King Macar, the Gold-Cursed
27, Nov, 23

MTG Prize Support is Missing These TCG Concepts!

Article at a Glance

In the world of MTG, there are a ton of reasons players become immersed in the game. Magic the Gathering brings a unique blend of excitement and entertainment that is quite enjoyable for players of all skill levels. For many players, simply playing casual Commander games with friends is an awesome way to pass the time. After all, each game of MTG is different, allowing it to hold entertainment value and deep replayability.

For others, though, the competitive nature of the game brings a cool new element of enjoyment. Getting to play in Regional Championship Qualifiers and Regional Championships in the hopes of earning invites to the Pro Tour is extremely motivating for lots of players. Of course, playing more seriously doesn’t just come with pride and glory as a potential reward.

These types of MTG tournaments also come with prize support, often in cash, for the top performing players. What’s interesting, though, is that in many cases, this prize support is rather top-heavy. It is quite common for prize support to be distributed only to top 8 of a Regional Championship Qualifier. For some, this could be a bit off-putting given the required entry fees for participating in the Regional Championship Qualifiers.

This has some players thinking about exactly how prize support at certain levels of competition varies between different Trading Card Games. The reality is, Yugioh tournaments are often structured quite differently when it comes to prize support distribution. Obviously, prize support associated with small events at local game stores is rather difficult to compare, but Regional Championship Qualifiers and the Regional Championships themselves line up at least somewhat similarly with the Yugioh Tournament circuit. Let’s start by taking a look at tournaments at the local level.

While MTG is missing some core concepts from other tournament prizing, at least under a Pro Tour level, that isn’t really to say that Magic prizing is worse than other TCGs.

The Concept of Entry Packs

The Reddit post above garnered a lot of attention comparing prize support for Yugioh and MTG tournaments at the local level. Part of what left the poster with a sour taste in their mouth with regards to MTG tournaments was the lack of packs given as part of the entry. Sure, MTG players could receive participation promos associated with Regional Championship Qualifiers, but these specific promos typically aren’t worth much money. In Yugioh, it is extremely common for tournaments to come with a specific number of booster packs given out to every single person who enters the event.

For instance, Yugioh has tournaments known as Regional Qualifiers that line up a bit closely to MTG’s Regional Championship Qualifiers. There are a rather large number of Regional Qualifiers, at least within North America, each season. As of October 28, 2023, Yugioh is in the “Age of Overlord” Season. Age of Overlord is the most recent core booster set. Each Regional Qualifier has a specific structure. They cost $22.50 to enter and come with five packs for each player. Given that the MSRP of Age of Overlord booster packs is $4.49, each player is actually getting a reasonable deal just by entering the Regional Qualifier.

The downside, however, is that prizes are rather limited beyond this. Top eight players get a playmat, and top four players get a card case. Of course, like MTG Regional Championship Qualifiers, players can also earn invites to the next level tournament (for MTG, this is the Regional Championship, for Yugioh it is the World Championship Qualifier), with invites based on attendance.

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Prizes for Bigger Tournaments

Anotherverse Gluttonia
Via: Konami

In a similar way to how MTG used to have a Grand Prix circuit before COVID, Yugioh also has a wide range of Championship Series events that often have rather large attendance rates. Interestingly, much like how Regional Qualifiers were run, these Championship Series events also cost roughly the equivalent of five booster packs. As a result, each participant receives five booster packs as compensation just for entering the tournament.

What this means, though, like the other qualifiers, is that the remaining prize support is somewhat minimal. Assuming the event is under 2049 players, additional prize support as well as invitations to the next World Championship Qualifier are given to top 32. 17th-32nd place will receive playmats. 9th-16th place will also receive 24 extra booster packs. 4th-8th place each get a Nintendo Switch as well.

Where things get interesting is with the prizes for top three. 2nd and 3rd place players will get Super Rare versions of a Championship Series Prize Card (in this case, this is Anotherverse Gluttonia). 1st place will get an Ultra Rare version of the same card. While there are limited details about the exact price of these cards, they tend to sell for rather large sums of money. For instance, a Super Rare version of Anotherverse Dragon, a recent Championship Series prize card, sold for $700 back in October according to TCGplayer latest sales.

As you can see, this is very different from how big MTG tournaments are run. Grand Prix tournaments, for instance, had typically cost a lot more than $22.50 to enter and only top 64 were guaranteed to make money. However, players in top 64 would make a lot of money as a result, with first place earning $10,000. Pokémon Regional Championships are actually structured a similar way. For players 18 years or older, cash prizes are given to top 32, with 1st place also earning $10,000. Entry fees can vary, but for reference, the next Pokémon Regional Championship in North America has a $65 entry fee.

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Further Comparisons

byu/TacotheMagicDragon from discussion

The reality is, each prize structure format has its pros and cons. For players that don’t want to spend a ton of money up front and want to at least walk away with something whether they have a great performance in the tournament or not, Yugioh may have an ideal prize structure. There are a couple big drawbacks to this method, however.

First, players that don’t enjoy opening booster packs or those who open them and find minimal value from among the cards may be disappointed. Second, many players look forward to the potential to earn big cash payouts for having a great tournament finish, something Yugioh tournaments lack by comparison.

As cool and valuable as the Super Rare and Ultra Rare prize cards can be, for players looking to convert them to cash, they do require you to find a collector willing to buy them. In this sense, the cash prizes you can receive in MTG or Pokémon tournaments are more convenient. For highly competitive players, these cash prizes can also be extremely rewarding. The large $130,000 prize pool at the USA Regional Championship provides extra incentive for players to travel and compete on the big stage.

byu/TacotheMagicDragon from discussion

Overall, the different payout styles largely appeal to different masses of people. Small local tournaments naturally showcase a wide variety of prizes and distribution methods. Where things begin to differ greatly across different TCGs is with Qualifier-style tournaments that feed more competitive play. While it may be appealing to add entry packs to these MTG tournaments, unless the rest of the prize support structure were drastically changed to be significantly less top-heavy and cash focused, all this will do is increase the cost of the tournament entry fee anyway.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see how tournament structures continue to change over time. These comparisons truly showcase that, depending on the target audience, there are a ton of different methods of prize support distribution that can be utilized.

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