In our last article, GamesBetOnline broke down the oldest and most popular card game in the world, Magic: the Gathering. This time, we’ll look at how Magic plans to shift from tabletop game to blockbuster esport in 2019. Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of Magic, announced a $10 million prize pool for the year, as well as a complete overhaul of the structure of competitive play. Read on to find out more about these changes are and why you should get into Magic in 2019.
Competitive Magic: the Gathering before 2019
Before 2019, competitive Magic: the Gathering consisted primarily of two types of tournaments played on paper: Pro Tours and Grands Prix.
Grands Prix were large open tournaments held around the world around 30-40 weekends a year. Top finishers earned a modest cash prize and qualifications to the Pro Tour. The events also featured a convention-like atmosphere, with multiple side events, vendor booths, and artists and cosplayers.
Pro Tours were invite-only events held between 4-6 times a year that represented the highest level of Magic competition. Doing well at this level let players rise through the ranks of the Pro Club system and qualify for upcoming Pro Tours or earn appearance fees and free travel to tournaments.
Magic also held special year-end events such as the World Championship and the World Magic Cup. The former was an invitational event where the top 16 or 32 players in the world vied for huge cash prizes. The World Magic Cup saw national teams of three players battling it out for money, Pro Tour invites, and glory.
Magic’s official Twitch channel has streamed many of these competitions. Videos of these events are also uploaded on YouTube. Some of the game’s best competitors are also active streamers of the game.
The Birth of Magic Esports
Late last year, WotC announced a new phase for competitive Magic in 2019. The game would become an esport with $10 million up for grabs, double the prize pool of 2018.
For the first time, three out of the seven Pro Tours in 2019, now called Mythic Championships (MC), would be played on the game’s new digital platform, Magic Arena, which is currently in open beta. Prize pools across all tournaments have been increased as well, with 2019 MCs paying out between $500-700,000, up from $250,000 previously. The Grand Prix events were also rebranded as MagicFests to highlight the convention aspect of the weekend tournament.
Magic Pro League
WotC also announced the Magic Pro League (MPL), a competition featuring 32 of the best players in the world. Previously, elite players had to rely on tournament winnings and earnings from content creation on to sustain their careers. Now, members of the MPL will make $75,000 in 2019 just by playing in events and streaming on Twitch.
The MPL will also feature player rankings throughout the year. Tournament performances will determine how players figure in the standings from week to week. And while details have yet to be released on this, WotC has announced that other competitors would have the opportunity to replace MPL players performing poorly in the rankings.
Streaming the game has also become much easier with the release of Magic Arena. While players did have access to a digital platform called Magic Online to compete on and stream, the outdated software and boring interface drew much criticism from top players and fans alike.
The Mythic Invitational
Finally, Magic will officially kick off its esport program with a special MTG Arena Mythic Invitational at PAX East in Boston from March 28-31. The tournament will feature the 32 MPL members alongside 32 invited players from the pro and content creator communities. This Invitational will pay out $1 million in total prizes.
Certainly, Magic: the Gathering is trying to reinvent itself from a game played primarily on tabletops to an esport that is fun to watch online and that generates exciting stories and moments for elite players. And with a successful first Mythic Championship already in the books, MtG esports looks to have a promising 2019.