Magic: The Gathering at Lvl Up Bournemouth – Travel Preparations by Liam Casserly
When I was a kid there was a telly programme that announced itself with the phrase “It’s Friday, it’s five to five, it’s time for… CrackerJack!” It was the start of the weekend for ten year old me. Now that seems a long way off in the past but every Friday I get the same feeling as I’m walking to my local shop. It really is one of the highlights of my week.
For my real job I have to travel a lot and sometimes when I finish work of a Friday I’m too far away from home to make it back in time to my local shop for my weekly fix of Magic. Sometimes that means I just don’t get to play. As a grown up this shouldn’t affect me as much as it does, but you, like me, are an addict and can understand the need to shuffle up and pit your deck against others at least once a week.
So, as any decent Magic player should, I travel with at least two decks with me when I’m away. You never know when you might be able to squeeze in a quick game of Modern or a cheeky Standard battle. This is the beauty of our Hobby. I know that if I find myself away from home on a Friday night I can look up where the nearest FNM is and wander along.
This is what I did a few weeks ago. Using Wizard of the Coast Locator I found that there were three local FNMs. I had played in one of the shops before. In times gone past I would have definitely gone to the more familiar shop but Magic has given me the confidence to know that wherever I go I should experience a warm welcome, so I decided to try a shop called Lvl Up Gaming in Bournemouth.
I grew up in Bournemouth. I moved away well over ten years ago but I can tell you there wasn’t three places to play organised Magic when I left. It’s great to see so many places opening up and the hobby so strong in a town like that. With my decks packed, off I trotted to the store. When I got there I realised that, in my teens, I had worked in the video shop that used to be next door. The video shop was long since gone.
Lvl Up looks like your classic tabletop gaming centre. Shelves full of boxes of models and all manner of dice and accessories. It’s one of those things about our little corner of hobbydom… there are so many familiar things from one place to the next that it’s easy to turn up somewhere new and feel at ease with your surroundings. The scene with the players was also a familiar one. Last minute re-sleeves and players asking each other for cards to borrow.
Still, when I go to new shops I sometimes expect the saloon scene from a western to unfold. I walk in the door and the piano players stops and the whole room looks around at this stranger in their midst. Fortunately it has yet to happen. Apart from a few polite nods most people were caught up in their normal prep. The friendly guy behind the counter told me it was Standard. Great, I had brought with me a Gruul monsters deck. It was a much lower to the ground version than what I had previously been running so I was happy to get a chance to play it.
As more players arrived the noise in the shop grew and, due to the fact that Modern Masters had been released, people were either excited to talk about their foil bobs or miserable about their opened-outside-of-draft Ant Queen. This can be the worst part of heading to a new shop. As other players arrive and loudly chat to others, there is this sense of camaraderie that you are not involved in. It is much like the feeling you might have had when you first went to FNM, although this time at least you know what all these words mean.
After everyone registered there were twelve players ready to go. Round 1 was paired and the tables were allocated. Liam isn’t exactly a rare name but I’m usually able to be the only Liam playing in a random shop. This time, however, I had to listen more carefully to the seating because there were three Liams. That is a personal record of Liams at an FNM. A huge 25% of the field were Liams.
I’ve been on the other side of the table to this sort of tale before. A stranger turns up at the shop but it’s obvious he’s not a new player. It’s once again the sort of thing that happens in westerns. The man with no name walks into town and trouble follows him. Well not exactly trouble… much more like an unbelievably good opening hand and a textbook curve out. Game 1 was short and, after we both traded off our Thunderbreak Regent, I was left with a much more healthy board presence.
In between rounds we chatted a little. He told me that he normally runs this deck as Jeskai Aggro but he was lending out a few cards so he moved to a more mid-range strategy. He said it was a good choice for the local meta. What went unsaid of course was that he wasn’t expecting anyone to turn up with Green Red monsters.
Game 2 was a lot more cagey. I drew all my mana dorks and he kept up counter spells nearly every turn. In the end I was victorious but it was a close-run thing. Tense times at a new shop, 2-0ing a regular, but Mike was very gracious in defeat. We sat and chatted some more about the decks we chose and he told me that he thought my deck was a good choice for tonight’s crowd. Great.
I’m paired against a guy called Brandori. Turn one he plays a Sandsteppe Citadel. That can only mean one thing: I’m up against an Abzan player. Sure enough a turn two Rakshasa Deathdealer went to work on my life total.
As we play he tells me that this is his first FNM and that he’s been playing with his housemates at uni. When playing newer players I go out of my way to explain what I’m doing. I’m playing Red and Green so it’s not like I’m playing islands and everything I do seems like cheating to a newer player, but still an Ashcloud Phoenix feels broken to a newer player. Even though I beat him and he played against a Jeskai Combo deck in Round 1, he still tells me he’s enjoying himself.
I’m drawn against Jamie. He’s in his early teens but I know not to judge a player on anything other than their skill in a match. After all he’s in the 2-0 bracket. Sure enough in Game 1 he wipes the floor with me. His Green White aggro deck was just all over me from turn one. Game 2 was a different story; the curve I hadn’t seen since Round 2 helped me make it 1-1.
In the decider I kept a good hand and it all started off very reasonably for me, but a badly misplayed removal spell cost me the game. I could write another 200 words explaining my bad beat but let’s just say I got over excited with how clever I was being and played around the wrong spell.
I came up against Austin, another player new to FNM. This was great. I love it when I get to see newer players bitten by the Magic bug. He played very cagily in Game 1 and chumped his tokens to protect his life total turn after turn. I couldn’t get through with my monsters then a few well-timed pump spells and I was dead. He seemed very pleased and it was hard not to be thrilled for the guy. When I first started I didn’t win a game for weeks, maybe months. Game 2 went to time and I won on turns. 1-1 in our game. He went 2-1-1 overall in the night.
Prizes were given out. After they were opened and rares were checked, they did a cool thing that I personally have not seen before. The people who won prizes handed all their uncommons and commons to Austin as he was the newest player to Magic. He seemed really chuffed to get all these cards. Those of us who’ve played a while joked that it’s not an act of kindness to help someone get deeper into this addiction.
I chatted to the guy behind the counter, whom I now knew to be called Woj, about the shop. It’s been doing Magic since September last year and has a growing community. Mike, my opponent from Round 1, also chatted to me about what was going on over the weekend. They told me there was a Modern Masters draft there next. I enjoyed my experience so much at Lvl Up that I told them I’d be back on the Saturday.
If you are in the area, why not pop in and say hi! to the lovely guys at LVL UP!
Address – LVL UP, 266 Charminster Road, BH8 9RS, Bournemouth
Phone – 01202 526184
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/lvlupgaminguk
Community Question: What’s the best thing about your FNM? What would make others want to come and play there?
Thanks for reading,