In the past 25 years I’ve played Magic every which way it can be played. At some point or another, I’ve gone deep into all of the competitive tournament formats, casual formats, and even invented a few formats of my own to play with friends. In the present, I prioritize playing whatever form of Magic I find most enjoyable, engaging, and interesting as opposed to grinding toward any specific results oriented goals.

Earlier this summer, I was invited to participate in the Pauper Premier League (PPL) and it has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had to date. There’s something amazing about playing a fun, niche format such as Pauper with a group of players who share a similar passion.

It reminded me of my early days playing Vintage at the LGS where a committed group of 10-15 format fanatics showed up every week for years to duel each other for pure love of the game. Back then I wasn’t playing for trophies, pro points, or invites–my goal was to improve as a player and defeat Biller, Franklin, Droba, and Shaman Ben.

Today, I’ll be discussing my experience on PPL and why I believe MTG players and spectators alike would benefit from more league-based content in their lives!

Leagues are in a League of Their Own

Grand Prix, Opens, and MCQ are already great ways to play Magic on the weekend. I’m not suggesting less of any of this good stuff. As far as I’m concerned, these types of events are the equivalent of Big 10 Football Saturdays and NFL Sundays to the Magic community.

With that being said, meaningful play opportunities as well as compelling watchable Magic content is oversaturated on the weekend (there are more things to do than a single person can) while much less so on weeknights. One of the biggest strengths of the high-profile, multi-week format league is the fact that it doesn’t need to take place on the weekend, which makes them an ideal watch after work or school in the evening.

It makes a ton of sense for a Super or Premier League (especially for a niche format like Pauper or Vintage) to run on a weeknight when it doesn’t have to compete with larger, more visible weekend events. It also looks like Super League is running a patreon for Old School Premier League, which sounds amazing!

Vintage, Pauper, or Old School are all fantastic formats and their players and fans deserve quality content to enjoy, but I’d also love to see more opportunities for players to be a part of the action as well.

The PPL was my first opportunity to play in a multi-week League and it was unparalleled fun. It’s seriously in my top 5 Magic experiences. I loved the element of playing in a metagame with 11 other stone-cold experts who were really dialed into what was going on and the fact that I could pivot and change decks from one week to the next as the format and metagame changed.

For instance, I ended up being eliminated in the semi-finals by CVM. There was clearly an element of metagaming against each other at play. He brought an Elves deck to match up against the Stompy deck I had been having success with. I figured he might do something like that and I left my trusty Stompy on the bench and brought a red deck tuned to beat his Burn deck!

The PPL also had a Discord channel for the organizers and participants, so it was a lot of fun to get to know some great Pauper players from all over the world that I likely never would have met otherwise.

MTGO Leagues Are Not Really Leagues

MTGO Leagues are a solid way to play MTG, but they are not really leagues. They have more in common with a Magicfest side event. Five rounds of Swiss against random opponents with the same record, and at the end you win prize tickets according to your final record.

I’m not disrespecting either of these institutions–I like MTGO Leagues and side events. I’m just saying that having gotten the opportunity to play in PPL has really opened my eyes to the fact that it’s a fantastic format for a tournament. Even when it wasn’t my week to play, I was still thinking about my options and tuning in to see what the other players were doing.

With the League finished, I’m already realizing there is going to be a gaping void left behind. It’s a little bit sad that there isn’t some sort of local equivalent of an ongoing league that I can join and play in. Luckily, I still have Wednesday Night Pauper at the LGS with the “Paup it like it’s Hot” crew to get my Pauper fix.

I pitched the idea of starting a two-month league to the podcast members and it looks like that is quickly in the process of becoming a reality, so I won’t have to go wanting for lack of Pauper League play for too long! Here’s a link to some of the stuff we’ve been working on and I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the league progress as we get it worked out.

So, while there are not a ton of opportunities to simply join an existing eight-week league, it does appear that working with some friends with the help of a local game store (in our case, RIW Hobbies) it is possible with a little bit of work and organization to put together a league of one’s own!

With MTGO or MTG Arena as play platforms, players are not even limited to leaguing with friends in their own geographic region, which is pretty sweet. It would actually be great if those play platforms grew to incorporate the necessary software to create, track, and organize leagues with buddies. I do believe it is an appealing and more personalized way to play Magic with friends, as opposed to playing against random opponents.

Now that I’ve pointed out some of the ways leagues are both fun and unique, I’m wondering if other players would be interested in doing these types of tournaments locally or online. It’s not even that big of a commitment of time. While the Leagues run eight weeks with 12 players, each player only needs to play every third week and then potentially in the elimination playoff rounds.

If your LGS offered an 8-week League, would you join? I’d strongly encourage you to give it a try if the opportunity ever presents itself. If it doesn’t and the concept and style of play appeals to you, I strongly suggest taking the reins and trying to organize one with your friends at the LGS or even remotely through MTGO or MTG Arena.