'Pro Player' Life - How do you get there ?

  • #1
    Hi everyone,

    I've started playing Magic competitively one year ago, and I think I'm becoming pretty good at it. I just wanted to know, what's the next step ?

    How do you become a 'pro' at Magic (I don't intend to play Magic full time, but it's still interesting), and how do you become an international player ?

    I guess the starting point would be to win a PTQ or a Grand Prix ? (Both the upcoming ones are in Limited though, which isn't my favorite format)
    But then, how do you go from winning a GP to flying to every single GP in the world like some players do ? (LSV, Brad Nelson, etc).
    How much do these kind of players win ? Is it enough to make Magic a living ? (I understand that writing can help, but I don't think it's that well payed)
    Do they invest in transport when they don't have an invitation (to a GP for example) ? If so, if they don't do well at the tournament won't they lose a lot of money ?

    tl;dr : I'm pretty good at Magic in general and want to start playing at bigger tournaments (all around the world if that's possible ;p). How am I supposed to do ?
  • #2
    Quote from Blad01

    I guess the starting point would be to win a PTQ or a Grand Prix ? (Both the upcoming ones are in Limited though, which isn't my favorite format)



    Well, for one thing, unfortunately, you will *have* to play formats you don't like if you want to be a Pro player, and you will have to become *good* at them. The Limited portions of Major Tournaments sink people who aren't prepared for them, regardless of how good you are at your Constructed Format of Choice. In order to become a Pro, you'll have to force yourself to be well-rounded.

    So start cracking those sealed pools/draft pools with your online simulator of choice Smile
  • #3
    Winning a PTQ would be a good starting point, or getting top 16 in a GP. Both of those will get you an invitation to a PT. Note that none of these are easy to do, as there is a huge amount of players who want to place high in those types of tournament.

    I would like to get onto the pro tour myself, and my biggest worry is how to get skilled enough to be able to win a PTQ. I think the main thing you need to think about is how you are going to get good enough to make it.
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  • #4
    Quote from Kuro42
    Well, for one thing, unfortunately, you will *have* to play formats you don't like if you want to be a Pro player, and you will have to become *good* at them. The Limited portions of Major Tournaments sink people who aren't prepared for them, regardless of how good you are at your Constructed Format of Choice. In order to become a Pro, you'll have to force yourself to be well-rounded.

    So start cracking those sealed pools/draft pools with your online simulator of choice Smile


    This.

    I started this year with a GP T16 and went to PTSJ this year. I also Day 2 another GP. I was able to excel in my best Constructed formats and can do okay in the others. Sealed play is pretty much the same, but draft is a different beast at the pro level. It took 3 tries and going 0-3 and 1-2 every time kept knocking me out. I finally got the hang of it at the last GP, but it's still uphill. If you want to go to a PT, I think it's better to try and aim for a T16 invite. Pros like LSV do MTG full-time and that includes writing articles and selling winnings.
  • #5
    Quote from Kuro42
    Well, for one thing, unfortunately, you will *have* to play formats you don't like if you want to be a Pro player, and you will have to become *good* at them. The Limited portions of Major Tournaments sink people who aren't prepared for them, regardless of how good you are at your Constructed Format of Choice. In order to become a Pro, you'll have to force yourself to be well-rounded.

    So start cracking those sealed pools/draft pools with your online simulator of choice Smile


    I know that and I actually play Limited, I simply don't enjoy it as much as constructed and I'm probably not as good there. I'm trying to improve though Wink (And it's slowly working out).

    Winning a PTQ would be a good starting point, or getting top 16 in a GP. Both of those will get you an invitation to a PT. Note that none of these are easy to do, as there is a huge amount of players who want to place high in those types of tournament.

    I would like to get onto the pro tour myself, and my biggest worry is how to get skilled enough to be able to win a PTQ. I think the main thing you need to think about is how you are going to get good enough to make it.


    It seems pretty hard to win a PTQ indeed (especially in Limited :p), there is only a very slim chance that you're going to top 8 and then win every match there... Just imagine losing in the finals (Ok in Paris we are lucky since we have usually two slots at PTQs).

    I'm not sure about GP, never went to one yet, my first one will be GP Paris in February.

