Magic Esports Will Change Drastically In 2020

The Future of Magic Esports

Magic: The Gathering and, by extension, Magic Esports, will be undergoing dramatic changes in the build-up to its 2020-2021 season. First announced last December, the transition into the esports space for Wizards of the Coast's best-in-class trading card game has been filled with ups and downs - the Mythic Invitational seemed to be a hit this year, but Grand Prix attendance has been dwindling while questions over the veracity of the gaudy viewership numbers those Invitationals got have persisted.

For those who are unfamiliar, Magic Esports is the competitive branch of the Magic: The Gathering experience, designed to cultivate the game's premier online offering, Magic Arena, into a platform that attracts a lot of eyeballs and awards even more prize money. Wizards of the Coast announced a $10 million commitment to Magic: The Gathering's competitive play during the 2019 season spread across both tabletop and online play. The company also introduced player contracts for the first time in the modern competitive landscape of the game, allowing Magic: The Gathering's best professional players to make a living off of the game. Although changes to the Pro Tour (now the Mythic Championship, soon to be something else altogether) went over poorly for many established competitive players, the numbers from Hasbro's financial reports appear to suggest the transition has been a hit with the game's consumer base at large.

Related: Magic: The Gathering Netflix Series Could Get a Live-Action Spinoff

Now, however, Wizards of the Coast has announced a drastic restructuring for Magic Esports coming in its 2020-2021 season. The Mythic Championship will disappear, with the Mythic Invitational - played solely on Magic Arena - representing the top-tier viewership experience for competitive Magic throughout the season. The World Championship will be returning with a $1 million prize pool, and tabletop Magic will be getting a new regional-based system called the Players Tour. The stated goal of the Players Tour is to give players more opportunities around the world.

Magic The Gathering Tournament Attendance Falls

The Magic Pro League will receive some major, much-needed updates, mostly related to how players qualify for it. At the end of each MPL season, the top 16 players will automatically requalify for the next season. The bottom four players will be relegated to the Rivals League. Rivals League is being described as a talent development league that will help bridge the gap between aspiring pros and the MPL.

The Players Tour will be broken down into three regions: Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. A year-long season of the Players Tour will have three regional Players Tours events per season, with each event feeding into a global Players Tour Finals - there will also be three of those. Players Tour participants will receive new Players Points, which will rank tabletop players, and competitors can qualify for Players Tours events through Players Tour Qualifiers, WPN (Wizards Play Network) Qualifiers, Grand Prix, something called the Players Tour Premier Series, and Magic Online events. The 1st-12th ranked players will join the Rivals League.

Magic Arena Card Style

These are some major, unexpected developments, and players will undoubtedly have a lot of questions. Luckily, Screen Rant had the chance to ask Elaine Chase, VP Esports for Wizards of the Coast, to clarify some of the finer points. Here's our interview:

Does this mean Mythic Championships are no longer going to be held?

Elaine Chase: Mythic Championships in their current form will no longer be held. They are being replaced by the new tabletop Players Tour and Mythic Invitationals on MTG Arena.

Will the Players Tour receive coverage for its events in the same way the Pro Tour used to (video or text-based coverage)?

Elaine Chase: The Players Tour will have video and text coverage.

How are the members of the MPL being determined for the 2020-2021 season?

Elaine Chase: At the end of each season we'll host a tournament that elevates the best Rivals League players to the MPL—and relegates the poorest-performing MPL players to the Rivals League.

  • The Top 16 players in the MPL automatically remain in the MPL for the next season.
  • The bottom 4 players in the MPL will be relegated to the Rivals League and cannot participate in the MPL Gauntlet.
  • The Top 2 ranked players from the Rival's League in both MTG Arena and tabletop play will automatically be offered MPL contracts and won't participate in the MPL Gauntlet.
  • The MPL Gauntlet tournament will therefore comprise 16 competitors as follows:
  • The MPL players ranked 17th–20th
  • The Rivals players ranked 3rd–8th on MTG Arena play
  • The Rivals players ranked 3rd–8th on tabletop play

How do players qualify for the Rivals League?

