Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) are about to kick off their entrance into esports this March. During the PAX East weekend of Mar. 28-31, the publisher will hold the first Magic: The Gathering Mythic Invitational tournament. Played online in MTG: Arena, the event comes with a $1 million prize pool, to be split by 64 players. It’s the start of MTG’s $10 million esports circuit, which WOTC revealed in December.
What should’ve been great news for the Magic community which has been waiting decades for such an opportunity was instead met with much disdain from the dedicated MTG pro players. Why? Well, because of whom Wizards decided to invite to the party.
The PAX East Mythic Invitational will have 64 players total. One half is the 32 that will take part in the Magic Pro League, to start later this year. So far, so good. It’s the other 32 spots that players took issue with.
Eight of those will go to the top 8 on the Mythic Ladder Ranking season for February. A grueling test of time, skill and endurance, it’s one of the harshest way to qualify for a tournament. Still, it’s a chance for an aspiring MTG: Arena player to take shot at a good payday.
The other slots, however, have gone to a selection of not just MTG pros, but Twitch streamers alike, and is what’s pissing off dedicated competitors. The way many saw the announcement was Wizards disregarding their hard-earned achievements, like getting Platinum rank in MTG’s Pro Players Club, for example. The general feeling is that of disappointment.
Worked my ass off to be platinum this year and can’t even be invited to this tournament. Really disappointed by this announcement but optimistic for the future of mtg. https://t.co/cZWEl2nlOb
— Oliver Tiu (@TheTiuTangClan) January 31, 2019
I am very disappointed to be passed over. As the current 5th highest ranked pro player and PT25A champion, I feel like my accomplishments are being swept under the rug. https://t.co/qljkmpI15H
— Greg Orange (@orange_greg) January 31, 2019
you'd think that the success of the Magic and HS tournament scenes relative to the size of the two games would suggest that Magic improve on vs. emulate the HS system, but I guess who knows
— Allen Wu (@nalkpas) January 31, 2019
Couldn't be more disappointed.
— Pascal Vieren (@VierenPascal) January 31, 2019
I'd have preferred if the event had 32 Invitees OR 32 Mythic Arena Players rather than a 24/8 split. As it stands, it looks halfway between a competitively-oriented event with the MPL players + Mythic grinders, and the invitees which aren't all competitors. Mixed messaging there.
— Noxious (@coL_noxious) February 1, 2019
It’s easy to understand why the displeasure. Many of those who feel snubbed have been a part of MTG’s paper competitive scene for years. In contrast, many of those invited instead came from different scenes and have entered the contemporary MTG scene by streaming Arena on Twitch. Wizards’ decision, however, makes sense and some went on Twitter to defend it — or at least try to explain the reasoning.
Esports initiatives are best used as long-term retention mechanisms. When a marketing team is given the wheel and tasked with turning the car around, to drive new user acquisition at any cost, this is usually what happens. https://t.co/2eOr51e45x
— AJ Mazur (@HatPerson) January 31, 2019
Important distinction between Mythic Invitational and the Silver Showcase:
As far as I know, all/most of these streamers are dedicated to Magic in a significant fashion. The message is "Play + promote our game and get rewarded", not "Quit and we will beg you to come back".
— Ari Lax (@armlx) January 31, 2019
If you think streamers don't "deserve the invite and Pro money", they do. I've seen Twitch payment receipts, this is probably among the best ways for WotC to funnel money to people who are actually doing a ton to promote the game.
— Ari Lax (@armlx) January 31, 2019
Needless to say, this is only the first MTG esports event of the circuit, so there’s plenty Wizards can still do to improve and appease its hardcore fan base. The handling of Mythic Invitational’s invites has not been ideal PR-wise (and could even set up a dangerous precedent), but it’s a common tactic to boost up a budding scene.