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Esports Update: Changes to 2020-2021 Magic Pro League Play

August 27, 2020
Ben Drago and Bear Watson

Based on feedback from league members and current Challengers, we are updating a few things for the 2020-2021 Magic Pro League and adding new qualification opportunities to the 2020-2021 Magic Esports season.

Those two previous announcements have been updated to reflect the details of today's changes and the program information shared here. They continue to serve as the best place for understanding the Magic Esports opportunities offered for players over the next year.

Here's what we're sharing today:

  • Event dates for upcoming Zendikar Rising League Weekends
  • New League Weekend tournament structures and the addition of points for league standings for MPL and Rivals League players based on their performance in each split's Championship
  • Adding the Challenger Gauntlet exclusively for top-finishing Challengers to earn league invitations to the following season
  • Revisiting the Magic Hall of Fame this year, and for 2021

New and updated info is highlighted below. There's a lot to cover today so let's get started.

Get Ready for 2020-2021 Season Events

Zendikar Rising Championship



The Zendikar Rising Championship will take place later this year on MTG Arena. It concludes the Zendikar Rising Split, featuring a $250,000 prize pool and top players from Qualifier Weekends, partner events, 2020 Partial Season events, and all members of the MPL and Rivals League.

(New) On top of League Weekends, MPL and Rivals players will earn points toward their league standings from each split's Championship:

  • Nine (9) wins earns 1 point toward league standings (the same as winning one match during a League Weekend).
  • Ten (10) wins earns 2 point toward league standings.
  • Eleven (11) wins earns 3 point toward league.
  • Making Top 8 of a split's Championship earns four (4) points toward league standings.

(Updated) Additionally, the eight best-finishing Challengers (or those that finish with a record of 11-4 or better, whichever is greater) in each split's Championship are invited to the postseason Challenger Gauntlet.

We look forward to the additional excitement and stakes for all competitors at the Zendikar Rising Championship.

How the 2020-2021 Magic Pro League Works



  • MPL and Rivals League players will play against other players within their leagues in recurring tournaments—League Weekends—where each match win awards one point toward their league standings.
  • (Updated) League Weekends begin as round robin play across the first four weekends, followed by three weekends of podded play where players will clinch end of season qualifications to Magic World Championship XVII—or be eliminated from remaining League Weekends in the season.
  • (New) Each split's Championship—beginning with the Zendikar Rising Championship—also awards points toward league standings. (Most points for league standings are earned through League Weekends.)
  • Final league standings at the end of the season, after seven total League Weekends, will place players into postseason tournaments—the MPL Gauntlet or the Rivals Gauntlet—to determine the new invitees to the following season's MPL and Rivals League.
  • (Updated) Top finishing Challengers of each split's Championship will qualify for the (New) postseason Challenger Gauntlet for the opportunity to compete for MPL or Rivals League invitation and qualification to Magic World Championship XXVII.

(Updated) 2020-2021 League Weekends

We're excited to share the dates of the first major events being broadcast for the 2020-2021 Magic Esports season, the Zendikar Rising League Weekends.



Beginning in October during Zendikar Rising Split, League Weekends are two-day events occurring roughly monthly where league players earn points in the races to the Magic World Championship XXVII, invitations to leagues in the following season, and placement in postseason Gauntlet playoff events.

There are three splits during the 2020-2021 season, with a total of seven League Weekends:

  • Zendikar Rising Split features two League Weekends:
    • October 24-25
    • November 7-8
  • Kaldheim Split will feature two League Weekends.
  • Strixhaven Split will feature three League Weekends.

Across the first two splits, players will compete intraleague—MPL against MPL, Rivals League against Rivals League—and complete round-robin play against every other competitor:

  • MPL will compete in double-round-robin play for 46 total matches.
  • Rivals League will compete in single-round-robin play for 47 total matches.

Strixhaven Split League Weekends, the final three of the 2020-2021 season, will also follow a two-day intraleague event structure but instead of round-robin play will seed pools of eight or ten players each (as necessary for equal sized pools) based on league standings.

  • Each weekend will use two formats, one each day.
  • Each day is six (6) Swiss rounds.
  • Pools will be reseeded every three rounds based on updated league standings.
  • Each round will be power paired. Players cannot play the same person twice in the same day.
  • Each match win is worth one (1) point toward league standing.

Each Strixhaven Split League Weekend will reduce the players competing week over week, locking players into end of season placements and rewards. Each weekend results in:

  • The remaining top ranked MPL and Rivals League player by standings will be invited to Magic World Championship XXVII.
  • The bottom three ranked MPL players, and the bottom seven ranked Rivals League players, are removed from the following League Weekend.

