The first Pro Tour, as envisioned by Skaff Elias, was held in New York City on February 17–18, 1996. More than twenty years later, in 2019, they were rebranded as Mythic Championships. In 2020, this was changed again, to Players Tour. MPL players would also be invited to Mythic Invitationals and all Tabletop Players Tour events. In 2023, the MPL and the Rivals League will be terminated, effectively ending professional play.
Even early on in Magic history, there had been high-prestige tournaments that had attracted a lot of top players, most notably the 1994 World Championships, the first major tournament, which ran over three days of competition. However, the winner, Zak Dolan, received a trophy and a large number of booster packs from various sets, but no money. Similarly, the 1995 World Championship winner, Alexander Blumke, won a box of Legends and some miscellaneous packs. In 1995, Magic Brand Manager Skaff Elias felt that Organized Play needed to step up to the next level. Players had to have something to aspire to. Thus was the Pro Tour created.
The first Pro Tour, very briefly called the Black Lotus Pro Tour, was held on 16–18 February 1996 in New York. Known as "Pro Tour Speed Dial" and "The Showdown in New York", Michael Loconto from the United States ended up the winner, taking down 1994 Worlds finalist Bertrand Lestrée in the final. Loconto pocketed $12,000 for the win, much more than the winners of the early major tournaments got, yet a lot less than future Pro Tour winners would earn. The event was not streamed live, but a video was later published by Wizards. In addition to the main event, there was also a junior Pro Tour for players under eighteen. The junior Pro Tour continued for a couple of years, until it was transformed into the Junior Super Series. The first Pro Tour season included three more Pro Tour events, culminating in the final Pro Tour, the World Championships, held at Wizards of the Coast's corporate offices in Seattle.
Since 1996, Pro Tours have been held every year, with the number of events varying from three to seven per year. Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in Madrid in April 2016 was the 100th Pro Tour event.
The prize purse of the Pro Tours increased rapidly, from $30,000 at the first Pro Tour to $100,000 at the second, Pro Tour Los Angeles 1996, to $200,000 at the 1997 World Championships (plus $50,000 for the team competition). However, since then, the prizes have increased slowly; as of 2016, Pro Tours award $250,000 in prizes.
Pro Tours are invitation-only events. There several ways to qualify, and the complete list can be found in the Magic: The Gathering Premier Event Invitation Policy. Currently, the most common ways are:
- finishing with an 11–5 record (33 match points) or better at the previous Pro Tour.
- finishing sufficiently highly in Pro Tour Qualifier that feeds that Pro Tour, which is either reaching a top position in a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier (RPTQ) (ranging from top eight to winning, depending on number of participants), reaching top eight in a Magic Online RPTQ, or winning in a Pro Tour Qualifier held as a Grand Prix side event.
- winning a Magic Online Pro Tour Qualifier or Magic Online Championship Series monthly event that feeds that Pro Tour.
- finishing in the top two of the Magic Online Championship Series quarterly event that feeds that Pro Tour.
- finishing in the top eight (or top four in team format) or 13–2 at a Grand Prix that feeds that Pro Tour.
- winning a WPN Premium Series that feeds that Pro Tour (this only applies to select WPN Premium Series approved by Wizards).
- having a sufficiently high Pro Players Club level (known as being on the "gravy train"). Gold-level and Platinum-level pros are invited to every Pro Tour, while Silver-level pros get invited to one Pro Tour event per year of their choice.
- being a member of the Hall of Fame.
- being a member of a team that finished in the top eight of the World Magic Cup (this only applies to the Pro Tour following the World Magic Cup).
- being invited to the Magic Online Championship (this only applies to players invited to the Magic Online Championship through an at-large slot, and only to the Pro Tour following the Magic Online Championship).
- being a member of a team that finished in the top eight of the Pro Tour Team Series (this only applies to the Pro Tour following the third as well as last pro tour each season).
Until 2011, players could also get qualified for the Pro Tour by having a sufficiently high DCI rating, and for Pro Tour Dark Ascension in 2012, the players with the most Planeswalker Points during the previous season were also invited.
