For many years UK Magic players have followed the massive Star City events over in the US, analysing the current meta and envious that such things didn’t exist on this side of the pond.
The UK player base has grown rapidly over the past few years, and each Facebook link to a large cash prize tournament in the States or even in Europe was usually followed by an envious moan of “Why not here?!” And they had a point, why not here?
Last year we at Dark Sphere dipped our toes into the water of cash prize tournaments with a £2,000 Standard event run as a double header with our PTQ in November. While the attendance wasn’t mind blowing (being the day after a very long and busy sealed PTQ took its toll on player numbers) it was encouraging for us, and the seeds of a cash circuit were sown.
Building on the positive response received from their event, Dark Sphere launched the Dark Challenge tournament series at the start of the year. Our simple aim? “To develop a cash tournament circuit throughout the UK and Europe”.
So how does it work?
The Dark Challenge circuit operates in a familiar way. Players compete in qualifiers (called quests) which are cash prize tournaments in their own right, but players who do well win byes and/or free entry to the season finale event (called an Epic Quest).
Epic Quests will happen once a year and will have a massive cash prize pool of at least £5,000. This year’s Epic Quest will take place in November as the £10,000 Academy Final Epic Quest at MSI’s World Championships at the ExCel Centre in London (more on that later).
Partnering with Mind Sports International
Many of you will have read about, and probably attended, Mind Sports International’s huge Cardiff Festival last year which offered £2,000 cash prize pool Standard and Team Sealed events.
Mind Sports International were very encouraged with the feedback they received from the event and this year launched the Mind Sports Academy, an event that is hosted in a different UK city each month and offers organised play for Chess, Scrabble, Magic and eSports.
Seeing very little point in running competing tournament circuits MSI and Dark Challenge quickly partnered and every Academy event now hosts a £1,000 minimum cash prize Standard event on the Saturday and a £250 minimum cash prize Sealed on the Sunday. Players can pre-register for the Academy events at https://www.mindsportsevents.com
Mind Sports International will also be hosting the season finale for Dark Challenge at the MSI World Championships at the London Excel centre in November where a massive £10,000 minimum cash prize pool will be up for grabs!
The whole weekend will have a ‘mini GP’ feel and will offer large events in all the major Magic formats.
So what does that mean for players?
So far, the MSI Academy has held events in Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol and Liverpool. Dark Sphere has hosted a number of events in its new tournament centre in central London and the Dark Challenge circuit has already paid out nearly £9,000 in prize money so far this year. By the time the £10,000 Epic Quest in November is finished that will rise to over £30,000!
Nearly 300 UK Magic players have already taken part in one or more Dark Challenge events, including Manaleak writer and ‘Magic player on fire’ Fabrizio Anteri. He won a Sealed Dark Challenge in London, so has free entry and 2 byes and will surely be hoping to round off what has already been an extraordinary year with a great performance at the £10,000.
The MSI Academy tour continues with visits to Leicester in July (at the National Space Centre! And you get to go round it!), Plymouth in August, Newcastle in September, London in October and the massive Epic quest and side events in November.
The whole point of using ‘Dark Challenge’ and not something like ‘Dark Sphere Open Series’ was that we also intended this to be something which was independent and that any store could get involved with. To this end, very recently Dark Challenge has opened up the circuit to other stores and Tournament Organisers throughout the UK and Europe.
Independent Dark Challenge events are already confirmed for the UK and Sardinia and we are just awaiting confirmation of dates from multiple stores throughout Europe.
We’re already working hard on making next year bigger and better and we hope to see you at a Dark Challenge event very soon :)