    The thing is, if I think that I'm an above-average player in a specific format, would it be a good idea to start travelling to GP and PTQ outside of Paris / France ? It seems to be really risky, but it's not by playing in Paris only that I will improve my odds at winning big tournaments... (Since there are ~4 big tournaments a year).

    EDIT :

    Quote from Natsume
    This.

    I started this year with a GP T16 and went to PTSJ this year. I also Day 2 another GP. I was able to excel in my best Constructed formats and can do okay in the others. Sealed play is pretty much the same, but draft is a different beast at the pro level. It took 3 tries and going 0-3 and 1-2 every time kept knocking me out. I finally got the hang of it at the last GP, but it's still uphill. If you want to go to a PT, I think it's better to try and aim for a T16 invite. Pros like LSV do MTG full-time and that includes writing articles and selling winnings.


    Well then I guess I will try that in February. But if I fail (and the odds are that I will, for now), I will have to wait another year, maybe two in order to have another GP in Paris or around it. And I don't know where I will be in two years, so maybe it's time to shake things a bit ?
  • #6
    I can guarantee you won't get there if you have custody of your 4 kids and a deadbeat ex-wife. Of course, I only speak from experience.

    I would LOVE to go to all the PTQs and GPs along the West Coast and maybe Mid-West, but I do have the aforementioned situation to deal with, so my priorities are not to Magic Frown

    One thing that the others have is sponsorship. They do get paid to play, get some travel expenses paid for, get money for showing up due to their Pro Level status, etc.

    As for their writing, I absolutely cannot stand most of it...I hate their arrogance and it shows in their writing (most of them anyway, especially on CFB). I respect their abilities, but can do without their ego.

    My best advice is to just play in whatever tournaments you can, play ALL the formats you can and do the best you can.
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  • #7
    Don't bother. Seriously. Abandon the idea.

    If you look at the number of people that try "go pro" and to make a living playing Magic, and the numer of people worldwide who actually do, statistically, you probably have a better chance at winning the lottery. It's an epic waste of time, money, and resources to try and achieve sometihng that just isn't going to happen for 99.9999% of the people who try it.

    Not to mention once you factor in travel costs, lodging costs, card costs, entrance fees, and opportunity cost of not being able to hold down a job because you are constantly flying all over the place for MTG, at the end of the day, you're probably coming out the same as the guy flipping burgers at McD's.

    Going pro and living off MTG is a fun thing to daydream about, but it's just not going to happen.
  • #8
    Quote from Valarin
    Don't bother. Seriously. Abandon the idea.

    If you look at the number of people that try "go pro" and to make a living playing Magic, and the numer of people worldwide who actually do, statistically, you probably have a better chance at winning the lottery. It's an epic waste of time, money, and resources to try and achieve sometihng that just isn't going to happen for 99.9999% of the people who try it.

    Not to mention once you factor in travel costs, lodging costs, card costs, entrance fees, and opportunity cost of not being able to hold down a job because you are constantly flying all over the place for MTG, at the end of the day, you're probably coming out the same as the guy flipping burgers at McD's.

    Going pro and living off MTG is a fun thing to daydream about, but it's just not going to happen.
    At the same time though, if you aren't trying to do it at all, you have a 0% chance of making it.

    I would say leave it be for a similar reason though... I imagine that playing magic professionally is not all as glorious as it seems... Looks like a tremendous amount of work and time invested, and if you'll be flying around the world, you probably don't get a ton of time to yourself I'd guess.

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  • #9
    At the same time though, if you aren't trying to do it at all, you have a 0% chance of making it.



    It's a risk reward analysis

    If you don't try, you take on 0% risk. You're out of pocket expenses are $0. Your cost of time is 0. And yes, you get a 0% chance of getting a reward

    If you do try, you're out of pocket thousands and thousands of dollars for travel and lodging, you give up probably 100 hours a month in time lost, and for all that you get a 00001% chance of getting a reward

    Take MTg out of it, and look at it like any other business propsition: If someone told you that they had a great new business idea and they were courting you as an investor, and they gave you the following informaion about thier business

    You need to invest thousands and thousands of dollars on an ongoing basis for travel and lodging, in order to potentially make some $$ in about a dozen events throughout the year, and in each event, there's about a 1/400 chance or so of making any $$, and if you don't you get $0 for that opportunity, and oh yeah, you're going to need to spend weeks and weeks traveling all over the world just to have this minute chance to make any $$ at all and after recouping expenses and paying taxes, you're probably going to come out less than minimum wage, so you'll need ot spend even more time putting hours and hours of effort into writing articles and making appearences just to try and pay the rent every month.

