The Magic: The Gathering trading card game is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Players can enjoy the game with friends in their own home, at a hobby store, or even on their computers. While many players enjoy the casual environment of Friday Night Magic or sitting around a kitchen table, there is a competitive side of the game as well. On the top end of the spectrum, players compete almost every weekend of the year in large, multi-day tournaments. The largest open registration tournaments, known as MagicFests, award at least $35,000 to the top 64 players. There are smaller, multi-day formats held across the United States by Star City Games. If traveling is not for you, some local stores run cash prize tournaments for players around the region. One such example in Charlotte, NC is the upcoming team event on March 2nd, 2019 held at Parker, Banner, Kent, and Wayne. The first place team will walk away with an estimated $1,000 in cash.
We All Start Near the Bottom
Magic: The Gathering is a difficult game to digest, and even harder to master. I still learn tips and tricks from other players each month. Many players play casually online or at their local hobby store. Other players enjoy the opportunity to improve their skills through practice and competition. Becoming a skilled player in Magic takes time like any other competitive sport. When I was a teenager, I played at the local hobby store a few times a month. I rarely did well, but there were a few times I earned a prize payout larger than the entry fee. My first success at a large tournament was in 2001. I participated in a Junior Super Series Challenge in Charlottesville, VA. This was a regional tournament for players under 16 years of age. The winner of the tournament received a $1,000 scholarship for college. I played my first competitive deck that contained a tribe of creatures called rebels. The focal card of the deck was Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero. I was able to do well enough out of 24 players to make the top 8 playoff. Ultimately, I lost in the semi-finals against a strong opponent. While I did not win the scholarship, I did walk away with $48 in Invasion prize packs. Whenever I hold Lin Sivvi in my hands, it reminds me of that tournament from many years ago.
Current Competitive Scene
I took a break from Magic for about eight years during and after college. When I returned to the game, I spent a lot of my play time learning new cards and interactions. Playing against people stronger than you will help improve your own skills. If you want to get better at Magic, the most common suggestion is to play a ton. Many of my friends practice Magic weekly with each other and online. We recently did a test group evening for an upcoming tournament. Mastering a particular deck strategy requires knowledge of card interactions and how the deck performs against other strategies.
The Competitive Environment of Magic Moving Forward
Recently, the parent company of Magic abolished the multi-tier competitive structure in tabletop gaming. You no longer can win a local tournament and place well in a bigger invitational regional tournament to qualify. Currently, you must either reach the top eight in a 1,000 to 2,000 person MagicFest or win a 100 to 200 person qualifier at a MagicFest. Additional, the Magic Online game offers high level invitations for winning large qualifier tournaments.
I have previously attended a regional tournament, but did not place well enough for a special invitation. Now that local qualifers are gone, a few of my friends have been attending the Star City Games tournaments. While I hope there will be more local competitive qualifiers in the future, the competitive tabletop scene remains unclear for now.