When the Mythic Invitational at PAX East was first announced earlier this year, there was some unrest. At a time when there was little pathway on how tabletop Magic would compare to its digital counterpart, a $1million e-sports tournament certainly ruffled a few feathers.
It didn’t help that there was initially some confusion between the Mythic Invitational and the Mythic Championship. Many people assumed that this was the new format of the Pro Tour: best of one Arena based and invitation only unless you were a member of the MPL.
Initially, aside from the aforementioned ruffling of feathers, I was ambivalent towards it. However, it ended up meaning more to me than I would have thought, as someone who’s poured blood, sweat and tears into the game. Here are the main things I loved.
Who Run The World? Girls!
The internet reacted pretty much as expected when the Invitational attendees were announced and there were several women on the list. It was speculated that they’d been invited based purely on their gender, despite the fact that they were all popular streamers and Jess Estephan is currently the only female player to win a GP.
Later, once she’d qualified through Arena, a Twitter user speculated that competitor Alia Deschain (who is dating reigning World Champion Javier Dominguez) had only qualified because Dominguez had been playing on her account “when it mattered”.
Much to everyone’s delight, the ladies put in an inspirational showing. MTGNerdGirl finished 10th overall, Amazonian and Jess Estephan were also placed in the top 16 – above a considerable number of Magic Pro League players. Skybilz came a hair’s breadth away from knocking out reigning Player of the Year Luis Salvatto.
People consistently imply that women get opportunities based on gender rather than merit, but the Mythic Invitational showed that we’re more than good enough to be on the same level as the best in the world.
Huge Viewer Numbers
At its peak the Mythic Invitational had 157k viewers watching Andrea Mengucci win the whole thing. 8.1 million people watched Magic on Twitch over the weekend. For some context, Autumn Burchett’s victory in the most recent Mythic Championship was watched by 55k.
Anyone who’s been watching tournament coverage over the years will be able to appreciate what a phenomenal milestone this is for the game. There was some discourse on social media as to the legitimacy of these figures and how they can occasionally be skewed by hosting sites, but regardless the fact that Wizards are pulling in these numbers for their first ever e-sports tournament is encouraging.
Visibility in other fields
157k viewers doesn’t happen by accident. It can likely be attributed in some part to the fact that this was a tournament populated by personalities from other fields. Popular Hearthstone streamers were among the invited contenders, floor reporter Becca Scott is a Geek & Sundry regular, and event host Sean “Day9” Plott has been a heavy player in the e-sports industry for years. Using big names like these to draw people in from other communities – particularly ones with already heavy online presences – is an easy but effective way to get eyes on the game.
And judging by the fact the numbers went from over 120k on the opening day to nearly 160k by the finals, it looks like it’s working.
Was anyone able to watch the War of the Spark trailer without at least slack-jawed astonishment? There were people crying in the crowds at PAX on coverage. I, a notorious robot, personally watched it three times in a row.
The Mythic Invitational had unprecedented viewer numbers. Imagine seeing that trailer – even without the familiarity to the characters that we have as Magic players.
It was big, splashy, and even with minimal knowledge of the story the striking visual effect combined with the haunting Linkin Park cover was enough to make hairs stand on end. If there was ever a renewed call for the Magic movie…
Aside from some technical glitches on the opening day and camerawork reminiscent of your dad with a handheld camcorder, the Mythic Invitational really couldn’t have been a better advert for Magic – both Arena and the game in general. It’s now a game that’s open to everyone – whoever you are, wherever you are in the world.
Welcome to the new era of Magic.