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Posted by on Mar 9, 2017

GP Changes – Sal and I Got Fired

GP Changes – Sal and I Got Fired

Today Sal and I got fired.  And I’m pretty excited about it.

Well… less fired and more laid off.  The first time I got laid off I was 19 and working construction in a labour union in Winnipeg. My job was jackhammering frozen mud off of heavy machinery.  When they told me I was being let go, I panicked, I stressed, I worried and I think I even cried. I was working seasonal work and had no clue that everyone had just gotten laid off and there was literally nothing I could do about it.  Not to mention I called the union and was at a new job site the following Monday back at it.  Totally freaked out over something that was completely out of my control. Today is both similar to that and also different. I certainly didn’t cry this time.

Wizards just announced that for 2018, all Grand Prix events will be run by one singular Tournament Organizer: ChannelFireball Events (for the official announcement, click here). That means that GP Toronto 2017 will be the second and last Grand Prix organized by Face to Face Games.com.  An event that, like last year, I will have a hand in planning and running. Saying we got “Fired” is certainly putting a dramatic spin on it… mostly to make a catchy name for the article, but I can’t help but remember what it felt like when I was 19 and got let go from the construction site — sad, disappointed, and flat out, bummed.

But I’m not dwelling on that, over-all, I’m choosing to be excited about this. It’s something completely out of my control and it has the potential to be amazing for Magic. After all, CFB has run outstanding events in the past. Their coverage of events, large and small has been top notch and the feedback players have given Wizards about their events is inimitable. Just look at GP Vegas 2015: what a feat! They not only took on an enormous task, but also reached out to some amazing people for assistance and guidance in the huge undertaking – which is smart! The event was a big success and we expect nothing less from GP Vegas this year. As much as I love running GPs I have no doubt that events run by CFB in the past have been as good or better. Probably smoother, more efficient and less work to produce that ours, too.

In my mind the biggest opportunity here is a huge reduction in GP planning and logistics labour. Although GP Toronto 2016 was a blast, it was exhausting! We put in hundreds of hours planning and learning. There was a multitude of trial and error, countless meetings of us all putting our heads together trying to find the best path forward. It was a huge time sink. We drew on experience from friendly organizers -CFB included- who helped us through the process, but there was still plenty of “unknown unknowns” going on. And I’m sure this experience wasn’t just us: all GP organizers must go through this.

Sure, we were the newest Premier Event Organizer, but everyone was constantly coming to the same conclusions separately. CFB has worked out most of the known kinks in running events. Infact, now for 2018, they have access to all kinds of new opportunities! Certain efficiencies that didn’t make sense for a TO who organizes two or three events a year now totally work for a TO running dozens of events a year.  This has the potential to streamline things on an unprecedented level, while still offering an amazing experience to players.

It also can make things way more consistent! People who play a GP in Toronto will know what to expect when they go to a GP in Seattle, or Prague or Kyoto. The customer service and interaction will all be done through the same team, so on and so forth. The possibilities are endless.

So there it is: a new system that is leaner, cleaner and more efficient than GPs have ever been before and can produce a more consistent player experience across the board. I can’t wait.

However, what’s the other side of this coin?

We now have one TO with a sanctioned monopoly on GPs. Previously if you didn’t like the way an organizer ran a GP, you could choose to skip their events and only go to events run by TOs that put their back into it. Now the choice is binary: attend GPs or don’t attend GPs. Does anyone remember the PTO system for Pre Releases a local PTQs? Some regions had great PTOs that took care of them but others were left with poorly run events that were understaffed and overpriced. Now people will have that same problem but on a global scale.

Additionally, what about all the knowledge and experience local TOs brought to their GPs? Sure consistency is great, but GP Organizers were hand picked for their expertise of a given local area. They not only knew their players, but knew how to reach out to them and communicate with them making sure their wants, needs, and idiosyncrasies were looked after. What does a GP in China look like? Do the systems we use to run GPs in North America translate?

Will all those efficiencies that I talked about in the first half of this article trickle down to the player base? This almost certainly means Wizards is going to save on their promotional budget, so are they going to increase the GP prize pools? It looks like Channel Fireball Events will be able to run these events cheaper, so will they lower the GP entry fees or increase the player experience to make the $100 USD price tag that we’re used to more reasonable? Is that even possible?

People are going to ask the same question of every 2017 TO who just got laid off: What incentive do TOs have to provide a great play experience for the rest of this year? There’s no chance we’re getting hired back next year, so why don’t we all use this last GP or two to make as much money as possible? Previously TOs wanted to do as good a job as possible so that we would get hired back the next year, and TOs that dropped the ball got the axe. Now we all got axed, so why try?

There’s a lot that can go wrong under this new system.

Again, I’m going to choose to be excited about this, and you should too. Why? Because the power is still in our hands: the hands of the players. As a wise man once said “They might make the rules, but we are the ones holding all cards.

My guess is that Wizards made this decision because of the feedback we’ve given them over the last few years.  Because CFB is the best of the best, and after years of having lots of part timers, Wizards have hired the best person for the job — full time! They will continue to keep reading our feedback because making sure the Grand Prixs continue to be amazing.

If you’re worried Wizards is just doing this to save a buck, don’t be. Wizards spends a colossal amount of money making the GP circuit amazing. If things get worse, rather than better, Wizards will make changes again. Wizards has shown us over and over that they listen to feedback and adapt to it.

Here is what you, the player can do to make sure that every GP is better than the last:

1 – Give CFB a chance! Don’t start the conversation hating on them, assuming the worst. Don’t call them “Walmart” or any other sort of usual MTG community hyperbole. CFB wants to make players, judges, and staff happy. From a business standpoint, I believe they will care more about you walking away a happy customer than they will about making a quick buck. They won’t be short-sighted about this, so don’t assume the worst. Encourage them to do great things!

2 – Write Wizards an email after every major event you go to. This ensures that you will have your voice heard.  If a TO does something great, tell Wizards. If a TO does something unpleasant, tell Wizards! They really do read the feedback and take it into account when making their decisions. Tweets and talking at your local store is good too, but use with www.wizards.com/customerservice tool to submit official feedback. It works!

3 – Tell your TOs you care about the work they do. This will help make sure that they know you’re watching and listening. 2017 TOs should care what you think of their events still, and even though they won’t have GPs in 2018, there are tons of other opportunities to work with Wizards: Nationals, RPTQs, and other regional events.  Your opinion of your TOs is what Wizards will hear and they will listen.

4 – Talk to Channel Fireball. If you’re from an area where CFB has never run an event before, communicate with them and tell them what matters to you and your local community. Remember that they are invested in making this transition as smooth as possible as well. If you love the way the previous TO ran things, talk to CFB and tell them that: “I don’t know exactly what our old TO did, but I loved it! Talk to them and find out what they did.” Even if you’ve been to hundreds of their events, tell them what you think, tell that what worked well and what you want to see more of.

5 – Play more Magic. At the end of the day, this game is here for fun. The more this game grows and evolves, the better.

Change is scary, but let’s focus on the bright side. I look forward to doing the best job I possibly can at GP Toronto 2017 and working together with CFB Events around the world. Let’s all help Magic be the best it can be.

Can’t wait to see you shuffling up sometime soon.