    Would you invest in that?
  • #10
    Since you are interested in being a pro, I direct you to the pro players club info:

    http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=protour/playersclub/guidelines

    Also remember that gaining points is pretty hard and a long process.
    Pro point structure :http://www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Events.aspx?x=grandprix/points

    To be a pro, you are going to have to understand every format.
    Also, you will have to constantly play just to maintain your pro level.
    I agree with others that its unlikey to be pro but if you really want to try, Good Luck.
  • #11
    Most of the best pros have sponsors who help contribute cards, packs for sealed/draft, etc by writing for them or doing other work to support the companies. Notice how every picture you see at the pro tour some guy is wearing starcitygames or tcgplayer or channelfireball t-shirts in a feature match? That's why. Notice these places are some of the biggest magic stores or strategy sites? That's why. People see all these guys topping grand prixs and the pro tour wearing the channel fireball t-shirts, then think "huh, i wonder what that sites all about." you go and start reading their articles, ormaybe buy a load of singles.


    Worst case scenario i'm sure most of them make enough money from writing said columns, winnings, trading, etc that their magic "career" more or less pays for itself without having to tap in to "real world funds" to play. A few guys on the tour own their own card shops like team Your Move Games with Rob Dougherty, Gary Wise, Darwin Kastle, etc who more or less used their winnings to open the shop and have been running the store + hosting premier events ever since.

    Also keep in mind their consistency. LSV and Brad Nelson are probably a high enough level this season that they get an invite to each PT, and maybe even flight/accomodations depending on how high they are. The top levels also get an "appearance fee" which means they make between $250 to $1250 just for playing in the event.

    If you live in the US and fly within the US, cost for a trip can be minimum of $500-600 depending on when you book everything. GP schedules are so far in advance you can take advantage of cheap rates early. If you have to cross the giant pond to get to a PT, it might cost between $1500-2000 for your stay. At least with the former if you're consistent you can pay for them.

    Also if you're located in the US, PTQ wins also get the flight paid for, which if you're going to europe or asia or something is quite a luxury and will extremely cut down your costs overall.

    Personally I don't feel even if I did top 8 PTQ's and Day 2 Grand Prix i'd be ready for a pro tour. I've seen some of the people locally who have won multiplePTQ's go to the tour in question and have a terrible record, even if they know the format. When you consider the skill level requirements to compete at a PT, you have a much higher barrier than most players are used to in contention. It's just like the guy who wins his local every week, he could go 6-2 at a PTQ and barely miss top 8 every time. Does that make him bad? No. But the higher the tournament, the better competition. I top my local standard every week, but i scrubbed badly at the nearby Starcity 5k that came through town.
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  • #12
    I'm going to respond here because I don't want these naysayers to defeat your dream.

    The most important thing to figure out is money,time, and association.

    1) How do I get enough time to be good? Tiger woods hits several thousand golf balls a day. When the CFB+Kiblar team went to Sydney they sat in a room and drafted about 20 drafts in a couple day period. Now that's a lot, but it shouldn't be difficult for you to put in 1-2 drafts/events a day. A 3 hour block with a couple longer events thrown in there should put you at about 20-30 hours a week practice time.

    2) Money - You need enough money to get enough of a collection where you can build just about any extended, standard, or block deck you want. This could involve borrowing cards, and certainly buying/selling/trading. If you have a decent legacy collection then that will help, but there aren't enough high level events to justify it.

    Once your collection is in order, then you need to plan your attack. You need to be able to hit every PTQ you can reasonably get to, whether it's driving or train. You need to hit every Grand Prix you can play in, and you need to be on MTGO. Figure out how much money it is going to take and start saving, or creating plans to have that money availible.

    If you are good enough to go pro, then you shoudl be good enough to get infinite on MTGO. This will build your skill, innovation, and also provide the way to get your endless drafts. Infinite in constructed can pay for 8-4 drafts that you go 0-1 scrub until you get good enough to be able to win in your practice games.

