Understanding WotC’s New MTGA Esports Announcement
Magic: The Gathering: Arena’s (MTGA) esports potential has been a concern for plenty of gamers who have adopted the platform since it hit open beta. The developers are still working out kinks and using community feedback to move forward calmly and quietly—but Magic: The Gathering’s (MTG) parent companies, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) and Hasbro, made some pretty loud announcements about the future of the MTGA esports scene.
To promote this, WotC ran some announcements coinciding with other major gaming news from the 2018 Game Awards. They ran an ad during the event, featuring cameos from designer Mark Rosewater and creator Richard Garfield, as well as other names like ProJared and… Sir Mix-a-Lot, for some reason.
Throughout 2019, Wizards of the Coast will put 10 million dollars toward prize pools for both Arena and regular tabletop (or “paper”) MTG. This is more than double the prize support for 2018’s offerings and coincides with the other recent announcements to reduce and centralize paper Magic events.
In 2019, WotC will be introducing the Magic Pro League. The MPL is extremely exclusive. Globally, it will only feature 32 yet unnamed players. Wizards wants to be smart with their partnered streaming, offering these players streaming contracts “with a combined worth of $75,000,” according to their most recent announcement. They plan to profile each of these players (which will certainly be big names like Reid Duke and Shota Yasooka) in the coming weeks.
These pro players will act as gatekeepers for invitational Magic events. Championships in Arena will be invite-only and will require qualifier matches against MPL pros. These will be called “Mythic Championships,” and will be merging with the tabletop events formerly known as Pro Tours.
To accommodate the name switch, WotC is upping the tabletop prize support too; each Mythic Championship will offer $500,000 worth of prize support, going all the way down. Yes, every player will receive a payout, which is a pretty big deal for Magic players. Traditionally, prize support has been very poor, with pretty much every event having a negative “expected value,” even for those that placed well.
After the poor reception of Valve’s new card game competitor, Artifact, Wizards of the Coast wants their customers to know that high-prize tournaments are to be expected.
Players who win these Mythic Championships will accrue points in a ranking system, potentially allowing them to replace those in the MPL. The MPL has its own dynamic leaderboard system as well, which Wizards thinks will fuel the high-stakes, high-drama competition. MTGA esports will focus on individuals and their personalities more than Magic has in the past.
The game has traditionally been very serious and no-frills, missing the core “gaming personality” esports fans are used to. There were no gamertags, limitations on “gamer gear,” and hardly any sponsorships, but that’s all changing with MTGA esports.
The Grand Prix tournaments, which are now called “MagicFests,” will be run by ChannelFireball, an outside tabletop company and Magic store known for tournament organizing. WotC has also set aside 2.5 million dollars for them to run events around the world throughout 2019, with MTGA esports being a priority moving forward.
The first MTGA esports event is a new Arena invitational at PAX East in late March 2019. The theme is “MPL versus challengers.”
2019 will culminate in a World Championship tournament for those in the MPL, though details on this are scarce with more promised from WotC. Regretfully, they will be canceling plenty of other events, including events for older formats, to make way for MTGA esports’ heavy-hitter formats: Standard and Draft.