Welcome back to Playgroup Evolution, readers! This time we’re looking at league prize structures. Prizes need to: find a balance in awards, work within a good league structure, reward more than just winning games, and not break the store’s bank. Ready to go?

Balancing Prizes

Balancing prize support is a lot trickier than I thought it would be. See, East Coast Gamers (come check out the store) is trying to find good balance between casual games and still supporting people who want to get something for their well-earned victories. Tournament settings often only reward the very best, and the reward for 1st place is far beyond anything else. This works great in those more competitive settings. Multiplayer games make winning a lot more complicated. Since we are promoting a more casual environment, top-loading the prizes doesn’t make sense, and the point system-prize connection has roughly fit that goal. So far the store has had no point farming, and I’d rather not see the group turn down that road.

Figure 1: Pro Tour Winner

A solution I came up with that is completely original blatantly stole from many places: flatten the prize structure! You see, at the Pro Tour the winner gets $40,000 while second place gets $20,000. Sure it’s a lot of money to earn for playing cards, but that is a huge gap in the prizes. Instead, in our environment we’re looking at… you guessed it, a flatter, more even distribution.

Boom! Solving problems like a boss.

What should that payout be? We Magic players are basically addicted to cracking packs, so a booster box seems a good place to start. Splitting a box across the top four at the end of the league season seems to be a good solution. 36 packs, so something like 15, 10, 6, 5 from 1st place to 4th seems good. If the store wants to alter that, I’m fine with it*. But a booster box is pretty affordable for eight weeks of people paying a few bucks to play.

League Structure

Figure 2: It's Kind of Like That

Figure 2: It’s Kind of Like That

Running the league for eight weeks just sounded right. It gives us two months of running the league with a consistent set of point rewards. I’ve made small tweaks from week to week based on trends I was seeing, but now the system seems solid enough that it won’t need that. Also, this is a enough time to let some people move around in the point rankings, but not so long that everyone grows bored with the same people maintaining a commanding lead**.

Another reason for running the league for eight weeks is that it allows a nice breaking point. everyone can drop their two lowest weeks and the best six weeks will get counted. If someone can’t make it for a week or wants to try a derpy new deck that ends up sucking, they won’t be penalized as harshly.

Rewarding More Than Winning

Rewarding winners is great. But I loved an idea Bennie Smith did, called the “Spirit of EDH Haymaker Award.” I thought it would be great to do something easier on the store, but in a similar vein. I imagined a “Play of the Week” prize pack awarded to a player selected by player vote. It makes sense to reward some of the crazy plays that happen in EDH, especially those that might not necessarily earn any points.

For instance, we had a player running Krenko, Mob Boss attack with something like 160 goblin tokens. That would almost definitely win the play of the week pack. And we had a Sydri, Galvanic Genius eggs deck trying to combo out twice, failing, and switching to 1 drop beat down mode. Amazing.

Great plays are something I really want to encourage. Plus, we still get new players that show up with weaker decks. No matter what, they can earn a pack by doing something awesome. I also really like the idea of making it possible for players who can only play for a week to still have a chance to win a prize that week.

Breaking the Bank

Figure 3: He'll Never See It Coming

Figure 3: He’ll Never See It Coming

Earning prizes and getting value are wonderful. But, if the store ends up losing money on the EDH events, they aren’t likely to support our format. There is a chance that a full box at the end of eight weeks may be a little light. But hopefully everyone gets that it’s also for the store! Right now we are paying to play all day, and there are no packs being awarded. Adding any prize support should help bring some more people out, and with the point system to help keep a more fun game going, prizes should be fine.

Evaluation and Moving Forward

I know that playing EDH for prizes is typically considered a bad thing (after all casual fun and prizes rarely align well). But I think we can make this work. The prize support isn’t really high, and the point system has already encouraged people to play in a friendlier manner. Moving forward, I should have a breakdown of how East Coast Gamers wants to structure their EDH league. My next post should update with our structure.

I also want to take a brief break from discussing points systems to address threat assessment. Since my LGS has a solid number of new players to EDH, we have a lot of very strange methods of threat assessment. I promise to stay away from rants on this; I’ll be breaking down some simple guidelines to solid assessment.

* I’d love to see a Fat Pack plus some packs go to 1st place with the box distributed across the 4 players. It gets 1st a nice prize and 3rd and 4th get a little more for their efforts. Or some sleeves. Top 4 get a pack of good sleeves and the booster box split. Again, this is up to the store.
** Since we are still getting this off the ground, I’m unsure who is going to perform the best and for how long.

Word out
Erik