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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


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The Southwestern Paladin

The Pro Tour FINALLY Pays Off
Wizards is Showing Players Some Brotherly Love at Pro Tour Philly
by Jeff Zandi  - 2.21.05

Ask a competitive Magic player why he wants to play in the Pro Tour, and one of the reasons that will inevitably come out is the idea of winning money.

Magic’s Pro Tour has been all about “show me the money” ever since it first appeared in 1996 under the stirring name of the Black Lotus Million Dollar Pro Tour. Strangely, however, most players that pursue the riches of the Pro Tour never reach the pro level and its promised payday. Furthermore, most of the players who DO manage to qualify for and play in one or more Pro Tour events go home from the big tournament with no prize money.

Pro Tour Philadelphia is going to change all that.

The prize payout structure for the Pro Tour has been in place for many years, paying very large portions of the total prize money to the top eight finishers, with decreasing payouts from ninth place all the way down to sixty-fourth place. Of course, most Pro Tour events begin with around three hundred players, so a player must finish up in the top quarter of the field to secure a paycheck.

Pro Tour Philadelphia will pay FOUR TIMES as many players as any previous Pro Tour event.

For Pro Tour Philadelphia, a new, highly experimental, payout system will be used. This payout system will assign a prize value to each of the rounds of the tournament, from round one all the way to the finals. The total prize money is $203K, just a couple of thousand more than usual. Instead of using a certain win-loss record to determine the cutoff point for day two participation, players will simply be eliminated from the tournament whenever they have lost three matches.

Pro Tour Philadelphia Pay Structure By Round

Round 1 $100
Round 2 $100
Round 3 $100
Round 4 $125
Round 5 $150
Round 6 $200
Round 7 $250
Round 8 $300
Round 9 $500
Round 10 $750
Round 11 $1,000
Round 12 $1,500
Round QF $2,500
Round SF $5,000
Round F $10,000
(QF is the quarter final round, the first round of the single elimination top eight. SF is the semi-finals and F is the championship final round of the Pro Tour)


Normally, a 4-3 record is not quite good enough to make the second day of the Pro Tour, and therefore not good enough to finish in the top sixty four in order to win money. In Pro Tour Philadelphia, the LEAST amount of money a 4-3 finisher could win is $425, very close to the $500 payout received by the 64th best finisher (with 7 or 8 wins, by the way) in a previous Pro Tour event. Imagine…two players meet each other in the third round of Pro Tour Philly, each having had an awful day, each having lost their first two matches. These two players STILL have something to play for. In fact, the player who wins this match will not only pocket $100 for a match win in round three, but he will continue to play matches with money on the line in each match until he suffers his third match loss and is knocked out of the tournament.

Simply put, EVERY tournament player I have talked to about this issue LOVES the Pro Tour Philly payout structure. Every single one of them.


The Philly payout structure makes winning matches more important, which means there could be a lot fewer intentional draws. While I am by no means saying that intentional draws are wrong, I believe that every match that is played out to determine a winner is better than an intentional draw, from a pure gaming perspective. Players at Pro Tour Philadelphia will be literally playing for money every round, not in a collective long-range sense as in most Pro Tour early rounds, but in the most literal sense of the word. More matches being played out means less manipulation of the tournament by the players in the tournament. Wizards of the Coast and the DCI both love THAT


There are those in the gaming community that suspect the experimental payout structure for PT-Philly is a response to competition from other card games that have been offering big cash payouts to players. First and foremost, there is poker. Last year, three Magic players finished in the top twenty of the World Series of Poker, and, of course, Pro Tour regular David Williams
(yeah, he’s been on my Magic team, the Texas Guildmages, since 1997. GOTTA BRAG ABOUT THAT KID) won $3.5 million finishing second in that event. If the incredible popularity of poker wasn’t enough to steal the wind from the Pro Tour’s sails, (and possibly Magic’s sales…) along comes Upper Deck with their professional events for the Versus game system. Upper Deck has been throwing huge piles of prize money at their competitive tournament structure since they started it a year ago. Yes, there is every reason to believe that the people who bring you Magic: the Gathering might want to juice up their game.

This experimental payout structure is a great way to increase interest in a maturing Pro Tour that may not be drawing the number of players, to pro tour qualifying tournaments anyway, as in the past. Lots of players who have experienced the Pro Tour at least once think hard about attending a subsequent Pro Tour, weighing the cost of simply getting to the event with
the expectation of winning prize money. Having become a very global event, the Pro Tour plays only half of their annual schedule of events in the United States, and in the past several years, there has been a clear effort to put at least one of the five annual Pro Tour events in the Far East.

If this new prize money structure were to become permanent, and we are told that it WILL NOT, it would go a long way to making the Pro Tour as healthy and exciting as it was when it debuted in January of 1996. The other shoe that would need to fall, however, is MORE MONEY. In my opinion, the Pro Tour needs about twice as much money awarded each year, along with a better
payout structure, like PT-Philly.


DCI Program Manager Scott Larabee has already stated that there is “no way we’ll switch to this (PT-Philly) payout permanently”. Why on earth not? It has been difficult to get any information about Philly’s experimental payout structure from Wizards of the Coast. The only problem for the tournament organizers and Wizards of the Coast would seem to be the much larger amount
of paperwork needed to prepare checks for such a large number of players. WOTC is used to sending out sixty-four checks to the prize winners of a Pro Tour event. After Pro Tour Philadelphia, more than FOUR TIMES that number of checks will have to be printed. Of course, there’s more work created by this new payout than simply the work of printing some extra checks. Our friends at the Internal Revenue Service have their eyes on all prize payouts, and so
the real record keeping work for a payout system like the one that will be rolled out at Pro Tour Philadelphia may increase the white collar workload at Wizards of the Coast exponentially.

Increased paperwork is not the only potential reason for not using the PT-Philly payout structure in future events. It is possible that some of the best players in the world would not want to have the precious prize money pool flattened out the way that it will be in PT-Philly. Since MORE players are taking home a larger number of smaller pieces of the SAME Pro Tour prize
money as any other pro event, something has to give. At the most recent Pro Tour in Nagoya, Japan, the winner won a total of fourteen matches for a total prize of $30,000. A similar performance at Pro Tour Philadelphia will most likely result in the winner taking home less than $20,000. Some of top Pro Tour players can finish consistently in the top 64 event after event.
For these players, the present payout structure is obviously superior. However, so many of even the best pro tour players in the world know that you can have an outstanding finish in one pro event only to get crushed and not make Day Two in the next Pro Tour. The larger number of Pro Tour regulars, I believe, if polled, would favor the experimental payout structure being used at Philadelphia.

As always, I’m interested in what YOU think!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online


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