Academy

For the non-Magic: the Gathering audience, some tournament judges filed a lawsuit alleging that they should have been classified as employees.  IANAL, and a lot of the issues are beyond the scope of what a non-expert can discuss at all with any confidence, but one aspect- that for-profit companies cannot accept volunteer labor- is one, that by a plain English reading (again, IANAL) they clearly violated thousands of times in the past, including with me personally.  Of course, I was “volunteering” with the implicit understanding that I was going to get “gifted” promotional cards and game product worth well into the hundreds of dollars afterwards, and I did.

That’s shady enough domestically with US citizens, but when US citizens went abroad to “work as a volunteer”, and WotC brought foreigners to the US to “work as volunteers”, they were almost certainly running afoul of various labor laws, and on at least one occasion, a judge made the mistake of saying “work” at the border and despite further explanation still wasn’t allowed in the country.  So when there’s talk about WotC playing fast and loose with legal obligations around labor.. it’s because they clearly did.  And still might, I don’t know.

To avoid these headaches, WotC (purportedly) ditched its judge program and there is a new organization to replace it, Judge Academy.  JA held an AMA on Reddit and while it isn’t worth reading the whole thing, they were incredibly evasive on a large number of questions, said they couldn’t disclose financials (for no actual legal reason), and their responses included some gems like (in response to why they aren’t a non-profit), “We also felt it was import not to compete with organizations like the Red Cross for the charitable support being given by these companies.”  Really.  That happened.  So the whole thing looks.. uh.. shady AF.

Looking into the incentives of all those involved and the methods of leverage that can be exercised makes it look even worse than just a shady money grab. Going down the line of what each party wants:

WotC: be free from the legal headache, still effectively control the judge program, spend as little money as possible

Major tournament organizers: still have a competent potential staff pool without spending any new money to train it, keep judges from organizing to ask for more money

High-level judges: still have paying jobs, improve the pay-to-mentoring/training ratio, not have to spend infinite time on the logistics of certification

Now, JA provides certification testing and foils for $100.  Without the foils, effectively nobody- and certainly not enough people to bother running a business with staff- would pay $100 to certify.  Major tournament organizers would have to pick up the slack and do it at no cost to the trainees.  So JA’s business is *entirely* dependent on WotC providing foils that can be resold for over $100 on the secondary market, and they have *zero* recourse if WotC decides they don’t want to do that anymore, either by stopping the foil supply altogether or intentionally sending them garbage to distribute.  If WotC does, JA disappears instantly, and both sides are well aware of that.  There’s also no chance (for various reasons outside the scope of this post) that JA actually has a contract stipulating a minimum resale value of foils.

So JA *cannot cause trouble for WotC* or WotC just kills it.  JA *cannot disobey WotC* or WotC just kills it.  Despite being legally separate entities, JA is 100% WotC’s butt muppet.  JA has less wiggle room than if they were actually all WotC employees because at least then they’d have some workplace protections, which is kind of ironic given the whole context.

Big TOs will be happy with this for several reasons. The first is that they don’t have to put more of their own resources into maintaining a qualified staff pool around their regions. The second is that because JA is essentially existentially forbidden from causing any trouble, it’s not going to agitate for better working conditions/compensation, and any energy directed at lobbying JA, or any misunderstanding that JA might ever do that is less energy directed at anything that could affect TO bottom line.

There’s not going to be any elected representation for obvious reasons. JA cant cause trouble, so they’re going to vet staff carefully and only work with people who “get it”. And by “get it”, I mean understand that JA is not an organization for judges, it’s an organization that exists to be WotC’s butt muppet, keep big TOs staffed and happy, and get Tim and some high-level judges paid.

There’s no financial transparency- and some combination of incompetence/misrepresentations/blatant lies whenever financials are discussed- because the whole arrangement is shady AF on every level. There’s no way they’re going to go from “shady and opaque” to providing a line by line accounting of their revenue and expenditures that shows everybody exactly how messed up the whole situation is. If JA were an organization for judges, they’d be happy to prove it with financials- and if they were legally registered as one of several types of organizations for judges, they would HAVE TO prove it with financials- but again, they’re not an organization for judges and they’re simply choosing not to be transparent.

When an organization is de facto funded by somebody else (by foils laundered to cash through subscriptions), is incentivized to act in somebody else’s interests, has denied to enter into any obligation to act in your interests, has refused to allow you any ability to determine that it is acting in your interests, and has dodged/obfuscated/misrepresented/outright lied to you repeatedly when these issues are raised, you have to be an absolute fool to trust that it really is going to act in your interests and not somebody else’s.

