The Competition at competitive and professional REL tournaments has become harder compared to earlier years. Let us look at what happened and how difficult it is to succeed at the Pro Tour now compared to then.
A Bit of History
The Pro Tour Origins of Martin Dang
The very first Pro Tour took place on 17-18 February 1996 in New York, and boy have we come a long way since then. I haven’t been there from the start, but it is pretty damn close. I’ve been on and off on the Pro Tour for the last 18 years.
Pro Tour Nice 2001 was the very first I played. I say “played” because truth is, I didn’t even go to the first Pro Tour I qualified for. Can you imagine? I wasn’t sick and there weren’t any family emergencies that kept me from going. I just didn’t feel like going on such a long trip for a tournament. You see, things have changed a bit. I just played the PTQ for fun. Finally, there was a bigger tournament to play than FNM! And before you feel bad for the runner-ups, I didn’t take the spot from someone who wanted it. It wasn’t unusual to ask who intended to actually go, so those people usually got a few concessions in the top 8. Nothing sketchy, the plane ticket wasn’t covered, so it just wasn’t considered that big of a prize to qualify for this tournament far away.
A Change in Attitude
The perception of the Pro circuit has changed
I remember that I qualified at my local store with less than 50 players, and this was considered a pretty good attendance at my store. Back then, some PTQs even got cancelled because there were fewer than the 8 players required to sanction a tournament. A Grand Prix with an attendance of 500? That was considered a huge tournament, and people couldn’t imagine them getting any bigger.
Things have changed drastically since then. Playing the Pro Tour is cool. Being able to travel, to battle the best in the world and compete for cash prizes is now a dream for many local players. Passing up on a Pro Tour when you have qualified is unthinkable without a damn good reason. Nowadays you must go through PPTQs before you can even play a PTQ, which most likely isn’t even in your city. Wizards will change this though. They announced a new road to qualify. And while the details are not out yet, I wouldn’t bet my money that it will get any easier to get that golden ticket.
The changing landscape of competitive Magic
So why is it so much more difficult to do well competitively today? Well, for starters, the world wide web is a thing now. Access to play online helped people without a local game store to get a chance to qualify and provides people with an efficient way to test. Not against anyone but against other competitive opponents and at any given time that fits into your busy schedule. In addition, the internet gives everyone the latest update on Magic Online winning decks and strategies, as well as access to Twitch streams and Pro written articles *wink wink notch notch*. You must put in more time to prepare today since you have so many more ways to be prepared as back then. Everyone does. Which is why you need to do some serious research and testing if you want to achieve great results. All this free accessible information gives everyone somewhat of an idea about the metagame and what to play, so kitchen table decks have become a rare sight.
The competition nowadays is fierce. The number of Magic players has increased immensely over the last decade and it doesn’t seem to slow down any time soon, especially with the takeoff of MTG Arena.
In Good Company
More players and more teams
With the increased numbers comes an increase in difficulty to reach the top. The more players, the harder it is to make it. Obviously, it takes skill to make it to the top, but with so many great players reaching out, it has also become somewhat of a numbers game. As if this wasn’t enough, I believe the biggest change at the Pro Tour, which makes it harder to do well, is the increased number of Pro Teams out there. There were teams back then too, but they mostly consisted of players from the same country who happened to qualify just like you, and there were only a few Pro Teams like we know them today. Nowadays there are quite a few Pro Teams out there, with a sizeable amount of experience and knowhow about testing and efficiency. If you are not on one, you are at a disadvantage.
As a final note on changes that have made it harder to do well. The Pro Tour used to be held in one format. In 2009 they changed it to the system you know today, where players must know their way around both Constructed and Limited. I liked this change a lot, as it benefits players that indulge themselves more. Also I like the fact that you have to be good at more than one format. I don’t say that doing well on the Pro Tour back then was easy. They would just have to make use of a different kind of skill set to prevail.
Patience is a Virtue
Don’t worry if you didn’t break through yet
There are many climbing the ladder out there, so don’t get too frustrated if your break through isn’t right around the corner. Hang in there, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Basically, if you qualify for your first Pro Tour – rebranded as Mythic Championships now – I think that is very impressive. Best you can do is to do your research properly, try and surround yourself with likeminded people and you’ll be ready for the Mythic Championships to come.
This article was written by Martin Dang in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com