Magic Open House: What You Need to Know (and Why You Should Participate!)
If you are a frequent patron of your local game store, you are probably already acquainted with Magic Open House, a new Magic: The Gathering event that premiered the weekend before Amonkhet‘s prerelease. For those who may not have heard of Open House, it is one of several new changes to MTG Organised Play which emphasise the local game store and its importance to the MTG community.
Starting in April, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) introduced Magic Open House as a casual league-style event designed for Magic players of all ranges of experience. Much in the same way that prerelease weekends are the lifeblood of many local playgroups, Open House is quickly becoming a great way to teach new players and bring them into the Magic community.
Most local game stores have long had a tradition of hosting semi-regular events where experienced Magic players are encouraged to bring their friends and family and sit down with a free Welcome Deck provided by WotC. These events are free and usually include modest prize support to thank players for participating.
Wizards of the Coast has built upon this idea with Magic Open House, where players are encouraged to step into their local store, grab a free Welcome Deck, and play some casual games with friends (and make new friends in the process!).
Why is Magic Open House such an important event for the MTG Community at large? What do we get for our participation, regardless of how long we’ve played Magic: The Gathering?
Fun, Casual Atmosphere
First off, the fun, casual atmosphere fostered by Magic Open House should make all new MTG players feel immediately welcome in their local game store. Friends and family members curious about the game can feel at home while they learn the ins and outs of this game we have all grown to love.
Looking for an excuse to teach someone close to you how to play Magic? Invite them to Open House! Looking for an excuse to learn? Drop by your local store and see what it’s all about!
The heart and soul of Magic: The Gathering is its casual playgroups; friends who have taught each other how to play and regularly meet to sling some cards (not literally, although that would be interesting). However, for many of us, some of our closest friends are people we meet after we learn how to play Magic. They’re the people we’ve spent countless hours playing Magic: The Gathering with at our local store: FNM, drafts, Standard Showdowns, prereleases, Commander, and everything else in between.
Magic Open House is a great way to bring in players who already know the game, but don’t often set foot in their local store. All it takes is one good experience.
One of WotC’s longstanding policies to support local play is the provision of Welcome Decks. These decks are given to all new players who come into their local store, free of charge, and provide a fun and dynamic way to immediately dive into the game.
When a player receives a Welcome Deck, they choose between one of the five mana colours and are given a small deck box containing a 30-card deck based around the chosen colour, plus an additional 30-card deck based around another random colour. The additional deck can be used by a friend who wants to join in a casual game, or the two decks can be shuffled together into a 60-card Standard-legal constructed deck, immediately enabling new players to enter in Standard events.
While most cards included in Welcome Decks are commons alongside a few uncommons, there have often been Standard format staples included (especially cards more experienced players might take for granted but new players will be seeking), such as: Shock, Fling, Blighted Fen, Anticipate, Negate, Essence Scatter, Island, and even classics like Staff of the Death Magus, Lightning Strike (reprint time!), Elvish Mystic, Brave the Elements, Celestial Flare, and Guttersnipe.
In addition, Welcome Decks can shake things up for experienced players. What challenges are presented when the pool of cards available is limited to a pre-constructed deck of commons and uncommons? What are the most viable strategies for each deck, and what are the best answers available in each colour?
Many longtime Magic players liken the Welcome Decks to decks they used when they began their own MTG journey. Maybe a friend had a pile of cards they utilised to quickly build a deck and start playing (for me, it was Onslaught zombies and Onslaught/Kamigawa rats). Perhaps at the beginning you went to a local store and grabbed a pre-constructed theme deck off the shelves (my first was Izzet Gizmometry).
While perhaps the “personality” of a theme deck may be missing, Welcome Decks definitely have a unique feel and play style that are designed to teach the individual strengths and weaknesses of each colour.
The official “format” for Magic Open House is similar to both league play and the increasingly popular prerelease party. Players are handed scorecards on which they record the results of each game they play over the course of the weekend, and the entire event is recorded and reported to Wizards of the Coast.
Uncommon Promo Card
So far, we’ve discussed how Magic Open House provides a fun and welcoming atmosphere where new and experienced players alike can receive a free Welcome Deck and immediately start playing. What more could you want?
