MDI Scheduling Changes Address Player Concerns

We recently wrote an article where we discussed the rigorous time investment required to compete in the MDI at a high level. This has been a major concern for the competitors for some time now, but it seems this year the topic has become increasingly prevalent. We have seen a surge in discussions from players and other MDI stakeholders on this topic recently, with lots of different ideas proposed on how to ameliorate the issue.

Earlier this morning, Blizzard announced in the official MDI Discord that they are making some changes that appear to be aimed specifically at addressing this time investment issue. We are currently on a one-week break in the MDI season due to Blizzconline coming up on February 19/20, but these changes will be implemented for the 3rd set of Time Trials.

The Changes

Until now, the MDI Season has been following a schedule of Time Trials and Cups taking place on alternating weekends. Time Trials get announced/opened at 10am PST on Thursday mornings, and close at 10am PST the following Tuesday. The dungeons and brackets for the subsequent Cup get announced at 10am PST on Wednesday, the day after the Time Trials close. The Cup itself then begins on Friday at 10am PST, and runs until the final match is finished on Sunday afternoon/evening.

The announced changes affect the above schedule as follows:

  • Time Trials will now take place over a period of 4 days as opposed to 5.
  • Time Trials will be announced and open at 10am PST on Fridays instead of Thursdays. The closing date/time of the Time Trials will remain 10am PST on the following Tuesday.
  • Cup dungeons and brackets will continue to be released at 10am PST on Wednesdays, but Mythic+ dungeons on the Tournament Realm will be disabled from the close of the Time Trial on Tuesday until the Cup information is released on Wednesday.

What Does This Mean?

They may seem like relatively small changes, but these amendments to the MDI schedule are likely to have a substantial impact. The Time Trial period is especially demanding for players, and is often where a large portion of time is spent—especially for newer/inexperienced teams. Players spend many hours and very long days during the Time Trials perfecting their routes before doing their official attempts. Limiting this by one day still gives the teams ample time to complete their Time Trials, but reduces their total time spent. It also forces players to be more efficient with their time on the Tournament Realm.

Restricting the ability to practice during the 24 hours between Time Trial close and Cup announcement is an interesting step. We are reminded of that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come”. When it comes to the MDI, if the Tournament Realm is open, the players will practice. This statement may seem contrary to the fact that it is the players who have been complaining about the time investment required. However, it is merely a fact of both competitive sports and esports where players will spend the time necessary for a potential competitive edge. It is almost a compulsion, and carries with it the mentality of “my opponent is probably practicing, so if I don’t also spend this time practicing, I’ll fall behind.” If the Tournament Realm is simply not available for those 24 hours, the playing field remains equal in terms of practice, and the players get some well-deserved rest.

What are the Players Saying?

To gain more insight, we asked a few of this season’s MDI competitors what they think about these changes.

Wolfdisco is a member of the Cup 1 winning team Perplexed and has actually competed in every single MDI since its inception in 2017. He has experienced every format change the tournament has undergone over the last several years, and thinks Blizzard is on the right track with these decisions:

I think these changes constitute a really good first step towards what I want to see as a player. They make competing in the MDI healthier and more accessible. Hopefully changes like this continue to be made in the future.

PI ME’s healer, Igloo, has been competing in the MDI since the start of BFA. He has made it to every LAN and Global Finals, and his team has been putting on a fantastic performance so far this season. He believes the changes are a good start, but is hoping for even more of an overhaul of the format in the future:

I think the Time Trial changes are good, but it’s only a start. The time commitments are still too much, and fewer people are wanting to be involved in the MDI. Re-formatting the Time Trials to something else entirely would be the best way to reduce the time commitment. Restricting Tournament Realm access on off-tournament days is a neutral change as it stops the top teams committing even more hours for the obvious advantage it gives, but also creates an even bigger deficit for the teams that cannot put more hours in to catch up.

Coming in 4th place this past Cup was Does Gargoyle Stream, and one of their DPS players, Facemick, was able to provide us with some additional feedback:

Reducing Time Trials to 4 days is rather a good change, as it reduces the number of days we are grinding dungeons for 6-8 hours a day. Especially now that most of the teams have played all 8 dungeons, we don't have to spend that much time there anyways. Restricting M+ after Time Trials doesn't really do much, as I feel like after Time Trials are over, players either took some rest or played retail.

Some players are not as enthusiastic about the changes, such as Kilthus, a member of The Pitu's Angels. Newcomers to the MDI, these changes will likely affect inexperienced teams differently than they will the long-established teams. Kilthus explains it from his team's perspective:

The truth is that we do not like the new scheduling changes. We get one day less for the Time Trials, and also there is the fact that we cannot practice the keys between the end of the Time Trials and the day of the official Cup announcement. This is devastating for teams like mine. Personally, I think these changes benefit the big teams like Echo or Perplexed, since they are at a higher level with more past experience, and therefore they need less time to practice in order to make their runs effective and cleaner than the rest of the teams.

While there may be some mixed feelings towards the recent change to Time Trials, the consensus seems to be that the format of the MDI has become increasingly arduous over the years, further amplifying the barriers to entry. It’s great to see that Blizzard is aware of this issue and looking to make amendments towards the format, so we look forward to seeing what the MDI has in store for us in the future.

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About the Author

Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. If she’s not leading her Mythic Progression guild TBD through raids, she’s probably practicing for the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for the last 7 years. Judgment isn’t just a spell! Hulahoops recently decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for esports by joining the team at RaiderIO as the Events and Community Coordinator. She is also passionate about making Azeroth an inclusive, welcoming space for all gamers and is a proud co-founder of the Defias Sisterhood community.