The Magic the Gathering community is in an uproar after Wizards of the Coast announced they will be ending the Magic Pro League and Magic Rivals League without announcing any specific plans for the future of Pro Magic.
In a news release published on Thursday, WOTC announced the end of the Magic Pro Tour, and explained, "before we can implement our new vision for play, we need to successfully transition from the current system in the upcoming season. The 2021–2022 season's primary goals are to sunset the current system of play and allow us the freedom and flexibility to create a new play system for the future."
They clarified on the Magic Esports Twitter account that the new system "will not be explicitly designed to support competitive magic as a career path." This confirmed that they are not currently planning to have a path to pro anymore and likely won't be returning to the former Magic Pro Tour format either.
MTG pros respond to cancellation of pro Magic
While many Magic fans have been critical of the MPL structure and even cheered its cancellation, the fact that they will not be reverting to their old system marks the end of the paper Magic pro career path, at least for now. The decision has sparked widespread criticism and confusion from the Magic community.
"My feelings about this are complicated," continued Magic the Gathering pro-Luis Scott-Vargas. "Overall, I'm obviously really sad that something so important to me and many of my closest friends is drawing to a close. Pro Magic was an awesome experience and career, and I treasure everything it gave me. On the other hand, I feel like it already ended for anyone not in the MPL three years ago. If you weren't in the top 32, you were effectively cut out of Pro Magic."
He continued later in the same thread, "Ultimately, WotC may decide that there's no room for professional players. I'm sad about how likely that looks, but maybe things will work out, and it could even be the right call. I don't know, and I don't think anyone really does."
Fellow pro player William Jensen decried WOTC's failure to support MTG's pro scene in his response to Thursday's decision.
Former MTG player and current Hearthstone player Brian Kibler responded to the news by writing a lengthy Twitter thread on WOTC's handling of MTG over the years.
"While [the MPL] was an exciting idea when it was announced, the fact that its existence meant cutting back massively on other organized play hurt interest in competitive Magic overall, and the league itself was implemented and produced so poorly that it was doomed to fail from the start," Kibler explained. "Covid obviously hurt competitive Magic overall, but it was more a matter of giving it time to bleed out from the self-inflicted wound that was the MPL."
He continued, "Yes, people are interested in watching top players compete, but they’re also interested in the dream of competing against them, which in more open systems was a real possibility. The chance of watching their friends or being on camera themselves at a Grand Prix was a much bigger draw than seeing the same players compete in the same format week in and week out – prerecorded and without player cams."
He finished his thread by questioning the necessity of pro Magic in the first place from WOTC's perspective, citing the fact that huge celebrities like Post Malone and others already carry the popularity of the game from a marketing perspective.
While some pros and influencers were doing an autopsy on the MPL, others were frustrated about the lack of clarity for whats coming next with MTG's competitive scene.
"I would’ve liked to see this announcement with more clarity of what the future might look like, not just an MPL cancellation," MTG streamer Gaby Spartz explained. "The MPL was clearly not successful, so this might be the right move, but what a giant FU to those who dedicated themselves to excellence at the game."
The sentiments in these responses are mirrored in the thousands of other critical responses to WOTC's latest announcement. We will have to wait and see what is next for Magic the Gathering's path to pro, but for now, many Magic players aren't getting their hopes up.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.