I know I’m not alone when I say that I don’t know what’s in store for me when it comes to competitive magic. Magic for almost the past 5 years has been my biggest hobby and time sink. I spent this time trying to qualify for the Pro Tour. Having a full-time job I grinded in a way that was not the most likely to qualify me, but which worked with my schedule and provided the most fun for me: I played Grands Prix whenever I was available. Sadly the closest I’ve ever come is 2 wins shy, which isn’t that close. But more importantly I feel is that I have grown as a player and tend to consistently perform well at the GPs I attend. For a long time, the Pro Tour felt like something within reach, because I could see myself improving. I went from hitting day 2 more consistently, to cashing more consistently, etc. It’s strange because the PT still exists (for now) and GPs still exist—the events and means by which I was trying to qualify have not actually changed, but my drive has just flat-lined over the past few months. The PT dream feels dead to me and this entry is my attempt at trying to rationalize why.
I think part of the appeal for me of qualifying for the PT was that I would feel like it would legitimize me as a player. This was the circuit where the best players competed and qualifying was a huge feat. You don’t just play your first event and qualify. There are two reasons why this has changed for me in the past few months.
The first is that invites to these events are being distributed more frequently outside of merit. A friend recently asked me if I would take an invite for the arena MC if I was offered it, and I responded that I would but that I would be incredibly sad. I would feel like I’ve failed at my goal of qualifying through my own growth as a player. I would feel like a failure. But I think turning it down would leave me always wondering “what if?” and denying me a chance to qualify for another event by doing well in it.
The second is that these events have lost their prestige within the magic community. Pulling coverage and hyper-focusing on the arena events have left paper magic feeling like the haggard stepsister. GPs were extra fun for me because you had the opportunity to play against professional players. I’m honestly not sure on average if the GP player was stronger than the PPTQ player, but the ceiling was definitely higher. But WOTC has now pulled the incentive for pros to attend GPs by doing away with the pro point system. They also lost prestige by doing away with video coverage. I used to show my coworkers my feature matches so they could understand better what this hobby was that I dedicated so much of my free time to. Even though they couldn’t follow the games, they thought it was really cool that it was recorded and broadcast. I did too.
The future of competitive magic seems bleak to me. I don’t foresee a shift away from arena, and I have doubts regarding its role as a competitive outlet. I play arena more than any other type of magic currently and my bias is coming from being a limited player where I ladder BO1 bot drafts. I don’t want to give up on magic and this aspect of my life that has been so much fun for me. But I miss the grind and the prestige of its competition.