After three months of suspension, premier play has finally returned in full force to Magic Online. Mike Turian officially announced Pro Tour Magic 2015 qualifiers today, along with the new even structure supporting the popular events:
We are excited to announce the return of premier play (such as Pro Tour Qualifiers and MOCS) to Magic Online. While these events were offline, we took a number of steps to help us ensure the integrity of premier play, and events in general, on Magic Online. These changes have given us the confidence that premier play on Magic Online will maintain the high level of integrity that is especially necessary for events that qualify players for things like the Pro Tour.
First, we have added dedicated Magic Online team members who will oversee online events as they happen, in real time. This will allow for a better and faster response to address issues as they arise, and to directly communicate with the community.
Second, in order to assist these team members in their new roles, we added a number of new system administration features. One example is the ability to increase the in-game timers and inactivity timers dynamically, both at an event level as well as system-wide. Previously, when there was a major service interruption, players would time out after a static ten-minute time window, often while trying to log back in. These new tools give us the ability to extend these time windows as needed.
Third, we will have the ability to force a round/game completion when a match has stalled and is preventing the tournament from proceeding. In the past, events have had issues in which Magic Online ended up waiting for results of a match that the players had completed. Now, we will have the ability to manually re-report match results to the system, which should get the event to continue on as planned.
The structure of Magic Online PTQs is now a preliminary-finals feeding system, and it excludes anyone already invited to the Pro Tour:
Magic Online will host sixteen Pro Tour Qualifier Finals following each set of Preliminaries that will have the same format as their Preliminaries. Players may participate in as many PTQ Preliminaries as they like, but can only earn a single invitation to the PTQ Finals. Participation in Magic Online PTQ Preliminaries and Finals is open only to players who have not been invited to Pro Tour Magic 2015. (Emphasis theirs.)
Further incentivizing players to qualify for Pro Tour Magic 2015 through Magic Online is an increased prize pool for the Pro Tour Challenge, offered to competitors that qualify online:
Players who earn an invitation to a Pro Tour will also receive an invitation to the Pro Tour Challenge. This in-person event is held during the Pro Tour event and pits Magic Online Pro Tour invitees against one another in two-player, single-elimination tournaments for a chance to win prizes.
Prizes for the Pro Tour Magic 2015 Challenge have increased! Players can now win $1,500 USD plus Magic Online booster packs. Pro Tour Challenge tournaments will be scheduled around the applicable Pro Tour main event to ensure players are able to participate in both.
While numerous issues exist with store-run PTQs, Magic Online served as a valuable lifeline to players around the world without access to regular PTQs. Demonstrating the ability to "finally fix" the event stability issues that plagued Magic Online is a valuable step in restoring player trust and optimism. With the Beta Client still in active development for final deployment, and League play allegedly on the horizon, restoring these events and ensuring they fire flawlessly is the best hope for the future of Magic Online.
For full details, including schedules for Magic Online PTQs, entry and prize information, as well as details around the Pro Tour Challenge, check out the official Magic Online Pro Tour Magic 2015 qualifiers announcement on MagicTheGathering.com.