The Strixhaven Championship will take place prior to the third Strixhaven Split League Weekend, ensuring league play determines final league standings and placement in postseason playoff events.

League Weekends also offer prizes to league players and, for the first time ever, will feature all 72 the members of the MPL and Rivals League streaming their gameplay throughout the competition.

That's two days of high-level Magic across 72 streaming channels. It's a bold, and challenging, experiment to show off as much high-level Magic as possible with the best competitors in the world. We'll share more details about prizes and League Weekend broadcasts soon.

Ways to Join the League: 2020-2021 Magic Esports Postseason

The conclusion of the 2020-2021 season kicks off three postseason tournaments—the MPL Gauntlet, the Rivals Gauntlet, and (New) the Challenger Gauntlet—seeded by league players and top-finishing Challengers based on 2020-2021 season performance.

For the MPL, season standings determine the next steps for that player:

  • The Top 4 MPL players are invited to the 2021-2022 MPL and qualify for Magic World Championship XXVII.
  • MPL players 5th through 12th will compete for MPL invitation (and face Rivals League relegation) in the MPL Gauntlet.
  • (New) MPL players 13th through 16th will compete for MPL invitation (and face Rivals League relegation) in the Rivals Gauntlet.
  • (Updated) MPL players 17th through 24th will be relegated to the Rivals League.

Similarly, Rival League standings determines those players' next steps:

  • The Top 4 Rivals League players are invited to the 2021-2022 MPL and qualify for Magic World Championship XXVII.
  • Rivals players 5th through 20th will compete for MPL invitation (and do not face relegation to Challenger) in the MPL Gauntlet.
  • Rivals players 21st through 32nd will battle fellow Rivals and Challengers for the last MPL invites (and do not face relegation to Challenger) in the Rivals Gauntlet.
  • Rivals players 33rd through 36th with retain Rivals League invitation for the 2021-2022 Rivals League.
  • Rivals players 37th through 48th will be relegated to Challengers for the following season.

(New) Finally, top-finishing Challengers earn invitation to the post-season Challenger Gauntlet based on their performance in any split's Championship. The Challenger Gauntlet, detailed below, provides direct invitations to the MPL and Rivals League as well as additional opportunities through qualification to the Rivals Gauntlet.

(New) The Challenger Gauntlet



The Challenger Gauntlet is where top-finishing Challengers from each split's Championship face off against each other to earn MPL and Rivals League invitations for the following season.

The competitors of the Challenger Gauntlet are invited from each 2020-2021 season Championship based on final standings:

  • The eight (8) highest finishing Challengers in the event; or
  • The Challengers who finished the event with a record of 11-4 or better (whichever of the two is the greater number of Challengers).

We'll share more about the structure of the Challenger Gauntlet later, but all Challengers will invitations based on their Gauntlet performance:

  • Top 4 receive invitation to Magic World Championship XXVII and the MPL for the following season.
  • Players that finish 5th through 12th receive invitation to the Rivals Gauntlet.
  • All other Challengers will receive invitation to a future event in the 2021-2022 season.

The Rivals Gauntlet



The Rivals Gauntlet is where Challengers from the Challenger Gauntlet face off against Rivals League players for MPL and Rivals League invitations in the following season.

The 24 competitors of the Rivals Gauntlet are:

  • (New) 13th through 16th in MPL standings from the end of the season.
  • 21st through 32nd in Rivals League standings from the end of the season.
  • (Updated) 5th through 12th places from the Challenger Gauntlet.

Like the MPL Gauntlet, we'll share more about the structure of the Rivals Gauntlet in the future but have clear stakes for the tournament:

  • (Updated) The winner qualifies for Magic World Championship XXVII.
  • Top 4 receive invitation to the MPL for the following season.
  • All other players will be invited to the Rivals League for the following season.

The MPL Gauntlet



The MPL Gauntlet is where rising Rivals League players compete head-to-head against current MPL Players for invitation to the MPL for the following season. All players are either awarded invitation to the MPL or Rivals League through their finish in the event.

The 24 competitors of the MPL Gauntlet are:

  • 5th through 12th in MPL standings from the end of the season.
  • 5th through 20th in Rivals League standings from the end of the season.

