The Current Scene – Casual, Regular & Competive Magic Players by Mark Pinder

£20 PTQs & Dinosaurs by Magic by Mark Pinder

The Mysterious World of Magic 2013 with Mark Pinder

The New Year is a time for reflection and a time for resolutions. My Magic Resolution this year has to be “Enjoy my Magic more”.

mk tournamentYou see for the past year I’ve not played anywhere near as much as previously and when I do I can get easily frustrated or annoyed not being satisfied with my event. I had to reduce my Tournament Organising commitment in 2011 as I found my real world commitments taking up more of my time, 2012 saw my busiest year ever at work with plenty of new projects and challenges. This was one of my root causes to my issues, being tired and stressed was not a good place to be to begin with but this had brought some other problems to the party I had not considered.

I’ve always been in a lucky position to be able to generally be able to own the deck of my choice, as a result I will generally show up to an event with a strong deck not having to worry about scrambling around looking for missing pieces. Unfortunately with the added real world responsibilities came the side effects of not having either the time or inclination to really know the format or test, after a ten to twelve hour day logging onto MODO or Cocktrice was not first thing on my agenda.

There was a time when I was an aspiring Magic player looking forward to the challenge of PTQ’s, Nationals Qualifiers and dreamed of playing at the highest level. The thing is I don’t have that passion anymore as I  feel my real world demands will not allow me that opportunity.

So where is Magic as a community at large today?

It has always been said but I’ve never really bought into or looked into closely that Magic has three levels.

mtg demo games




I’ll explain how I would describe each of the groups:

The Casual player just plays Magic and whilst they may wish to win their concept of their decks quality may well be underestimated. The casual player just likes their deck and isn’t concerned whether it fits a format, to them a Modern card is just something from the latest set that does something funky.

Your casual Magic player is probably having the time of his life, Wizards specifically supporting formats now with Commander growing in popularity and new cards appearing in its spin off products. When I first played Magic I was a pretty much casual player and loved to play multi-player with my black blue assassin deck supported by Rameses Overdark.

I would play in events locally and would travel once a month to the Mox Event in Doncaster where I could be equally happy being in the mellow annex room where the lower tables were with my funky coin toss deck or at the top table running Mono Black Necropotence or Ernham Burn’em.

mtg fnm playing magic table 1

The Regular player is your average Joe, they attend FNM and have a working knowledge of most of the competitive formats. Magic is a social game which is played with friends and being top of your peer group is generally desirable.

Funnily enough this is where I have noticed more problems than anywhere else. A regular event crosses the boundaries for Casual and Competitive players to mix, this is where you have casual players discover how cards really work and can become disillusioned  with the new found complexity of the game. You will also see the first  sparks of competitive play within some of your play group. It is good that players are enthused about the possibility of winning a play mat at their local store game day. That is not always the case and I thought I might mention a few strange things this year.

An opponent conceded before even playing at one shop, the reason was I was playing blue and “we don’t play blue here”.

-An opponent refused point blank to play me and scooped as he ‘knew’ he couldn’t beat me!

-My partner got insulted “She only wins because Mark bought her the best cards!”

Even though I was running the event I was told “It’s not fair when you play, you should play in bigger events and not be winning FNM, others should get a chance !”.  Curiously no answer was to be had when I mentioned “Well I could not attend but then who would be running the event ?” and “Yes, I could just run the event but I will be factoring in my petrol costs for travelling 100 miles round trip to the entry fee.” There are times when running events can be a thankless task.

“Your deck is too good, no one has a chance as you’re a good player!” this coming after going 0-7 the previous two weeks including four rounds with the same deck.

FNMs and The Local Magic Scene

Local Events including FNM mean different things to different people, at Grimsby we have had non attendance because they didn’t like tournaments, didn’t have a strong enough deck, because no one has the cards to trade and because they weren’t winning enough events anymore.

This has been one of the difficult things when running events when players rage quit events, maybe not show for a couple of weeks, then others don’t show as not enough players are coming and the very same players come back a month or so later blaming others for why the events are now smaller in numbers.

