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The Pro Tour (often abbreviated as PT), is the highest form of competitive play for the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. It consists of a series of tournaments held throughout the world, each requiring an invitation to participate. Every Pro Tour awards a total of $250,000 in cash prizes, with $40,000 going to the winner. Pro Tour competitors also receive Pro Points, the amount depending on their results. Pro Points award special benefits to players, including automatic qualification and travel awards for subsequent Pro Tours. Currently, four Pro Tours are held during a twelve-month season.
Ranking within the Top 8 of a Pro Tour is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishment a competitive Magic player can achieve. Professional players are thus often compared by the number of Pro Tour Top 8 finishes they have made throughout their career. The most successful players on the Pro Tour are Kai Budde who won seven Pro Tours out of ten Top 8 finishes and Jon Finkel who won three Pro Tours while making it to the Top 8 fourteen times.
The first major Magic: The Gathering tournament was the 1994 World Championship held at Gen Con '94. It was a single-elimination 512-person Constructed event run over three days of competition. The winner, Zak Dolan, received a trophy but no money. However, Dolan was also given a large number of booster packs from various expansions, Arabian Nights through Ice Age, along with a deck of poker cards with Magic: The Gathering backs on them and a t-shirt. The secondary market value of those packs today would exceed many tournament payoffs, but is still not quite equal to the cash prizes of the current Pro Tour payouts. Another World Championship was organized in 1995.
In 1995 Brand Manager Skaff Elias suggested that organized play needed to take the step to the next level. The idea was to run several tournaments each year that would gather the best players in the world and reward them with cash for their dedication to the game. Players should have something to aspire to. Elias and Mark Rosewater along with others started to work on the concept. On 16–18 February 1996 the first Pro Tour, very briefly called The Black Lotus Pro Tour, was held in New York. The first Pro Tour season included three more Pro Tour events, culminating in the final Pro Tour, the World Championship, held in Seattle. In the following years a Pro Tour season (one year) always consisted of five and later six Pro Tours. From 2003 to 2005 Wizards of the Coast made an effort to bring the Pro Tour seasons in accordance with the calendar year instead of having the seasons last from August to August the next year. This resulted in two seasons of seven Pro Tours. Afterwards Pro Tour seasons were reduced to five and later four Pro Tours a year. In 2012, the season schedule was again adjusted, now starting and ending in May. Additionally, the World Championship lost its status as a Pro Tour event, resulting in three Pro Tours to be held each season.
Prize payouts have increased slowly over the years from ca. $150,000 per tournament in 1996–97 to $250,000 in 2012. In the first Pro Tour season each Pro Tour awarded more prizes than the previous one, though. Afterwards prize payouts had only minor fluctuations throughout a season with the exception of the World Championships which always award some additional prizes.
Pro Tours started as single-format events in 1996, alternating between Constructed and Limited, with the exception of the World Championships which have been multi-format events since the inception of the Pro Tour. In 2010 Pro Tours were changed to always have several rounds of Constructed and Limited play.
Up until the second season in 1997, qualifying was based on results in high profile tournaments, or by invitation from the sponsoring company. Since 1997 the Pro Tour is a qualification-only tournament with qualifying events held throughout the world.
There are several ways to qualify, the most common being:
In 2012 it was announced that Sponsor's Exemption invitations would be given regularly to players who "showed excellence in play and positive community activity during the qualifying season". Previously those invitations were given out very rarely (for example to David Williams for Pro Tour Los Angeles 2005 or Kai Budde for the 2006 World Championships).
The first season featured only Pro Tours in the United States. Beginning in 1996–97 one Pro Tour was held in Europe each season. The first Pro Tour to be held in Asia was the 1999 World Championship in Tokyo. Subsequently the amount of PTs every continent gets has varied, with the United States clearly hosting most Pro Tours, and Asia the least. Of the Asian Pro Tours all but one were held in Japan. The only other continent to ever have a Pro Tour was Australia, hosting the World Championship in 2002.
Previously, all Pro Tours other than World Championships have been held in a single format. However, beginning with the 2009 season, Pro Tours host one constructed and one limited format. Constructed Pro Tours utilized either Block Constructed, Standard, or Extended (succeed by Modern in 2011 season), while Limited Pro Tours were usually the Booster Draft format. Until PT Nagoya in 2005, Booster Draft and Rochester Draft had been used alternatingly, but Rochester Draft was dropped afterwards. Also, for several years beginning in 1999, every season included a team Pro Tour, but since 2007 no Pro Tours in teams has been held.
Beginning with the 2009 season each Pro Tour features a constructed format as well as a booster draft format. Day one and two of each PT will each consist of constructed rounds as well as a Booster Draft rounds. The third day will use one of the previously utilized formats.
World Championships are special Pro Tours in that they always feature multiple formats. Typically the tournament will use Standard on the first day, Booster Draft on the second, and another constructed format on the third. The final eight have always been played using the Standard decks from the first day.
Earlier Worlds occasionally used Rochester Drafts instead of Booster Drafts, also the fourth day of Worlds hosted a team format, for the national teams to compete in, but beginning with the 2007 Worlds, World Championships have been shortened to four days instead of five (this was reverted to 5 days since 2013 Worlds week). The schedule has been altered accordingly, but no consistent pattern has emerged yet.
All Pro Tours are run using a modified Swiss system. Typical Pro Tours were held over three days with 7 rounds (for Limited PTs) or 8 rounds (for Constructed PTs) of Swiss the first day. Players with fewer than 4 victories (Limited) after round 6 or 5 victories after round 8 (Constructed) were eliminated. 8 more rounds of Swiss followed on the second day after which the eight best finishing players constitute what is called the Top 8. On the third and final day, the Top 8 players play single-elimination until the winner is determined. Starting with the 2009 season this system is modified to accompany the fact, that each PT utilizes constructed and limited formats.
Team Limited Pro Tours were run the first day using the Team Sealed format, the second day using the Team Rochester Draft format. The top 4 finishing teams advanced to the last day of competition, which was also run in the Team Rochester format.
World Championships used to be held over five days with six rounds of individual play on day one through three. The fourth day featured the national team competition. On the fifth day the Top 8 returned to determine the World Champion in three rounds of single elimination. Worlds were shortened to four days in 2007, though. In 2007 the Worlds featured five rounds of Standard and Legacy on day one and two, respectively. A Booster Draft of three round was also held on both days. The team competition was held on the third day and the Top 8 on the fourth and final day. Worlds 2008 will have the individual formats laid out over three days, while the team competition is added to day one and three. On the fourth and final day the team finals and the individual finals will be played.
Traditionally the payout at the Pro Tour has been based only on the finishing place. Currently the prize pool for Pro Tour events as well as the World Magic Cup amounts to $250,000 each. The Magic: The Gathering World Championship, while technically not a Pro Tour event also features a significant payout, amounting to $108,000 total last season. The largest prize pool in the history of the game was paid out for the combined 2006 World Championship event, comprising $465,245. The Pro Tour payout extends down to 75th place with the current payout structure being:
In Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005, a new payout system was tested. The tournament was run using triple-elimination (with a draw counting as a loss for both players) and each match was run with money at stake. The amount of money earned by the winner of the match increased from $100 in round one to $1,500 in round twelve. This system had the result of distributing the money more evenly among competitors (out of 311, only 40 failed to make money) but the top finishers earned significantly less money than they would have under the old system. This layout was largely criticized by players and internet writers and has not returned since.
Pro Points for participating in Pro Tour are awarded as follows:
At the World Championship a player is awarded one Pro Point for every win in the Swiss part of the tournament and two Pro Points for every win the elimination stage.
Players are awarded Pro Players Club levels, depending on the amount of Pro Points they have collected in a given season. The number of levels and the benefits for different levels have varied. If a player achieves the level which awarded qualifications to all Pro Tours in a year he or is said "to be on the Gravy Train". Currently this would be equivalent to the Gold Level. The Pro Club consists of the following levels:
The required pro-points may vary by seasons due to event structure change. In 2012 season it was 15/30/45. Which was increased to 20/30/45 in 2013-2014 season due to a longer season running.
