People have often said, “Magic is just a game.”
Or have we made it more than that? One of the undying powers and universal truths of our game is that it brings people together. A friend of mine, Ben, has always made fun of me for playing Magic. He works at a homeless shelter for youth, and last week he discovered that all of his clients play Magic. They don’t netdeck or come to FNM, but they play—in alleys, on the steps of the church, in the rec room at the shelter. They each have a deck, and they all play. Ben asked a kid why, and got the answer that it’s because it’s a way to connect with people; it breaks down the barriers that stand between youth on the streets and gives them something in common.
And when you think about it, it does that for all of us. Whether you are on camera at the Pro Tour or in an alley on a cardboard box, we play for the same reason: this game is magic. It builds friendships, it creates communities… It can help people. I got back into Magic five years ago because I was struggling with a World of Warcraft addiction. I’ve been clean four years now, thanks in no small part to Magic. It’s a card game, but behind the cards, there are people. That’s what makes it magic.
Southern Ontario is blessed with one of the largest, most dense Magic communities on the planet, and I’m grateful for that, but there are challenges as well. One challenge of Toronto is that it stretches wide, geographically, and the Magic community is so large that some people never leave the bubble of their local game store. Active, regular players in Brampton have probably never sat down and played with players from Oshawa, who have never played with players from downtown, and so on.
I’m sure many large metro centres struggle with this, and I feel even worse for those in rural areas who can’t even get eight people to an FNM, but over the last year, the community in Southern Ontario has shown me that they are willing to get in their car, get on a bus, or do whatever it takes to come to events that are exciting, innovative and well run. They enjoy the events because they want to play Magic, but more so, they look forward to that community feeling: a large gathering of people, coming together for a common cause.
About five months ago, I was approached by two good friends of mine, George and Peter. They were the creators and moderators of the Southern Ontario Magic Society Facebook group. They built the group to create a safe space where people could share ideas, engage in discussion, and generally talk nerdy. If we have to be spread out all over the place, why talk only when we are at FNM or some super event like a PTQ? Let’s connect online and stay in touch all the time! They asked me if I wanted to join the moderating team and help connect even more people and bring some fresh insight into the group. Of course I said yes.
Now, this isn’t a new idea. Every local community has some Facebook group. It talks about what they are playing at FNM or which Burger King they will be drafting at on Tuesday. Many also use their groups as a Craigslist of Magic cards. (By the way, I’ve got some judge foils I’m looking to trade; PM me!) And then comes spoiler season and every midnight the group blows up, shouting at each other about whether this card should have been printed at uncommon or rare and whether that card will be format breaking or a dud. And there are the archetypical characters within every one of these groups too: the judge who is always walking people through the rules; that blue player who will exclaim again and again that they just need to reprint Mana Leak to fix the format; the value grinder who is pissed off that this new set has zero value, just like every set since RTR. The list goes on…
You all know what I’m talking about because it happens everywhere, and it’s awesome. Those characters, their conversations, and that meaningless banter are the growth of community.
But of course, for community to really blossom, you need face to face interaction, and that’s what I brought to the Southern Ontario Magic Society—tournaments.
When we sat down and started building the tournament series that has now grown into the SMG, we wanted to do something fresh, to provide a connected tournament series unlike anything that we have seen north of the border. We wanted to create an event series that had something for every player; whether you wanted Standard, Modern, or Legacy, there was something for you. We also wanted to bring together a collection of like-minded vendors who shared an interest in hosting large events but wanted support. By including vendors, we’ve been able to invite each of their customer bases and widen the reach of the event series as a whole.
Warning: The following paragraph contains shameless event promotion!
The series consists of five qualifying events, each with $2,500 worth of prizes. These events lead up to an Invitational at the end of the summer, when 64 players will play to win more than $6,000 worth of prizes. We also built a structure where about two thirds of the qualifications will come from top-eighting the qualifiers, and the last third will come from players who failed to top-eight any of the events yet still finished strong in a few of the events. For more information on the specifics of how the series works, pre-registration, and other details, check out www.soms-smg.com.
But putting together this tournament series is only the beginning of what people in a community can accomplish. When Magic players put their minds to something and use the human resources available to them in the community, there are no limits. This might start sounding like a locker room speech, but I honestly believe it’s true.
The Magic community is like a combo deck: alone, we are just a bunch of people, but put us together and, in the wise words of Matty Studios, we can do anything!
So find a way to get involved and make things happen
Here are some ideas that have worked for me:
– Call your local store and see if they will let you sponsor a special FNM with extra prizes or extra fun or both!
– Find a local pub that will let you bring a gang in on a slow night and run a draft or testing group.
– Start up a “between rounds ante league” or other fun formats at big tournaments.
– Two playgroups both test on the same night of the week? Arrange a team showdown!
– Organize an event yourself or with the support of your local store or Facebook group, such as the Southern Ontario Magic Society.
Get creative with this game we love and find ways to remind people that this game is about the people! Just remember a few points:
– You can do anything: All of this is possible if you put some time and energy into it, but it is work and it does take time.
– Start small: Try your best to set up with low overhead and low risk so you don’t get blown out.
– Don’t expect to get rich: If you can get the bar to buy you a free beer for filling their place on a Tuesday, call that a win.
– Don’t forget to ask for help: However good at something you are, there is someone else out there who might do it better or different.
– Learn from your mistakes: Never make the same mistake twice. Sounds easy, but it requires more thought than you think.
Oh man… This really is turning into a locker room speech, but I’m just embracing it at this point.
One definition of community is “a social, occupation, religious, or other group of people sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society with which it exists.”
We all are social. For many of us, this is our occupation, and for all of us, it’s damn close to a religion.
We share common characteristics and interests.
We are certainly perceived as distinct and proudly label ourselves as different from the average person!
So there—proof that we are a community—through the good and the bad, the fights and the fun times. That isn’t going to stop, so find a way to participate. Now stop reading and go play some Magic!
Kelly Ackerman is the Head of Events at Face to Face Games.