    3) Association is critical. You want to be playing with the best players. You want to get inside thier head. You want to know who in your local area wants to get better too and who will carpool/roomshare with you at big events. You want to know who you can borrow cards from. This is another reason to be on MTGO/online. The quality of players is better, and maybe you can get in a group of quality deckbuilders there or on magicleague that you can bounce ideas off of and playtest.

    These three things are the way to succede in life, not just in MTG, but they apply to MTG as well. Make a decision and back it up by consistant effort. Pro's aren't made on the tour, they are just recognized there.
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  • #13
    Quote from the_cardfather
    I'm going to respond here because I don't want these naysayers to defeat your dream.

    The most important thing to figure out is money,time, and association.

    1) How do I get enough time to be good? Tiger woods hits several thousand golf balls a day. When the CFB+Kiblar team went to Sydney they sat in a room and drafted about 20 drafts in a couple day period. Now that's a lot, but it shouldn't be difficult for you to put in 1-2 drafts/events a day. A 3 hour block with a couple longer events thrown in there should put you at about 20-30 hours a week practice time.

    2) Money - You need enough money to get enough of a collection where you can build just about any extended, standard, or block deck you want. This could involve borrowing cards, and certainly buying/selling/trading. If you have a decent legacy collection then that will help, but there aren't enough high level events to justify it.

    Once your collection is in order, then you need to plan your attack. You need to be able to hit every PTQ you can reasonably get to, whether it's driving or train. You need to hit every Grand Prix you can play in, and you need to be on MTGO. Figure out how much money it is going to take and start saving, or creating plans to have that money availible.

    If you are good enough to go pro, then you shoudl be good enough to get infinite on MTGO. This will build your skill, innovation, and also provide the way to get your endless drafts. Infinite in constructed can pay for 8-4 drafts that you go 0-1 scrub until you get good enough to be able to win in your practice games.

    3) Association is critical. You want to be playing with the best players. You want to get inside thier head. You want to know who in your local area wants to get better too and who will carpool/roomshare with you at big events. You want to know who you can borrow cards from. This is another reason to be on MTGO/online. The quality of players is better, and maybe you can get in a group of quality deckbuilders there or on magicleague that you can bounce ideas off of and playtest.

    These three things are the way to succede in life, not just in MTG, but they apply to MTG as well. Make a decision and back it up by consistant effort. Pro's aren't made on the tour, they are just recognized there.


    I agree with the-cardfather. Your will and determination with all that he recommends to do makes for a chance to play Pro despite the odds. Don't trifle with odds; they will only discourage you and ruin your dream. Statistics never bother winners. Do you seriously want to look back and regret that you never did your best to follow your heart and passions?

    I am married with children. Pro life is not for a man with my responsibilities, although I can enjoy the game as a hobby. Take the opportunity while you can and never look back!
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  • #14
    Another note to add...

    All of the above qualities are indeed necessary to go pro (time, money, networking), but they are not sufficient. Why do I say this? Because none of these will automatically make you a better player. Playing 500 matches won't make you better if you don't self-critique and learn what you did wrong in those matches. Being able to buy any deck you want isn't going to translate into wins unless you select a deck & board appropriate to your meta (as many other posters can atest to). Having skilled friends to play with can give you a source of great suggestions, but they're no good if you don't heed their advice, and in the end, you're the one that'll be fighting it out at PTQs, not them.

    All of these ingredients will only be useful if you are fully dedicated to self-improvement over all else. You must always assume there is something to learn, some new deck to design, or something you cuold be doing differently in your game play. You absolutely cannot let pride or ego get in the way; it happens to loads of players (myself included on occasion), and it does nothing but hold you back. It's not just about winning, it's about learning.