With the exception of WPN Premium Series winners, Silver-level pros, and Hall of Famers, players qualified for the Pro Tour also get airfare paid by Wizards of the Coast. Hall of Famers do get an appearance fee of $1,500 for participating in the first Pro Tour event in the season, however.
Traditionally, Pro Tours other than the World Championships have been three-day events with 11 to 16 rounds of Swiss play on the first two days, before a cut to the top eight players, who on the last day of competition play quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals to determine a winner. Reaching a Pro Tour top eight is considered a major accomplishment, and players are often measured by how many top eights they have achieved during their career. At the beginning of 2016–17 season, top-seeded players coming into the top eight advanced directly to the semifinals, while the lower seeds had to play in two quarterfinal stages. This bracket format was discontinued after two events however, due to Wizards deeming this structure had much less effect on reducing the amount of intentional draws than they had hoped.
Since Pro Tour Honolulu 2009, all Pro Tours have been 16 rounds of Swiss, with each day consisting of five rounds of Constructed and three rounds of Booster Draft. The constructed part has been either Standard, Extended, Modern, or Block Constructed. Starting with the 2014–15 season, three of the four Pro Tours use the Standard format, with the last one using Modern (during the 2016–17 season, however, the Constructed portion of all four Pro Tours were Standard, and the 2017–18 season featured two parts Standard, one part Modern, and one part Team Constructed).
Prior to the 2009 season, Pro Tours other than the World Championships were held in a single format.
- Constructed Pro Tours were typically 16 rounds of Swiss, eight rounds on day one and eight rounds on day two. The players with 15 or more match points (a 5–3 record) after six rounds advanced to day two.
- Limited Pro Tours were typically 15 rounds of Swiss, spread across five Booster drafts or Rochester drafts, with three of the drafts and seven of the rounds being on day one, and two of the drafts and eight of the rounds being on day two. The players with 12 or more match points (a 4–2 record) after six rounds advanced to day two.
- Team Limited Pro Tours usually consisted of 11 rounds of Swiss, with six rounds of Sealed deck on day one and five rounds of Team Rochester draft on day two. The teams with 12 or more match points after six rounds (a 4–2 record) advanced to day two.
Prior to the 2012 season, the World Championships were typically a four- or five-day tournament with 18 rounds of Swiss play. The most common structure was six rounds of Standard on day one, six rounds of Booster draft on day two, and six rounds of either Extended or Block Constructed on day three. The fourth day was the team portion day, with the teams usually playing four rounds of Team Rochester draft or Mixed Constructed. The fifth day included both the top eight playoff for the individual competition, held in Standard, as well as the Team Finals.
The current prize purse amounts to $250,000, distributed among the top 64 finishers as follows:
The largest prize pool in the history of the game was paid out for the 2006 World Championships, comprising $465,245 ($255,245 for the individual competition; $210,000 for the team competition).
Pro Points awarded
Unlike money, for players outside the top eight, Pro Points are awarded based on match points in the tournament rather than final standing.
|26 or fewer points||3|
In addition to Pro Points, the winner receives an invitation to next season's World Championship, and a special Platinum-level promotion in the Pro Players Club for five cycles (roughly equal to a one-year period).
Pro Tour season
The Pro Tour Season usually consists of three to four Pro Tour events spread through the calendar year. The last event of the season is the summer Pro Tour, usually held in late July or early August.
Prior to the 2005 season, the season ran roughly from August to the following August, culminating with Worlds in August or early September. The 2005 season was extended, with it beginning after the 2004 World Championships in September 2004, and ending with the 2005 World Championships in December 2005. From 2005 to 2012, the seasons were run as a unit of year (half year in 2012), which consisted of three to five Pro Tour events spread throughout the calendar year. The current season setup started halfway through 2012.
Starting with the 2012 season, all Pro Tour rounds were named after the most recent expansion instead of the location of the venue, and were held two weeks after the release of that expansion. Starting with Pro Tour Ixalan, the interval between the expansion and the Pro Tour were no longer fixed, and as of Mythic Championship Cleveland 2019, Pro Tours are no longer tied to sets.
