The Next Chapter for Magic: Esports

Posted in News on December 6, 2018

By Elaine Chase

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

Competitive gaming has always been at the heart of Magic: The Gathering. The pure joy of having fun with friends across a table and discovering new ways to be clever together is entwined with the thrill of competition, whether around the cafeteria table, in your friendly local game store, or the finals of the Pro Tour.

2019 is going to be the biggest and most exciting year in Magic's 25 years of competitive gaming history as we evolve our organized play program into an esports structure that takes the legacy of our pioneering tabletop system and integrates Magic's new digital platform, MTG Arena.

There's a $10 million prize pool up for grabs in 2019 across digital and tabletop Magic, which is more than double 2018. The new system provides lucrative opportunities for pros, players, sponsors, and esports partners.

We're also introducing the Magic Pro League, creating a new level of professional play. The inaugural year of the MPL comprises 32 of Magic's top-ranked players from around the world who are each offered player and streamer contracts with a combined worth of $75,000. They'll be competing in seasonal weekly competitive match-ups on MTG Arena, and in Mythic-level tournaments in both MTG Arena and tabletop. We'll be doing player profiles of each of the 32 players in the 2019 MPL in the upcoming weeks so you can get to know the pros and follow their progress and prize winnings throughout the year.

We're kicking off Magic's new esports and competitive gaming program with a special $1 million MTG Arena Mythic Invitational event at PAX East in Boston on March 28–31. The invitational will showcase players in the new Magic Pro League battling against challengers. In January, we'll be revealing more information about the Mythic Invitational, including who snags the elusive slots—maybe one of them can be you!

The rest of 2019 will feature a new series of Mythic Championships: high prize pool, high drama events in both MTG Arena and tabletop. You'll be able to qualify for MTG Arena Mythic Championships by playing MTG Arena at home and then testing your skills against the stars in the Magic Pro League to claim your share of prizes and glory. Start building your skills and your reputation today by playing MTG Arena. To get a head start on your competitive journey, use the code GameAwards to receive an in-game esports starter kit.

Tabletop events formerly known as Pro Tours will be called Mythic Championships, just like the signature MTG Arena competitions. Along with the name change is an increased prize pool: each tabletop Mythic Championship in 2019 will award $500,000 in prizes.

Players in the MPL will be ranked based on points earned via high finishes in the Mythic-level events. Challenger players who do well in those events will also be ranked based on their finishes, keeping the MPL players on their toes and leaving room for newcomers to take their places at the top. We'll be releasing more details about the MPL seasons and rankings as we get ready to kick off the first season.

We know the Pro Tour is a beloved brand that has been around for more than 20 years. The transformation of the full Magic esports and competitive gaming program with the addition of MTG Arena and the Magic Pro League has made us rethink how we talk about pro Magic. We're making the change from Pro Tours to Mythic Championships to reinforce that competitive Magic is both digital and tabletop, and to make a clear distinction between the professional players in the Magic Pro League and the events that are open to the public.

As we're adding MTG Arena events into 2019, we're having to make some changes to the previously announced Pro Tour calendar to fit everything in from a timing and logistics perspective. We're reverting to four flagship tabletop events like the schedule was in 2018 instead of the announced increase to six. The Pro Tours in Cleveland, London, Barcelona, and Richmond are turning into Mythic Championships on their previously announced weekends. The Pro Tours in Dallas-Fort Worth and Sydney are being canceled. The 2019 tabletop Mythic Championship schedule is:

  • Cleveland: February 22–24
  • London: April 26–28
  • Barcelona: July 26–28
  • Richmond: November 8–10

Invitations to Cleveland and London remain as previously announced. Dates and details for 2019's MTG Arena Mythic Championships as well as details for the tabletop Mythic Championships in Barcelona and Richmond will be released as the qualifying season for each begins.

A few more important changes for 2019 tabletop Mythic Championships:

  • The increased prize pool will extend down to last place so that every player who competes will receive a prize payout.
  • Tabletop Mythic Championships after London will not offer travel awards. Cleveland and London travel will remain as previously announced.
  • The Barcelona and Richmond Mythic Championships will not have narrowly regionalized invitations as previously announced.

In addition to the Mythic Invitational and Mythic Championships, we also have a significant prize pool set aside to partner with independent organizers who want to host MTG Arena esports and tabletop competitive gaming events. The tabletop Grand Prix circuit held at MagicFests run by ChannelFireball Events alone offers a $2.5 million prize pool and dozens of events around the world in 2019. We look forward to announcing more partner events, especially esports events featuring MTG Arena.

The 2019 season will culminate in a spectacular World Championship at the end of the year, featuring the most accomplished Magic players of the year across MTG Arena and tabletop. More news on the World Championship to come!

As we move forward with the newly reimaged esports structure, we inevitably need to leave some of our legacy programs behind:

  • Nationals – The nature of the Magic business with so many regional variations in player population and store density makes a one-size-fits-all approach to Nationals difficult to be impactful. What works for a large country doesn't work at all for a small one, and vice versa. There is no Nationals program for 2019.
  • World Magic Cup – The 2018 World Magic Cup is December 14–16 in Barcelona. There will not be a World Magic Cup in 2019.
  • Team Series – The 2018–19 Pro Tour Team Series will be the last Team Series.
  • Pro Club – The players in the MPL have already shifted over to the new model, which includes them rescinding their Pro Club benefits in favor of their new contracts, which go well above and beyond the old system. For those outside of the MPL:
    • Any earned benefits will be granted through the end of 2019.
    • The last event that will give out Pro Points will be Grand Prix Seattle. After that, Pro Points will be frozen.
    • Tabletop Mythic Championships will include qualification slots for players who did well in previous tabletop Mythic Championships.
    • For the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame, 2019 will be the last year of qualification and voting as you know it. When we get to voting season, we will have a new Magic Hall of Fame structure to unveil.

I know you're eager to get more details, especially on how you can get involved in the new program. Over the next few months, we'll be having a regular cadence of communication to share specifics. And, as we move forward, we will be taking every opportunity to listen to feedback and adjust to make Magic esports and competitive gaming the best it can possibly be.

When I played in the first Magic Pro Tour in 1996, I never imagined I'd be announcing a $10 million prize pool and a transformation of the Magic competitive scene into a comprehensive program encompassing both the tabletop game I've loved and its new digital incarnation, MTG Arena.

2019 is going to be the biggest year in competitive Magic gaming—and massive for esports gaming as a whole—and we're looking forward to reminding everyone that we're the greatest game in the world. We can't wait to see you there.

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