The Pro Tour: There and Back Again

Some people dream of becoming a doctor, flying to outer space or becoming a movie star. Everyone has a dream, right? Well I can tell you first hand not all dreams are the same. I got the “MTG Bug” -  that thing you can never get rid of, but keep coming back to over and over again. Ever since I got that bug, I wanted to just keep getting better and better, and my dream was to compete with the best in the world. Yes, I’m talking about the Pro Tour.  

Some of you might be asking yourselves, “what are you even talking about Seth?” Well, for those living under a rock or maybe trying to get through a worldwide pandemic, you might not know what the Pro Tour actually is. For newer MTG players, it’s an unfamiliar term, as the last Pro Tour was held in 2018. That’s right - it’s been almost five years since a Pro Tour has taken place.  

The Pro Tour is an invitation-only tournament, where the best of the best compete over multiple days of competition for money, prestige and the opportunity to be a Pro Tour Champion. Personally, I was fortunate enough to win Pro Tour Ixalan, but along my journey to becoming a Hall of Fame level player, I learned that for me MTG was much more than a game. It was about the community and coming together for a special occasion. The Pro Tour provides a unique opportunity to see friends and familiar faces. I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, which is perhaps the best part of all.  

Going to a Pro Tour, World Championship or really any MTG event you’re invested in takes an emotional toll. I’m not just talking about laughing with friends, but also nervousness, and even crying in some cases. For those who followed my career, you may remember moments like my Hall of Fame induction speech or when I won the World Championships in 2015. Emotions definitely took hold of me in those moments. I do my best to keep them in check, but sometimes it’s okay to let them out. Playing and competing at a high level is serious business and hard work. In order to do well, you must defy the odds, and sometimes caring a lot about how you do, at least in my case, can help provide that motivation to succeed.  

The first Pro Tour I had a chance to compete in was Pro Tour Geneva in 2007. I flew with my aunt and uncle to the event at the age of 16 years old. It was a tournament that featured exclusively Time Spiral Limited. Yes, you heard that correctly, the Pro Tour was only Limited! The electricity at a Pro Tour just hit differently for me. Maybe it was the lights or the famous players I read about, or the fact that I was in a foreign country playing Magic. Perhaps it was indeed a combination of factors. I was officially hooked for life.  

As we flashforward to today, let’s call a spade a spade: organized high level MTG has gone through some recent changes. Part of this shift was out of necessity; the COVID-19 pandemic hit players hard. Trust me, I know. Going to large conventions where massive amounts of people gather together quickly was out of the question for multiple years. I played very little in-person MTG over the past few years. Along the way, monetary benefits were also cut from the system as WOTC reimagined their competitive offerings. For someone who cares so much about the game, to say the past three years have been stressful is an understatement.  

We prepare ourselves now to turn a new page. As a longtime Magic player, do I look at the glass half full or half empty? I choose to look forward, because dwelling on what has previously occurred does little good for anyone, and I want the Pro Tour to live up to its legendary name. That’s right, as I write this, the Pro Tour which will be held at MagicCon Philadelphia is less than three short weeks away. What I have been longing for, alongside many of my peers, will make its triumphant return. Let us do the Pro Tour justice and look forward to the greatest tournament series in Magic’s history returning! 

For those out there who are aspiring to play on the Pro Tour, do it for the love of the game. Don’t do it for the money, because you want playing MTG to be your forever job or just as an excuse to buy a bunch of cards. Professional Magic players devote a ton of time into the game for often very little payoff as the end result. In fact, once you take into account flights, lodging and the amount of time spent, becoming a full-time MTG player is currently far from practical. Players that dwell on a tournament result rather than the overall experience and enjoyment of the game won’t make it long-term in the competitive scene.  

So here I am, a 32-year-old man playing a game I started playing when I was only 10 years old. A child’s card game to many, including myself at one time. I have two children, a house of my own and I’m getting married in June. I look at myself in the mirror sometimes trying to make sense of it all. The key is not to let other people’s perceptions define what the game means to you. I personally look forward to what’s next for Magic: the Gathering, and am hopeful in fact that we will look at the Pro Tour coming up as a glorious new beginning. 

For me, today signifies the moment I join the Ultimate Guard team, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with such an amazing brand. Many of my fellow CFB Pro writers have welcomed me with open arms, and it honestly fills me with warmth knowing I will be rocking the best MTG apparel on the market. This won’t be the last you hear of me! I will be showcasing some of the decks I’m rocking in future blog posts, and feel free to give me a follow on Twitter (@SethManfield) to see live tournament updates straight from the Pro Tour.  

Thanks for reading, 

Seth Manfield

Author: Seth Manfield

Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFBUltimateGuard