In the End, the Grind Doesn’t Even Matter…

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.

2 thoughts on “In the End, the Grind Doesn’t Even Matter…”

  1. As a player who’s only recently started to play more competitively I thought I’d comment only because I don’t quite understand your take and was hoping you could clarify. Especially because I’m in the same boat as you–I’ve got a full time job and have been playing lots of GPs; slowly improving, kind of hoping I could snag a PT invite. And also because I strongly disagree with one point.

    From the perspective of players who have been grinding GPs, hoping to collect enough Pro Points to hit the Gravy Train, I get it. It must be extremely demotivating to be sitting at bronze, silver, gold, etc.–having invested so much time and money–and then having that taken away. I totally empathize. But because you and I seem to be in the same position, I don’t understand your perspective. What am I missing? You’ve even pointed out that not much has changed in terms of how you’ve been trying to qualify.

    To your first point: I think it’s extremely rude to imply that content creation doesn’t have merit. I don’t mean to pick on you on this–and maybe you didn’t mean it that way–but the rhetoric on this topic has been extremely toxic. Let’s not delegitimize these folks. Whether you think what they do has merit or not, it’s still very rude. Personally, I think it’s nice that Magic players now have more avenues for entering the Pro Tour than ever before. Especially if it means bringing in new kinds of players. And, as you’ve said, it hasn’t really changed the way players like you and I try and qualify, so what’s the harm?

    To your other point, I can’t really say much about that. If you feel like the GPs have lost prestige, I don’t want to delegitimize your feelings. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. I think coverage is nice, but I’m not sure it added more prestige to what is essentially an open, small stakes, tournament. I’m not sure being featured (notability) is the same as prestige, and I’m not sure what the consensus on that is.

    I actually feel more motivated than ever. With less Pro Players at GPs, I feel like I have an even better chance of making it to the top 8–and the more I play, the better my chances. Not to mention that the state of the game feels better than ever. Am I mistaken? Plus, there’s always the MCQ.

    I wish you well in however you wish to continue. You are a good player. And if Wizards ever felt that you deserved an invite, I hope you wouldn’t feel like a failure; you’ve obviously worked hard and taken your beats, and in a game were chance is a big factor, one should take any chance they’re given. And just reaching the Pro Tour is really only beginning; you’d have plenty of opportunities to prove yourself from there. The only way to fail is to give up.

  2. Friends its the Promotional tour!!! If it was an actuall professional tour, you know with sponsors and advertisers, then it would be as original poster says. As is its been run by smart nerds but with no high level business or competitive background… i seriously doubt that if they had played a “sport seriously” it would be the way it has been.

    For my part i dont go to GPs becuase all of the angle shooting jerks whom feel soo comfortable harassing and being abusive verbaly and lying about board state or purpousfully puting on a different face for the judges unless orginizers police that like other competitive activities understand to do Arena will be the only future magic event i would feel comfortable playing . “With great popularity comes great toxcicity”

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