Demonic Tutor

Magic: the Gathering in the UK

Hey there guys, think this is one of my first posts - sorry I don't use the site more, kind of busy. 

I've just got back from bazaar of moxen 4 in france (did ok-ish, report to follow sometime) 
and I have to say they sure know how to do a good magic tournament in france, and I think we need to learn something from them. 

I currently live in Bath with the truly inhuman Paul Smith as our local TO and demi-god. He is one of my favourite TOs in the UK (alongside Jason and Glen from Gravesend, sorry to anyone else I probably haven't played enough events in your area) . Last year, Paul ran a tournament called the champsvitational - a series of qualifiers in different formats meant to bring lots of different magic players together for a fun and challenging final tournament, which you had to earn your place in. I for one thought this was an amazing idea, but I could only attend one of the tournaments due to work commitment, which I was disappointed by. One of the qualifier events was a standard tournament where first place had a guaranteed box. 9 people showed up. I have a very hard time comprehending what it is that stops magic from being big in the UK - we have had TOs try their hardest to get people to come to their events - better prizes, better formats, travel awards for GPs, and none of it brings in many people. The biggest tournaments in the UK nowadays seem to be GP trials (~50) and PTQs (~80 or ~100 in london). What is the cause of this? I recognize maybe 30% of the people in every tournament I go to, I may have been playing for a long time, but that is a huge number of the same people playing every tournament. Make no mistake, magic in the UK is dying - when I stopped regular play due to uni 2 to 3 years ago it was all the same people, granted some new people have joined our amazing community, but underpinning it all is the same people as it was 4 or more years ago who got me so interested in this fantastic game in the first place.  

If a french TO conglomerate made up of judges and an international trader providing prize support can reel in 750+ players over 3 days for a legacy and vintage tournament, then we are missing a trick. Why don't we get many GPs? Birmingham was about 700 players(?) and Brighton was about the same. These same formats would have had twice the number of players if they were held just across the channel. Almost every major magic country has an independent tournament infrastructure as well as wizards sponsored events, and contrary to the UK scene, these tournaments are thriving, and it is not to the detriment of other events. 

As far as I can tell the biggest issues facing UK magic are;

Magic being priced in euros, and our poor economy - this seems to be a red herring - prize support obviously isn't something people care about, given there was a win-a-case tournament in lincoln (or wherever) and 21 people showed up. It is a pain for TOs as event entry has to stay high, which sucks, but players spend serious money to qualify for the PT (which almost all of them will never do) so creating an equivalent incentive of some sorts would bring more players in. 

Cost of venues - this one is a respectable problem - almost all big spaces in england cost a heap to rent, and anything larger than 80 players becomes a squeeze. I was speaking to the guys in france, and they got the venue for almost nothing, which obviously made their lives easier. 

Tournament awareness - I don't know about you guys, but before seeing Gary's thread about PTQ dates, I didn't even know Reading was next sunday (going to win that one). This is something I have seen a fair amount recently - which is partially due to the wizards site being impossible to understand. I want to believe something as simple as this would help - CREATE A CENTRALIZED UK EVENTS LIST INDEPENDENT FROM WOTC. This site is already a huge help in that regard, but all previous attempts with these sites have failed (mtgtwincast still about?). 

Tournament sponsorship - Again, something which all successful tournament series appear to have in common. USA has starcity, France has MagicBazaar. We have one of Europe's biggest traders! I can't speak on Mike's behalf, but if I was a trader I would be very interested in sponsoring an open series of tournaments in the UK. 

TO co-opertion - There aren't loads of free weekends over the magic season, between PTQs, regionals and GPtrials, and the weekends in between are generally filled with smaller local events. I think there's a strong vibe among TOs that if a player goes to another TO's event, then they have lost support that that player could bring. This is a respectable view - TOs NEED that continued support from their player base, or they won't be able to run events any more, and that won't be fun for anyone. The only way to see returns for all our event organisers is for them to communicate with each other. 

I really think that if we got some kind of series of tournaments running, with a big final within the UK, you would get all the excitement of regionals or PTQs, while being able to be independent, allowing a sponsor (such as madhouse or trollandtoad) to come in to improve prize support and bring real respectability to the event. The only thing standing in the way of this really happening is communication, not just between event organisers, but also within the player community - we need to have one UK website where everything gets posted, where every player can come and see what's going on. Hell, where any aspiring UK player or writer can post their thoughts and receive helpful feedback. We have the player base, they're just too apathetic or ashamed of the fact that they love magic to come forward and speak. 

The next 5 years are going to see magic decline in the UK if we do nothing about it - numbers are down from 5 years ago, and there are not enough new players getting involved. It is up to the magic community in the UK to fix this. It is up to TOs to start working together to take magic tournament structure to the point it is already at in many other countries, and it is up to us as players to start supporting these events so that TOs can actually afford to run them.

