The Ups and Downs of Running a Magic: The Gathering Club in Grimsby
After searching through the mtgUK Articles whilst procrastinating at work a few days ago, I stumbled across a few of the older articles featuring Grimsby as a Magic Club. Indeed, from the top we’re not a store, we’re a club and despite of this and many changes in the past year I’ve been playing (Ok, I bluff a lie, around 15-16 months) we’ve actually come to a point and very often say “Yeah, that was a really good night!”.
So, here’s to some shameless self-promotion of Magic: The Grimsby Gathering and incidental nuggets of insight and gossip.
When I first started playing Magic: The Gathering at our club in October 2014, it all seemed very serious, a few smiles here and there but seemingly few and far between. I honestly didn’t see myself playing very much after coming from Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment’s very successful take on a CCG. I had high hopes for Magic, as someone who loves games of all natures and new challenges. One of the very first cards I saw was Siege Rhino and immediately noted it as a fantastic vanilla value card with an absurd battlecry ability, I had to ask what trample was. That’s crazy! The then-at-the-time Tournament Organiser looked at me and said, “Do you mind, I’m trying to play game here. Besides, it probably won’t see a lot of play at that mana cost.” Well, that’s one way to welcome an enthusiastic new player to the club. My name is Dan and that’s not something you’ll be seeing if you come to play with us now!
By no means do I claim to be any kind of expert on Magic: The Gathering itself or on building communities, but it doesn’t take one to know a few fundamentals on gathering (pun not intended) people to play a game. The golden rule of life still applies: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”. For me, my first goal was to beat this player in the paragraph above, but the true credit goes to the player who sat down with me to point out and explain why a card was good in Magic terms.
It’s funny as you’d think the 13-year-old gamer would only have time to ensure he’s winning as much as he can as opposed to the 40-year-old. To cut a long story short, within my first two weeks somehow I had this player nailed down in the first round of an event, against what I think was a tier 1 deck. I can’t be sure, I barely knew what a block was at this time, but this set the stage for me. It took one person 15-20 minutes of their own time to start off my competitive edge in this game, taking my first FNM Top 4 in a month. Which is a pain in the arse to be honest, as now Magic seems to be a second, voluntary job which I don’t want to change for the world.
Flash forward. Until around 6 months ago, we were in a very similar position – perhaps worse, TO’s failing to turn up for events. We’d still turn up to play, though we lost a chunk of expensive promo cards sadly, we turned up and we had fun. The winners will still be disappointed in not picking up money cards to fund a few new other cards but the bottom line was, “It is, what it is”. And this was how we carried on for a short while, but we used this time to build up within our group, sometimes letting off steam at the party abandoning us. Behaviour breeds behaviour. There became a line where people enjoyed coming to spend some time together and not just play Magic. It’s not a Friday night with banter and pizza, now, is it?
By this point, I’ve actually realised I’ve got multiple tier 1 decks somehow; not bad for a lad who promised he’d never spent more than £20 on Magic, but had recently picked up 4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy for close to that. Regardless, I love loaning decks out to new guys to see just what can be done with Magic, an aspiration perhaps or a project to work on in building up a deck to strong proportions. I was now one of players people were coming to ask for a deck advice – unfortunately I had to turn down some offers, having been at work all day and wanting to get home and get some rest! “I tell you what guys, how about we open the club another night, purely to practise and build decks?”
Monday Night Magic in Grimsby was born and is now our 2nd most popular regular event with players coming who can’t always make it for Friday Night Magic. It’s actually worked really well and I’ve always stood by my one rule for this night: “Monday is newbie friendly”. The last Monday night actually had as many players as our last Friday, which is now averaging 14-15 players per session, some weeks we run a casual-friendly league for just a £6 buy in utilising Manaleak.com Repacks, rewarding new set cards at the release of a new set. A cheap, fun and casual way to learn the game, gain some Modern cards and win some new Standard cards to get going quick! This time investment has actually really rewarded players attending our Friday Events. Enter Peter Johnson, our other main Tournament Organiser.
I love playing Pete personally, we’ve had some fantastic games and he knows full well he got away with a lucky escape at Dragons of Tarkir Game Day and he isn’t afraid to admit it. Pete has played a lot longer than me and although current win percentage against me probably doesn’t show it, he is probably our most competitive regular who keeps this side of the club going. We had always complained previously that prizes sucked, the club charges a rental fee which immediately eats into our prize support funds and playing for just 7 boosters in a 14-man event previously was a bit lame. Not quite the hook for those Monday Night players still getting to grips, so how about more of a chance of a booster for an extra 50p? We quite happily now add one booster per player to the prize pool on a Friday, meaning it’s all to play for. If you’re new, more chance to win through the bonus prizes and if you’re a veteran you’ve got more to play for at the top end. “Hey, Pete, now Fridays are more popular than ever, when are we going to Draft?”. “Saturdays?”
This speaks for itself. “What if we offer at least 2 weekend events per month for those who can’t come midweek?” Which is now exactly what we do, be it Game Day, Pre-Release. Draft Day, Standard Open Day. All with at least 1 booster per player into the prizes, in addition to other prizes such as playmats and deck boxes? The joy of running entirely not for profit but purely because we enjoy the game – we give away exactly what we receive. We now market ourselves within our supporting store and others; we want more people to come and play. We’ve built up something really quite fun and we’re on the way to an advanced store status. So here’s an invite if you’re in the area. Your history of the game doesn’t matter. Come and enjoy yourself.
Community Question: Would you describe a store you play at as a competition- or friendly-focused? Why is that?
Dan Hill & Pete Johnson
- Grimsby Magic: The Gathering Facebook group
- mtgUK Magic: The Gathering Online Community Hub
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- UK & Ireland MTG Gaming Stores & TO Group
[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”The Ups and Downs of Running a Magic: The Gathering Club in Grimsby by Dan Hill and Pete Johnson” description=”Being a club has its advantages and disadvantages, dealing with our store and WPN can be frustrating at times, though after some lengthy conversations with our representative we’re running vary straight and narrow and very much on the way to advanced level. The advantage we see the most however, is because this is ‘our’ club and not run from a shop premises, or run for profit is that we can shape it however we like.”]