The Pro League is here, and while it might not be here for real yet, it’s definitely looming in the back of everyone’s minds, and no one more than the 32 players selected to be the face of Magic the Gathering for all of 2019.

Make no mistake, these players are the face of the game now. Sure, Jace Beleren and Nicol Bolas will still be front-and-center as they battle for the fate of Ravnica and all of the multiverse, but for fans and players of the game, all eyes will be on the Magic Pro League.

But you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve come from and for that we must take one final longing look back over our collective shoulders at the 20 years of competitive Magic that have collectively become known as the Pro Tour.

When Skaff Elias contemplated the Pro Tour back in the 90’s, competitive gaming was something relegated to conventions like Gencon and Origins or to more traditional games like chess, bridge, or poker. Marrying the two ideas was a stroke of genius that certainly resulted in rising popularity for the game.

Eventually organized play was tasked with managing the player experience from pre-release, the most amateur level of the game, to the pro tour, the most professional. To say it was a daunting task would be an understatement and the overall vision of organized play seemed to change nearly as often as the game itself.

I’m not here to put the Pro Tour on trial though. For 20 years plenty of commentators, myself included, have taken plenty of opportunities to criticize the Pro Tour, suggest changes, or even propose wiping it out entirely. So there’s plenty of fodder for us to track back to if we wanted to sling some more mud at the past.

Looking forward to the Magic Pro League, the Mythic Championships, and the emergence of independently organized qualifier circuits, we can hopefully learn some valuable lessons from two decades of hits and misses from the Pro Tour. After all, those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

The title of this column, which for the past five years has taken its share of jabs at organized play, is “What We Learned,” which was stolen from an ice hockey blog of the same name. But the purpose is to try to glean some kind of information about the game, the competitive circuit, and the community, week-to-week.

If we’ve learned anything while covering the Pro Tour it’s that it’s very hard to sell competitive Magic to fans if it isn’t entertaining to watch. MTG Arena obviously helps alleviate many of the problems with watching competitive Magic, but it isn’t inherently more entertaining than MTG Online or paper Magic.

What’s entertaining is following the competitors on the Pro Tour. The rookies trying to make an impact. The veterans looking for another trophy to take home. The teams competing for glory. The friendly banter. The families. The rivalries. That’s entertainment.

Wizards of the Coast spent 20 years trying to squeeze every ounce of entertainment they could out of the physical pieces of cardboard we’ve been slinging across kitchen tables since 1993 (perhaps that’s why they’re all warped now). That well has run dry but there’s an Everflowing Chalice of opportunity when it comes to promoting 32 players to be global ambassadors for their product.

Here’s to the Magic Pro League and a wonderful 2019.

Alexander Hayne

Hayne has been on break since Canada’s upsetting showing at the last ever World Magic Cup and he isn’t necessarily one of the most active players on social media, but as the only Canadian player in the MPL we expect him to be the friendliest. We’ll see if he delivers.

Andrea Mengucci

Mengucci is a national treasure for Italy and if Wizards of the Coast ever figures out how to properly market their players to fans, he could be the European Reid Duke.

Andrew Cuneo

Cuneo has been streaming Vintage Cube which, to be honest, is one of the only acceptable reasons to watch people still streaming MTG Online instead of MTG Arena.

Ben Stark

Stark has been around the Pro Tour for as long as anyone, so if he’s excited, everyone should be this excited.

Brad Nelson

Nelson discusses the effect MTG Arena will have on card design in the future.

Brian Braun-Duin

Whether you love or hate the best-of-one system on MTG Arena, Braun-Duin’s article on how to strategize for the format is a must-read.

Carlos Romão

Romão ribbing fellow countryman and legendary Magic player Willy Edel is what will make him the Reid Duke of Latin America. PVDDR may be the greatest player in Brazilian history, but Romão is definitely the most entertaining. Can’t wait for him to start streaming.

Christian Hauck

We can only hope that Hauck’s cat’s judgmental face makes a regular appearance on his streams.

