What is the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour?
Magic (MtG) is a collectible trading card game created in 1993, the first successful archetype in the genre. Players purchase unique random game cards in packs, then build decks using strategies that use those cards in unison, attempting to make the whole deck greater than the sum of its parts.
The MtG Pro Tour, created in 1996, was a marketing scheme designed to give players aspirations of playing full time, thus increasing player dedication to the game. The gambit worked better than could be expected; the Pro Tour has spawned a worldwide community of over 12 million players, with deep qualification system that spawns local communities. It’s bound to get bigger too, with 20th Century Fox signed on to create a series of films based around the game. MtG has provided the mold from which a plethora of other gaming phenomena have followed.
Pinnacle has committed to offering odds on every Pro Tour. While constantly on the lookout for additional market ideas, the focus at present is on two groupings, both of which focus on the contents of Pro Tour: Journey Into Nyx’s top 8 composition:
- The players – Simply, you can bet yes or no on the question of whether particular competitors will make the top 8. Options include well-known players and popular sub-groups like the top 10 or top 25 ranked players and members of the MtG Pro Tour Hall of Fame. You can also bet over/under on the number of North Americans and Europeans who will do the same.
- The cards – By understanding the cards that might be popular in the top 8, you can gain an edge on the market with over/under bets on Swamps, Islands, Mountains, Forests, Plains and Temples.
To look at both strategies, we called on a pair of Pinnacle employees who have both played Magic professionally in the past, Jelger Weigersma of the Netherlands and Italian Antonino DeRosa:
Jelger: “I would be interested in the Basic Land props. It would be cool to see if I can accurately predict the metagame and the best decks. For the player props, I would bet the somewhat underrated players on the big teams.”
Antonino: “When choosing what to bet I would focus on the players with the hot hand. Don’t really go on historic data to find value. Another thing you should focus on is the format they are playing; if a player has historically performed well in the tournament’s format, then you should try to get a good price on him. Finally, before making your bet, try to analyze what team your horse is testing with. Facebook can help with that. With it being so prominent thru the magic community, you can read status updates to make sure players haven’t found a distraction that will make less time for them to test.”
Betting MtG for the Professional
***When this section was written, the author and respondents were unaware Pro Tour rules forbade betting by participants. Pinnacle doesn’t advocate rule-breaking, but we have left the section untouched as some points made here apply for Pro Tour enthusiasts***
Antonino and Jelger agreed that if betting markets were available in their day, they’d have taken advantage.
Antonino: ”I would have loved the opportunity to bet when I was on the tour. There were many Pro Tours where I thought my team would have the best deck, but I either felt I wasn’t able to play the deck properly or I was too busy going to school or working to be able to test enough. I would have loved to bet on some of my teammates who I knew were playing it well.”
Jelger: “It’d be sweet to be able to use my expertise from testing to make some money and add some excitement to the Pro Tours even if I didn’t do well at the tournament itself.”
For professional players, bragging rights are on the line too. Not only will MtG markets provide the opportunity for pros to back the inevitable trash talk that emerges in any competitive endeavor, but they’ll also eventually sort that pecking order for everyone to see. General consensus on who the best are will be backed by the numbers. For experienced players, inside knowledge could be profitable here as those markets develop. You may want to urge your favorite MtG bloggers to weigh in on our odds.
One other likely potential effect: Markets will give an indication of the metagame (the subset of popular decks). Pro Tour participants can watch Pinnacle markets—which have always proven predictive in other sports—and use the information to determine what other players might play. If a particular player’s odds tighten, it may be because of team belief in their deck. If over/under on a land type moves, it’s likely an indicator of what teams are finding in their tasting. Information is power, both in MtG and sports betting.
Betting MtG for the fan
While some of the benefits to pros detailed above may be obvious, the broader benefits will belong to the fans of the game watching at home. As with fandom in other sports, a personal stake in the results heightens the fan experience. As with betting on other sports, the personal stake will incentivize the fan to delve even deeper in their understanding of the professional game.
“I love MtG,” said DeRosa. “Now that I am retired, watching it at home makes me feel like I am still in the loop. Betting on the Pro Tour can only make your interest in watching it and your enjoyment that much greater. I love the idea of testing for the Pro Tour even though you aren’t qualified just so you can make some prop bets.”
Pinnacle is excited about MtG betting, much in the same way as we are about eSports. We believe these sports are part of the future of sports betting, which is why ours is the first major sports book to support their markets. We also feel that’s an important step in their upwards march toward mainstream recognition. We look forward to continuing to grow our MtG offerings; if you have any suggestions on how to do so, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected].