An Inconvenient Truth, Part 2

This is a series about a topic – or several related topics – brought to my attention via a blog entry by Christopher Morris-Lent, alias CML. It started here, and you can find that blog entry here.

Responding to feedback: You might not be interested in what CML writes about, you might not share his opinions, and/or you might not like his writing style, but this is certainly not an article by a „small-minded“ person – a strange person maybe, and one could even make a case that he (still) has mental issues, but his observations prove he possesses both an eye for details and the ability to view the bigger picture. Also, he writes quite well – I have learned by now that the typical MTGBlogs reader is unable to recognize this, but you can just trust me on this.

As for the content of his writing: You should be interested in it, if you

a) belong to the group of players he describes – the PT wannabes who might or might not manage to qualify from time to time, but never reach the „gravy train“;

b) are interested in the demographics and dynamics of the Magic community; or

C) care for the discrepancy between how Magic is generally presented and how the state of that game really is.

While you’re here, let me give you a link to another, newer article by the same author. There he obviously revels in his ability to polarize his readership, but he also portrays a side of Magic tournaments which is usually swept under the rug. By the way, the very fact that a player on illegal drugs is able to win a prestigious tournament is telling and supports CML’s views about the competitive Magic scene!

The first thing I want to write about in a bit more detail is the obvious: Magic „Professional Torunaments“ pay a lot less than the comparison CML uses, e-sports tournaments. This isn’t just about a difference in payout, though: It means that Magic has a substantially different and vastly inferior quality than those sports. To put it frankly: There are no professional Magic players! Even platinum level means that you are barely able to support a living, and staying platinum isn’t guaranteed, no matter how talented you are and how much work you put into it.

There are two kinds of „professional“ Magic players: Those who do not actually make a living from playing, but from related activities like working for a large store or developing their own games; and those who are effectively taking a sabbatical, travelling all over the world while doing well enough (hopefully) to cover their expenses, but nothing more.

In contrast to players in really professional sports, you will never be able to set aside enough money during your active years to supoort your living thereafter – and it doesn’t matter at all that you can keep on playing Magic on the highest level for much longer, because you are not making any substantial profit. Also, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to convert your Magic playing skills into a later career, especially if you’re not living in North America – there are only so many jobs available in Wizards R&D and at Star City Games, and furthermore, I would be surprised if those payed really well.

Do not fall for those stories of former players who made all their business connections and got their dream job via the Pro Tour! For one thing, this is like the veteran paradox: Of course, everyone who tells you about the war survived it! The millions who didn’t just do not have a voice. Also, the situation of pro players around the turn of the millenium was likely a lot different from what is going on today.

The basic truth is: The „professional“ in „Professional Tournament“ is a lie. That there are no real professional Magic players is all you need to know to prove this, but actually every aspect of „professional“ Magic is a hilarious, pathetic joke, just as CML writes, and that means that this series will probably have many parts more.

Completely unrelated:

After being unable to draft for several months due to a blend of computer and health issues, I have finally returned to drafting on MTGO. I am hopelessly behind with my efforts to build up my collection via drafting, and therefore I might sit out Magic Origins completely. I seem to be unable to get rid of my Fate Reforged / Dragons of Tarkir boosters because I still do pretty well in that format (which is, of course, a good thing), so this is what I have been busy with while waiting for Battle for Zendikar. You may not care about them anymore, but for the sake of continuity, here are my 3-0 deck lists from the last weeks:



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2 Gedanken zu „An Inconvenient Truth, Part 2

  1. handsome sagt:

    Couple things:

    1. For what it’s worth, as someone who writes and edits for a living („you can just trust me on this“ etc.), I really don’t think this guy is a great writer. Experienced, sure, but also someone who tries very hard to be Hunter S. Thompson, but just isn’t.

    2. I’m really curious where all your insight in the life of a professional Magic player comes from to make bold statements like „You’ll never make any business contacts“. Even I made several business contacts by playing Magic, and I’m not even a professional player.

    3. No offense, but it’s really obvious that you don’t know a whole lot about E-Sports and didn’t do any research on the topic. Basically NO player can set aside enough money during his E-Sports career.

    For instance, there are fewer than 300 pro gamers world-wide who have made more than 100.000 dollars lifetime in tournament winnings – and 100k isn’t even close to enough money to be able to retire from it. (Source: Those insane tournaments likle DotA’s The International certainly exist, which pay out something like ten million bucks in total, but those are few and far between. (Also, the payout tends to be extremely top-heavy.)

    Most „professional“ players in E-Sports actually make their money from sponsorships (i.e. PR gigs) and streaming, so not too different from Magic. The only difference being that your career in E-Sports ist drastically shorter than in Magic – most players retire at around 25, because that’s roughly the age where your reflexes start to dwindle and you simply can’t keep up with the next generation anymore. So basically, you play and a travel like a madman for a few years, and after that, you have no idea what to do next in life.

    Also consider the fact that the E-Sports business is extremely shady and many young players lose their winnings after being ripped off. Just look at what happened to Quantic Gaming, for example. (Source:


    At the end of the day, the author has a point, of course – Magic, as a game, is not a desirable career in itself. And of course it’s a big allure for insecure young people who have nothing going on in their life and put everything they have into it. If you put everything into Magic, you’ll invariably end up disappointed, and that actually is something that tends to be overlooked. But please let’s not pretend like that’s any different from E-Sports, or Poker, or even actual sports.

  2. Freakle sagt:

    so given that i was the only person commenting in your other blog post, and given that you quoted me, i assume it is okay for me to respond directly to this post here.

    I don’t think anybody pretends that one could live off of magic alone, even to a state where one could make enough money to save enough up for the „afterlife“ after magic. This does not need to be a debate, that is obvious for anybody that ever looked at the price payouts. Add to that the fact, that magic is not a purely skillbased game, but has random elements in it, anybody can see why there is a „gravy train“ for the pro tour. You have to create another system that keeps certain players as your top X players around, otherwise it would be impossible for us more casual players to get to know these people and actually care about coverage. Let’s face it, nobody would watch us two play on a saturday evening with our T2 decks, the fact that people get some storys around certain players and know those names makes it more interesting.

    As i wrote in the other comment, besides my oppinion on the original linked article, i would like to know your take on the subject, because the comparison to eSports in general is a interesting one.
    I also have been sponsored for a long time for esports, only recently (last 5ish years) has it actually gotten to a level that you could live of of that. Saving up money for later however is still not viable, not even for the best of the best in one of the top 3 esport games. That still is not the reality, eSport teams for the most part still don’t generate money on their own.

    Given that the playerbase for Mtg is still relatively small compared to the big esport titels, i don’t think this comparison will hold it’s ground. WotC definitely could improve a huge number of things, but in the end, you won’t fill up a stadium for a magic tournament, nor will you the community of magic to put 70 million bucks into price money just that they could show of what their favorite team or player is.

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