Rule of Law – The Magic World Cup

There are many wonderful things about the FIFA World Cup and Women’s World Cup in soccer. National pride, competition among the best players in the world, flopping, questionable officiating, fake injuries, and a beautiful game are all on display every time the men or women take the pitch in a World Cup event. What really takes everything to dizzying heights is that each event only takes place once every 4 years. Injustices or personal failures can’t be righted until at least 1461 days later. This extreme timeline gives every moment of every game a certain significance that you really don’t see outside of the World Cup or the Olympics (which is also on an every- 4-years schedule).

How do we translate any of this to Magic: The Gathering, a game played on kitchen tables instead of grass, and in convention center meeting rooms rather than grand arenas?

Let’s start by noting that the World Championships remains primarily an individual event. There is a team portion that involves three person national teams, but it lacks the drama and appeal of what we hope the World Cup could be. The fact that it takes place in the shadow of the individual event is one reason it comes up short, but not the only one. Perhaps the most important shortcoming is that it happens too often. As noted above, you can’t trot something out every year and expect the same drama that you get with an Olympics or World Cup.

Another major shortcoming of the World Championship team competition is that it often doesn’t include the best players in the world. This is a major problem.

While it features too few of the top players, the World Championship features too many countries to be compelling. The World Cup features only 16 teams and even there the group stage is much less exciting than the quarterfinals, in part because matchups often involve subpar teams.

Another missing element is the “elimination game” moments that occur in the World Cup well before the final match. When the World Cup gets down to 8 teams, it’s win or go home.

Addressing the above issues, here’s what we need to keep in mind when creating the event:

1) Take place only once every 4 years
2) Be its own event rather than one connected to an individual championship
3) Somehow involve the faking of injuries
4) Invite only 8 or 16 teams
5) National teams must include that nation’s best players
6) There must be elimination matches before the finals

The Magic: The Gathering World Cup

Every four years, in a location to be determined by a corrupt governing body (the Official Corrupt Committee) to be assembled from members of various participating countries, eight national teams of four players each will battle for the World Cup.

Why eight teams, and how do we select them? Eight teams is a number I’ve chosen to make sure there aren’t many teams thin on talent, while still maintaining enough teams to have a robust competition with several nations competing. Teams will be selected using the Pro Points standings from the 3 years prior to the year the World Cup will take place. So for a 2012 World Cup, we would use the 2009-2011 pro standings to determine which eight nations amassed the most points. It’s simple, and it’s sure to get the top nations right where we want them, into the event.

Why four players per team, and how do we select them? Four players per team is a deviation from the traditional three-man squads we’ve seen at the World Champs, but I think it’s better to let more players compete if the event is only to occur once every four years. More than four players and we risk the event being hard to follow as a spectator as well as the less deep nations possibly having to include players of a much lesser caliber than their top talent. The way we select the players is that the top three players in pro points in the same timeframe described above (2009-2011 for a 2012 tournament) are selected for the team. If any declines their invitation, the slot passes to the next player willing to attend. Those three players then vote and select a fourth teammate. If they can’t reach an agreement, the above-mentioned Official Corrupt Committee will select a person from among those nominated.

The Tournament:

The tournament begins in the quarterfinals, with the 1 seed playing the 8 seed and so on (seeding determined by pro points as with qualifying). Lose in the first round of the tournament and your country’s World Cup is over. Matches are best 3 of 5, but if you should have mulliganned that one-lander in game 5, you’ll have four years to think about it. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way we like it.

The first format will be Unified Standard, in which each team must build four decks using Standard deck construction rules, with no more than 4 copies of any card other than basic land allowed for the entire team. Pairings are done by pro points in the relevant tournament period, with the top players squaring off and so on down the line. Matches are best of 5, and the first team to take 3 matches advances. Should the four initial matches finish 2-2, a tiebreaker match will be played by any player the team selects (who must use the deck they used in their prior match). Selections for tiebreaker player will be made by each team captain (player with the most pro points) after consultation with the team and will be revealed simultaneously.

