The Dragon's Den: Making a Nest Egg

You look at the television and see Tiger Woods playing golf. You look at old
basketball footage of Larry Bird raining three-pointers on the competition.
You see Emmitt Smith rushing for another touchdown. What about Andre Agassi
slam another over the net? Oh, yeah, don't forget about Mark McGwire hitting
another record home run.

* Flip to ESPN 2 *

There are some names you recognize here too. There's Finkel, Kibler, Kai
Budde, and a whole cast of Pro Tour regulars. What's the difference here? In
the average case...probably something around $5.5 million.

Now, before you folks get all fired up, I want to make something known. This
is not a letter about WotC putting more money into the Pro Tour. At least
not the majority of it. Wizards of the Coast putting money into the Pro Tour
is only about half of the solution.

(Writer's note: I am going to be referring to football a lot in this article,
but I will try to keep it to where non football fans can follow along as well)

If you look at most sports, they have "junior leagues" that promote the game
and offer up big prizes usually. Football even has "pee wee league" for kids
under 8 years old to play against each other. Wizards has the Junior Super
Series. This is the closest equivalent, but it encompasses too large of an
age spread (15 and under). It need to be refined maybe. Maybe something
like "12 to 15" and "Under 12". Of course, there may not be very many magic
players under the age of 12 currently and this may be justified to leave the
JSS the way it is for now.

Something else that people don't realize is that there are several "pro"
levels of football that allow people to get paid. There is the most popular
of those being the National Football League (NFL). The following leagues
only make up a portion of the rest: Canadian Football League (CFL), Arena
Football League (AFL), European Football League (EFL), and most recently the
Extreme Football League (XFL). In Magic, we just one one "pro" level. We
also have several restrictions set in place, but not enough elements to
balance some of those restrictions within our pro level. This keeps players
from being able to make legitimate money. Let me explain.

In many areas, there are Friday Night Magic (FNM) tournaments and Pro Tour
Qualifiers (PTQ), and nothing else. For the average player, this is fine,
but for the pro level player, this is a big disadvantage. Friday Night Magic
tournaments are only 8K. This means that the maximum value you can gain or
lose in one of these events is 8 DCI points. If you are a pro level player
trying to increase your standings and points, this makes it difficult. You
won't be able to raise your points quickly playing in these events. To be
honest, in some cases you will gain *NO* points. That's right, it is
mathematically possible to gain zero points in an 8K event. Well, that's no
big deal, the average PTQ is 30K. But wait! If you are already Q'f for the
Pro Tour you can't play in these events. I think this is fair, but it does
prevent pro players from increasing their DCI rating AND from having a chance
at winning the first prize of $500. So what do we do? I have some
solutions, but I'll get to those later.

Let's look at the average player (low end, bad, or even scrub to some of
you). At least if you are qualified for the Pro Tour (PT), you have the
opportunity to win thousands of dollars. All the average player usually has
a chance to win is a few booster packs and if they are EXTREMELY lucky that
$500 first prize from one of the PTQs. Let's face it. In PTQs, the winner
comes out great ($500 +PT invite). From there, depending on the organizer
you are prolly just getting product and getting sent home with a pat on the
back. When you look at this, it is not really fair. This is not a
controversial statement at all. Think about it. Where does the majority of
the money that Wizards makes to pay people, to give money at PTs and pay PTQ
winners come from? The group of average players that buy cards to keep
attempting to make strong decks to take down "the pros". People can deny
this all they want, but it is true that a lot of the average players spend
just as much, and usually more, than the good, pro, players spend on the game
of Magic.

Here's something of an interesting note for many of you. I questioned many
of the average players at PTQs and many of them (roughly 54%)were not even
planning on attending the PT even if they qualified. They just don't get the
chance to play in large events. Also, about 50% of these people attributed
their reason for not wanting to go to travel costs in comparison to the money
available to win. It's sad that our professional level of the game isn't
supported because the people participating in the event are having trouble
making up their travel costs. I even remember reading an article online
where some one made mention of a player contemplating leaving pro level event
when he was in contention for top eight because he was not going to be able
to pay for his last night of hotel stay.

After looking at these facts for a while I started thinking that there needs
to be a solution. We need some way to allow people to make a decent amount
of money playing Magic. Not only that, we need to have more events that hold
more meaning to the players. In doing this, we need to keep things open to
Pro players and average players alike. Let the average players have a chance
at beating name players and taking some of their DCI points. So I came up
with a few ideas....

Have one big qualifying season per year.

I know that many people wont like this idea, but football basically has it.
They call it the "training camp". You find out if you are on for a year with
a team or not. Golf even has what they call a "qualifying school." The
athletes attempt to qualify for the PGA season in the allotted amount of time.
If they don't do it, then they wait until next year. We could have some
type of system where for 4-6 weeks through the month of September, each
tournament organizer gets to a series of PTQs where the T4 get qualified for
the season. This way the qualified people for the system would be based on
the previous year's standings, qualifying season winners, and of course DCI
point standings.

Advantages: More time would be available for TOs to run more tournaments of
high quality that everyone could participate in. Also, the DCI ratings and
such would hae more meaning because it would become the primary way for
people to get qualified. This would probably increase participation in the
local FNM tournaments and would also encourage more TOs to run tournaments
with big prizes to draw interest into high K-value tournaments. Another
advantage to the pros is that you won't have to worry about "falling off" the
tour in the middle of a season. It will also allow basically the same basic
core of players into each event (minus a few changes from the DCI point
standings). This is important, because it would allow the public to identify
with certain players. In turn this increases ratings to the shows on ESPN.
This would also help increase the popularity of the Fantasy Pro Tour games
online. All of these things are what help pro sports market their items and
help them gain popularity. Even the XFL has used these things in such a
short time.