Since 2013 season, If a player wins in any Pro Tour or World Championship, he or she is immediately promoted to Platinum level until the end of next Pro Tour season regardless of points currently he or she have.
The Pro Player of the Year title is awarded to the individual who has accumulated the most pro points over the course of a season. This person receives invitations to several high-level tournaments throughout the following year, as well as travel and other accommodations to each of the following season's Pro Tours, including the World Championship. For the 2012 season, the Player of the Year title was awarded to winner of the Magic Players Championship, a tournament that replaced the Magic: The Gathering World Championship. This change was however reversed in the next season along with a renaming of the Players Championship to World Championship.
|Season||Player of the Year|
|1999–00||Bob Maher, Jr.|
The Rookie of the Year title is awarded to the player who has accumulated the most pro points over the course of a season and has not participated in a Pro Tour or World Championship before that season.
|Season||Rookie of the Year|
|2012–13||Felipe Tapia Becerra|
Players who have reached the final day of the Pro Tour several times are recognized for their skill and dedication to the game. The following table shows all players who either achieved five Pro Tour Top 8s or two wins. Only 22 players have achieved the feat of making five or more Top 8s while just eight have won more than once. The following table is accurate as of Pro Tour Honolulu 2012:
|Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa||1||9|
Players from the following countries have won Pro Tours (for a more detailed country breakdown, see the list of Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour events article):
MTG PT wins by country
(updated as of Pro Tour Theros 2013)
Very few players can claim to earn enough money for a living by playing on the Pro Tour alone. Several players have won more than $100,000 playing Magic, the most successful even more than $250,000, but spread over several years, and the figures do not take into account the cost of travel.
However, some professional players do make a living entirely through Magic by supplementing Pro Tour winnings with Magic-related activities such as:
Other players are professional gamers who supplement their Magic income with income from other games. Some play poker professionally, either live or on the internet; others are game store owners.
Magic is seen as a game overwhelmingly dominated by men, both on the Pro Tour and off. Only one woman has made the Top 8 of a PT - Melissa DeTora (PT Gatecrash, 2013) and for a long time there were only two women that made the Top 8 of a Grand Prix - Michelle Bush (second place, New Orleans, 2001) and Kate Stavola (fifth place, Columbus, 2004). However, in late 2011 this started to change and four more women have made the Top 8 of a Grand Prix since then: Melissa DeTora (fourth place, Santiago, 2011), Mary Jacobson (fifth place, Lincoln, 2012), Jackie Lee (third place, Baltimore, 2012) and Lissa Jensen (seventh place, Nashville, 2012). Until PT Charleston in 2006 a woman had never even finished in the money at a traditional-payout PT. That changed when Asami Kataoka, as part of the team "Tottori 1 6 1" (led by five-time Top 8er Masashi Oiso) finished in 18th place at the event, earning the team US$1800 in total. (Kataoka had won money at a PT before, winning $100 at the skins-game PT Philadelphia in 2005.)
The highest-profile first-place finish by a woman in the game's history belongs to Eda Bilsel of Turkey, who, in 2003, became Magic's first (and, as of July 2011, only) female national champion. Although she finished in 307th place in the individual standings at that year's Worlds, with her national team taking 35th in the team standings, she caught the attention of many players and coverage reporters who attended the event during the flag ceremony that year.
The highest finish for a woman at an individual PT before DeTora's Top 8 appearance was that of England's Carrie Oliver, who finished 32nd at PT Nagoya 2011, winning US$1350. Since it was her debut PT after only 18 months of playing the game (having learned to play via Duels of the Planeswalkers), it also marked the highest finish of a woman in her first PT appearance, earning her several mentions during the coverage of the event, including a feature article. Oliver is also the only female to have appeared on a national team more than once, in 2012 and 2013 at consecutive World Magic Cup events.