Magic: the Gathering has a long and storied history of incredible professional play. Countless tournaments have memorable moments that players still discuss to this day. Those tournaments however were all in person and in paper events. With the release of Magic Arena, the traditional competitive MTG experience vastly changed. As MTGA grew more and more popular, it was only a matter of time that Wizards decided to go all in on the virtual version of their card game. In 2019, Wizards of the Coast announced the creation of an official Magic Esports scene.
Now in it’s second year, the Magic Esports environment has gone through as few changes in hopes to find the right configuration. With frequent changes to the format, it can be tough to keep track on what exactly is happening in the pro scene. Luckily The Game Haus is able to clear through the clutter and truly explain what is Magic Esports.
How Does Magic Esports Work?
At it’s core, Magic Esports is comprised of three different leagues – the MPL, Rivals, and Challengers. MPL and Rivals compete every month in several tournaments with varying degrees of importance. Players compete against other players in the same tier as each other. MPL players face off against other MPL players, and Rivals players will only play against Rivals players. Everyone involved with MPL and Rivals are playing for the best end of season point total. The players receive points based on their results in each monthly tournament.
The main monthly tournaments for Magic Pros are called League Weekends. There are seven total League Weekends through the year, giving players only a limited time to jostle for the top position in the leaderboards. At the end of the year, the season standings determine the brackets for various end of season tournaments. It’s in these last tournaments where players will compete to earn a spot in the Magic Esports League.
Magic Pro League (MPL)
The Magic Pro League is the cream of the crop of players in the Magic Esports landscape. The MPL is the highest level of competition, and the tier where many tournament champions reside. The MPL is exclusive, only making room for 24 players in a given season. Players that finish towards the bottom of the MPL standings risk being relegated to the Rivals league, making each tournament more important than the last.
Right below the MPL is the Rivals league. Rivals consists of 48 players, all of which are fighting to break into the MPL. The benefit of Rivals is it’s size, as it allows for more players to get a shot at the highest tier. At the same time it’s a little easier to stay in Rivals once a player gets there, thanks to the relegation and promotion format. Rivals do eventually get their shot to challenge the MPL members thanks to the end of year Gauntlet tournaments.
Last but not least there are the Challengers. This third group represents every other player not in the MPL or Rivals. Without even knowing it, every player that competes on the Magic Arena ladder is essentially a Challenger in terms of Magic Esports. To get a start as a pro player, Challengers need to reach the Mythic rank on the competitive ladder and maintain one of the top 1200 spots on the leaderboard. Players can also receive invites by finishing the second day of Open Tournaments on MTGA with 7 wins. Completing either of these challenges will give a player an invite to a Qualifier Weekend. From there, successful players will continue their path up the ranks of the Magic Esports landscape.
The Gauntlet Brackets
As with any league with multiple tiers of play, there is a chance for upward movement between the three levels. At the end of the season there are three Gauntlet Brackets where players fight to either move up, stay put, or lose their spot in the league. The promotion/relegation process starts with the Challengers Gauntlet.
Here lies the biggest entry way for any amateur player to become a pro. The top four players are immediately welcomed into the MPL, while the next eight players continue their trial and must compete again in the Rivals Gauntlet.
The Rivals Gauntlet is where all three tiers of player come together in one electric tournament. The 24 player tournament dictates who is able to snag the next four spots in the MPL, and who will remain in Rivals for the upcoming season.
The last of the Gauntlets is the MPL Gauntlet. In one last 24 player bracket, eight MPL players look to stave off the remaining 16 Rivals and keep their MPL slot. The bottom 16 players are moved down to Rivals, meaning an MPL player who struggles in this Gauntlet could find themselves losing their spot.
Magic World Championships
Ultimately, the end result for the entire year of competitive Magic is reaching the coveted World Championship tournament. Similar to other esports, the Magic World Championship is comprised of the best Magic players from across the globe. The World’s bracket is filled with the top finishers of the MPL, Rivals League and the three Gauntlets.
The World Championship is smaller than any other bracket. The final tournament only features 16 players, including the previous year’s World Champion. Winning the World Champion not only offers a massive financial prize, but a personalized Magic card. Previous World Champions can be see on cards like Fervent Champion and Elite Spellbinder.
That’s all there is to it. Magic Arena is the go to platform for these tournaments. Magic: the Gathering Online is the platform for older formats like Modern and Legacy. For the time being however, those tournaments are pretty rare. Hopefully in the future more eternal formats find their way into the Magic Esports schedule.
Magic Esports is a living format, and there are sure to be more changes coming in the future as more pros speak their minds about what’s working and what isn’t. Make sure to check in with the official Magic Esports page and never miss a tournament.
Featured image courtesy of Dan Scott and Wizards of the Coast
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