Are you getting excited yet? We’re not even in round 2 yet and we can already expect some amazing matches and upsets. Ideally team v. team match will take place with none of the other six teams competing at that particular time so that viewers of the webcast can focus on the action and tune in when their country is scheduled to compete, or watch them all.

Round two (the Semifinals) will be a new format I’ve named “Dual Sealed Deck.” Each player is given 7 boosters (1 more than typically used to build a sealed deck) to build TWO sealed decks. For each of the first 4 games of each 5 game match, players must alternate between their submitted A deck and B deck. For game 5, the players may select which deck to play, and may sideboard (but they may not sideboard OUT any basic lands). Will players ADD say, 2 swamps and 3 removal spells to their decks, bringing their deck to 45 cards? We’ll see. I’ve long thought there should be a format where having more than 40 or 60 cards was common, and although this format will be too time consuming during deck construction for regular play, for a once in a lifetime World Cup, its perfect.

Did I mention players can talk to teammates during deck construction? There will be a time limit to ensure that one player doesn’t build all the decks, but assistance can be provided, making teamwork and trust very important elements of the competition.

The finals will be team booster draft, done in the “money draft” style alternating team members seated around the draft table. The “hook and cut” will be in play as players fight not only to make their deck good, but also to make their neighbor’s decks bad. I could write volumes on why this is a great Magic format and makes for great finals. Having the draft be adversarial and involve potentially unorthodox picks in order to account for the team format makes for great viewing in a draft viewer and great fun for the competitors.

I considered a few more elaborate options for how to structure the finals, but he beauty of simplicity shouldn’t be sacrificed without good reason. With draft finals, we’ll have the game in its purest form on center stage in a pressure-packed finale to the World Cup.


The Official Corrupt Committee must make sure than whomever runs the World Cup can provide enough prize support to entice participants to travel to the event. I’d like to think players would do it for pride and for the Cup but that’s not realistic if you’re asking someone to travel across the world for a gaming tournament. The other alternative is having the event a few days or a week before an event people are already traveling to like a PT. This makes a lot of sense and is probably the best solution.

Proceeds (ad revenue) from the webcast of the tournament and the online written coverage of the event should in part fund the prizes awarded to the first and second place teams. If a particular site or company wants to run the World Cup and provide prizes, they could be the FIFA and put their name on the event and their banners on the coverage. Either way, the prize support seems like something that could be put together.

Let me know what you think of the idea of an MTG World Cup on twitter @mtg_law_etc.

(For those of you who haven’t checked out my new MTG humor website MTGLampoon.com, please do so and tell your friends about it if you like what you see.)

-Matt Sperling

43 thoughts on “Rule of Law – The Magic World Cup”

  1. It seems rather arbitrary that the first 3 team members are chosen based on performance and the 4th is chosen by popularity. Mind explaining the reasoning here?

  2. Duel sealed deck number 1, the sick red black removal deck I have because I have 7 packs. My second deck, the same deck but with one less swamp and one more mountain. Maybe a bit of a problem with your format (that and I don’t think its any good, but thats just an opinion)

  3. The finals should be vintage. Let’s be serious, there’s way too much luck involved in draft. What if one team opens all of the bomb mythics and the other team opens nothing and the decks are super lopsided, ergo a foregone conclusion? Vintage is the only acceptable format for the finals IMO.

  4. @above

    You complain about a luck based format and you follow that up by proposing a far more luck based format. Humorous.

  5. There are 32 teams in a Male World Cup, 16 in Womens by the way- just incase people are getting misled…

  6. Seems interesting but what’s in it for Wizards? Tournaments that your average joe has no prayer of qualifying for don’t drive card sales, and without any potential advertising revenue, you’re not going to build a decent purse, which will also drive down interest.

  7. If the teams go by which nations have the most pro points, how is it conceivable that they wouldn’t have 4 highly skilled persons?

