Yesterday it was announced they are padding the four remaining at-large seats with more achievements. The four new ones are Mid-Seaon Master, Outstanding Hall of Famer, Draft Master and Constructed Master.
Mid-Season Master is the person who leads the Player of the Year race after the second PT of the year. Outstanding Hall of Famer is the Hall of Famer with the most Pro Points at the end of the year. Draft Master is the player with most draft match wins from PTs during the year and Constructed Master is the player with the most constructed match wins during the year.
This leaves us with this list:
(4) Winner of a Pro Tour in the 2015-16 Season
(1) 2015 World Champion
(4) Pro Point Leaders from North America
(3) Pro Point Leaders from Europe
(3) Pro Point Leaders from Asia-Pacific
(2) Pro Point Leaders from Latin America
(1) 2015-16 Player of the Year
(1) Grand Prix Pro Points Leader
(1) Magic Online Champion
(1) 2015-16 Mid-Season Master
(1) 2015-16 Outstanding Hall of Famer
(1) 2015-16 Draft Master
(1) 2015-16 Constructed Master
They are not totally doing away with the At-Large. Whenever a player would gain two or more seats, those extra seats go into the At-Large pool. This means there will always be at least one At-Large seat, because if nothing else, the Player of the Year will be one of the top players of whatever region he is from. Also, since there are many strong and active HoFers (like EfRo or Paul Rietzl), there’s a strong chance that seat will overlap, and I don’t have any statistics on this, but the winner of one of the first two PTs must have a pretty good chance of leading the PotY race at that point.
Is all this good or bad? They seem sort of forced. Especially the ‘Mid-Season Master’. Also, this might leave out some big names, who would have otherwise made it. Making it to the tournament is not easy and thusfar only one player has achieved it four times (Yuuya Watanabe). Simply by participating, your profile will definitely strengthen.
The whole Pro Tour system is there to build stars and this new approach might hinder this. On the other hand, maybe they have enough North American stars. I think this new approach is in some ways fairer and doesn’t put as much emphasis on being able to play GPs. This might mean that we might be getting more players from around the world. This might be what WotC is actually after.
If North American market is pretty much saturated by now (and it might be), they should emphasize making stars abroad, where they still have room to grow. During this years World Championship, ten of the 24 players were from the US. I would like to see how this would have changed under the new system. I’m pretty sure they checked, but didn’t publish the results here. I bet someone will figure them out and publish them independently, because WotC doesn’t necessarily want to tell everyone they let the wrong people in.
This is also going to allow them to follow a number of new stories. The race for the At-Large bids is always a complicated affair where only the most mathematically inclined even have a clue on what’s going on. Besides, you already have the Player of the Year race for that. This just give several other less complicated races, which might even matter more to people. “Who is the best drafter” is a much more interesting question than “Who is the seventh best player who wasn’t good enough to qualify through other means”.