How do you promote the competitors you feature at the highest level of your championship series? This is a problem that Wizards faces, but it isn’t a unique problem to Magic or the Pro Tour. Because Magic is missing the kind of marquee personality that is Amaz to the Hearthstone community, Wizards has opted to invite Amaz to the Pro Tour. This addresses a symptom of the problem (low viewership) but not the root disease.

I’m not going to spend my column telling you why it’s 100 percent fantastic that Amaz has been invited to the Pro Tour or why this is a decision that doesn’t hurt current pro players or diminish the Pro Tour because Anthony Lowry already did a fantastic job of covering that last week. As someone who has received special invitations, Lowry has a unique perspective on the subject that I don’t.

What I can talk about is media coverage of the Pro Tour, and more importantly the lack of what I feel is the most critical coverage: coverage of the players themselves. Let’s be perfectly clear: Wizards and their partner-in-crime Twitch (more on them later) do not do a good enough job of promoting professional Magic players if they don’t promote themselves. Full stop.

That’s not to say Wizards hasn’t tried, in some capacity, to promote their players. The most common way they do so is through feature matches shown on-camera in tournament coverage. Next up is short features on coverage like interviews, deck techs, or the segments that Brian David-Marshall hosts in the homes players have rented. Not to be forgotten is the written event coverage on the mothership but that’s a small piece of what gets published there.

But it clearly isn’t enough, and there are a lot of reasons for that. First and foremost, the majority of work that Wizards does to promote their own pro players happens during the Pro Tour coverage itself. There are only four Pro Tour events. Wizards essentially spends one weekend every three months promoting their top players and then there’s radio silence in between.

What happens to the pros in the interim? Do they stop playing Magic? No, they go to Grand Prix tournaments, and they play online, and they still get together with their teammates to brew new decks, tune their limited strategies, and review past performances. It’s just the spotlight that’s been turned off and stowed away until the next Pro Tour event.

There is an obvious connection to be drawn between Wizard’s budding partnership with Twitch and the decision to invite successful Twitch partner Amaz to the Pro Tour. Amaz’s channel on Twitch has just under 76 million views. The Magic channel has just under 53 million. Bringing Amaz to the Pro Tour is a clear attempt to grow Magic’s audience on Twitch, something that Twitch clearly benefits from, as does Magic.

The problem is that while this helps Twitch out it doesn’t help the Pro Tour and it doesn’t directly help pro players. Maybe Amaz streams a bit more Magic over the coming months leading up to the Pro Tour, but ultimately this doesn’t solve the real challenge. Where is the next Amaz of the Magic community? Where is the next Kibler? Where is the next Finkel vs. Budde storyline?

In the past Wizards has relied on the players to promote themselves, and for the storylines to tell themselves. That is not the way to grow the audience for Magic. The Team Series is a start in the right direction, but Wizards and Twitch have their work cut out for them if they’re going to figure out how to promote Magic players to the community.

Here are ten more thoughts on this and other stories from the Magic community this week:

1. If you want an easy way to promote pro players between Pro Tour events look no further than the Grand Prix. Pro players used to be awarded appearance fees for traveling to Grand Prix events but that’s no longer the case except for Platinum players who receive $250 and the sleep-in special. Having the pros appear on the smaller circuit allows the media to build more continuous coverage and promote them week-to-week.

2. Magic as I said is not unique in this problem. The NHL has long set the standard for failing to promote its players, or for receiving negative feedback for only promoting Sidney Crosby. The result is clear as the NHL far lags behind its major sport siblings the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Failing to promote your star players has a clear price no matter how big or small your community/fanbase is.

3. Last thought on promoting players. You have to consider the role in Magic Online in all of this as the platform certainly doesn’t make it as easy as Hearthstone does to create a brand online. Plenty of folks are working on this problem, but it’s really the one that Twitch should be helping to solve, instead of just offering up other games’ top players as special tribute.

4. HASCON tickets went on sale last week and it will cost you at least $60 for an adult pass to the event. If you want to also play in one of the Iconic Masters tournaments you’ll need to pay another $60 (not an over-pricing since packs are $10 and it’s a sealed-deck event). Of course if you want he VIP treatment for the weekend you can pay $600. As conventions go this is far more expensive than PAX but may provide a more focused fan service for the Magic community.

5. In case you’ve forgotten, the 25th anniversary of Magic: the Gathering is around the corner and the festivities kick off with a 25th Anniversary panel at HASCON which Mark Rosewater will be part of. Rosewater, the head designer for Magic, only travels twice a year to promote Magic as he spends the rest of his (well-earned) time off with his family. He usually participates in a Magic panel at San Diego Comic Con, but with HASCON in the works one has to wonder if SDCC is in the cards for Wizards this year.

6. Commander has been on everyone’s mind this week for two reasons. First off, Wizards updated the banned list for the new competitive one-on-one format available on Magic Online. Regardless of how you feel about the management of the banned list for the format, Commander is a highly entertaining format with a large following and getting it featured on Magic Online is hugely critical to growing the audience of the game.

7. On the other hand, Wizards’ arch-nemesis returned this week as what appeared to be a collection of new cards from the upcoming Commander 2017 product were released to the internet. While the motives remain unclear, and Wizards has not commented on the cards, this certainly strikes a blow to Wizards’ plans for revealing what looks to be a very exciting tribal dragon Commander deck. Commander 2017 releases on August 25th which is still three months away.

8. There are three major Modern events taking place this weekend with Grand Prix Kobe, Grand Prix Copenhagen, and SCG Open Baltimore all featuring the much-maligned non-rotating format. Total attendance for those events? 2,802 in Kobe, 1,837 in Copenhagen, and 900 (capacity) in Baltimore. Those are big numbers for a format that has seen dwindling support from Wizards, but has strong grassroots support much like Legacy.

9. The Legacy community got some great news this week when they learned that the entirety of the Legacy main event at Grand Prix Las Vegas would be covered on Twitch with the team of Brian David-Marshall, Patrick Chapin, Marshall Sutcliffe, and William Jensen providing commentary on Thursday with Luis Scott-Vargas taking over for Marshall Sutcliffe on Friday. Gaby Spartz will then take over for Brian David-Marshall on Saturday and Sunday as the focus shifts to Modern.

10. As a journalist in the gaming community I was appalled by David Leavitt’s joke about the terrorist attack in Manchester that left 22 dead. What was completely unacceptable though was his unapologetic manner in which he doubled- and then tripled-down on the joke. If you think it’s funny that people died at an Ariana Grande concert because you don’t like pop music, you’re free to do so. If you use your public platform to push that message then don’t be surprised when media outlets decide they don’t want to be associated with you. The community outrage didn’t kill David Leavitt’s career. David Leavitt impaled himself on his own sword and when people pointed this out to him he dug the blade in deeper.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.