So I looked on the “Magic Locator” on the left of Wizards’s home page searching for places that host multiplayer Magic. I figured with the Commander decks out there now, there will be a big demand for multiplayer Magic. There should be events all over the place, with some regularity right?
As many of you know, I am a Tournament Organizer. As such I publicize my son’s playgroup with Wizards of the Coast in the Locator. It happens automatically when you schedule an event as a TO. Those events are automatically added to the Magic Locator. My email and phone number are listed as the contact information. If you drop me an email or phone me, I will let you know the times of the events. If you sound like a fine, upstanding individual (and you are over 21), I will likely suggest that my weekly playgroup might be more what you are looking for. I can’t imagine anyone over 21 would want to hang out with my son’s playgroup. And if you do, well perhaps we need to introduce you to the local police department.
So back to our story. I periodically check to ensure everything is posted there as it should be. Everything was as it should be, but I thought I would search for locations offering the multiplayer option. I’ve done this before and always been a little disappointed. Recently, with all the Commander Launch Parties going on, the number of places offering a multiplayer Magic option was way up. I certainly wasn’t expecting the numbers to continue to be so high since many places would host only the Commander release and nothing else. I did expect many places to not be so short-sighted. You are drawing this alternate player base into your store. Many Commander players do not play in competitive tournaments, so the people in your Commander Launch Parties would represent people who could be new to your store. People who might buy things from your store that weren’t already buying things from your store.
For those of you looking to recreate my search, it was pretty straightforward. Click the Events button on the Locator. Include your city, or any city in theUnited States. My city is Newton, MA. The map shows you your city and outlying areas. You can zoom in or out on the map. I trust most of you have used the features available with online maps. Here is what I found (as of July 6, 2011):
That’s right, in all of Massachusetts, there are (drumroll pleeeeease!) TWO places scheduling multiplayer events, and I am one of them. TWO?! This is ridiculous! We have a thriving Magic community in Massachusetts, where are all the events? Surely there must be some weird problem. Surely not all the store owners are really this blind to an easy profit? Perhaps Massachusetts is just an anomaly. Let’s expand the map and include all of New England.
Only five places in all of New England, six if you include upstate New York. When I saw this my shoulders dropped and my disappointment was palpable. Just for kicks, let’s check out all of North America!
65 locations in all of North America. Apparently the two locations in Massachusetts are in fact an anomaly: it is too high! Most states have only one location offering multiplayer games. Many states have nothing at all. I must assume that your local game stores are all raking in so much money that they have no need of the FREE ADVERTISING that is the Magic Locator.
Okay, let me take a deep breath here. Let’s look at the positive side of things. This does offer plenty of evidence that Commander (and multiplayer Magic generally) is a grass roots movement. The guys who wrote the EDH rules are not with Wizards of the Coast. Most people playing Commander, and all forms of multiplayer Magic for that matter, play at their buddy’s place, with their group of friends. They have a good time and like their close-knit group. Some stores offer Commander nights, but aren’t listing them in the Magic Locator. Players show up for the regular EDH night and good times ensue. All of this is happening with almost no prompting from Wizards. This is phenomenal and a Good ThingTM.
It is promising that multiplayer Magic has such a strong following. If Wizards should decide to stop actively supporting multiplayer Magic, it is likely that almost nothing will change in the movement. People are playing right now mostly because their friends got them into the game and they love playing. What more could you ask for?
Then there is the negative. Sixty-five stores. That’s it. According to Wizards of the Coast, there are millions of Magic players. Somehow there are only enough players playing multiplayer Magic to support 65 stores? We know this isn’t true. We know there are stores already holding Commander tournaments or just evenings with Commander games, so why wouldn’t they list them in a Locator that helps your target audience find you? Of course, there is all the work involved in getting these multiplayer nights listed in the Magic Locator. For those of you who are not TO’s, here is what is required to give your Commander games some free advertising:
1. Log on exactly like you do to schedule an official draft or standard tournament. Instead, mark off casual multiplayer on the popup box. List the date and contact information (which will likely auto-populate), then click OK.
2. As people come in to play, take their DCI number (or give them a DCI number if they don’t have one) and list them in the report, then click OK. You don’t have to report the matches or even use DCI reporter.
That’s it. If a store already has a TO, that is all there is to it. Only 65 stores are willing to go through all that hassle and exhausting work for free advertising to bring new people into their stores. I know it takes me a solid 5 minutes every month to list all my events, then another 5 minutes after each event to report them. Maybe the stores are right. That really is a lot of work just to try and bring in some business… Perhaps all the store owners are just independently wealthy. That’s probably it.
