News Brief: Big Changes to Competitive Play, GP Birmingham and Looking Ahead to Vegas

The landscape of competitive Magic is about to change. Let’s get right to it.

The Week in Magic

Competitive Play Overhaul

Last Wednesday, a massive article dropped that detailed what competitive Magic, for both Arena and Tabletop, will look like in 2020. The plan includes a new league, ways to qualify for the Magic Pro League, and a vision for tabletop play. We’ll be breaking it down in different segments.

Changes to the Magic Pro League

Moving forward, the Magic Pro League will be shrinking in size. Currently 32 players, the next iteration of the MPL will feature 24 players. These players will no longer have streaming contracts but instead will be able to earn appearance fees by attending events for both Arena and Tabletop totaling approximately $50,000.

Next season will also see the introduction of the Rivals League. The Rivals League will serve as a feeder for the Magic Pro League. The Rivals League will be made up of the bottom four players from the previous Magic Pro League Season, the top 12 ranked players from both digital and tabletop (who are not in the MPL), the bottom 12 players from the MPL Gauntlet Tournament (more on this in a moment), and six discretionary invites. The 46 players in the Rivals League will be able to each up to $20,000 each in appearance fees over the course of the year.

So what exactly is the Gauntlet? It’s a tournament that helps determine who makes it to the next season of the Magic Pro league. At the end of a season, the Top 16 MPL players automatically qualify for the next season while the bottom four players are automatically relegated to the Rivals League. That means the 17th-20th ranked MPL players will compete for their spots against the 3rd-8th Rivals players on both Arena and tabletop–the top 2 Rivals players in each category will qualify for the MPL. The Top 4 finishers in the Gauntlet make it to the MPL while the remaining 12 will earn a Rivals League contract.

The Players Tour

The tabletop side of things is also getting an overhaul. Mythic Championships are going away. Mythic Invitationals will remain on Arena and be open to MPL members, Rivals League members, and players who qualify through ranking and tournaments. Paper Mythic Championships are now replaced by the Players Tour.

The Players Tour is a regional bound series of events (the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific) that will feature qualification events at Wizards Play Network stores as well as Players Tour Qualifier tournaments. Premier Tournament Series, such as the StarCityGames Tour and the new LATAM series will also offer invites to the Players Tour. There will be three Players Tour events per season per geographic region, with each of them feeding the Players Tour Final (which in turn feeds the World Championship).

Grand Prix take on a unique role in this ecosystem. They will continue to qualify the Top 8 finishers for the appropriate Players Tour. Moving forward, winning a Grand Prix will earn the winner a qualification to the Players Tour Final.

The full breakdown of who can participate in the Players Tour and the Final can be found in the announcement. It does bear more than a passing resemblance to how players could qualify for both the Pro Tour and tabletop Mythic Championships.

Mythic Invitationals

Arena Mythic Championships are gone. Now, there will be three Mythic Invitationals per year. The MPL, Rivals League, qualified players, and discretionary invites will be able to participate. The top 1,200 Arena players in both Limited and Constructed will also have a chance to earn their spot in these tournaments.

World Championship

The competitive calendar is moving to an August to August cycle. Because of this, some tournaments are being moved. The 2019 World Championship will now be held in February 2020.

The Partial Season

In order to accommodate the change in the competitive calendar, 2020 will begin with a partial season. The MPL for the Partial Season will be comprised of the Top 20 current members of the MPL as well as the Top 4 2019 Mythic Points leaders. The bottom 12 members of the MPL, as well as the Top 8 tabletop and Top 8 Arena players (and 4 discretionary invites) will make up a 32-person Rivals League.

The announcement, while large, was not comprehensive. Already more information has started to trickle out. Information on the future of the Hall of Fame will be coming this week. A system that rewards stringing together strong finishes in tabletop is also supposedly forthcoming. Video coverage for the Players Tour and the Players Tour Finals was announced, but nothing official for Grand Prix yet. Still, this is a huge sea change for competitive Magic and the reaction, although cautious, was largely optimistic.

Magic Pro League Emerald Division Top 4 Play

Four Hall-of-Famers–Martin Juza, Shota Yasooka, Seth Manfield, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa –squared off for the right to get a bye into Day Two of the upcoming Arena Mythic Championship. This week Manfield earned his bye, joining Carlos Romao. His weapon of choice? For the second week in a row, Vampires proved to be the deck of the day. The MPL is off next week for MagicFest Las Vegas.

Seth Manfield’s Vampires

7 Plains (331)
8 Swamp (339)
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Champion of Dusk
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
4 Legion Lieutenant
3 Sanctum Seeker
3 Skymarcher Aspirant
4 Vicious Conquistador
4 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
2 Legion's End
2 Mortify
3 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort

1 Legion's End
1 Despark
3 Noxious Grasp
1 Plague Mare
2 Gideon Blackblade
4 Duress
1 Vona, Butcher of Magan
2 Devout Decree

You can watch the Top 4 play here.

Grand Prix Birmingham

MagicFest Birmingham featured a Modern Grand Prix and once again the story of the weekend was Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Out of the 911 players on Day One, over 10% were on a Hogaak deck. That percentage more than doubled on Day Two to almost 22%.

What about the Top 8? Well, there were three Hogaak decks there. One made the finals in the hands of Simon Nielsen, who was trying to go back-to-back in Birmingham. Standing in his way was Rory Kear-Smith and Mardu Shadow. Kear-Smith was a brick wall. He was the last standing undefeated player and emerged from the Top 8 victorious, using the power of Death’s Shadow and Temur Battle Rage to contain the undead hordes.

Rory Kear-Smith’s Mardu Shadow

1 Plains (331)
1 Swamp (339)
2 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Godless Shrine
3 Marsh Flats
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Silent Clearing
4 Death's Shadow
1 Gurmag Angler
1 Hex Parasite
4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
4 Street Wraith
4 Tidehollow Sculler
3 Fatal Push
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Mishra's Bauble
2 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Path to Exile
2 Temur Battle Rage
4 Thoughtseize
2 Unearth

2 Celestial Purge
2 Fulminator Mage
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Kolaghan's Command
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Plague Engineer
1 Wear/Tear
1 Shenanigans

Looking Forward

Next week is a double dose of Las Vegas. MagicFest Las Vegas gets underway Thursday, with two main events: Modern Horizons Limited and Modern Constructed. And then Monday comes the reckoning, with the next Banned and Restricted List update going live at 11am Pacific Time. Will Hogaak survive? We’ll have to wait and see.


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