In just five weeks from now, the first Pro Tour of 2024—Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor—will take place at MagicCon: Chicago. But what elevates the Pro Tour as the crown jewel for competitive Magic players, and how does one go about qualifying? In this special edition of Metagame Mentor, we'll explore the different paths to qualification and what it takes to earn your place on the Pro Tour stage.
What is the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour?
Magic: The Gathering's Pro Tour is an invitation-only tournament series hosted by Wizards of the Coast, dating back to 1996. Before the advent of the Pro Tour, the tournament scene was unstructured, but the Pro Tour and its system of qualifiers changed the game forever, offering players a chance to prove their skills against the best from around the world. Due to its prestige, large cash prizes, rich history, and international reach, the Pro Tour is the highest level of competitive Magic apart from the Magic World Championship.
Currently, three Pro Tours are held per year, each offering its competitors an opportunity to showcase their skills on a global stage, with live streaming coverage. Winning a Pro Tour solidifies a player's status as a top competitor; and those who have claimed multiple victories, such as Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, have cemented their place as Magic legends. In 2024, the Pro Tour schedule is as follows:
- February 23–25: Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor (Pioneer & draft) at MagicCon: Chicago.
- April 26–28: Pro Tour Thunder Junction (Standard & draft) at a standalone event in Seattle.
- June 28–30: Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 (Modern & draft) at MagicCon: Amsterdam.
What is the Prize Money for Pro Tours?
Each Pro Tour offers approximately 250 qualified players the chance to compete for their share of $500,000 in prizes. According to the Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor fact sheet, all competitors will receive at least $1,000 in prizes, and the first-place prize is $50,000. Also on the line are invitations to the Magic World Championship and the right to claim your place among the best Magic players in the world.
Pro Tours are invitation-only tournaments, and the qualification process has come a long way since the first Pro Tour in 1996, where players had to call a phone number and whoever called first got in. Now, players must prove their skills in paper or digital tournaments to earn their place. There are various ways to qualify, including Regional Championships, digital paths, qualifiers at MagicCons, and so on. To give a system overview, let's take a closer look.
What is a Regional Championship (RC)?
The most common path to Pro Tour qualification is by performing well at Regional Championships (RCs). Regional Championships are major invite-only Magic events with sizable monetary prizes that act as focal points for play in each geographic region. They happen three times per year and are scheduled approximately one to three months before their corresponding Pro Tour. Players can earn entry to an RC through various means, including Regional Championship Qualifiers, Magic Online Qualifiers, or holding a pre-existing invitation to the corresponding Pro Tour.
By adding up the numbers in the Premier Tournament Invitation Policy, each cycle of Regional Championships awards 102 Pro Tour invitations and 15 World Championship berths in total, allowing qualified players from all over the world to represent their region at the highest level. The United States is the largest region, awarding 32 Pro Tour invitations per RC. More details on the championship for your region are available on your regional organizer's website, but the schedule for the 2023–24 premier play season is as follows:
- Cycle 1 (Pioneer): The Regional Championships that fed into Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor took place in September–December 2023.
- Cycle 2 (Modern): The Regional Championships that feed into Pro Tour Thunder Junction will take place in January–March 2024, awarding sweet promos.
- Cycle 3 (Standard): The Regional Championships that feed into Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 will take place in May–June 2024, awarding sweet promos.
What is a Regional Championship Qualifier (RCQ)?
If you're eager to start your own competitive Magic journey, then Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs) are one of the best places to start. They are open to everyone and represent the most common way to qualify for a Regional Championship. You can find RCQs around you by using the Store & Event Locator or your regional organizer's website. The number of qualifications per RCQ can differ; in-store events typically award a single invite, while RCQs at larger conventions often award more. Please check with your local organizer for all specific info on qualifiers near you.
RCQs can be either Limited or Constructed, and players who conquer their local events will earn a chance to compete for larger prizes at the corresponding Regional Championships. Due to format matching, in-store Constructed RCQs qualify players for a RC in the same Constructed format, allowing them to take their favorite deck to the next level of competition. (Note that larger "destination" RCQs or Pro Tours may offer different Constructed formats.) For the 2023–24 premier play season, the RCQ schedule is as follows:
- Cycle 1 (Pioneer): These RCQs took place in April–August 2023.
- Cycle 2 (Modern): These RCQs took place in September–December 2023.
- Cycle 3 (Standard): These RCQs are happening in January–March 2024, awarding sweet promos.
Can You Qualify for the Pro Tour via MTG Arena?