This is really in the best interest of stores to do. Beyond drawing in players with free advertising, there is an even better reason. The Wizards Play Network (WPN) puts the stores involved into three levels: Introductory, Core and Advanced. An Introductory level store can hold basic Magic tournaments and casual events like multiplayer. A Core level store can do all these things, and can schedule them on the same day they happen (an introductory level store must schedule these events days ahead). Core level stores can also hold Prereleases, Launch parties and Friday Night Magic. An Advanced Level store has further benefits such as holding more than one flight at a Prerelease and various regional tournaments.
One of the requirements to move up through the levels is to introduce new people to the DCI. Another requirement is to have several different people at your events. Hosting multiplayer events will bring a larger variety of people into the stores, thus making it easier to move up to the next level. Why wouldn’t a store do this if they are already hosting tournaments?
By now you are either shocked by how easy this is and are as frustrated as I am, or you don’t understand what the problem is, since Commander is growing just fine without locations to play being listed. My issue is two-fold:
1. The Magic Locator was built to show people where Magic is being played. For the longest time, it was believed that if you had a single location or site that showed where Magic events were taking place, the events would have a bigger turnout. The result of this is the Magic Locator. This has proven to be a great tool for Magic tournaments. If you are looking for the nearest prerelease or FNM, just punch up the Magic Locator and it will provide you with contact information and all the nearest locations. However, for whatever reason, the stores are not using this for casual events. I would love to know where and what date the next Commander game is being held in my area. I would probably buy singles and packs from a store that was hosting these events. It seems a shame that Wizards has created this amazing tool, and so many store owners are being tools for not using it.
2. At least some new players buying the Commander precons are looking for other players. I admit that most of the people buying the Commander precons probably already know someone playing Magic, and are talking to them about where to play. However, even if only a handful of these new players use the Magic Locator shouldn’t it be an answer for them? They shouldn’t look at it and be disappointed that no one is playing multiplayer anywhere near where they live! By failing to take full use of this service, the stores are creating an image to the new Commander players using the Locator that Commander is not widely played in their neighborhood, when in fact it probably is, it just isn’t listed. It would almost be better to not have the Magic Locator list multiplayer events at all.
Up to this point, I’ve been calling out the store owners and encouraging them to add multiplayer events to their current WPN offerings. Now I’m calling you out. If you are reading this, you are seriously into this Magic hobby. You likely have a group that you play with, or at least wish you had a group you could play with on a regular basis. Let’s expand that group! Everyone knows, more players means more variety, which in turn means more good times.
Way back when, I wrote an article for Star City Games about creating a playgroup for casual Magic. Most of what was said there still applies today, although I’d recommend doing a lot more online searches and ads as well. However, in light of this article, I want to encourage you to become a T.O.
I am going to let you in on a little secret: almost anyone can be a T.O. If you are over 18, you can be a T.O. Now ideally, you would want to be associated with a store. The only way to move past the introductory level is to associate with a store. However, if you aren’t looking to host prereleases or FNM, you don’t need a store. Any public location that is willing to act as the host location is fine. The community room at your local library, a coffee shop, or a restaurant will all work. A classroom at your college or nearby high school works too. Once you have a public place to play, you are set. Go to http://www.wizards.com/WPN/Default.aspx. That link will bring you to where you need to be and provide you with all the information you need to get started.
Now, to be clear, Wizards will give you almost no prize support. Wizards is focused on the tournaments, so unless you are hosting a prerelease or an FNM, don’t expect to be flooded with foil promos and such. On the other hand, you weren’t doing this for the promos, you were doing this to expand your group and show new players in your neighborhood where multiplayer games are being played.
If you doubt that this will increase the size of your playgroup, I’ll offer my personal situation as an example. The Magic Locator has brought several players to my son’s group and at least five people to my group in just the last year. Invariably I get a call or email asking about the group, wanting to know what time they meet, or how serious the games are. Many of these calls are from Magic players looking to test new decks to practice for the next tournament, so they are often disappointed, however some calls are from players looking to play some fun casual Magic. Considering how little work it is to maintain, it has been well worth it for me.
We hear endlessly about building our Magic community and how important it is to teach people how to play Magic. Isn’t it time to take the next step?
@manaburned on Twitter
 Admittedly, perhaps you are a good soul who wants to take the opportunity to teach the kids how to play Magic. It’s okay, I got that covered thanks. Now get in your creepy van full of Magic cards, candy and puppies and hit the road Uncle Ped.
 In fact, I do buy products from the store that sponsors me and the other store inMassachusetts that hosts multiplayer events.