Hey Magic Geeks,
I sat down with Stew to talk about what makes a good Local Comic Shop (LCS) for Magic players.
Szpirs: Did you play this weekend?
Stew: I missed this weekend, but will be in next weekend. I did, however, get a chance to play several co-workers last week.
Szpirs: Nice. At their LCS’s? Any good?
Stew: Meh. Protip: infinite loops are a lot of fun… for you. Remember you’re not the only one at the table.
Stew: …but the shops were OK, basically. No complaints.
Szpirs: How can you tell? Like, if you’d never played at a shop, what’s your criteria?
Stew: Several things, I guess. Atmosphere, player pool, and singles are the most important to me. There are a few other mitigating factors like prizes. For one, it can’t just be a singles voucher for binder singles. It really hurts people when they can’t go for the showcase cards.
Szpirs: Binder singles?
Stew: Most serious card stores keep a binder or two for each expansion of Magic. Players can buy individual cards from the binder at secondary-market prices. The really hot cards are usually kept on display and go for higher prices.
Szpirs: What’s the best way you’ve seen of an LCS doing prizes?
Stew: The places that give single vouchers can be awesome. Some stores have a wide selection of crazy custom cards or that amazing looking foil you have always wanted. Others give booster packs which gets some added value out of playing. Sometimes players save these packs for free draft pools so you get some say in your prize that way. Others have Friday Night Magic (FNM) prizes for players competing in the recognized formats.
Szpirs: How important is FNM to you?
Stew: Not very much. Standard format holds little value to me but draft or Legacy – those are fun. I don’t actively seek FNM but I would go for draft.
Szpirs: What’s draft and what makes it good?
Stew: Draft requires a minimum of 4 players with 3 booster packs of magic each. Each person opens 1 pack at a time chooses 1 card from it and passes the pack either clockwise or counter clockwise. You repeat until there are no cards left in any of the packs. You then build a minimum 40 card deck and compete against each other.
There is a lot of strategy to drafting. You start noticing patterns like, “Oh, I had this pack already and I notice all the blue cards are gone from it. Perhaps if there is a blue rare or something really good in the next pack, I’ll take it so it won’t be used against me”.
You also run into the people looking just to grab Rares as well. They join a game take all the Rares they can and drop out of the matches.
Szpirs: That’s lousy of them. Is rare-grabbing the sign of a weak LCS or just par for the course?
Stew: I don’t think so. Some of them do it so they have trades to go and sell off. Others are new to draft and think the rare is the safe pull. Even if someone rare grabs and runs, the rest still get to play. Everyone still gets to have fun and maybe they learn a little more about the cards they would otherwise just toss.
Szpirs: How can you tell if an LCS has a good player pool? Just kinda hang out and talk or will you see certain things in game?
Stew: You have to play a few times to see the field of players. Several stores have a core group of friends playing, solid people; others have the toxic friendships. Depending on you and what you enjoy, you will need to find what’s right for you.
Szpirs: What’s your best advice for people looking for a place to play?
Stew: Try one and try them all. You want something local and filled with people you enjoy playing games with. If you meet a group and they come back week after week, you might have found your new MTG home.