Eric Froehlich

Froehlich has zero plans to attend Magic Fests and that’s basically how it should be. Pros never should have had to grind out Grand Prix events and removing them will make the experience much better for the amateur experience.

Gerry Thompson

It’s arguable that no one in the MPL is as outspoken about it or as critical as Thompson. Check out his thoughts on MPL on Cedric Phillips’ podcast.

Grzegorz Kowalski

Kowalski, like myself and many other MPL members this week, thoroughly enjoyed Amazonian’s special event. It would be great to get the pros to play these on stream throughout the season.

Javier Dominguez

Does being the defending World Champion put a target on Dominguez’s back? He’s been quiet on social media this winter so maybe he’s keeping a low profile until the new year.

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

Depraz is one of Cardhoarder’s Pro Tour mentors, a program that has been one of the brighter parts of the otherwise completely flawed Pro Tour system. It will be interesting to see what kind of minor leagues emerge out of MPL allowing for more opportunities like this.

John Rolf

Rolf wants to know how much work he’ll have to put into building his MTG Arena collection which is a) a valid question we’ll be addressing here for the community and b) an absurd question for one of Wizards marquee players to have to address.

Ken Yukuhiro

Continuing our trend, I feel obligated to inform you that Ken Yukuhiro is the Reid Duke of Japan, and arguably has better hair (sorry-not-sorry).

Lee Shi Tian

Most of the world is isolated from some of the problems players in Southeast Asia have but having Lee Shi Tian on the Magic Pro League will hopefully shed light on them.

Lucas Esper Berthoud

Berthoud has great taste in TV shows.

Luis Salvatto

Player of the Year is an important title in competitions and Salvatto earned the 2018 title in stunning fashion. While we don’t yet know what criteria will qualify the 2019 award recipient, Salvatto will certainly be a favorite to repeat.

Marcio Carvalho

Carvalho’s not wasting any time, hitting Mythic for the January season before December even ended.

Martin Jůza

Jůza is quietly one of the most successful players in Pro Tour history and we’ll finally get to see the Juzam stream in the new year.

Matthew Nass

What are the odds that we see more MPL competitors show up to random SCG Opens than Magic Fest Grand Prix tournaments?

Mike Sigrist

Sigrist also enjoyed this weekend’s combo-tastic MTG Arena special event. Please Wizards, more of this, and promote your MPL members streaming it.

Owen Turtenwald

I guess if I had as many trophies as Turtenwald I’d put them on display behind myself while streaming as well.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

This week, PVDDR ranked the decks of Standard in order of complexity to play. Also, if you speak Portuguese, which I don’t, he appeared on the first episode of what looks like a hilarious video series. I wish I spoke Portuguese.

Piotr Glogowski

Glogowski is one of the less widely-known players in the MPL, but if you’re looking to follow someone who regularly discusses the game analytically at a very critical level, Glogowski is your guy.

Rei Sato

Sato competed this past weekend in an event in Japan known as Final Sun, an awesome combination of Legacy and Modern that we’ll have more coverage of here later this week.

Reid Duke

If Duke only streamed tabletop games he might still get the largest audience of any MPL competitor.

Seth Manfield

Manfield has nothing to hide when it comes to his thoughts on the creation of the Magic Pro League.

Shahar Shenhar

Shenhar is taking some time off to enjoy Bilbao before getting back to work as a pro gamer next year.

Shota Yasooka

Don’t forget Yasooka who, with two Pro Tour titles, should be one of the favorites coming into the MPL. Also, he’s been rocking Ravnica drafts it seems.

William Jensen

Another glowing endorsement of Amyzonian’s play anything draft.

Yuuya Watanabe

Watanabe closed out 2018 by going 7-2 in the MOCS playoff.

What We Learned is a weekly feature where we discuss current events in the Magic Pro League and highlight one story from the week about each of the 32 competitors. Rich Stein is a retired Magic player who’s greatest achievement in the game was that one time he finished in the Top 32 of an SCG Open with an Infect deck and then Patrick Chapin wrote about it.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.