You can earn a Pro Tour qualification by reaching seven wins on Day Two of an MTG Arena Qualifier Weekend. There are various methods to earn a spot in these monthly Qualifier Weekends, as described in more detail on the MTG Arena Premier Play page: by finishing in the Top 250 of the Constructed or Limited ladder at the end of the preceding month, by reaching enough wins in Day 2 of an Arena Open, or via a Qualifier Play-In event.
Seven-win earners from Day Two of a Qualifier Weekend not only earn a Pro Tour qualification but also clinch a spot in the Arena Championship, the thrice-yearly apex of the MTG Arena Premier Play pyramid.
Can You Qualify for the Pro Tour via Magic Online?
The Magic Online Premier Play program offers two paths to the Pro Tour, one direct and one indirect. The indirect path involves performing well in one of the many Qualifiers or Super Qualifiers, which grant invitations to a Regional Championship. These Magic Online events can come in a variety of formats, including Standard, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Pauper, and Limited.
The direct path is through the Magic Online Champions Showcase (MOCS) tournaments. Three times a year, these culminate in the eight-player Champions Showcase. To qualify, players can win an invite-only Showcase Qualifier, a Limited Showcase Open, or secure one of two at-large spots on the Leaderboard. All eight of these competitors are also invited to the Pro Tour.
Do Magic Grand Prix Events Still Exist?
No. However, the multi-day tournaments at MagicCons offer a direct path to the Pro Tour with large fields of competitors to play. For example, MagicCon: Chicago features a four-slot Sealed Pro Tour Qualifier and an eight-slot $75K Standard Open. Acting as tabletop's fast lane, these events are the most direct way to the Pro Tour.
To me, these tournaments are reminiscent of the old Grand Prix events. They are open to everyone attending a MagicCon, held at a large convention, draw players from all around the world, and reward top performers with direct access to the Pro Tour. If you can only dedicate a single weekend (and want to go to a big event), then these direct Pro Tour Qualifiers may be perfect for you. Don't miss out on the opportunity!
Do Top Finishing Player Stay on the Pro Tour?
Top finishers at previous Pro Tours or World Championships are rewarded with Pro Tour invites. The Top 8 finishers from Magic World Championship XXIX are qualified for all Pro Tours in the 2023–24 season. Furthermore, competitors who finish a Pro Tour with a 10-6 or better record are automatically invited to the next Pro Tour.
There's also an Adjusted Match Point system, which rewards players with high finishes over the previous three rolling Pro Tours. This allows solid performers, including players who have gone 9-7 for three Pro Tours in a row, to chain Pro Tour invites. A player who makes a Pro Tour Top 8 with a 12-4 or better record will also guarantee an invite to the next three Pro Tours.
Does the Hall of Fame Still Award Pro Tour Invites?
The Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame enshrines the most significant and influential competitors of the game. Members are invited to one Pro Tour per yearly season at their choosing, where they remain among the strongest competitors. For example, although Reid Duke was already qualified for Pro Tour Phyrexia via another qualification path, the Hall of Famer reminded everyone of his top-notch Magic skills by immediately clinching the trophy after the tabletop Pro Tour returned in 2023.
Several months later, seven-time Pro Tour champion Kai Budde used his Hall of Fame invite to compete at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, where he reinforced his position as a legend of the game by reaching yet another Top 8. With that result, he became the first player with a Pro Tour Top 8 in four different decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s)!
What's the Next Competitive Magic Opportunity?
To know what's coming next, keep an eye on the schedule and announcements on this website. While I've summarized the most common qualification paths towards the Pro Tour, the policy documents have further details. For example, there are also invitation-only Pro Tour Qualifiers: The Top 2 players of the VML Championship and the winners of the Axion Now Invitational and the NRG Series Championship have received invitations to Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor.
All in all, there is a competitive Magic opportunity for everyone. If one path is not attractive to you, then there are lots of other options to choose from. And if you do poorly in one event, then there's probably another RCQ or online tournament shortly after!
If you're unsure of what Constructed format to dive into, you should be aware that premier events have been split roughly evenly between Standard, Pioneer, or Modern. Each RCQ to RC cycle in the 2023-24 premier play season was dedicated to one of those formats. My weekly column can act as your guide the top decks and latest Constructed developments in premier events, and you can catch up with my "2023 year in review" articles on Standard, Pioneer, and Modern. I look forward to seeing 2024's new Pro Tour winners carve their name into competitive Magic history, making memories that will surely last a lifetime.