A year or so ago Matt told me about a local PTQ that broke some records and came in at apparently 367 players. I'm cherry picking a little, but one of the GPs I attended back in University (Pittsburgh) only had 234 people! That was a team tournament with I think 24 people qualifying for the Pro Tour. To have 50% more players with 4% of the slots on the line is a pretty big difference! When I heard how big that PTQ was I decided I was almost certainly done with trying to play Magic at a high level. The switch to Planeswalker Points over the old ELO system had really made it so that running a PTQ was my only hope and the idea of playing a locally run event with several hundred players is super unappealing.
Earlier today Wizards announced changes to the PTQ system that help fix that problem. They realize they have too many people trying to qualify in some areas (a good problem to have I'm sure) and decided to add an extra step into the qualification process. Now you need to win a tournament in order to qualify for a PTQ in order to qualify for the PT. They're letting every single official store run one preliminary tournament each season and then they're going to run a small number of PTQs that are only open to people who won a preliminary tournament. It doesn't matter where you won a preliminary tournament; it lets you play in any PTQ on the planet. But you can only play in one PTQ per PT.
The PTQs themselves are going to be put on by primary event coordinators and will grant 4 or 8 slots based on attendance with the breakpoint being at 128 people. This feels like a good size to me. They probably won't be so big they'll be overwhelming and if they are they'll have a good enough return on investment to justify showing up.
Potential worries are how many people are going to end up showing up to these local store events and just where they're going to locate the PTQs. There are only going to be 16 for all of the US and Canada which makes me wonder where exactly someone out in, say, New Brunswick is going to need to go in order to play in a PTQ. I wonder how many of the ~3100 stores are out in that area... And if Toronto is getting several hundred people for a PTQ how many are they going to get for a local qualifier for a PTQ? The same several hundred? Or did a bunch of those people travel from several hours away for the PTQ and won't bother to come for a PTQQ?
I'm tentatively encouraged by the announcement. While I didn't have any desire to learn a Magic format enough to run a 400 person PTQ for 1 invite I could totally see going out to a local sealed deck event for 40 people. Then if I win that I don't see any reason why I wouldn't want to run a 80 person PTQ for 4 invites. 80 people is very manageable. 4 slots is a good reward. Only getting to play 1 PTQ in a season is fine for someone who wasn't going to play in a huge PTQ in the current system anyway!
It's probably a lot worse for someone who travels a lot to hit all the PTQs in a region, but I don't feel so bad for those people. Especially since Wizards is adding more GPs onto the schedule! I feel like a GP is a better format for someone who wants to travel and play a lot of extra Magic to qualify for the Pro Tour and PTQs are better left for giving more local players a chance. (I do say this as someone who won a PTQ in a different province so it is a little hypocritical of me...)
Maybe I'll get back into Magic...