Richard HaganThe regular Magic scene does appear to be on the whole vibrant and we’ve had lots at new players in all the playgroups I regularly attend Grimsby, Chesterfield and Lincoln.

FNM though still offers us dreams and opportunities, I recently was prompted to attend the Chimera Nottingham (Beeston) FNM, Gavin Verhey (WOTC Developer) and Rich Hagon (Coverage Guru) did an hour long Q & A session at the shop giving a greater insight into the core of Magic. The best thing though was playing in the unsanctioned draft afterwards, my seat position was Rich Hagon to my right, Gavin Verhey to my left and I finished second only to Rich in the final.

It was so nice to listen to the stories “I designed that card” and “Erm yeah you have me to blame for that one, no yes really, I designed that card”.  Does make me wonder, Gavin got his dream of working for Wizards of the Coast, I always remember GP Paris when I played in the feature match area and was on the event coverage podcast as now I enjoy my writing, I wonder what we have to do at mtgGUK to get ourselves a “Preview” card from a new set in the future I can write about.

The PTQs

The Competitive magic player is the dedicated soul who wants to play on the bigger stage, believe they are a good player and have some degree of skills to achieve those goals.

PTQ numbers have risen and the days of four or five round PTQ seem to be long gone, magic is a test of skill and stamina these days. Is this good for Magic? I’d like to think it is and even though many of us would prefer Nationals with its qualifiers; WMCQ’s look like they are here to stay for a while but this year we do get promo cards for taking part which is an improvement.

What is a PTQ like these days? Being a competitive event the atmosphere can appear tense but in the few higher events I did attend last year or spectated, there was a lot of mutual respect and the atmosphere seemed to be really good.

GP Bochum 2012

The 2013 Doncaster SCG Invitational Qualifier

Great News as well for competitive players is the SCG Invitational Qualifier on 12th January in Doncaster.

~ Prize Breakdown ~ 

1st £750

2nd £350

3rd-4th £250

5th-8th £125

9th-16th £50

17th-32nd £30

Top 4 Qualify for any SCG Invitational in 2013

Top 8 get Exclusive SCG playmats and Top 8 Pins

Top 16 gain SCG Open

You can and should RSVP the event here –

The entry fee is £30 which is steep but understandable and you have to make top 32 to get any return on your investment. Hopefully this will be the first of many events and the events will be more encompassing going forward. Issues with gaming laws has meant there are no participation prizes or rewards, this means personally I have to weigh up “is £30 just to play Magic going to be enough, or will the memory of just playing in the event be enough.”

mtg tournament gp pt pro tour grand prix

The entry fee is comparable with a GP but with smaller prizes, at least at a GP you have your promo foil which can be a talking point at events, SCG Open entrants in the States get limited edition Star City tokens and whilst this is only a qualifier it would have nice for everyone to have something to take home with them to remind them of the day. I would have liked to think Star City Games themselves would have pushed the event more on their own site and Newsletters to expand the advertising on the event.

The event is actually fifteen minutes from my house but I am not convinced I am going yet as whilst I know if I am at the top of my game, Top 32 is more than achievable I still have nagging doubts on the cost-benefit ratio of the event. I would say I’d turn up just for side events but at £30 for the main event it is likely the event will follow the pattern of a PTQ and only a negligible number of players actually drop after committing to an all day event, the days of drop and draft after two losses do not happen that much anymore.

All things being equal though, despite any possible teething issues I’d encourage players to attend and treat the event with a glass half full than a glass half empty.

Can you fall into more than one group?

The question I would now pose is, can you fall into more than one group?

Almost certainly this is a yes, I’ve met and played plenty of pro players at an FNM. They have played in an excellent sporting atmosphere, I’ve also seen the FNM player turn up at the PTQ in his local shop to play with his mates. You will also see Casual players playing with their fun deck at FNM and maybe winning a round or two. However, I don’t really see many people jump from Casual to Competitive or vice versa.

small thumbs upI feel now I have gone through all the stages from Casual to Competitive player but have now settled back into the life as an average Joe. Magic though is continuing to grow and is a game as much loved as ever.

Thank you for reading.

Mark Pinder

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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.