Magic the Gathering Organized Play released an article last week detailing their plans for the rest of the year, as well as the organized play plans for the 2020 calendar year. This announcement came with much relief, some confusion, and renewed hope for the hundreds of thousands of players around the world with aspirations to play their favorite game at that highest level.
First off, we need to learn a short history of organized competitive play, where it went, and then we will be able to understand what these new announcements mean for everyone moving forward.
Organized play began in the mid 1990’s in many parts around the United States, as well as small pockets around the world. The first Magic the Gathering Pro Tour was held in 1994 and moving into the mid to late 90’s, we started to see the formation of organized play networks to track pro points, DCI rating (now Planeswalker points), and many other analytics that we see in today’s game.
Up through the 2000’s into the mid 2010’s, we saw a thriving competitive scene with “Platinum”, “Gold”, and “Silver” level pro player club levels – attainable by doing well in events that award “pro points.” These events consisted of public entry “Grand Prix’s” and Private, qualifier only, “Pro Tours.” This system went through ebb’s, flows, and many changes but one thing was consistent – there was always a clear set of attainable goals for you to reach the pinnacle of Magic: The Gathering organized play.
With Magic: Arena’s announcement and the whispers of changes coming, many people concluded that there may very well not be a pro club after Arena hit the masses. Others were very optimistic that Wizards would continue to support some of their most passionate and competitive fan base.
Arena hit the open beta release (open to the public) in September 2018, and Wizards of the Coast announced their competitive play plans in small snippets – announcing the Magic Pro League, then announcing changes in the GP circuit, and then the dissolution of the current Magic the Gathering Pro Tour. Many of these changes were met with confusion, anger, and even many established pro’s and semi-pro’s retiring all-together from competitive play.
The following months were rather dark for the competitive community. On one hand, you have 32 of the best players in the world duking it out every weekend on Twitch – on the other hand, you had all players - from the 33rd in the world to your local 15 year old kid with dreams of playing on the Pro Tour - wondering if this was the end of the line for their goals, passions, and dreams with Magic.
Many players sold out of paper Magic the Gathering during 2019 – many players decided that they would quit competitive play – retire and move to a different game. The whispers heard at local events and Discord chats were not optimistic, and an announcement from Wizards of the Coast was long overdue. Many prominent members of the community would Tweet at official Wizards accounts to be met with a nonresponse. The end of competitive paper play seemed to be over before it had even had it’s first year with Arena.
The end of competitive Magic as we knew it seemed near, until the August 14th, 2019 announcement happened over on mtgesports.com.
As stated directly from their article, here are the headlines of what’s coming:
- “The Magic Pro League has a clear path-to-pro with the addition of a new Rivals League.
- Tabletop Magic gets an all-new regionalized championship structure—the Players Tour—with more than $2.5M in prizes.
- MTG Arena will be anchored by spectacular Mythic Invitationals, with 3 per season, each offering a $750K prize pool.
- The Magic World Championship remains the pinnacle of Magic competitive play and will feature the season's most accomplished MTG Arena and tabletop players vying for the game's top honor and a $1M prize pool.
- Both the tabletop Players Tour and the MTG Arena Mythic Invitationals will offer twice as many qualification slots to players around the world, vastly increasing play opportunities no matter which platform you prefer.
- In addition to Grand Prix, Premier Series events like the SCG Tour by Star City Games and the new LATAM Magic Series by Bazar de Bagdá will offer qualification paths to the Players Tour, and we look forward to integrating more local tournament series from around the world.
- Magic will remain a category leader offering more than $10M in prize and player support for the 2020–2021 season, across the combined MTG Arena and tabletop prize pools and MPL and Rivals League support."
These announcements are huge for the future of paper MTG players as well as digital Magic players. The entire 2019 year we had our 32 best and brightest players all playing a game that we love. During this year, we sat there watching, waiting, and wondering how we could get to this stage. Most players reading the new announcements may never get to play up on that big stage of the Magic Pro League. Many players that have retired may never come back to the game – even with these announcements. What this does do for the game is rekindle a new hope for competitive players around the world that they too, have an opportunity and clear set of goals to go for to reach the highest level.
These announcements give a community of players looking for a reason to travel to a Magic Fest, hang with a bunch of awesome people, eat some amazing food, and experience life together…all because of some card game that we love. And maybe, just maybe, they do well enough at that Magic Fest and set their own sites on becoming the next Magic Pro League member.
Inked’s Card Game Fanatic