Today, Wizards of the Coast announced that they are cancelling all 26 of the remaining in-person MagicFest events in 2020.

“Without any doubt, our top priority is the health and safety of players, casters, artists, event staff, and everyone else who makes Magic competitive play both possible and wonderful,” said Elaine Chase, Vice President of Esports at Wizards. “Given the unpredictability of COVID-19, we have made changes to how the highest levels of competitive Magic work to ensure that we can keep playing during the pandemic.”

“This means we’ve made the heartbreaking decision to cancel all outstanding 2020 in-person high-level Magic events including MagicFests,” Chase continued.

The original schedule for 2020 MagicFests.

There were 42 MagicFests announced in October 2019 that were to take place throughout the calendar year 2020. Seven of those 42, ending with MagicFest Lyon on March 6-8, were held before Wizards and ChannelFireball began cancelling events due to COVID-19. The cancellations began at the end of February with MagicFest Turin, which originally scheduled for April 3-5 in Italy, where the country was just beginning to be overwhelmed by the virus. MagicFests Detroit, Sao Paulo, Louisville, and Palm Beach were cancelled two weeks later, followed by all MagicFests through July two weeks after that.

The Future of Magic Esports

MagicFests are just one part of a larger Magic esports program that has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Wizards of the Coast was forced to cancel most of its slate of 2020 in-person premiere tournaments last month and deemed the Magic Pro League’s 2020 season “unrecoverable,” freezing the Pro and Rivals Leagues’ rosters for the coming season.

The Magic Pro League’s next season was originally planned as the year-long 2020-21 season, similar to previous Pro Tour seasons, but COVID-19 has upended that as well. Last week, Wizards cancelled the events that made up the first quarter of the 2020-21 season and combined them with the previously-cancelled events into three online tournaments that will culminate in a Grand Finals later this year.

Magic Esports will be moving to a new seasonal structure this Fall with “set-based competitive seasons for the first time ever around Zendikar Rising,” Chase revealed today.

In a separate post, Wizards said that the Zendikar Season will have “a Swiss-style, best-of-three championship fed by qualifiers and played for prize money with coverage at the end.” They will be sharing the details about that season later this summer.

Wizards also emphasized that the upcoming Zendikar Season will mark the start of a new period of change and flexibility for Magic Esports. “[A]s we look to 2021, we’re planning to be adaptable and flexible as pandemic conditions evolve and as we test and learn from online remote-play competitions,” they said.

However, Wizards cautioned that they expect it to be a long time before things return to a pre-COVID-19 normal. “When tabletop competitive play starts back up,” they said on Twitter, “we expect it to be seeded in hyper-local communities, when and where it is safe to do so. It will take time to build back up to city- or region-level events. We would be very pleasantly surprised to reach this point in 2021.”

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