Allow the State Championships to feed into Nationals and Give larger prizes
for this and Regionals.

Both of these tournaments are run on the local level. The State
Championships are a great idea. Other than bragging rights and/or a small
trophy you don't get much for your efforts. In this regard, it is just
another tournament. Many people want these tournaments to continue on, but
these same people don't want to play, because the prize is not justified. At
least in a PTQ you get $500 and a trip to the PT. If the Top 2 players from
each State Championship got Qualified for Nationals, I would put money on it
that a lot of the good local state talent would show up. As it stands
currently, many players see it as a necessary tournament that is not worth
their time (if that makes sense). Regionals usually turns out a larger
number of players than any PTQ or other tournament in the same areas. So why
doesn't Regionals carry a larger prize package? Beats me. There seems to be
a lot of players at regionals now, but how many more people would turn up if
there were something like $1,000 added to each event as part of the prize
package? I think we could still get more people to show up. After all, the
entire Top 8 at regionals gets qualified for Nationals and is going to
travel. Very similar situation to that of a PTQ. Yet, the PTQ draws less
people AND has $500 being given to first place.

Advantages: This would legitimize the State Championships a little more.
This would also in turn bring more attention to each of their respective
Nationals events. Any time you can raise player interest, it is worth it.
This will draw out more people and get you a better representation of each
State/Region, which is what these events were intended to do anyway.

Local Tournament Organizers should run more tournaments with cash prizes.

The problem with this solution is that a lot of the good TOs are taking up
their time with running PTQs. So that leaves very few people to play and/or
judge these other events. Over the course of last year I ran a series of
tournaments that drew in about 30 people each time and we gave away roughly
$500 at each event. I was able to draw these crowds on a two week notice and
very little advertising. This to me is proof that people want to play in
more tournaments where they can make money. I also feel that these type of
tournaments help to legitimize playing the game in many people's eyes. This
certainly can't hurt the game. Well this year, I decided to listen to
everyone and take it a step further and have even larger tournaments. Players
seem to be complaining about bad prize support at PTQs and the like. This
is probably the largest complaint I have heard yet. So I am running my
tournaments from the players perspective. Also, I am even making it a point
to compensate my judges properly. Judges need to be treated well, which is
something a lot of people overlook. From talking to various judges, if they
got fed during the event and got half a box to a full box of product, they
would be happy.

Advantages: Players can make more money playing their favorite game.
Players would also be taking less of a gamble than at PTQs and such if there
was more for them to win. This would also allow you to reward all players,
including the low end player. This is only a possibility if we were to go
to a qualifier season type system. It would help to legitimize the game in
each individual local community. It would also give people more to write
about and talk about online. There usually seems to be a dead time between
PTs and Grand Prix (PT) events. This would give players a reason to play all
the time. Even if you didn't DOMINATE an entire month, you could still come
out with a decent chunk of money with some solid place finishes.

Maybe part of all of this comes down to humans feeling the need to feel
wanted and/or appreciated. Many people don't feel that the To or the company
running the event cares about the players. Also, many of these same
people/companies are viewed as money grubbin' cash mongers. I think
attempting a few of these changes would for lack of a better term, "give back
to the people." do more to make the players feel appreciated. Also, make
the events that our premiere players and pro players compete in have more
meaning. This is just as important as anything else. If this events look
more important and mean more, more people will put money into it. That's
just a natural fact.

Those of you that know me, know that I am all about teaching and leading by
example, so I set up my first tournament for February 10th...the prize
package is as follows:

1 = $400 9 = 5 packs
2 = $200 10= 5 packs
3 = 100 11 = 5 packs
4 = 100 12 = 5 packs
5 = 40 13 = 5 packs
6 = 40 14 = 5 packs
7 = 40 15 = 5 packs
8 = 40 16 = 5 packs

We are also raffling off a draft set (3 packs) every round and giving a packs
of Homelands and a pack of Fallen Empires to the bottom three players in the
standings that finish the tournament.

Date: Feb. 10, 2001
Entry Fee: $25
Location: The Game Closet
5201 Sanger Suite # K
Waco, TX 76710

This tournament is all about the players. If a group of players attends the
events, they will more than likely come home with a decent amount of stuff to
split between them. More importantly, it has prizes scheduled through 16th
place. This has also brought in a lot of interest. Now, I have had some
mixed feelings about people getting prizes for finishing in the end of the
tournament. Most people don't mind it however. This rewards the players
that didn't have a good chance of winning, but showed up and hung around to
tough it out. also, it may help the tie breaker situation that people have
been complaining about, because more players will be staying in the
tournament instead of dropping.

If several tournaments like these get going in various places, more money
will be available for people to win. Honestly if these tournaments turn out
to be a success, entry in some places could be $30, and people would be
willing to pay it if they knew their odds of getting something were fairly
high. After all, the 54% we talked about earlier show up to PTQs where there
is nothing really at stake for them as far as they are concerned.

This is just all food for thought. I would like to hear some feedback from
you folks. Please
e-mail me and let me know what you think. I try to reply to most of the
e-mails that I receive. I feel that all responses are important. I like to
keep track of what people tell me so I have actual opinions other than mine
form which to judge things. Also, come attend my event and let's start an
example (or a revolution :) )

I'll be looking forward to your comments.

Hasta la bye bye,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn