Magic: The Gathering is one of the oldest, most venerated properties in the world and it's priming itself for robust esports action. Garrett Fuller sat down with Wizards of the Coast Director of Esports Bear Schmiedicker to learn how that will look in 2019.
MMORPG: Magic: The Gathering has a rich history in tournaments and game play, what is something you are doing to innovate on the ideas of the past and bring the game into the modern age of esports?
Bear Schmiedicker: We’ve been running tabletop tournaments for a very long time and have a lot of experience making these events an amazing experience for players. Most of what we’re focused on now is translating the experience of Magic into a digital form. MTG: Arena gives us the opportunity to make the game more interesting to watch with fun visuals and sound effects. It really allows us to communicate the power of the cards and introduce you to the story of Magic in a way that you just can’t get through paper magic. So, it’s less about bringing the game into the “modern age”, and more about offering fans different ways to enjoy and watch the game they love.
MMORPG: How are you managing the top players and talent? Is there a way to play as a Magic professional similar to poker?
Bear Schmiedicker: In 2019, along with the introduction of Mythic Championships, we created a professional league composed of some of the top players from the 2018 tournament season. The MPL consists of 32 players that receive play and streaming contracts worth $75,000, and will attend all Mythic Championships, including the upcoming Invitational at PAX East. This is not the only way to play Magic as a professional. While the MPL is the official League, challengers outside of the MPL can qualify to compete in Championships by playing Magic and MTG Arena – and can even make it to the World Championship.
MMORPG: How do you see the esport growing with the success of Magic: The Gathering Arena?
Bear Schmiedicker: We have a long history of tabletop tournaments and have been broadcasting them live since the early days of streaming. With Arena, we get to add a new way to watch and play Magic – and it’s no secret that the game can be hard to learn and follow. Arena gives us so much opportunity to create a path for folks to fall in love and discover why Magic has been around for so long.
MMORPG: What steps are you taking to cross the popular online game with the live paper version of Magic?
Bear Schmiedicker: There are a few things we’ve worked on to connect the two One is our Mythic Points system – which is a streamlined system that we intentionally designed to connect tabletop and Arena. Also, unlike any other TCG, we’ve weaved together both Arena and in-person events to give players more paths to win, depending on how they want to play Magic.
MMORPG: What are some of the differences you have highlighted between the two forms of games? How do you bridge the gaps?
Bear Schmiedicker: It’s not so much about bridging the gaps but leaning into what makes each way to play Magic a great experience. For tabletop, we’re not making concessions to support Arena and you won’t see drastic changes being made to support the digital experience. However, we’ve been able to test things in Arena that are just not possible on tabletop – that flexibility will allow us to try different things (like formats) and then get feedback from players quickly. It’ll be an interesting balancing act!
MMORPG: The future is looking bright for the tournaments and top by play but what are you doing to bring in fans of Magic for the first time? The game has such a rich history, but a deep curve for new players.
Bear Schmiedicker: As mentioned before, part of improving the onboarding experience for players is providing a digital space for folks to feel comfortable learning, failing, and discovering what’s so special about Magic. That said if you prefer to learn with a friend (like me), hitting up a FNM or MagicFest is a great entry point. You might not be ready for the MPL, but you’ll still be in for a great time!
MMORPG: How does 2019 shape out for you with tournaments but also new releases of Magic products?
Bear Schmiedicker: For 2019 – you can get more information about our events and tournaments here. I’m not going to spoil any products for this year, but you can keep up-to-date with all things Magic at dailymtg.com.