  8. I’d like to see a “duplicate magic” format, where you have two teams of two, and each team enters a deck. One player plays his deck against his opponent’s deck, and the other player plays his opponent’s deck against his deck.

    You win by winning more games than your opponent (best of 5?) and if both teams win the same amount, the team that takes fewer overall turn maybe. Meh, that’s a trivial detail. Basically duplicate bridge for TCGs would be awesome.

  9. I like the idea of the event but not so much the formats, i also like the 3 players pick the 4th.

  10. Another missing element is the “elimination game” moments that occur in the World Cup well before the final match. When the World Cup gets down to 8 teams, it’s win or go home.

    Na its actually 16 teams in the only true World Cup (the mens one :p). Only in the US women soccer is more popular then mens.

  11. lol so magic players want to copy another WoW (world of warcraft tcg) event 😛 nice

  12. So I usually don’t comment on writing style, but try not to ask questions, only to answer them in the following sentences. “Why four players” “Well, let me tell you why…”. Just take that part out and start in with the explanation.

    Sorry for being a troll 🙁

  13. The interesting thing about the FIFA world cup is that EACH region (continental divisions) has teams that represent that region.

    Thats why we see playing african vs latin american teams, or european vs asian teams.

    In your suggestion, it would be Japan, USA and like 6 european teams. Poor PV would be en danger of playing…

  14. Great idea.

    I’m afraid the same 4 teams would always be qualified with 4 random teams added.
    I don’t see how Japan, US, France, Germany could not be qualified. (in the world cup, even Argentina or France are sometimes not qualified)

    Also 8 countries is not enough. The World cup has way more teams than stated in this article (women soccer is not real soccer and no one in Europe gives a damn).

    I think every 4 years is not often enough. In Europe, there are 2 Major soccer events every 4 years : the World Cup and the European Cup. which makes one very important event every 2 years. I would suggest MTG World cup every 2 years.

  15. Cool story Bro. I wish I got paid to blog my wish list for random things.
    This is what people do when they go on forums and try to predict what a unreleased Plainswalker should do, and then argue about it. It doesn’t matter.

  16. @FMira: I think PV alone would qualify Brasil for this event, but there are actualy other decent Brasil player out there 😉

  17. Qualifications should count just the 4 most succesful players, small countries with a couple of good players should be able to qualify.
    Qualification by region is important too, it should be like 3 EU, 2 NA, 1 SA, 2 AS. So PV can qualify. You can even run Regional Qualifications so every country dreams with qualifying each 4 years.
    Unified and team draft sound good, but the double sealed sound like a bad format, I would change that.

  18. Like the idea, although I think 4 years is a lot … FIFA Wordls Cup are separated by 4 years because many countries, at the moment of being chosen to be the host country, don´t have enough large stadiums or present other issues that needs years so be solved. In Magic, let say you allow 32 teams (I think that would be THE best), you just need to rent 1 o 2 centers,
    Also, it would be great to make the teams qualify the same way that they do in FIFA Worlds. If this elimination are rewarded with Pro Points it could be attractive to many players to play it. Plus, this is something great for countries that are not known as “Great Magic countries”, and likely this tournament would make Magic more appealing in those countries like Argentina (I am argentinian, and there are some really good players; the only problem is that there are few important tournaments, thay are lucky if Latin America host a GP).
    Hopefully this idea would be analyzed by Wizards, its a great oppotunity.

    PD: Sorry for the crappy english

  19. I really loved the idea, as a brazilian i’m a huge fan of the world cup and think a magic world cup would be awesome.
    The only problem would be how to make the players buy the idea. PVDdR said countless times that he enjoy this kind of event, but i think that’s not the common sense among pro players.

  20. Here it is….the greatest event ever!

    Every two years the 16 teams with the highest total team pro points play tiddly winks in the back of a burger king bathroom for left over french fries. Winner takes all.

    Seriously, I love the idea of a special event that doesn’t happen every year and is more of a team event. Everyone loves 2HG and Rochester draft so start there and work out some formats.

