Gerry Thompson on his Decision to Sit Out the 2018 Magic: The Gathering World Championship

Yesterday, Gerry Thompson shocked the Magic world by declining to take part in the most prestigious tournament in the game. His stated purpose was to protest the current state of professional play in the game, and you can read his complete statement on Reddit. I got a chance to catch up with Gerry after the announcement on Friday, and ask him a few questions about his decision and its aftermath.

You’re sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas today instead of playing the MTG World Championship. Why?

I’m protesting the state of competitive/pro Magic (and many other things) and by sitting out of the most prestigious, highest equity tournament in the game, I hope to get my voice heard.

There’s more than enough frustration in the community over various issues, coming from different groups, including pro players, grinders, LGS owners, cosplayers, judges, and coverage folks. Is anyone happy about the current state of Magic?

When did you know you’d be sitting out of Worlds?

I originally considered it after Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. After that, it was about crafting the message, figuring out actionable points of change, and getting my message out there in the strongest way possible.

You’re missing the biggest tournament a Magic player can ever compete in. Now that you’re committed, has what you’ve given up to do this sunk in?

Absolutely. I knew going in how much equity I was giving up by skipping the tournament. I also knew some bridges were going to be burned as a result.

Some of the reactions from people close to me have come as a surprise, some positive and some negative. The negative ones have had a profound impact on me and have made the last couple days incredibly stressful. Overall, dealing with the stress and anxiety has been the hardest part.

What are some of the things Wizards could do to improve the condition of pro play?

The biggest misconception about my protest has been that it’s all about professional Magic players trying to strong-arm WotC into giving them more money, but that’s not what it’s about.

Magic players have shown dedication to the game, even in spite of there being no real light at the end of the tunnel. It truly is the best game and has the best community. WotC can do a lot to help. If they put effort into improving coverage, star-building, and advertising their tournaments, Magic will reach a wider audience and we can secure our own sponsorships, writing deals, or start streaming.

For lower levels, the PPTQ system has numerous, well-documented issues. Traveling to larger PTQs back in the day used to be fun and something people looked forward to. That sort of camaraderie and building of memories is lost in the PPTQ system. Playing PPTQs feels like a chore.

In their statement, Wizards mentioned that they were already working on some of these issues. Some would say coverage has improved significantly. Is there any chance they just need more time?

“Give us more time” has been their go-to excuse for nearly a decade. At some point, your time has run out and you need to provide something of substance.

SCG Tour events typically surpass GPs in viewership, and that’s because they do a better job with coverage. GPs should have every advantage over SCG—they can be advertised on the official Magic platforms, it’s on the official Magic Twitch channel, it’s for higher stakes, and features known professional players.

Coverage has improved, but it’s still light years behind its competitors. The numbers don’t lie.

Have you spoken with the other players in the field? How did they respond?

I only talked to a handful of people about my plans for Worlds, and none of them were my fellow competitors. The prestige, Pro Points, and money are all of enormous value to them and I didn’t want to burden them with a difficult choice. Those who would have chosen to play rather than stand by me would have been seen as the enemy, and that’s just not true.

We’re all in this together.

This puts coverage in a challenging position. How did they take the news? Did you offer them any input on how they should address your absence?

I messaged Scott Larabee 45 minutes before the tournament started in order to give him some time to figure that out. Their first order of business was removing me from the guest list and making it so I’m no longer allowed at the venue, so I’m guessing they didn’t take it well. No one has contacted me from their end.

Do you think the player consultants William Jensen, Willy Edel, and Eduardo Sajgalik will help alleviate any of the issues you outlined?

They picked three great representatives with varying backgrounds and ties to the Magic community. However, pro players have had meetings with WotC representatives at most professional events since the #paythepros debacle, and very little has come of it. Important things, like the Silver Showcase, weren’t even discussed.

As many others have pointed out, WotC doesn’t seem particularly interested in feedback. They listen, they hear us, and then completely disregard it. I don’t have any reason to believe this would be any different.

Would you be willing to act as a consultant if it were offered?

If, for some reason, I thought things had changed and they’d be receptive to feedback, I would absolutely love to share my experiences and help shape Magic’s future.

What’s the next step?

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer for that. I have some things in the works, but for now, I’ll probably have to wait and see how they respond. If anyone has any great ideas, I’d love to hear them.

What can the average player and viewer do if they want to support your efforts?

Be kind to each other. Let’s make everyone’s experience within the Magic community, big or small, as positive as it can possibly be.


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