17, Jun, 21

What Is the Future of Professional Play for Magic: the Gathering?

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With the abolishing of the Magic Pro League (MPL) and Rivals League announced earlier this year, the state of competitive and professional play is in limbo. We are unsure of what Wizards of the Coast intends to do with competitive and professional play, and the community is clamoring for answers. We know that they have a balancing act to maintain with in-person and digital play, while still accounting for the global pandemic. What steps can Wizards take to bring competitive play back into the spot light of the community in a big way?

Bring Back DCI Numbers

Wizards of the Coast

I think that the first step that needs to be taken is to find a system that allows a player to track their competitive progress between digital and paper play. You may ask, “hey didn’t they have something like that with DCI Numbers?”. Why yes, that’s exactly what that was. Bringing back DCI numbers would give players an singular identity that would allow players to register competitive level activity under one roof. Create an mobile app that players can log into via their Wizards Account, and track all of their progress.

Incorporate a Rating System

The DCI number wouldn’t be the only thing that should be done here as well. With the rise in popularity of Chess during the pandemic, there’s a now a more widely known rating system available to use for Magic competitive play. This can be incorporated into paper and digital play, and tracked via the DCI Number. Then these ratings can be used to determine things such as invites for Player’s Tour events. While this may sound similar to Pro Points, it’s a bit of a different system, which I think could work better to allow more people to potentially participate in competitive events. This actively rewards players for doing well in all aspects of play.

Open Up Digital Play Options

Wizards of the Coast

Over the past couple of years, Magic Arena has had a huge push from Wizards to be the definitive digital play experience for competitive play with their Magic Esports initiative. There are a ton of strengths of Magic Arena, but there’s also some glaring flaws, as far as competitive play is concerned. Currently, the only real competitive outlets that Magic Arena offers natively are Qualifiers Weekend events, and the Arena Opens. In order for a “non-queued” player to participate in Qualifier Weekend events, you need to finish in the top 1200 of Mythic Rank at the end of a monthly season, or achieve 7 wins in Day 2 of an Arena Open, which is a recent change. You can also earn a spot through various Wizards-Approved Tournament Organizers.

According to Wizards, they want to open up competitive play to more people. The recent change in allowing players to queue into Qualifier Weekend through the Arena Open is a step in the right direction. Prior to their June 10th Qualifier Weekend Announcement, this wasn’t an option. This is a very good first step, but it should not stop here. One system that I think should be adopted into Magic Arena is that of Magic Online, where you have more frequently ran events that award Qualifier Points, and at the end of a given monthly season, if a player has accrued a certain number of those points, they can qualify for Qualifier Weekend. This could take form in rebranding Arena Opens to be these style of events. This path is really for the players who don’t want to commit to a ladder grind, but want to have more than 1 shot a month to be able to qualify into the qualifier weekend.

READ MORE: Wizards of the Coast Plan to Remove MPL and Rivals League After 2020-21 Season

Invest In Arena’s Development


In addition to opening up pathways within the existing Arena client, Wizards needs to double down on investing in the game. At a minimum, everyday issues that should not be issues need to be corrected. Things such as graphical issues and server disconnects should not be as commonplace as they are. These need to be prioritized and resolved above all else. Additionally, there should be more resources devoted to putting together Pioneer Masters to push another format to the game. There is a discussion to be had about the implications of attempting to merge formats like Modern into Arena as well, or full on merging Magic Online into Magic Arena, but that’s a very complicated situation that has to be handled delicately, and can only be attempted once the aforementioned issues are resolved.

Fix the Economy

Wizards of the Coast

Lastly, if moving older non-rotating formats into Arena is on the table, then the economy of Arena needs to be overhauled to be more accessible. There’s plenty of examples of the “Free to play” model in the game being rather difficult to sustain, and while there have been strides to improve this, if the card pool of Modern is brought to the game, it becomes near impossible for free to play players to get into the format, and the financial impact of acquiring cards potentially becomes astronomical. Frankly, as more sets get added to Historic, the ability to get into that format becomes rather difficult for newer players as well.

READ MORE: How Will Magic Arena Implement Pioneer Masters and What Should We Expect?

Redefine, Don’t Penalize

One thing that Wizrads has stated is that they don’t want to have going forward is Magic as a career. Since the MPL is no more, there’s no more guaranteed salaries, or paid appearances. They want to encourage a Bottom Up Approach, with support for local game stores, rather than a top down approach. While the support for local game stores is a great thing, and should be a focal point going forward, the stance of Pro Play not being a sustainable career path is one that I think is a strange hill to die on. It doesn’t make a ton of sense because Wizards has also committed to increasing prize support for major events, which inherently can lead to a sustainable career. Not to mention that their previous pushes for Arena can lead to many players becoming streamers of the game and hopefully finding a career path there as well.

Wizards of the Coast

The point here is that Wizards should not penalize the countless players who already have made careers on playing Magic, but rather redefine “Path to Pro” by encouraging Esports Organizations to incorporate Magic into their rosters. The MPL model was a unique model that ultimately was flawed from the start. A game’s developer should not be contracting players, they should be holding accessible paths to high level tournaments and providing prize money. There are no other esports titles out there that do this and for good reason. Wizards should have been putting that money towards prize support for competitive level events, and make the inclusion of Magic in the esports space more lucrative for teams to invest in.

Wizards has not committed to a date for announcing the newly revamped competitive play structure. My anticipation is that it will be sometime shortly after Worlds, which is in October 2021. This leaves them with between 5 and 6 months to really hash out the details. Hopefully by that time, the world situation has improved and in-person play returns in a strong way which can help open more paths for high levels of competition. What changes would you like to see Wizrads make in the next iteration of competitive play? Let us know in the comments!

READ MORE: How to Prepare for a Magic: the Gathering Arena Tournament

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