Let’s face it, there have been lot of exciting uncommons in the past few years. Ixalan is no exception, with several uncommons showing the potential to become staples of multiple formats. Walk the Plank may prove to be a solid removal card, and the artwork for the Open House promo card is absolutely amazing, from the art style to the cool details – such as the goblin pirate on the plank urging the prisoner forward.
In its first two iterations, Magic Open House awarded full-art foil basic lands from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation. For many players, this is incentive enough to attend an event. This time around, we’re not only getting Game Day style promos of a Standard playable card, but they’re being given out a full two weeks before the official release of Ixalan!
Helping New Players
A popular mantra among teachers states: “If you can’t explain a concept simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Along those same lines, many teachers (such as myself) discover in their first few years of instruction that the mistakes they most often focus on are those with which they have long struggled. You didn’t go to class as often as you should have? You immediately take notice when a student starts to fall behind. You didn’t take detailed notes? You make sure your students are proficient in the process.
Sometimes, all it takes is seeing someone else make a mistake to realize you’ve made a similar error, sometimes more often than you’d like to admit. This concept easily carries over to Magic: The Gathering, which is why it is not only helpful, but imperative for us to teach the game to new players.
Going over the rules of Magic and explaining them in as simply but accurately a manner as possible is great practice for budding and experienced Magic players (and judges of all level of experience). By the same token, being taught by players with experience gives new players an advantageous understanding of the rules that will avoid many of the pitfalls that many of us encountered in our early days. There are few better ways to grow your local community (more on that later)!
I asked the Magic community for their thoughts on the importance of Magic Open House and received some great responses. “As a demo person and tournament judge, I will say that it’s a great way to get a clear and better understanding of the game itself,” says Clyde Davis III, a local head judge from Henderson, North Carolina. “It’s a good time to ask any questions players may have about any issues they may not understand. It’s also a good way to meet other players of various skill levels, make a few new friends, and grow into the game together.”
[Here is a good article to help teach new Magic players the game: How to Teach Magic: The Gathering to New Players in 7 Simple Steps, by Adrian Thoung.]
Growing the Community
Finally, we reach one of the most long-lasting benefits of community-based events like Magic Open House. With the full support of the local player base, inevitably new players will be brought into the fold.
In fact, one of the best indicators of how long a new Magic player will continue to play after learning the rules is whether they’ve stepped inside their local store, and the quality of that experience. Magic Open House is a great way to bring in players and build up the community of your local store.
“[Magic Open House] gets more people interested in Magic,” says Jóhann Tryggvi, a Magic player from Iceland. “Our community is small but steadily growing.”
Magic: The Gathering is, at its core, an inclusive game for all ages. The final benefit we receive from running a successful Magic Open House is remembering what it’s like to have fun and play with friends with nothing on the line. For some (a good portion of my readers, I would imagine), this is nothing new; a friendly game of Commander on your friend’s kitchen table is a great way to spend an evening.
But for some of us, perhaps we’ve focused so much on being competitive, memorising archetypes and matchups, winning FNM promos, and earning Planeswalker Points, that we’ve forgotten to take a moment to focus on why we started playing in the first place. It’s about friendships. It’s about community. It’s about self-improvement.
And most importantly, it’s about having fun!
[Magic Open House Ixalan is this coming weekend 16th-17th September. You can find your nearest participating store here.]
Ixalan Map Preview!
As part of the promotions of Ixalan preview season, select content creators are being given potions of a map of Ixalan. Manaleak was given a piece of the puzzle with our own Ixalan map preview which we are pleased to unveil below:
In Manaleak’s map preview segment, which is situated almost directly in the northern center of the map, we see a forested coastline and a portion of what appears to be a vast ocean. A small island is located to the northwest of the forest. Rolling hills open up to the east, followed by more coastline. To the south, a river cuts through an immense mountain range. The river meets another shoreline of which we only catch a glimpse, but might suggest either a lake or a continuation of the same oceanic shoreline. Is the mainland of Ixalan entirely surrounded by pirate-infested seas? Only time will tell.
Over the next couple of weeks, each new map preview will be added to the official map on the Wizards of the Coast website. We’re excited to be a part of this preview season and can’t wait to see what other secrets will be revealed in the Ixalan landscape!
Thanks for reading. I’d love to see all of your stories from Open House! Leave a comment with what you’re most excited about this coming weekend, and the craziest thing that has happened to you at Magic Open House. I look forward to hearing from you!