    On the other hand, if you are really dedicated to giving this a go, there may come a time where you really just need to learn to quit. Being a pro MtG player is right up there with being a pro athlete, a hollywood actor, or rock star. Loads of people aspire to it, plenty of them put the effort in, but only a few have the talent to make it. The thing that makes Pro MtG different from the others is that you can't make a living off of it. So, while you definitely should put your best efforts in, you shouldn't sacrifice your livelihood for it. Don't try to go pro MtG in lieu of going to college, and don't be quitting your day job. It sounds like common sense, but what can I say, sometimes you lose sight of the forest through all the trees. If you haven't gotten results after having put in significant time and money over multiple pro tour seasons, I would not feel totally horrible setting things down. It may be that you just didn't quite have the talents to make it. Even so, in the process of trying, you're likely to have greatly improved your game. You might have even gotten good enough to go infinite on MTGO as a previous poster suggested. There is no shame in stepping out, but only if it comes after hard work and serious self-reflection.
  • #15
    Here is what Ill say mate, if you're still playing this game. Everything worth doing in life is hard, or at the very least, not easy. Somebody has got to take these occupations, so why not have it be you?
  • #16
    If you can get Platinum, which is really hard to do, you get appearance fees which is every time you go to a GP you get 1000 dollars, every time you go to a Pro tour, you get 3000 dollars, so if you go to a gp every week, and if you can get air fair that's less then 960 dollars you will break even, if you get better airfair you will make money from appearance fees alone, but that's like I said super hard to do.
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  • #17
    I really think that some of this, and the responses are based on how people live or plan to live their lives...

    If, you plan to settle down, be married, have a steady day-to-day job, etc, then yes this goal is pretty tough. With a life like that, it's easier to just play what you can.

    For someone who doesn't care to settle down, be tied to a significant other for some time, and wants to travel around, the possibility opens more. You can dedicate more time to practice, play more, and actually travel to play.
    Yes you'd make money on tournaments. You'd probably need sponsorships/writing. And since you can move around, you could even play lesser tournaments at many different LGS's to earn some too. It does depend on how good you can get, but by contrast the lifestyle makes a difference.
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  • #18
    You're going to need a lot of time. Time you will not be able to invest into anything else. Unless you test 20-25 2-3 weeks before a GP or the PT, you won't do well. You also need a team. All of the consistent pros are part of teams (channelfireball AKA The Jund Player's Club, Manadeprived, SCG, etc), which helps with testing, deckbuilding, transportation to events, etc.

    You also need dedication. I'll probably day 2 a few GPs and maybe top 8 my local PTQ or GPT, but I consider this a hobby before all else. I'm still a major spike, and can play well, but consistent tournament magic? I'd rather cube draft and take down FNMS then go for beer. If the pro life is for you tho, go for it. Who knows? You might be the next Alex Hayne.
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  • #19
    Here is an interesteing article written awhile back about traveling and rooming you might find useful.
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  • #20
    Given a choice between the various ways to make money with MTG, I think it would be much more fulfilling and profitable to open a shop rather then try to go pro. Now, it is true that often game shops fail, however, I am fairly sure more game shops stay open then players make pro.

    It also doesn't leave as much up to luck. With good market research, using the internet as an income stream ect, you can minimize risk.
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  • #21
    Opening a shop is also a crap shoot. My friend opened one and it bankrupted not once, but twice.

    Going pro is even worst. The best magic player, LSV had to take another job to support his addiction. He said so in a youtube video. If the best magic player of all time has to have a job to play magic.... that tells you a lot about going pro.

    I would recommend against it. But if you have money saved up and you view it is a vacation, then go for it.

    I don't think anyone can go as a pro for too long without having a job on the side.
  • #22
    Lsv also takes alot of time off. He skips plenty of events. So does Kibler, he often talks about being tired of travelling.
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  • #23
    Lsv also takes alot of time off. He skips plenty of events. So does Kibler, he often talks about being tired of travelling.


    at some point it starts to feel like a job.

    i would highly recommend against going pro even if you are good.

    Finkel took some time off too (like a few years) and he's probably the greatest of all time.

    If the best out of the best feel this way, then what about the average pro?
  • #24
    to be honest, most of the sponsorships (even for that .0001%) are pretty pitiful, only perhaps 2 people have ever made enough money to be living purely off magic :L (maybe kai budde and finkel?, even then is questionable)

    good luck at becoming a pro regardless, and yeah, you're going to need startup capital, but more importantly, a reliable place to practice/ people to practice with.
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  • #25
    You don't need to be a professional Magic player to make a living off the game. I write one to three articles a day (about two hours of work).

    I realized a long time ago that I was one of those players that wins local events but always misses the top 8 of a ptq or finishes below the money. So I stick to local events, where you can win a box, playset of Tarmogofys, and sell the winnings.

    Once your collection is large enough, it fuels itself. Selling winnings to do your next sealed event or banking up store credit makes it significantly easier to "go infinite" at the local level - and I'm fine with that.
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