Player of the Year
Player of the Year is an award given at the end of a Pro Tour season to the player with the highest number of Pro Points in that season. Although there are currently no additional prizes awarded to the Player of the Year, it is considered a highly prestigious title; players have been known to embark on worldwide tours to play as many Grand Prix events as possible in order to win the Player of the Year race. Since the organized play restructuring into the Player Points system, there has been no Player of the Year since Luis Salvatto in 2018.
Rookie of the Year
Rookie of the Year is an award given at the end of a Pro Tour season to the player with the highest number of Pro Points in that season that also made their Pro Tour, World Championship, or World Magic Cup debut that season. The Rookie of the Year is granted Gold status in the Pro Players Club for the following season, and for 2014, it was announced that the Rookie of the Year would be invited to the World Championship. However, this was discontinued after the 2014 event. The last recorded Rookie of the Year was Sam Ihlenfeldt in 2018.
Pro Points were earned through participation in a Pro Tour event, the World Championship, or the World Magic Cup. Points can also be won through high Grand Prix and National Championships finishes. The amount of Pro Points won depends on the finish in the event.
Pro Points were used to determine a player's level in the Pro Players Club, and the player with the most Pro Points during a single season wins the Player of the Year title. Similarly, the Rookie of the Year title is won by the player with the most Pro Points during a single season that also made their Pro Tour debut during that season. Since 2012, Pro Points have also been used to determine who gets invited to the World Magic Cup as their country's captain, as well as most invitations to the World Championship.
Pro Players Club
The Pro Players Club is a reward system associated with the Pro Tour. Points accumulated during the season determines the players' level in the club, each with different benefits. The levels and their benefits are, as of August 2018:
- Bronze (10 points) — One bye at individual-format Grand Prix events, automatic invitation to National Championships, and automatic invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier.
- Silver (20 points) — Two byes at individual-format Grand Prix events, automatic invitation to National Championships, invitation to one Pro Tour event per season of the player's choice, automatic invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier, and 15 QPs each month in the Magic Online Championship Series.
- Gold (35 points) — Three byes at individual-format Grand Prix events, one bye at National Championships, invitation to all Pro Tour events, expenses-paid air travel tickets to all Pro Tour events, and 35 QPs each month in the Magic Online Championship Series.
- Platinum (52 points) — Three byes at individual-format Grand Prix events, two byes at National Championships, invitation to all Pro Tour events; expenses-paid air travel tickets to all Pro Tour events, 35 QPs each month in the Magic Online Championship Series, and complimentary sleep-in specials at all Grand Prix (where available). The player also receives an appearance fee for attending select tournaments: $3,000 for each Pro Tour, $1,000 for the World Magic Cup, $500 for National Championships, and $500 for at most six Grand Prix.
On September 16, 2018, the level thresholds for Silver and Gold were changed to 22 and 37, respectively.
The Pro Players Club was terminated in 2019, when Magic Esports were introduced with the Magic Pro League and Mythic Championships on MTG Arena. Pro Points were frozen for players outside of the MPL.
A player that has never played in a Pro Tour event, World Championship, or World Magic Cup is considered to have Amateur Status. Prior to September 2006, Amateur Status only applied to players who did not have any lifetime Pro Points. Since Pro Points can be won by a high enough finish at a Grand Prix, it was previously possible to lose your Amateur Status without ever playing at a Pro Tour.
Until 2007, the top finishing Amateur players at GPs won a prize. Later Amateur status was only used to determine who was eligible for the Rookie of the Year title. With the removal of Pro Points in 2018 and the deprecation of the Rookie of the Year title, this is no longer a relevant distinction.
Most successful players
The following table shows the players who have made it to the top eight of six or more Pro Tours, or have won multiple Pro Tours. 12 players have six or more Pro Tour top eights, and ten players have more than one Pro Tour win.
|Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa||2||12|
- The player who has played the most Pro Tours is Raphaël Lévy. As of Mythic Championship Cleveland 2019, Levy has attended 100 Pro Tours.
- Levy is also the player who has attended the most consecutive Pro Tours, with 91 starting with the 1998 World Championships and ending with Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in 2017.
- The player with the current longest active streak of Pro Tours attended is Shuhei Nakamura, who, as of PT Guilds of Ravnica, has attended 60 in a row since the 2004 World Championships. Whether this streak broke depends on how one defines the Mythic Championships and regional Players Tour events.
- The largest Pro Tour of all time was PT Charleston 2006, with 525 players (175 teams).
- The largest individual Pro Tour was PT Guilds of Ravnica, with 510 players.
- The only player who has won two consecutive Pro Tour events was Kai Budde, who in 2001 followed up his win at PT New York with a win at PT New Orleans. No player has won back-to-back individual Pro Tours (at PT New York, a Team Limited event, Budde won alongside teammates Dirk Baberowski and Marco Blume).
- Three players have finished in the top eight of three consecutive Pro Tour events: Scott Johns (Los Angeles 1996, Columbus 1996, Worlds 1996), Jon Finkel (New York 1998, Worlds 1998, Chicago 1998), and Luis Scott-Vargas (Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon).
- The player with the most money finishes in consecutive Pro Tour events is Jon Finkel, who cashed every Pro Tour from PT New York 1997 to PT Los Angeles 1999, ten in total.
- Pro Tour Collector Set
- World Championship
- World Magic Cup
- Hall of Fame
- Pro Players Club
- Player of the Year
- Rookie of the Year
- Pro Tour Player Cards
- Pro Tour Qualifier
- Grand Prix
- National Championships
- Mark Rosewater (August 09, 2004). "On Tour, Part 2". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Justice (June 01, 2009). "Musings on the History of the Magic Pro Tour". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Blake Rasmussen (November 24, 2014). "Magic's First Pro Tour Top 8". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater and Henry Stern (August 21, 2006). "Inside "Showdown in New York"". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2011). "Flashback to the Future". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Elaine Chase (December 6, 2018). "The Next Chapter for Magic: Esports". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Elaine Chase (August 14, 2019). "The Future of Magic Esports". Magic Esports.
- The new ORGANIZED PLAY announcement and how it affects competitive players (Video). Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. YouTube (May 14, 2021).
- Zak Dolan (2004-08-26). "ZAK DOLAN'S WORLDS DIARY". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-09-25.
- Mark Rosewater (July 26, 2004). "On Tour, Part 1". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Brian David-Marshall (February 2, 2016). "An Oral History of the First Pro Tour". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic the Gathering Showdown in New York 1/10. YouTube. Retrieved on 2015-09-29.
- HALL OF FAME. Wizards of the Coast.
- Helene Bergeot (2016-08-02). "PRO TOUR ELDRITCH MOON ORGANIZED PLAY ANNOUNCEMENT". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-08-03.
- Helene Bergeot (2014-08-10). "MODERN AT THE PRO TOUR IN 2015". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-09-29.
- 2006 World Championships Prize Payout. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-09-29.
- Ted Knutson (2005-12-02). "Feature: Kenji Tsumura, Player of the Year". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-09-29.
- PRO TOUR PLAYERS CLUBGUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-09-29.
- Frank Karsten (June 20, 2015). "The Hunt for Pro Points". Magicthegathering.com.
- Wizards of the Coast (February 20, 2019). "How to Become The Next Magic Champion: Qualifying for Mythic Championships and Worlds". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Elaine Chase (2017-07-19). "THE PRO CLUB TRANSFORMS AFTER 2017–18". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2017-07-30.
- Magic Arcana (February 19, 2008). "Pro Tour Trivia". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Planeswalker Points information page
- The Week That Was - You're Invited
- Pro Tour Top 8s - By Event
- Pro Tour Top 8s - By Player
- Lifetime Pro Points
- Magic: The Gathering Premier Event Invitation Policy
- Pro Tour
- Past Pro Tour Coverage
- Gavin Verhey (May 11, 2017). "How to Play on the Pro Tour". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.