Less than an hour before the start of Magic’s 2018 World Championship, Gerry Thompson announced that he would refuse to play in the event, citing the poor treatment of Magic Pros, including the fact that Magic doesn’t pay a living wage and that Wizards of the Coast does a poor job of communicating with and supporting their pros.

UPDATE: In a statement on Twitter and during the Worlds stream, Wizards of the Coast said that they “respect [Thompson’s] desire to make his voice heard.” They believe that their “Pro Player consultants are working directly with us to shape and mold the Pro Club” to actively address many of the points that Thompson made in his announcement.

Thompson is a well-liked professional Magic player, both by other pros and fans. He has won two Grand Prix—GP Denver in 2008 and GP Nashville in 2010—then worked for Wizards of the Coast as an R&D intern for six months in 2014. Thompson returned to the Pro Tour after the internship, winning Pro Tour Amonkhet in 2017 and donated all of his winnings to Planned Parenthood, then finished second at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in February 2018 and auctioned his trophy and deck for charity to support Take This.

Thompson: Wizards Doesn’t Support Its Pros

Thompson’s key complaint is that Wizards needs to increase their levels of support or respect for professional Magic players. He cites three main ways he sees Wizards failing its pros: lack of a living wage, poor communication, and and virtually no promotion.

Magic as a Whole Doesn’t Pay a Living Wage

According to Thompson, being a professional Magic player isn’t enough to pay the bills. Unless they win a Pro Tour (or the World Championship), Magic tournaments don’t pay enough for pros to make a living playing the game. Most pros create content to supplement their tournament winnings, and many more have normal 9-5 jobs to make ends meet.

To make things worse, Wizards’ recent changes to the Pro Tour, including the new Cycle system and fewer invites per event, will likely make it harder fro pros to qualify for future Pro Tours, reducing the likelihood that pros can make a living playing Magic.

Wizards Doesn’t Communicate Well With Its Pros

Among Thompson’s more detailed and supported claims is that Wizards does a poor job of communicating with professional Magic players.

Thompson focuses on the bad experiences that many of the competitors had in the lead up to this weekend’s 2018 World Championship. He says that Wizards made the players arrive early on Tuesday, even though there were no commitments until Thursday. They told the players about this requirement extremely late in the process, forcing some players to change their plans.

On top of that, Thompson says, Wizards sent players “nine emails of varying importance” with information about the 2018 World Championship. “Buried” in one of those emails, in Thompson’s view, was a deadline to RSVP any guests who will be coming to the event. Many of the players missed this requirement, including Ben Stark, Brad Nelson, and Mike Sigrist, all of whom had already made plans with their significant others. Wizards eventually fixed this problem, but Thompson says that this poor communication led to “a bunch of unnecessary stress on the competitors and their loved ones.”

It would be one thing if the scheduling issues around the 2018 World Championship where an isolated incident, Thompson says. But Wizards has a history of leaving its pros in the dark about upcoming events. For example, after Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, many pros were trying to form new teams for the next Pro Tour Team Series. Wizards couldn’t provide the players with enough information for them to make educated team choices and line up sponsors—would there be a Team Pro Tour? Will all players on a team be invited to each Pro Tour? Believe it or not, Thompson says, pros still don’t have answers to these important questions.

Wizards Doesn’t Really Promote Its Pros . . . or Its Events

Did you know that the 2018 World Championship was this weekend? We at Hipsters of the Coast knew, but we run a site that focuses on Magic news and the professional scene. But the vast majority of the community didn’t know, as can be seen on Twitter today with the number of tweets saying “Oh, Worlds is happening right now?!”

This lack of promotion for Worlds is part of a larger theme of Wizards not promoting its events or players effectively—or at all. Coverage has attempted to focus more on players and their stories, but Thompson says that it’s insufficient and ineffective. He cites the week before Grand Prix Sao Paulo in July, where Wizards did virtually no publicity and didn’t even mention the fact that the reigning Player of the Year and most recent Pro Tour winner would be attending.

Thompson, echoing a common complaint in the Magic community, also says that coverage of Magic’s premiere events is “abysmal.” While Wizards has improved the quality of Pro Tour coverage over the last year or two, those events are only a few times a year. Coverage of Grand Prix, the most common professional event, is still extremely low quality and difficult to watch, which hampers any attempt to build up and promote players outside of Pro Tours. Not only that, Wizards has also used coverage to put pros at a disadvantage, like when the coverage team of Pro Tour Dominaria revealed Team ChannelFireball’s UG Karn deck early on stream.

Additionally, Thompson says, when Wizards does try and go all out and promote a Magic event, like with the Silver Showcase at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, they blow a huge chunk of their Organized Play budget on an event that fails to reward its current professional players. Not only did Wizards invite players who aren’t active Magic pros, but they chose a format (Beta draft) that is difficult to understand and that no one can realistically access. Those two things, Thompson says, mad the Silver Showcase a double failure on Wizards part.

It’s worth noting that Thompson is not the only professional Magic player disappointed by Wizards’ lack of promotion. The Thursday before the 2018 World Championship, newly-minted Pro Consultant Eduardo Sajgalik voiced similar concerns on his Worlds preview stream.

Thompson’s Suggestions for Improving Professional Magic

Thompson concludes his statement by providing four suggestions for improving professional Magic: better promotion, better commentators, more Pro Tour invites, and a better relationship between Wizards and professional Magic players.

Build Stars

Like many Magic fans, Thompson wants Wizards to steal some of the best ideas from the StarCityGames professional circuit. He says that coverage should try harder to create player-driven narratives, interview players outside of a deck tech setting, and hype players with detailed slides during an event. He also asks for Wizards to provide support for players looking for sponsors: media kits, detailed schedules of events, and clear information that players can communicate to potential sponsors.

Improve Coverage Quality

To help build stars, Thompson also wants Wizards to focus on hiring quality commentators that can provide engaging and effective commentary. He argues that production quality can only go so far in engaging viewers and that commentators are the key to keeping viewers around long enough for Wizards to try and promote its pros and events.

More Pro Tour Invites, Not Fewer

Thompson’s third suggestion is largely in reaction to the recent announcement that, while there will be more Pro Tours in 2019, there will be fewer invites per event. Thompson believes that reducing invites per event is not the answer—rather, since the game has grown significantly in the last 6+ years, Wizards should increase the ways to qualify for Pro Tours to match.

Better Relationships Between Wizards and Its Pros

Finally, Thompson says that Wizards’ actions indicate “that they feel like everyone is replaceable.” He believes that Wizards has to improve the way it treats its pros, which are the lifeblood of its competitive scene, or it will fall apart.

This Story is Still Developing…

We’ve reached out to Thompson for an interview, but he is (understandably) taking the weekend to process the community’s reaction and any consequences that might come from Wizards. We have also reached out to Wizards for comment, and will update this story with in additional information.

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