So you want to play ‘Magic: the Gathering’?


A guide to participating in store events for new and old players

By Lauren Kelly, Contributor


Playing Magic: the Gathering (MtG) is incredibly rewarding, whether you do it casually with a group of friends, at stores to win prizes and be a part of the community, or competitively. In this article, I’m going to focus on playing at your local game store (LGS), and the kinds of events you can take part in.

One of the easiest competitive formats of the game for players to access is called Standard. Magic cards are released in groups of thematically-tied sets called blocks, and Standard only allows players to use cards from the last few released blocks. This makes the power level of people’s decks limited, and prices to compete more reasonable. Right now is the perfect time to get into Standard, because with the launch of the new Ixalan set, the blocks Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad will be leaving the format. This makes for a fresh format, with people creating new decks and leaving behind ones that relied on the four that are rotating out. Ixalan is also enticing in its own right. While the previous Standard block—Kaladesh—focused on artifacts, vehicles, and inventions, and the most recent block—Amonkhet—was Egyptian-themed, Ixalan features dinosaurs, pirates, and merfolk, among other tribes. This set is promising to be pretty out-there, with cards that have both a fun style and high power. It also means you can make dinosaurs drive trains and run your opponents over. Pretty cool.

So how do you go about getting out and playing the game? If you’re interested in the new set, a week before each set releases there is a weekend-long event called Prerelease. In this case, Prerelease is running on the weekend of September 23–24. This event also features the Two-Headed Giant game variant, which involves two people entering as a team and playing cooperatively against other teams. If you have a friend who’s more experienced in the game, this is an easy and fun way to learn from them. To take part, players pay a $35–40 entry fee and receive a sealed Prerelease pack with 6 booster packs of 15 cards each, as well as a special Prerelease promo card, which is always a foil rare or mythic rare. It also comes with a life counter die that is unique to the set.

For this tournament, you use only the cards you receive to build a deck to compete with. This puts all competitors at roughly equal odds, which makes it a good way to try out the game without needing to invest in a constructed deck. However, make sure to prepare a bit before entering. Familiarize yourself with the rules and new set mechanics, and do some research into the new cards themselves so you know which ones are going to be strong, because it can be deceptive. If you do struggle at all, most people you will play in this format are patient, and will be willing to help you out.

If you enjoy Prerelease, the next step is trying out the weekly Standard Showdown. This is a Standard format, of course, which means you have to bring your own pre-constructed decks. For a guide on how to make a serviceable deck, look online and observe others’ deck lists. Going this route will mean you will have to buy individual cards—don’t rely on boosters to build with, as these are a huge gamble. Some LGSs require a small entrance fee of five dollars, but that money goes towards the prize pool. Many other stores run them for free. Each store has six Standard Showdown packs to give out at each event, and most stores have different rules for who receives them. These packs contain two regular rares, a full art land, a foil non-rare, and a foil rare, giving these packs high value. However, many LGSs only have a group of about 8–12 players for Standard Showdown, so you don’t have to worry too much about placing low and not getting a pack. These events are often held on Saturdays, but check out the tournament schedules of the store you wish to go to on Google Maps ahead of time.

When you first start attending events at an LGS you may feel uncomfortable at first. However, as you attend more events, you will get to know the players there better, and possibly make friends. It’s important to give things a chance, so if MtG is something you’d like to try playing, these events are the way to go. You may just find yourself a new hobby.