Top Players Weigh in and Wizards’ Response on the Future of MTG Competitive Play

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Source: Magic.gg

On Thursday morning, Wizards of the Coast posted an article via Magic.gg about the upcoming 2021-2022 competitive season, including an announcement that has become a major discussion point in the Magic community: the end of the Magic Pro League (MPL) and the Rivals League at the season’s conclusion, with no specifics about what will replace them. We posted an article shortly afterwards summarizing the details of the announcement which you can read here if you missed it.

In the hours that followed Wizards’ post, reactions started pouring in on Twitter and other social media platforms from all across the Magic community and, well, it hasn’t been enthusiastic. In particular, questions were raised about the future of high level play and the “pro dream”: players at the highest levels of Magic have typically been paid a salary, and in the past they received additional appearance fees for events. Many members of the community speculated based on this morning’s announcement that the elimination of the Rivals League and MPL would also include the elimination of salaries for Magic’s top players, and Wizards has since confirmed this fact.

The term OP here refers to Organized Play.

What it is, is there’s not going to be any guaranteed salaries… We’re not going to subsidize the lifestyle of the top 200 players.

-Blake Rasmussen, Weekly MTG Q&A Stream with Blake Rasmussen

The article from Wizards announcing the dismantling of the current system for high level play explicitly excludes any details about what the replacement systems will look like, which has led influential members of the Magic community, including MPL and Rivals League players, to express deep concern and frustration about the future of Organized Play. Some even went as far as to say that professional play is “dead.”

Some answers and a little more detail about the future of competitive Magic were offered by Wizards Senior Communication Manager Blake Rasmussen on the Weekly MTG stream Thursday evening. Rasmussen answered a number of questions from live chat about the announcement and the future of Organized play over the period of an hour. If you want to hear everything he had to say, we recommend you watch the video on demand on the official Magic Twitch channel, but here are a few highlights from the stream:

  • Wizards wants to focus their spending more on “friendly play” and “aspirational play” rather than on professional play. Wizards believes the amount of money that they have been spending on professional events is disproportionate to the number of players who participate in more casual festivals and events.
  • Organized Play at Wizards of the Coast is under new leadership, which Rasmussen cites as a reason for players to believe that the systems will be more well-run. He acknowledges that Wizards is “not blind to the fact that Organized Play doesn’t have the greatest reputation.”
  • There will be Organized Play and high level competitive events in the future, but there will not be salaries for the top players. He said of the issue, “There’s not going to be that guarantee that once you get to the top you’re going to continue receiving a paycheck no matter how well you do. You’re going to have to keep performing.”

Additionally, Rasmussen did address the question of why Wizards would announce the ending of the MPL and Rivals League programs without providing any details on the future of competitive play. He said that Wizards wanted to give players involved in the leagues a warning so that they could be informed about life planning and major decisions, but he also confirmed that the Rivals and MPL players were already notified through a private Discord. Ultimately, why the announcement was done in this way is still in question.

Only time will tell what Wizards of the Coast has in store for the future of organized play and competitive Magic more broadly. In the meantime, players continue to express everything from disappointment and anger to cautious optimism. We here at MTGA Zone will continue keeping you updated on the latest news from Wizards, so be sure to check back with us regularly for the latest.

Paul

Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer.

12 Responses

  1. Chrysologus says:

    Seems like a good move to me. Subsidizing a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the player base makes little sense. I don’t want to watch a group of pros play Magic, I want to compete in events myself. So redirecting money to regional events with higher prize pools as a result seems great and common sensical.

    • Dog F says:

      Exactly. This is a good thing.

    • Brendan says:

      A tiny tiny fraction of baseball players get ‘subsidized’ to play professionally. This ‘subsidy’ language is interesting, I don’t see anyone else getting referred to as being ‘subsidized’ to do their job. This is their job, it’s how they pay their bills and support themselves and their families. It’s pay, not a subsidy.

    • Paul says:

      Yeah. There are a lot of people who share your feelings on it and honestly, even if pro play is eliminated entirely, it would only affect a small portion of the people who play and enjoy Magic. I think the biggest argument from the players who are upset is that with profits soaring, WotC can and should support both the casual players/low-level events AND high level professional play.

  2. Dana Hutter says:

    The pro tour players vs. the regular players seems like a false dichotomy to me. Why does it have to be one or the other. The financial support of a couple hundred players can’t be much in the scheme of things. And pro tour players is a status that many ASPIRE to. Why not come up with something that supports both. I suspect this idea will backfire and will ultimately be walked back by wotc.

    • Michael says:

      They put up 250k and sometimes more to win at year round events. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this wasnt sustainable long term.

      Plus it is MTG dirty little secret how many of their top player cheat to win events and they let it go unless someone else points it out.

      Good riddance. Figures these players would complain when eyes cant stack their deck.

    • Paul says:

      I agree with everything you’re saying, but a different perspective that I have heard from pro players is the false idea of the full time Magic pro. The reality is, even with the salaries and appearance fees the way they were in the past, it wasn’t possible for even the best players to make a reasonable living just off of tournament play without supplementing it with articles, streaming, etc. So it’s the opinion of some players that WotC was offering up this false narrative to players that if you were the best, you could make your living as a pro tournament player, and getting rid of this idea is probably for the best. Even so, I completely agree that they could still offer the salaries and change their messaging around it, or even offer large enough salaries to the top players that they COULD actually make a decent living. Wizards acknowledges that the pro scene makes them money, so why make cuts to it at a time of record profits?

  3. WVTARHEEL says:

    If they divert the money they were spending on the direct pay to pro players towards larger prize pools and improvement of the Arena client this is going to benefit magic as a whole. When online poker got big and they started directly subsidizing players instead of just increasing the prize pools it was not positive for the community. More prizes and larger prize pools, the “pros” will be winning a lot of that money anyway.

  4. Steelgrip_MTG says:

    Seems like a pretty good move 😀

    MTG is FUN game 😀 not a Sport LOL 😀

  5. Madeira says:

    Paying “some” of the bills for a small group of the best players, who have to invest a careers worth of hours and personal expense to master the game; sees returns on that investment, as it is a program for advertising the game and getting more people to play, driving sales and more.
    Take the examples of American billiards and chess; without compensation for the time it takes to master the game and rise through the ranks, the US has not produced world class players that inspire more people to play, so these games languish in mediocrity.
    I’ve played magic since it started, and stopped playing as the high expense of chasing the best cards piled up so many useless cards that were destined for the fireplace, boxes and boxes and boxes of common cards…..why?. The tree killing paper game was and is wasteful, those days are over, and it needs to end.
    For Magic to beat all digital Hearthstone, they have to focus on all digital Arena, promote the best players, and enhance esports. That is the way of the future, we won’t go back to paper.
    While they are at it, let’s get MTGA on the iPad already and quickly add millions of more customers…I mean players. 😎

    • Adam Harrison says:

      With wood costs soaring (up over 250% in British Columbia in the past year) I wouldn’t be surprised that a wood by-product like pulp is also driving up printing costs. If going all digital means they improve their bottom line and benefits the environment (digital is much cleaner than trucking, shipping, flying cards all over the world) then I’m all for it!

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