Magic: The Gathering Arena is heralding a massive shift in the way competitive Magic will be played in 2019, and it will also spell the end of the game's most iconic tournament series - the Pro Tours that showcase the game's best professional players and brand new deck ideas. Wizards of the Coast Vice President of Esports Elaine Chase went on record in an interview with Screen Rant earlier this week to confirm the departure of Pro Tours from the competitive Magic: The Gathering scene.
Pro Tours have existed in Magic since 1996, and have been a fixture of the game's competitive play since then. An invitation-only event that is usually held four times a year, the Pro Tour represented the highest stakes tournament series annually, outside of one-off events like the World Championships. For many Magic: The Gathering players, the dream of "making the Pro Tour" by winning a qualifier or placing highly at Magic's Grand Prix events is at the core of their decision to play competitively.
Pro Tours will be no more after Magic esports is fully implemented, but that doesn't mean Magic won't have similar tournaments - in fact, the competitive tournament series replacing Pro Tours will feature even more in prizes. In Screen Rant's interview with Elaine Chase, she described how Wizards of the Coast sees the future of professional Magic after Pro Tours are gone:
"The Pro Tours themselves are actually going to be transitioning into Mythic Championships...we're making it different because we really want to separate out the professional players in the MPL (Magic Pro League) from the tournaments that are open to the public that can come in and challenge them. So we're unifying all our flagship championship events under the banner of Mythic Championships whether they're in tabletop or MTG Arena."
The Mythic Championships announced during the Magic esports reveal at The Game Awards 2018 will be the game's new version of the Pro Tour, with an intent to showcase an elite class of pros across both tabletop and Magic Arena. The latter is an important fixture; previously, Pro Tours were kept distinctly separate from Magic's previous online client, Magic: The Gathering Online. It is clear that Wizards of the Coast believes the future of Magic lies in a more balanced split between its premium digital offering in Magic Arena and its already established tabletop presence.
While the change is likely a net positive one - there are more prizes available in Mythic Championships, and using Magic Arena for some of them will help bring more eyeballs onto Wizards' product - the transition is still bittersweet. There was a mystique about the Pro Tours that had been built up over decades of the tournament series existing, and it will not be one that is easily replaced. For many, the desire to end up playing a Pro Tour was what kept them going through the competitive grind's ups and downs. While the Mythic Championships appear to be an upgrade, it may be a while before they build up the same legendary vibe that made Pro Tours so appealing.