Elaine Chase: The 2020 partial season's MPL and Rivals League are as follows:

  • 2019's top 20 MPL players based on Mythic Points will stay in the MPL for 2020
  • 2019's top 4 ranked challengers based on Mythic Points will make it to the MPL
  • 2019's bottom 12 MPL players based on Mythic Points will join the Rivals League
  • The next 8 2019 MTG Arena ranked players and the next 8 tabletop ranked players, using Mythic Points earned in the appropriate types of events, will be invited into the Rivals League.
  • We will add 4 members to the Rivals League at our discretion.

In the full year 2020-2021 season, the Rivals League will consist of 46 players as follows:

  • 1st-12th ranked digital players (not previously in the MPL)
  • 1st-12th ranked tabletop players (not previously in the MPL)
  • Bottom 12 players from the MPL Gauntlet
  • The bottom 4 players from the previous MPL season
  • 6 discretionary invites

How many people will qualify for the Magic World Championship at the end of the year?

Elaine Chase: The 2019 season World Championship will feature 16 of the season’s most accomplished Magic players. [Fans can see who has already qualified and what slots are yet to be filled here.] The 2020-2021 season World Championships will be held in mid-2021. Details on that event and who qualifies will be released before the start of the season in mid-2020, but it will continue to feature the top players of the season from both MTG Arena and tabletop.

There's a heavy focus on Arena, which seems natural given the platform's success - will there be smaller Arena tournaments supported by Wizards in the future that bridge the gap between, say, laddering every month and actually participating in the Mythic Invitational?

Elaine Chase: Each Mythic Invitational will be fed by two Mythic Qualifier tournaments with the top 1,200 ranked players in monthly MTG Arena play in Constructed or Limited at the end of each qualifying month eligible to compete. Additionally, Mythic Point Challenge tournaments will not feed other events, but will award Mythic Points. Qualifying for these events will require the same ranking (1,200 or better) as Mythic Qualifiers.

Will the prize money allocation we saw this year - a clean split between tabletop and digital - carry over into next year?

Elaine Chase: Magic will remain a category leader offing $10M+ in prize and player support for the 2020-2021 season, across the combined MTG Arena & Tabletop prize pools and MPL and Rivals League support. Tabletop Magic gets an all new regionalized championship structure—the Players Tour—with more than $2.5M in prizes. MTG Arena will continue to be anchored by spectacular Mythic Invitationals, with 3 per season, each offering a $750K prize pool. The Magic World Championships remains the pinnacle of Magic competitive play and will feature the season’s most accomplished MTG Arena and tabletop players vying for the game’s top honor and a $1 million prize pool. In addition to these flagship competitive events, Grand Prix and the Premier Series in tabletop and partner events in MTG Arena will continue to offer additional prizes.

Will there still be opportunities to qualify for major events through Magic Online?

Elaine Chase: Yes. There will be MTGO Qualifiers to qualify for the Players Tour.

Are there any more details on the Players Tour? Will it have members, or rankings systems that afford benefits to players who commit to pursuing it?

Elaine Chase: The Players Tour is Magic’s new tabletop competitive structure, focused on creating more opportunities for more players around the world through a regionalized tournament system. There are three regional Players Tours: Players Tour Americas, Players Tour Europe, and Players Tour Asia-Pacific. A year-long season of the Players Tour will have three Players Tour events per region, making a total of nine Players Tours per season.

You can qualify for a Players Tour event by winning (or placing very highly) at a Qualifier-level event. These include Players Tour Qualifiers, WPN Qualifiers, Grand Prix, Players Tour Premier Series, and Magic Online events. Doing well enough at a Players Tour will qualify you for the global Players Tour Finals. There are three Players Tour Finals each year. Each set of three Players Tour regional events will feed one Players Tour Final.

Players who participate in Players Tour events will earn a Players Points ranking for the tabletop track, which in turn will determine who is selected to join the Rivals League.

This will run parallel to the digital side, where players earn a Mythic Points ranking for playing in Mythic Invitationals, Mythic Qualifier tournaments, and Mythic Point Challenge tournaments. The top players from both the tabletop Players Points ranking and the MTG Arena Mythic Points ranking will rise to the Rivals League and potentially the MPL.

Next: What Magic: The Gathering's Animated Series Needs to Do to Succeed

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