Ten million dollars—now that’s a headline! Details about Magic’s new competitive paradigm are still percolating out, and many have yet to be decided. But the big headline is big money. And that is a good step one. Money follows money. Ten million dollars has enough gravity to pull a lot more within its orbit.

I have been critical of the state of competitive play in Magic. Many others have as well, from various perspectives. Even the peripheral ecosystem surrounding large paper Magic tournaments has been showing strain—for example, the rising costs of artist and vendor tables at grand prix. When everyone is grasping for scarce supplies of money, that’s a bad sign. The status quo does not seem to be providing the necessary cash flow.

Competitive Magic needs to grow. It needs more money to grow. Big money will attract more players, and more attention to those players. Growing interest will hopefully bring more money into the pool from outside sources—advertisers, presumably, and perhaps investors as well. All of that feeds back into the quality of competition, because more money brings more effort to win it—effort that will start to be rewarded.

MTG Arena has to be a big part of this growth. I tuned in a few times for the Twitch Rivals $10K tournament on Tuesday afternoon. The tournament ran smoothly, and the games were easy to follow. I was impressed. If you can run a tournament on Arena, live streamed, for a prize pool in the neighborhood of an old grand prix? That could completely rewrite the cash flow dynamics of competitive Magic. If such tournaments can be regular events, they could also ease pressure on paper Magic Fests to meet demand for high-level competitive opportunities.

We shall see if Magic can truly establish itself in the esports realm. The success of Hearthstone and high interest in new competitive esports card games like Artifact suggests that people hunger for a compelling digital card game experience. MTG Arena seems to finally be bringing Magic into that conversation. We know that Magic is a massively compelling and engrossing game. If Magic has finally been packaged to look good digitally, watch out. Money follows money, but it keeps following success. The Twitch Rivals tournament stream is a good start. Let’s hope it is also replicable.

I’m also excited about the Magic Pro League, which promises to help build the profile and demand for MTG Arena tournaments and streams. In my plea for changes to competitive Magic, I asked for tiers of competition. The one-size-fits-all approach of the old Pro Point system, with open Grand Prix feeding moderately-sized quarterly Pro Tours, did not do enough to support either the elite or the run-of-the-mill professional players. In a sense, there were no professional players at all. The Magic Pro League allows the top competitors to reap large rewards, and to be featured more consistently in high-level streams. The rest of us, from competitive hopefuls to successful grinders, can now seek out Magic Fests, open Arena tournaments, PTQs, Star City Games series, and other events that cater to our needs more directly.

Magic has always had the “content” of a great game. Now it is starting to have the “presentation” to match. The game is expensive, complicated, and time-consuming—so maybe competitive events will always struggle to succeed. But the thing about Magic is, once you learn how the game works, you get it. Magic is like riding a bike, or speaking a new language. If the product looks good, if it’s easy to follow, if it’s dramatic and compelling? Then more people will speak the language, and the market for broadcasting Magic tournaments can explode.

We have a long way to go. But I’m more hopeful than I have ever been. The team at Wizards of the Coast are doing the right things, working in good directions, and starting to build critical mass for a Magic esports juggernaut. Let’s hope they succeed. And let’s help them get there.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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