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Magic the Gathering and esports: Where we were. Where we’re at. Where we’re going.

The Good Ol’ Days

I’ll never forget the first time I tuned into an esports event. It was back during the Starcraft days. Sean Plott AKA Day[9], was one of the best players in the world and had started the YouTube series, the Day[9] Daily’s. Starcraft 2 had just come out, and Day[9] was transitioning his content over to the sequel to one of the greatest games ever, Starcraft. He recommended the Major League Gaming event held in Dallas, Texas with the winning player to receive five thousand dollars! The Swedish player, Naniwa, took down that event but I’ll never forget that day because I found my favorite Starcraft player – Evil Geniuses, Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson – who took 4th place that day.

Geoff was a sight to be seen. Geoff entered the MLG booth weighing in about 100 pounds heavier than his competitor – tattooed arms with a shirt that was maybe one size too small. A power lifter in his spare time, iNcontrol was a ballet dancer on the keyboard easily “micro’ing” his units and dancing his Protoss ball of death around his competitor’s Zergling/Baneling army. When I had heard that he was an Oregon State graduate, the college that I was planning on transferring to after my two-year degree, I decided Geoff and Evil Geniuses would be the player I pulled for. Geoff’s energy, personality, and success were all factors drawing me into pulling for this competitor.

Following iNcontrol and Evil Geniuses over the next few years introduced me to so many things – new games, new players, new communities, and above all else, the need and want to be INVESTED in esports. I loved the personalities of EG – the branding, the YouTube videos on their gamer house, and so many more things. I supported EG and, when they did well, I felt like I was a part of that. I’ll never forget those early feelings of being so hyped for esports.

I work in the esports industry in part due to this early, intense love and appreciation of the evolution of gaming. I’m SO HYPED for esports. I hope that you’ll join me.

 

Yes, back then I was an 09'er - always remember to appreciate what came before you. 

Fast Forward

Fast forward almost a decade: Now, the greatest trading card game of all time, Magic the Gathering, is moving into the esports industry. We have esports competitors from all walks of the industry getting into Arena due to the long-term viability and stability of the game – not to mention for the prospect of potentially getting a full sponsorship making a living wage playing Magic Arena for the top 32 players in the game.

Magic the Gathering Arena has set the building blocks in place – coming up with a simple client that can easily be downloaded and updated – a far cry from the semi unintuitive version of digital Magic’s old client, Magic the Gathering Online. With simplified game play, a smooth evolving interface, and the potential for quality of life improvements (better deckbuilding interface, more intuitive menus) Magic Arena seems here to stay.

The “esports” building blocks of Magic Arena have also been set in place. The top 32 players are now in the “Magic Pro League” a league that provides living wages, travel support, qualifications for showcase tournaments, streaming opportunities, social media/website promotions, among other support to take these 32 players and give them a personality behind their name. For more information on the Magic Pro League (MPL), check it out here: https://www.mtgesports.com/events

The Magic esports page also has details on how to qualify for the first Magic Arena Mythic Championship – while the initial qualifying stages look to be over. This format bodes well for anyone good enough, devoted enough, and passionate enough to take a crack at qualifying!

 One of our local tournament players, Tony, qualified for the July 2019 Mythic Championship qualifier! 

 

Culture Shift

Wizards of the Coast has also begun shifting the “feel” of larger Magic the Gathering events from a “card game grinder paradise (Grand Prix)” to a fun filled MTG festival that has something for everyone – families, casual players, and grinders alike (Magic Fest). The movement from large Magic events being a place quietly regarded as a place for only competitive players to a place that welcomes everyone is a trend that has been seen in the last five to ten years – with great success and reception. Magic is way cooler when it’s for everyone!

In that same vein, Magic Arena has done a great job at supporting content creators – both new and old. They have given the ability for creators to apply to become a “featured creator.” You can find that link here: https://magic.wizards.com/en/mtgarena/creators

From the looks of it, the staff hired on to promote Arena all know just how vitally important it is to have a very healthy base community to support your game. The fact that Arena is supporting pros, supporting creators, providing opportunities for up and coming players to show their skills, as well as supporting a thriving and growing community is something that not many games can attest to.

 

Cosplayers depicting the Planeswalker, Liliana, from a recent MagicFest! Image via Wizards of the Coast.

 

The Future

Magic Arena is the future of card game esports. Esports legends, Sir Scoots and djWHEAT back in the 90’s and early 2000’s envisioned an esports world like this. Inked Gaming and its staff and friends are all so excited to see what is happening with the community we love so very much. We hope that you’ll join us in rooting on the top 32 MPL players, all the up and coming card game sharks out there at Magic Fests, as well as continuing to support the Twitch streamers, Youtubers, and other creators that are so vitally important at keeping the community strong and healthy.

Day[9], an early esports icon, battles Brian Kibler, a Magic the Gathering Hall of Famer, on Magic Arena in a Wizard's sponsored video, What the Deck!

If you are a Magic the Gathering Arena creator and would like to receive support from Inked Gaming, please do check out our affiliate program found here: https://inkedgaming.refersion.com/affiliate/registration

 

See you on ladder!

Mitch "Magikarp" Gross

Affiliate Program Coordinator and Artist Representative