  21. Marcos Hernandes

    I like this idea, it´s very interesting, and I ike the idea of these format to play.

  22. I like the idea, but as dan pointed out, selecting teams based on pro-points wouldn’t work.
    If that gets fixed (and I have no idea how to do it), the tournament should be awesome.

  23. I liked the idea! I think it should be seen by the Wizards.
    But if there is interest it could be done by independent organizers with support from other countries, and even CF might be the patron of the competition.

    If you need some organizing in Brazil can contact me!

    Hopefully that works!

    Regards Bruno

  24. Maybe make it every 8 or 10 years. Every 4 years doesnt seem special enough for me.

  25. “Duel sealed deck number 1, the sick red black removal deck I have because I have 7 packs. My second deck, the same deck but with one less swamp and one more mountain. Maybe a bit of a problem with your format (that and I don’t think its any good, but thats just an opinion)”

    You misunderstood. It has to be 2 Sealed decks that can be sitting side by side; that is, any 1 card in your pool cannot be in both decks.

  26. I think a better way of doing this would be closer to the world cup system and having a qualifying round in say which the top 4 players from each country compete in a competition involving only players from there continent in order to qualify. So one for North America, South America, Asia, Europe. Then whoever wins or finish high enough in that event qualifies for the world cup which i’m fine with as you suggest. You could always allocate more qualifying places to certain areas based on some sort of world ranking. I’m sure this is why Europe is always so stacked out at the actual world cup.

    And also the world cup is way more prestigious than the European championships.

  27. What about making Cube draft one of the limited formats. Then, the selection of who builds the cube would be akin to the selection of the site for the world cup. The following rules would be implemented:

    1) The player building the Cube is not allowed to discuss the contents of the cube with potential World Cup participants.
    2) The player building the Cube will recruit his own team to test the cube. These players are not eligible for qualification in the World Cup.
    3) The player building the Cube and the testing team are not allowed to publish/write anything related to the World Cup cube.

    I’m sure some information would get around, but having players enter a draft relatively blind as to the contents of the draft, I think, would be a very interesting test of limited skills – both of card evaluation on the fly and of actual play skill.

  28. “Sets come out/rotate annually, not every 4 years.”

    We could just ignore Standard.

  29. What if instead of Standard you do Extended or something like that using the sets that have been released since the past WC event or in the past 4 years?

    Double sealed is weak but could be acceptable with 7 random booster packs from across the history of magic passed out to each player and would be much more skill intensive especially if no one gets the same 7 sets/expansions.

    One of the things I appreciate about Worlds is that Standard, Extended and Legacy are all played as part of the event. I would think that this event would also include Legacy but it could be awesome if Wizards would allow a few cards from the Future future league to be allowed at this event.

  30. Not going to lie, I did not read your whole article. However, I love the idea, especially the faking of injuries part. National pride is invigorating and I don’t see any reason the Magic World Cup shouldn’t exist.

  31. I loved the part about the Official Corrupt Comittee. By the way, that would actually solve some of the abovementioned issues: Since basically NOTHING in the usual FIFA business is decided with the intention of benefitting the sport itself but rather with the goal of milking as much money as possible from their events (starting with the decision where the event is held in the first place), tournament details can simply be determined by letting the highest briber have his way.

  32. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  33. Maybe if you throw in “Modern” as one of the formats, Wizards will throw in some support.

    Anyway, cool idea, but Magic is just not big enough (yet?) for such an event.

  34. @ David, what makes duplicate bridge great is that you actually use the same hands, so it really tests the skills of the players. If you simply play the same matchups one team might just have better hands every time, so it isn’t a reward of play-skill necesarily. It would be a cool concept, but the equivalent would basically be replicating the exact order cards will be drawn, so it will be a true test of play-skill.

  35. Hehe, you were spot on good sir. Seems like someone might have been listening to the community, and you 😉

  36. Pingback: The Best 1v1 Draft Format | The Draft Brewery

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top