Andrea Mengucci became Magic’s first Mythic Invitational champion at PAX East. The Italian walked away with $250,000, the largest prize in Magic history, and that’s only the beginning. There is a lot to take in from this weekend, and definitely areas that could be improved on, so let’s review the event.

The Competitors

Controversy was inevitable surrounding the list of players who were invited to the tournament. The field included Magic Premier League pros, the top performers on MTG Arena, and notable esports personalities. For every proponent of reignin Mythic Champion Autumn Burchett, there is someone complaining about invitations for players like Hearthstone star Thijs. Wizards invited a diverse field of exciting players, but they can’t please everyone.

The controversy was compounded by a series of competitor withdrawals. Amaz could not get a visa in time for travel, Maria Fernanda Quintero Solano (MaferMTG) withdrew in response to criticism of her social media posts, and Rei Sato was disqualified for cheating at a paper tournament. But the biggest news came days before the event when Owen Turtenwald withdrew without explanation. Brian David-Marshall got the last minute slot, which was a wonderful solution in the circumstances but still awkward.

While late dropouts are difficult to replace, I would have preferred to have had a larger representation of slots given to the MTG Arena participants. Perhaps the qualifying slots could have been increased from eight to twelve. It would have been more meaningful for players who took part in the final grind to make Top 8 and arguably given a larger spotlight to the personalities who earned invites through streaming.

The Set Up

This weekend, we got the answer to what could have been. We finally heard Brian Kibler doing commentary for a Magic tournament—when he isn’t being timed out from Twitch chat, that is. Years ago, it seemed that everyone wanted Brian Kibler on the coverage team, apart from Wizards themselves. We got to see Kibler grow as a commentator in a different game, but for Magic fans we were left disappointed that one of the most charismatic and enjoyable personalities within Magic was no longer around the game.

PAX brought us something new and exciting. We got a coverage team from all walks of Magic. We have streamers doing their first event all the way to  streamers and ex pros providing the experience for the team. Even the stage itself felt grand, with fireworks setting the tone for the event. Some players may have struggled to adjust to the spotlight, but the stage is set for glory on a new worldwide level.

The Tournament

For the enfranchised player, there was a lot to take in from this tournament, but not for the positive. While the tournament was the one with the biggest prize pool of all time, it was also the longest. Four days of competition felt excessive, but with PAX running throughout, it makes sense to take full advantage of the big weekend. But the unique format was controversial as well.

Double elimination tournaments are unheard of in paper and the new Duo Standard format was newly established for this event. Many Magic fans were left wishing that the tournament had followed normal Standard rules. Duo Standard as a format did not stand up well. We saw a variety of non-games and control mirrors with few win conditions facing off against each other. Duo Standard encourages decks that are either hyper aggressive or are controlling but do not have to fear a sideboard. While the most common MTG Arena decks were represented well at the tournament, the metagame did not reflect the paper world. That was to be expected, but the divergence was stark.

One of the paper rules they did follow unfortunately was the deciding factor in the first round between Gerry Thompson and Wyatt Darby. In timed elimination rounds, if the match is still outstanding after the allotted five additional turns, then the player with the higher life total wins. When this happened to Gerry and Wyatt, the match skipped straight to decision by life totals; Gerry lost a match that he would likely have won if given the extra turns. Early losses are not fatal in paper tournaments, but with double elimination it immediately put Gerry on the back foot with no more losses to give. This situation almost never happens in paper because the Top 8 elimination rounds of major events are untimed, and only smaller tournaments like Grand Prix Trials time their elimination rounds. So it came as a surprise to everyone when suddenly Gerry lost after time ran out.

The Takeaway

Now my final question. Was the tournament a success? This is a resounding yes. While it may seem that I’ve been critical of the Mythic Invitational, the results speak for themselves. Averaging around 80,000 viewers at one time is incredible viewership for any Magic: the Gathering event, tripling the typical viewship of a Magic Pro Tour.

While the changes made for the tournament may seem strange from a paper Magic player’s perspective, we have to face the facts that we were not the target audience for this tournament. The Mythic Invitational was designed for the Arena player, and it delivered. It showed that you don’t need to be pro player to do well in the tournament—you just need to be from Europe!

While it remains to be seen if Wizards try another event like this in the future, if they do but with a few minor adaptions it could be an unparalleled success. The future of Magic appears to be Arena and with the Mythic Invitational out of the way, it looks like Arena is a force to be reckoned with.

Daniel Roberts (@Razoack) is a UK based player writing about all things Standard. Playing since the release of Gatecrash, he loves nothing better than travelling to European GPs with friends and losing in the feature match area. His best record is 12-3 at GP Barcelona 2017, but he’s aiming for that one more win.

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