Magic: The Gathering Transitioning Out Their Esports Program

Wizards of the Coast announced today, May 13th, that they will be sunsetting the current paradigm of their professional play system for Magic: The Gathering beginning next League season. The Magic Pro League will end and we are left with no details on the 2022-2023 season of play.

A promotional photograph showing a game of Magic: The Gathering. Source: magic.gg
A promotional photograph showing a game of Magic: The Gathering. Source: magic.gg

With this in mind, players in the Magic Pro League will be competing this League season for the World Championships. This will be the end of the League season, as it always is, but this spells the end of the Magic Pro League as it exists in its current form.

According to the announcement made on magic.gg, Wizards of the Coast's esports site for Magic: The Gathering, MagicFest-adjacent events will be made the new norm for higher-level play. This sort of venue series will bring the game back to a somewhat more casual base and create more accessibility for these players.

From the announcement:

  • In-person play is a unique strength for Magic, and we need to lean into that. That means local tournaments, large regional tournaments, and high-level in-person events.
  • Digital play is here to stay but is only part of the equation. We've seen great players rise from the digital ranks, and we've seen what's possible with digital events. Expect the future to hold a mix of digital and in-person events.
  • Accessibility is important, and that means broader access to play. We're looking at everything, from local events and the success of CommandFests to creating even more levels of play that are open to a broader swath of players. A larger audience means more types of events.
  • We need to be patient. While we're optimistic for a future when we can gather, we also have to be realistic that high-level Magic tournaments combine travel, close contact indoors, and sharing air space for long periods of time—all traits that create difficulties during a pandemic. We will focus on local, regional, and digital events until we can safely gather.
  • Flexibility is important as we re-establish tabletop play. Our system may need regular updating as play and travel become safer.

What does this mean for the professional Magic players? Well, the answer is as of yet quite unclear. It is likely that Wizards of the Coast will not be eschewing them completely after the next World Championship event, but obviously, we cannot be sure of the future. And what about the use of professional competitive tours as a recruitment tool for their company? We know that many pro players have been onboarded by Wizards for their research and development teams, but with the pro circuit ending, for the time being, there may need to be another way for Wizards to find suitable employees. Nevertheless, we are left wondering what the future brings for competitive Magic: The Gathering play.

What do you think of this announcement by Wizards of the Coast? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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