We'll share more details about the structure of the MPL Gauntlet in the future, but the stakes are clear:

  • (Updated) The winner and finalist of the MPL Gauntlet will qualify for the World Championship.*
  • (Updated) Top 8 players receive invitation to the MPL for the following season.
  • All other players will be invited to the Rivals League for the following season.

(*If the previous Magic World Championship winner is in the Top 4 of the MPL for the season, the third-place finisher of the MPL Gauntlet will receive invitation as well.)

Magic World Championship XXVII



Our vision for the next Magic World Championship features the best 16 players within and new to the MPL from the postseason:

  • The 2019 Magic: The Gathering World Champion
  • The Top 4 MPL players from season standings*
  • The Top 4 Rivals League players from season standings
  • (Updated) The winner and finalist from the MPL Gauntlet
  • (Updated) The winner of the Rivals Gauntlet
  • (Updated) The Top 4 Challengers from the Challenger Gauntlet

(*If the previous Magic World Championship winner is in the Top 4 of the MPL for the season, the third-place finisher of the MPL Gauntlet will receive invitation as well.)

Reaching the Magic World Championship is an incredible journey for every competitive player. We believe in celebrating their achievement with the greatest Magic event of the year. Our vision to do so continues to be through an exclusive event held in-person, focused on the amazing players who earned their right to be there.

Magic World Championship XXVII is tentatively planned for the summer of 2021 as an on-location event that represents the pinnacle of Magic Esports. But given the continued uncertainty around in-person events, these plans may need to adjust as the season ends and we will evaluate the feasibility of in-person events.

2021-2022 Season Start

The 2021-2022 season begins with the same size leagues as the beginning of 2020-2021 with 24 players in the MPL and 48 players in the Rivals League.

The 2021-2022 Magic Pro League:

  • Top 4 MPL players from final standings for the 2020-2021 season.
  • Top 4 Rivals League players from final standings for the 2020-2021 season.
  • (Updated) Top 8 from the MPL Gauntlet.
  • Top 4 from the Rivals Gauntlet.
  • (Updated) Top 4 from the Challenger Gauntlet.

The 2021-2022 Magic Rivals League:

  • (Updated) MPL players ranked 17th through 24th—the bottom 8—from final standings for the 2020-2021 season.
  • Rivals League players ranked 33rd through 36th—4 players below the Rivals Gauntlet cutoff and above Challenger relegation cutoff—from final standings for the 2020-2021 season.
  • The remaining 16 players at the end of the MPL Gauntlet.
  • (Updated) The remaining 20 players at the end of the Rivals Gauntlet.

Coming 2021: A New Magic Hall of Fame

By this time in a normal year, we would be engaging in the annual discussion of who would be voted into the Magic Hall of Fame. This, however, isn't a normal year. In addition to the challenges we all face daily, Magic Esports shifted in ways that don't provide the same analogues that our old systems did. And no one wants to keep going over the relative strength of a Players Tour Top 8 versus a Mythic Championship Top 16 versus a Team Grand Prix Top 4 from 2017.



So we're taking this year off from inductions to construct a new Hall of Fame, one that encompasses not just competitive play, but all of Magic—including its innovators, contributors, and longtime stewards. Like each year's Hall of Fame discussion, we know you'll have thoughts and feedback for creating the new-look hall, so stay tuned: in 2021 a new Magic Hall of Fame is coming.

Magic Esports Marches On

Through feedback and further consideration, these changes results in better player incentives and experiences across the 2020-2021 season.

  • Our initial plan for Challengers and league players led to significantly mismatched incentives in Championships. Now, Challengers will have additional opportunity to join the MPL and Rivals League (through the addition of the Challenger Gauntlet), and league players have meaningful stakes in Championship competition.
  • League competitors now have a guaranteed opportunity to compete against every other member of their respective leagues while ensuring League Weekends late in the season continue to pair players with more appropriate stakes and incentives against each other.
  • It was a mistake to apply two Magic World Championship XXVII invitations to the Rivals Gauntlet instead of the MPL Gauntlet, which we adjusted.
  • Adding the Challenger Gauntlet addresses feedback asking for more Challenger opportunities to earn league status.

We understand these systems, while familiar in some ways, are full of new details and information for players. We'll continue to make changes when necessary, and we're introducing more ways to support players competing in Magic Esports, including:

  • Enhancing to our News page to categorize articles while adding search and filtering capabilities
  • Launching a Magic Esports Help Center with dedicated answers and event information
  • Creating a hub to share MTG Arena decklists from Ranked Season play

Thank you for consistently sharing your voice, and we look forward to building on our start to the 2020-2021 season.

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