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Grand Prix bye rule changes imminent

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There was a surprising and sudden announcement on the tournament front today, as if the furor of speculation and anticipation over three upcoming sets weren't enough. According to a mothership article, Grand Prix qualification is now calculated in a way that's good news for true pros and bad news for pedestrian grinders:

Effective August 30, 2014, Grand Prix byes determined by Planeswalker Points will use points from the Planeswalker Points Yearly Award Seasons to award byes, rather than the Seasonal Award Seasons.

This change will allow players to earn points at their own pace and keep their byes longer, rather than feeling the need to "grind" to reach their goal and then restart every three months. Needing to know the exact cut-off dates for the Seasonal Award Seasons also led to confusion among players about how many byes they may have from one week to the next.

Managing the number of byes is an important part of running a successful tournament, and switching to a yearly model led to a full reevaluation of byes. With too many players having byes, the value of an individual bye is lessened. As an outcome of this reassessment, three-round byes based on Planeswalker Points will no longer be offered at Grand Prix as of August 30.

There were two paths in determining a possible three-round bye threshold with the new yearly system, both of which were problematic. Under one calculation, the system would have generated a number of three-round byes that would prove detrimental to tournament play, especially as the size of Grand Prix keeps rising. Under a more strict calculation, the threshold would have been so high that it would appear reachable only through extensive grinding—exactly the issue we're hoping to curb. Three-round byes will still be awarded to Gold and Platinum members of the Pro Players Club, as well as members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

When the new system is put in place on August 30, bye levels will be set based both on Planeswalker Points earned in the completed 2014 Yearly Award Season (March 18, 2013 through June 1, 2014) and the in-progress 2015 Yearly Award Season (which runs from June 2, 2014 through May 31, 2015).

Players will receive byes at each Grand Prix depending on the number of Planeswalker Points they earned during the Yearly Award Seasons. Here are the new thresholds:

1 Bye: 1,300 Planeswalker Points
2 Byes: 2,250 Planeswalker Points
These new levels were developed by analyzing the number of players currently getting one- and two-round byes through Planeswalker Points and extrapolating those three-month play patterns over a twelve-month period.

Because the system now looks at a twelve-month range, the 1,000 bonus points awarded for winning a Pro Tour Qualifier will be eliminated starting with the "Dewey" Pro Tour Qualifier Round (starting August 30, 2014).That reward had been created to offset the fact that PTQ winners could no longer play in PTQs for that season (and therefore were missing out on many high-multiplier events to reach bye thresholds).

As the 2015 Yearly Award Season begins June 2, 2014 (nearly three months before this change is put into place), Grand Prix held from June 2, 2014, through August 24, 2014, will still award one-, two-, and three-round byes based on the Season Award Seasons. However, byes earned during that Seasonal Award Season will not carry forward beyond August 30, 2014. Byes after August 30, 2014, will only be awarded based on the Yearly Award Seasons.

Hall-of-famers are safe to rest on their laurels thus far - their byes look safe indefinitely. However, PTQ winners are less lucky - gone now is the thin hope of getting lucky once for that big PWP prize.

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