Announced officially during The Game Awards earlier today, Wizards of the Coast is investing $US10 million into a global esports circuit for Magic: The Gathering that will be equally split across the digital and tabletop versions of the competitive card game.
More money into M:TG is a good thing. But for Australians, it's not all gravy: the Sydney Pro Tour will not be returning for 2019.
Wizards also outlined in an official blog post that they would be introducing a Magic Pro League next year. The league will feature 32 of the highest ranked players from around the world, with each of them to be "offered player and streamer contracts with a combined worth of $US75,000".
As part of that post, Wizards noted that Pro Tours would be renamed to Mythic Championships. And while the championship legs would travel to Spain, the United Kingdom, and parts of the United States, it won't be coming to Australia:
As we're adding MTG Arena events into 2019, we're having to make some changes to the previously announced Pro Tour calendar to fit everything in from a timing and logistics perspective. We're reverting to four flagship tabletop events like the schedule was in 2018 instead of the announced increase to six. The Pro Tours in Cleveland, London, Barcelona, and Richmond are turning into Mythic Championships on their previously announced weekends.
The Pro Tours in Dallas-Fort Worth and Sydney are being cancelled. The 2019 tabletop Mythic Championship schedule is:
• Cleveland: February 22–24
• London: April 26–28
• Barcelona: July 26–28
• Richmond: November 8–10
The change comes after Wizards had previously stated on their site that the next Sydney Pro Tour would take place from December 6-8, 2019:
The post also noted that there would not be a World Magic Cup next year, and that the Nationals program, and Pro Tour Team Series would also be closing down. Wizards, however, did note that "we also have a significant prize pool set aside to partner with independent organisers who want to host MTG Arena esports and tabletop competitive gaming events".
Australians will have a chance to compete for the $US5 million being dedicated towards MTG Arena, however. It's the end of an era, though, and one many Aussie M:TG players will miss greatly. Magic Pro Tours, their qualifiers (affectionately called PTQs), Grand Prix events and even smaller competitions at game stores around the country: they're social events. There's an intense level of competition, but communities form and bond around those chances to come together.
And the Sydney Pro Tour was the most special of all. Australians won't get that next year, but at least we'll still be able to compete digitally. It'll be a lot tougher to break through the ranks, though.
I'm standing in a hall with over a thousand people. There's tables and tablecloths everywhere. Hundreds of people are queuing up; the lines stretch out the doors and to the stairs. It's the last chance for people to enter Melbourne Grand Prix, one of the highlights of the calendar for aspiring Magic: The Gathering professionals in Australia and New Zealand. A strong result here could put them on the journey of a lifetime.