The Year of More for Competitive Magic

Posted in Competitive Gaming on February 20, 2019

By Elaine Chase

Elaine Chase is the vice president, global brand strategy and marketing for Wizards of the Coast.

Competitive Magic has been around for virtually as long as the game itself. It's been played in homes, schools, stores, convention halls, and at championships. During Magic's 25-year history, competitive Magic has fostered diversity of play, passion for the game, and bonds of friendship.

Evolving Magic's competitive gaming programs to include MTG Arena esports has a huge payoff for Magic players: a system that is bigger than ever and offers more ways for you to compete the way you want to, whether that's on tabletop or your PC.

To learn more about How to Become the Next Magic Champion: Qualifying for Mythic Championships and Worlds, click here!

As we build the new system, we see things in terms of "and," not "or." We support both new players and long-time fans; tabletop and digital; Standard and Modern; Swiss-pairings and double elimination; best of three with sideboarding and new twists like Duo Standard. This variety is what makes the game of Magic great. We at Wizards love and support every bit. And as we expand our competitive play systems, our goal is to take that unique breadth of Magic and make it even broader, offering more ways to play for more players than ever before.

2019 is going to be a year of big changes and new additions to competitive Magic. We increased Magic's total prize pool across tabletop and digital to $10 million. The Magic Pro League introduces a new level of truly professional play. We integrated MTG Arena into Magic's top tier of competition with the newly named Mythic Championships, giving players a way to compete at the highest level on both tabletop and PC. New organizers, like Twitch Rivals, are running even more tournaments for Magic. And we'll be ending the 2019 season with a $1 million World Championship bringing together the best of the best of both tabletop and MTG Arena, including both the MPL and Challengers.

As we integrate both MTG Arena and the MPL into Magic's existing tabletop competitive systems, we'll be making the most of what each does best:

  • Tabletop competitive gaming puts the "Gathering" in "Magic," and will be focused on creating amazing in-person and face-to-face experiences. It's the center of our very mission at Wizards of the Coast: to bring people together through their shared love of games. Pro Tours are now called Mythic Championships but still offer the same level of elite competition for tabletop Magic as they always have. You can still qualify for them in events run by local game stores around the world and through Magic Online. Grand Prix tournaments are now at the centerpiece of the jam-packed celebrations of Magic that are MagicFest weekends. And there's even more excitement on its way for tabletop in 2019 (there's some sort of new product that you'll be hearing about very soon . . .)!
  • MTG Arena esports brings Magic competition to you, wherever you live and whenever you want to play. It enables us to create more ways for players to compete in and watch the best game in the world than ever before.
  • The Magic Pro League is about star-building the very best Magic players in the world, telling their unique stories through the lens of their triumphs and defeats while showcasing their elite skills as they do what they do best: playing Magic and sharing their passion for the game.

Magic has evolved tremendously over the last 25 years. Change and experimentation are integral to the core of what Magic is. We'll be guiding that evolution the way we always have: trying new things, listening to players, and measuring results. Change will never make everyone happy. Sometimes we will need to let go of something that people love to add something new. Other times we'll want to try something so outside of what we've done in the past that it pushes up against our collective comfort zone. Good examples of this uncomfortable change include the shift in how we're handling Grand Prix coverage and how we're testing Duo Standard.

  • As many of you have noticed, we've started to change what is streamed out on the main Magic Twitch channel. In the past, we broadcast many GPs as a way to watch the game of Magic being played on a regular basis since Magic had few other streaming options. Typically, the viewership of these events was modest. With the addition of MTG Arena, there are now many different ways to watch Magic that have an extremely high reach, including the massive influx of players streaming their play from home (more than 40,000 of them), the upcoming MTG Arena Mythic Championships and Mythic Invitational, and the seasonal Magic Pro League play which is slated to start this spring. GPs will remain an important component of Magic's competitive play program, and Magic will have more coverage than ever before, but the main Magic Twitch channel will have different types of programming than it did when competitive Magic was only tabletop. We're working with ChannelFireball to cover select Grands Prix on, starting with the upcoming MagicFest Los Angeles. This, coupled with the tabletop Mythic Championships on, tabletop coverage on the Twitch channels of organizers and stores like StarCityGames and Hareruya, and the newly expansive library of MTG Arena streamers, means there's more Magic being streamed all the time. Be sure to watch the coverage of Mythic Championship I live from Cleveland this weekend.
  • Aaron Forsythe and Chris Clay explained the rationale behind the design of the new Duo Standard format here; it is primarily an attempt to mirror as closely as possible the experience most players have themselves when they play the game. As Aaron said, "sideboarding does not do that, but switching decks entirely does." We think it has a lot of potential, especially after we test it out and iterate on it. Certainly, Duo pushes up against our collective comfort zone. We'll be watching closely how Duo works as a competitive format and as a viewing experience, and learn from it before locking ourselves into future format decisions.

As we build a system that encompasses all aspects of Magic play, in tabletop and digital, our guiding principal is to iterate our way to a competitive system that ultimately offers more ways to play and watch for more players than ever before. To accomplish that, we're giving ourselves room to experiment and learn. We know things won't be perfect the first time out. Sometimes, it'll be because a better solution is still in development. Other times, we'll try something out and learn from it. In both cases, we want to be able to improve over time, and that means not locking in details until they absolutely need to be finalized.

The result is that over the course of this year, you'll get information later than when you were used to getting it in the past and likely later than you want it, but early enough that you'll know what you need to do to compete before it's time to do it. Today, we revealed details on how to qualify for the next round of both tabletop and MTG Arena Mythic Championships, as well as for the World Championship for the 2019 season. As the year goes on, we'll be learning from how things went and evolving to get better.

We have been amazed at the growth of the game over the last year as we have embarked on this mission to do more and try new things. More people are playing and watching Magic today than at any time in its 25-year history. Twitch viewership doubled during 2018. MagicFest attendance is at an all-time high. Store event participation reached new records with Guilds of Ravnica, and Ravnica Allegiance continues to break records. New player growth is the highest it's ever been.

Know that our commitment is to grow the game and deliver experiences that offer something for every Magic player to love. Magic is a big game, with lots of different ways to compete, and we believe it has room to be much, much bigger.

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