 


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Mythic Championship III Day 1-Blatant viewer manipulation and group breakdowns

First off, the level of view-count fraud was absolutely out of control today. The bullshit today (ht: darrenoc on reddit) isn’t particularly different than the bullshit they pulled with the Mythic Invitational, but the actual viewership today was anemic to begin with.  From the time I first checked, around the start of round 2, until the end of round 8, the number of people in chat (chat being sub-only is ~irrelevant to this) was between 9,000 and 11,500.  Since 70-75% of viewers in most large channels are logged in to chat, that’s a real viewership of 12k-16k. Going slightly above that isn’t impossible, but not by too much.

The nominal viewership I saw got as high as 65k, which means that literally 75-80%, or very close, of the reported viewer count was completely fake.  Once WotC stopped paying for new fake views, and the numbers started decaying as the day wound down, total views dropped from the 60-thousands to the 20-thousands while the actual people logged into chat- representative of real viewers- stayed in the same 9k-11.5k range.  It’s utterly and blatantly fraudulent. There’s a long section about WotC’s viewer fraud in this Kotaku article (open it and ctrl-f magic), and if it’s correct, WotC is spending *hundreds of thousands of dollars per event* for the sole purpose of creating transparently fraudulent viewer numbers.

That’s utterly disgusting.


On to the actual day 1 results.. I’m sure there will be several metagame breakdowns posted elsewhere, so I’m not bothering with that, especially since I had to go derive and input round 7 and 8 results by hand because the official page had this……………..

lolround7

and round 8 results still aren’t up, but I was mainly curious how the different kinds of players did.

I classified the players into 4 groups:  MPL members, pros/ex-pros, challengers, and invited personalities from the extra 16 invites (lists at the bottom of the post).  The only questionable classification was former PT champion Simon Görtzen, who does commentary now instead of playing.  I put him with the pros/ex-pros based on his pro history and that he wasn’t one of the extra invites.  These are the performances of each group vs. each other group.

left vs. top MPL Pro/ex-pro Challenger Personality
MPL 42-42 19-22 27-18 18-12
 Pro/ex-pro 22-19 11-11 7-6 6-3
Challenger 18-27 6-7 8-8 5-5
Personality 12-18 3-6 5-5 9-9

.

Combining the group performances and looking at day 2 conversion rates (not counting the 4 MPL players with byes into day 2) gives

vs. out of group out of group win% day 2 day 2 advance
MPL 64-52 55.2% 6/28 21.4%
Pro/ex-pro 35-28 55.6% 5/13 38.5%
Challenger 29-39 42.6% 1/13 7.7%
Personality 20-29 40.8% 0/10 0%

Looks like the pros crushed it, taking it to the MPL 22-19 while the MPL went 45-30 against the challengers and personalities.  There’s a marked difference between those who are/have been at the top of the game and those who’ve never come close.

 

————————————————————————————————————

Player lists (Bold = day 2)

MPL:

Alexander Hayne
Andrea Mengucci
Andrew Cuneo
Autumn Burchett
Ben Stark
Carlos Romao
Christian Hauck
Eric Froehlich
Grzegorz Kowalski
Janne Mikkonen
Javier Dominguez
Jean Emmanuel Depraz
Jessica Estephan
John Rolf
Lee Shi Tian
Lucas Esper Berthoud
Luis Salvatto
Marcio Carvalho
Martin Juza
Matthew Nass
Mike Sigrist
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Piotr Glogowski
Reid Duke
Seth Manfield
Shahar Shenhar
Shota Yasooka
William Jensen

Pros/ex-pros:

Allen Wu
Andrew Elenbogen
Ben Hull
Corey Burkhart
Greg Orange
Kai Budde
Kentaro Yamamoto

Luis Scott Vargas
Noah Walker
Ondrej Strasky
Raphaël Lévy
Simon Görtzen
Wyatt Darby

Challengers:

Alexey Shashov
André Santos
CJ Steele
Eric Oresick
Evan Gascoyne
Marcin Tokajuk
Matias Leveratto
Montserrat Ayensa
Nicholas Carlson
Patrick Fernandes
Takashi Iwasaki
Yuki Matsuda
Yuma Koizumi

Personalities:

Amy Demicco
Ashley Espinoza
Audrey Zoschak
Emma Handy
Giana Kaplan
Jason Chan
Jeffrey Brusi
Nhi Pham
Teresa Pho
Vanessa Hinostroza

 


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