OK… Let’s talk about MagicFest London

Today’s article is a bit of a departure from my usual tried and tested formula. It’s not a deck tech, or a look at a previous event, but rather a look at a topic that has hit very close to home in the last week or so. It is something that has opened up a bit of a rift in the UK community, and it is not a particularly positive subject. However, I do believe it is something that does need discussing. So, let’s talk about MagicFest London.

Last week CFB Events and Wizards of the Coast announced that War of the Spark (the next Standard-legal set coming out in May) PreRelease weekend would be happening on the same weekend as MagicFest London. At first, many people believed it to be a mistake, as having a PreRelease weekend overlapping with a large-scale event like this was very unusual. However, it turned out not to be a mistake but rather an intentional plan as the following post confirmed:

Announcing: Pre-Release Grand Prix at MagicFest London from magicTCG

This created quite the buzz in the UK community, and not all of it positive. I wanted to cover this story last week, but I honestly didn’t know how best to convey my thoughts on the subject. Rather than been rash and shooting from the hip I decided to take a step back and process this information before I put pen to paper. Well, it’s been just over a week and after sleeping on it I have to say, I feel… conflicted.

I know that this is hardly a definitive conclusion to a week of thought. But for me and many others, this is not a black and white issue. There are many shades of grey here and I wanted to take a moment to talk to you all about this quite frankly unusual series of events. So, let’s start with the positives (and yes, I believe there are some).

Smelt-Ward Ignus - Ravnica Allegiance Art

When it comes to Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast should and must try new and inventive ideas. Running the same events year after year with the same formats leads to stagnation and will if left unchecked, lead to players becoming bored and disillusioned with the hobby. That is why we have new sets come out all the time. New cards refresh and keep us engaged with the game. If we were stuck with the same format with the same cards year after year the game would soon begin to bleed players based on the staleness of the metagame.

So Wizards of the Coast is trying to find out whether a Grand Prix PreRelease is a good idea on paper. The event will be bringing significant focus to Magic’s latest set, and if executed well could become a solid staple of the Grand Prix schedule. However, while it might look good on paper it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in reality.

Firstly, PreRelases are in many ways the lifeblood of your local game store (LGS). They bring loads of different players together for what has for the longest time been seen as a fun casual event. Whether you’re a hardcore grinder, a commander aficionado, or a newcomer to the hobby, PreReleases bring a huge sway of the local Magic community together to support their local store.

MagicFests/Grind Prixs on the other hand, bring the wider national community together to celebrate all there is to love about Magic the Gathering. It’s a chance for the grinders to have a shot at the big leagues, the commander aficionados to trade and foil out their favourite decks with traders, and newer players to see Magic on a larger scale. However, for most players outside of the United States, MagicFests are a rarity that feel a lot like a mini Christmas.

So, both of these events are important to players and the game as a whole. But want happens when you run both these events in a small region like the UK? Well, you force people to make a difficult choice. Do you attend your local store’s event and support them, or do you attend the Grand Prix? It might be your only chance to get to one for the year. Basically, UK LGSs (especially those in the London area) will be in direct competition with MagicFest London for the attendance of their patrons. Many believe this will be a fight that the LGSs will lose, directly affecting their potential profits during the start of the financial year.

Captive Audience - Ravnica Allegiance Art

Not only that, but it also puts people in a difficult situation. When I walk into my LGS in the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably be asked if I’ll be attending their PreRelease. Normally this would be a great conversation to have as we would all get excited about the latest set as I booked my place. Now, it will be an uneasy interaction, as I don’t know if I’ll even be attending and they’ll know it. This decision by Wizards of the Coast will force many players in the UK to make a choice of where their loyalties lie, and no-one should be made to make such a choice when it can often affect people on a personal level.

So yeah, I, like most people in the UK, feel conflicted. I want to support my local store, whose last few years worth of Prereleases have been a blast. But at the same time, I also want to attend MagicFest London. MagicFests are a great chance to not only compete at a higher level than I’m used to but also to meet many great and wonderful people. It’s a chance for me to touch base with many of the UK MTG community, many of whom I either look up to or am lucky enough to class as a friend. I don’t always get to attend every UK-based MagicFest/Grand Prix, and as a working dad, the chances of me getting to travel aboard to do so is almost non-existent.

I love that Wizards of the Coast and CFB Events are trying something new, but I feel like it is at the expense of the health of the UK community. If perhaps we had been given more of a heads up I might have felt differently. As I said, I don’t like being negative, and would rather have just been excited about the chance to play in a PreRelease at a Grand Prix.

Yesterday Wizards of the Coast did address some of these issues with the below tweet. However, even this fails to account for the loss in earnings that the UK LGSs will be faced with. While stores will be able to run events on Friday, most people will still be at work and would have to spend holiday days on attending these PreReleases. And if players are going to book an extra day off work, surely they will be more tempted to attend an extra day of the MagicFest. 

What do I think Wizard’s of the Coast should do? Allow UK LGS’ to run these special PreReleases a week early. Not only would that allow stores in the area a chance to give their local player base some great events, but it would also create a huge buzz about the upcoming set. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to feel like we are picking sides. Hey, a man can dream, alright?

What’re your opinions on the War of the Spark PreRelease Grand Prix? Will you be going or supporting your local LGS? Let us know in the comments below and while you’re there, please remember to like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. Next time I’ll have a cheerier topic to discuss, I promise. Until then, remember – whatever you play and wherever you play it – good luck and have fun.

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