Magic: The Gathering's 2019 Competitive Season Is A War on Two Fronts

Jason Fanelli,

March 19, 2019 8:33 AM

The 2019 Magic: The Gathering competitive season is introducing a new digital battlefield, and we spoke to Wizards of the Coast director of esports Bear Schmiedicker about integrating the old and the new into one competition.

With the Magic: The Gathering 2019 competitive season ramping up , including both tabletop events and online MTG: Arena events for the first time ever, this year will mark the beginning of a brand new era for the tenured card game. We spoke to Wizards of the Coast’s director of esports Bear Schmiedicker for some more information about the coming tour, including how things can change from Week 1 to the Finals.

A new Arena for Magic

The biggest change to the MTG esports scene is obviously the inclusion of Arena, the new PC version of Magic, and bringing both together in one big competitive season. When we asked if two separate tours were ever considered, Schmiedicker admitted the idea was on the table. “Yeah, it’s something we considered,” he said, “but at the end of the day we were passionate about finding a way to make both systems fit together. We wanted to support a player’s aspirations to compete at the pinnacle of Magic play,– no matter if they wanted to play through Arena or through the tabletop circuit.”

With two different ways to move through the ranks players have a lot of chances to earn Mythic Points and make their way to the Championships. What if the directors of esports for Wizards was entering the fray, what approach would he take in order to advance? Based on his response, it sounds like something he’s considered for a while.

Magic: The Gathering Arena offers a new way to play and compete in the MTG Mythic Tournaments.
Magic: The Gathering Arena offers a new way to play and compete in the MTG competitive scene.

The Best Way To Win

“If I was competing? I’d grind my Orzhov Angels deck on Arena,” Schmiedicker answered, “because I enjoy the flexibility of grinding the ladder when I have time between meetings or after work. MPL here I come!” However that’s just what he would do, and he acknowledgs that his preferred method may not be what all players will want to do. “I don’t think there’s any one route that fans will find more convenient than others – it’s really about which way they want to play Magic.”

In either case, those Mythic Point Qualifying events -- an expected “150 WPN or TO-run events that players can participate in to qualify for the Mythic Championship in Barcelona” according to Schmiedicker --  have a few locations still listed as “TBA” on the site. When we asked about where those sites will be held, we did get a quick clarification: “The Mythic Championship locations are TBA because we haven’t booked venues yet, while The Mythic Qualifier Weekends are online tournaments that include the Top 1000 Mythic Ranked players.”

Schmiedicker loves an angel deck, so if you see him in the arena expect a lot of this view.
Schmiedicker loves an angel deck, so if you see him in the arena expect a lot of this view.

Dealing With Expansion

One of the biggest hurdles in MtG's esports year is accounting for changes to the core metagame once new sets are announced and introduced. Wizards has been “implementing new sets during tournament periods since the Magic competitive scene started 20 years ago” according to Schmiedicker, and in the past he’s been fascinated in how the style of the game changes from event to event. “New cards and new sets will definitely change the meta game,” Schmiedicker explained, “which may have us seeing completely different decks, combos, and play styles emerge at each Championship.  Players will adapt, and this will bring more variety and excitement to professional Magic play.

However, with Magic the Gathering: Arena the possibility of the game coming to other platforms could inject a ton of new players into the competitive scene right in the middle of the season. Does Schmiedicker and his team see this as a potential challenge? No, he says, for a simple (and a bit disappointing) reason: the game’s staying PC exclusive for the foreseeable future.

“We don’t have plans to expand to other platforms, so this will not affect the competition period,”  Schmiedicker bluntly puts it. However, he does lay some groundwork for how that potential expansion would work. “I don’t like to speak hypothetically, but I imagine if we expanded to other platforms for Arena, you’d still be competing on the same ladder. That means if you were skilled enough to qualify for a Mythic Qualifier Weekend, you’d be able to compete and hopefully make it all the way to the Mythic Championship.”

The framework is in place for what will be an exciting Magic season, now with two separate formats to take in as the tournaments play out. We’ll have more on the season as it progresses, but for now check out our look at the recent partnership between MTG and HP OMEN.



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