We’ve all been there at least once in our lives; it’s Friday afternoon and you have to decide where you are going to play Friday Night Magic. For some it’s an easy decision due to the fact that there might not be many options to consider around his/her area, but with the rise in Magic’s popularity many more shops are popping up here and there. So, for those in a populated area who have several options to deliberate I am going to lay out the factors which everyone choosing a store should examine. I’m going to start with the easy stuff: things that are 100% in control of the store management/owners, then move onto the more subjective aspects of a store which will be based largely on your skill level/attitude towards the game.
It is also important to consider the positive effects of being selective with which store you play at because not only does it promote happiness within yourself, it promotes a competitive market for magic players. So, how is a competitive market good for the players? By creative a competition between stores in any given city it is guaranteed that each store will be doing their absolute best to care for their players. Within a competitive market every store values their customers much more than they would if they were the only business in town. This insures the best experience every time you visit a magic store. By reading the guide below you will become more aware of the specific qualities you should look for in a store and therefore promote a healthy competitive market.
Things Within the Store’s Control
Regardless of your skill level or the regard at which you hold the game, nobody wants to deal with crummy staff and a poorly run store. I think Magic shops have gotten a stereotype since their creation as being small, old, and run by 1-2 persons max; but with the game becoming more and more “mainstream” not only is the Magic competition itself becoming more fierce, but the arms race between stores is also becoming a much harder fought battle. Because of this it is not ridiculous to expect quality service from a modern day magic shop. That being said here are the factors you should consider:
-Friendly/Attentive Staff. You think this would be a no brainer, but I have actually found myself at multiple stores where I was treated as the one who should be thankful for the store. This simply is not the case anymore. Instead of shop keeps having a complex (like many unfortunately do) making them believe they are better than those that play at their store, shop owners should be extremely grateful for the customers/players, especially those who are repeat business. You are the customer with the money and you are part of the reason the shop even exists, if you feel as if you aren’t treated as such than by all means voice your concerns and then never go back.
-Enough Staff. As stated before many magic shops have traditionally been run by 1-2 people. As stores grow and turn out more and more players each week, so should the staff of the store grow in order to accommodate those new players. Nobody enjoys waiting 20-30 minutes just to purchase singles or product before a tournament starts or in-between round.
-Accommodating Play Space. I realize it is not the easiest thing in the world to just up and move a store because it cannot fit all of its players anymore, but if you show up for a tournament and you feel uncomfortable due to the lack of space there is available, by all means continue your search for a store that makes you feel comfortable.
-Stocked Product/Singles. If you are a seasoned magic player and do not enjoy waiting for cards you have to order off the internet it can be incredibly frustrating to acquire singles you need for a deck. A good store should be able to provide you with a diverse collection of singles so you do not have to run around to multiple stores just to find those last staples you need, nor do you want to waste gas looking for the last bit of cards for you sideboard.
-Competitive Prices. Perhaps I have high standards, but if a store cannot offer me better prices than that of Star City Games (before shipping) I will more than likely not be buying singles from that store as I know there are stores that offer that kind of pricing. I am also a fan and firm believer in haggling. I love it when a store is flexible in their prices, so when I’m picking up multiple cards, some expensive, some not, there is a slight drop in the overall cost of the cards, or perhaps they just give me all of the uncommons I want for free. This type of service is a luxury, but a luxury which I believe promotes happiness amongst the community and their wallets.
-Diversely Formatted Tournaments. The most popular format for Friday Night Magic is Standard, but not everybody is thrilled with the format at any given time. It is important to have a diverse schedule of tournaments throughout the week if demand allows for it. If your favorite format is Modern try and find a store that offers the best weekly Modern tournament in your area. Perhaps you don’t like constructed at all? Many stores do a Limited-Format Friday Night Magic or if their FNM is not Limited, it is not uncommon for there to be a Draft every week.
-Motivating Payouts. Since I have played at many stores over the past few years it has become glaringly obvious which stores are trying to make a profit on tournament entries. I am not chastising any store for attempting to make a profit on tournament entries, but from a players perspective it usually sucks to play 4-6 rounds of magic, make top 2 and only be handed 6-10 booster packs. If you are at the point in your magic tenure where you enjoy playing for prizes you should want to find the best payouts in your area. If a store puts every bit of money they make from tournament entries into prizes it usually amounts to something worth fighting for and insures repeat customers.
Things out of Store’s Control
-Location in Relation to You. You can’t really blame a store for not being close to you, but if you’re one of the unfortunates in an area without competing magic stores, sorry about your luck. You can, however, explore your options online through trading forums or Magic Online groups.
-Level of Competition. This goes back to my point of subjectivity. If you’ve been playing magic a while and want the highest level of competition available, don’t settle for the store than attracts a lot of new and low-skill level players. Conversely, if you’re new to the game or do not wish to become to most competitive person on the planet, don’t torture yourself by going to a store packed with high-level players out for blood and money. The level of competition each store presents is an important factor to consider because it directly correlates with the amount of fun you will have at a tournament.
-Community Atmosphere. I was on the fence about which category I would put this factor into, but I finally decided to consider it something the store cannot control. What I mean by Community Atmosphere is the type of person that shows up to any given tournament on a regular basis. Magic tournaments are a melting pot and you will experience many kinds of people in them, but if a store seems to attract the I’m-just-here-to-play-magic-not-make-friends kind of person and that isn’t your style, find a store that promotes a friendly, tight-knit community. Conversely, if a store is full of high-energy Sir Talksalot’s and that isn’t what you’re about, find a store with a laid-back atmosphere.
There are many aspects to choosing the store for you and it is no easy feat to find a store that is perfect, but it is ludicrous to continue playing at and supporting a store that you don’t feel is doing the best they can. By being more selective of the store you play at it helps promote a competitive market for Magic: The Gathering players. By promoting a competitive market players can insure the progress of store-level service and continue to enhance their weekly Magic: The Gathering experience.
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