MTG Pro divisiveness towards the MPL is about money and lack of direction

Pro player frustrations hit an all-time high.

Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen and Jessica Estephan MTG MPL additions
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

After the retirement of Jerry Thompson and the ban of Yuuya Watanabe for cheating, the Magic Pro League (MPL) filled two open spots with Twitch streamer Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen and Pro player Jessica Estephan.

The MPL is also adding 16 “discretionary” slots for the upcoming Mythic Championships. Many MTG Pros feel these slots will go to Twitch streamers and content creators over the players who grind through tournaments year-round in hopes of qualifying for a Mythic Championship.

Pro player and fan-favorite Reid Duke expressed his frustrations via Twitter, catching the attention of many in the MTG community. “I hope it will always be a priority to reward people who devote themselves to Magic purely for self-improvement and love of the game,” Duke said.

After receiving some backlash in the comments section and through DM’s, Duke spoke further on his frustrations during his Twitch stream, focusing on the lack of direction Wizards of the Coast has given to Pros regarding getting into the MPL and remaining a Pro come next year.

The MPL has no official stance regarding requirements for entry into the Magic Pro League. All decisions are made behind closed doors, and no one knows who’s signing off on the entry admissions. Because of this, there’s a bunch of long-term MTG Pro’s who are frustrated, and the root of all these feelings comes down to money.

Wizards of the Coast gives the 32 players on the roster a flat salary of $75,000 a year. Also included in their contract are three Mythic Championship Arena and one Mythic Invitational invites, at which they can win earnings.

A regular MTG Pro player, however, doesn’t have a contract with Wizards of the Coast. They must qualify in order to play every Mythic event and don’t receive a salary. There are also no travel expenses awarded to those who qualify, with many of the Mythic Championships taking place around the world. To make matters worse, a player could spend up to $2,000 just on a plane ticket and win only $500 at the MC.

Up until Savjz was offered an MPL spot, many thought the Mythic point rankings system determined who got into the MPL and who didn’t. Mythic points are earned by attending MCQ and Grand Prix events, along with MTG Mythic Championships and Invitationals.

But with the addition of Savjz, a full-time MTG streamer on Twitch, many pros are wondering if their hard work has been a waste of time. Savjz didn’t help the situation, saying he wasn’t sure if he’d play non-digital Magic: The Gathering.

Savjz isn’t in the wrong for saying this, especially if Wizards of the Coast gives him the option to back out. That’s why the MPL needs to have specific entry and contractual obligations clearly written out and available to the public.

If the MPL and Wizards of the Coast don’t change how they’re operating, more Pro players are going to continue to lash out—much like Ari Lax has been over the last couple days.

And Ari isn’t in the wrong either. The system is broken and it needs an overhaul before more money is spent and additional decisions about the future of Magic Esports are made.

Magic: The Gathering going digital and competing in esports is an awesome thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of those who kept Wizards of the Coast profitable for the last two decades, either. There needs to be an official structure in order to maintain fairness and balance.

And just because Magic: The Gathering can possibly make more money going digital, doesn’t mean paper should become obsolete. Both can exist and be profitable at the same time.