What do you guys think about magic in the UK? I believe my points are valid, but I'd like to know what you think about it. Sorry for the massive post,


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The pre-releases seems to bring a lot of people in, I guess mainly because there's the lure of new cards, but in London there are lots of other side events. At the last pre-release I did the open duelling and the two headed giant, and met a few people there who had come and only did open dulling - I guess not everyone is going to go to events for competitive magic, and want to play for fun more then anything. Is there anything for slightly more casual play at any of the GP's or PTQ's? (Its an actual question, I think I've only been to one qualifier, and only went and did a draft there, but that was the only side event that was happening, I don't know about side events at other events).

Maybe if there were more side events for a casual (or less competitive) crowd, more people would come along. Sure they might not play in the main event that's happening, but you'd have a better idea of the number of people who play the game in general. And you never know, some might come along for the fun stuff, but also watch people playing the serious tournament games and consider playing in the next one themselves.
Ok first question is about the Reading PTQ. The stupid wizards site has the date as Sunday but below says its the bank holiday Monday. The extremly helpfull Reading site has no details. Can anyone clarify when this event is actually happening?

Anyway, good post and something I too have been wondering about. Would have loved to go to France and play in that tournament but unfortunatly money is a massive issue.

I think this is one of the biggest problems we all have. Just looking at the next 4 weeks there a 5 tournaments I would play if I had the time and money. Magic Game Day while of no importance is nice to practise and helps you become more confidant in your deck/play etc. Then next weekend there is Reading, the week after I think there is a PTQ Saturday and Sunday follwed by another PTQ the week after. Just in entry fees thats £50 and then probably another £40-60 in travel. This is just too much money for some people to spend on a game especially when the cost of decks is now so high.

Also I have seen these Win a Box tournaments advertised and havent bothered to go as they are bound to be more top heavy in prize support therefore unless you actually come first you cant even get enough packs back to cover your entry. Definatly not worth spending money on traveling to, especially when there are so many other tournaments to go to.

Several of us in London have spoken to Jason about the possibility of running a tournament where there is a cash pay out as we thought this would get in more players. Jason explained that its just too hard to run these at a profit while giving a valuable enough prize. Also you would still just see the same PTQ faces as before and this is not something the new (casual?) players would want, so you wouldnt really atract that many more players.

Cost of venue is something that we cant really do anything about and this is another big problem. Perhaps if there was some sort of series of tournaments with a big final then several TO's could work together on this and somehow reduce the cost. This is something that would probably take a lot of looking into and work.

Tournament awarenes can be a problem, many times I have spoke to people that do not know that there is a tournament on such and such date. Usually between us on here we keep each other up to date, but what about the players that dont read this site?

On the sponsorship, im not sure that really benifits Mike at all. Like you said he is all ready the biggest trader and is at most events already, or can arrange someone to drop the cards off for you. I cant see what he would gain by adding his own money to the pot. I could be wrong on this.

Like you said, TO's dont really want to work together as if you travel somewhere to play at the weekend, your not playing in their event and they are losing money.

I think the biggest problem we have in this country is community and lack of effort. I personally have made posts on here about testing and gone to The Games Club and no one has turned up. Also another example was this weekend. Jason was running a constructed event where its £10 to enter and you can play as many flights as you want and change deck if you want. This would be a great event for people to practise in and test new ideas in a semi-serious enviroment. We struggled to get 8 players. I understand that some people were off trying to qualify for nats but where was everyone else?
Also several times I have posted on here trying to get people to get involved with deck discussion/ideas and the response is usually weak.
If people were more comunity focused I believe that traveling to tournaments would be done more often. I cant be the only one who thinks it can be fun to get on a train and hang out with friends while on the way to an event.

I would love to see something like the Starcitygames Open done over here but it would require the TO's working together and something that was worth winning while still being at a reasonable price. This wouldnt be an easy thing to achieve. Perhaps TO's could offer incentives for people that travel to their tournament? I know I dont want to travel all the way to Birmingham to play an event in their terrible venue only to go 0-2 drop.

Also we need to find a way to involve the players who are not PTQ regulars. I know at The Games Club there are more players who dont or rarely play PTQs than those who do. How do we get them involved in the tournament scene?

The one idea I had was to make some type of survey/comment sheet that can be given to everyone who turns up to any event. Perhaps then we can find out why people do/dont turn up to events and what could be done to change that.

Look forward to hearing what others have to say about this.
Gary Lynch said:
Cost of venue is something that we cant really do anything about and this is another big problem. Perhaps if there was some sort of series of tournaments with a big final then several TO's could work together on this and somehow reduce the cost. This is something that would probably take a lot of looking into and work.

Maybe someone could look into a University based tournament. I don't know about other Uni's, but in mine societies can book out some rooms for free (some bigger ones cost, but usually because they come with a bar and they have to pay staff to run it).

The one thing to bear in mind (for my Uni at least) is that the SU don't mind external people (i.e. non-students) coming to society events, so long as its only a few times a year, with the thinking that if people are coming to society events a lot they should join up as external members (at the same time they get funny if there are more external members then student members, so you'd have to make sure there are enough people playing Magic at the Uni in the first place).

If there's enough interest from students at enough Universities, maybe they could have a team-based tournament or league between different Universities. Not sure how you'd then get non-students involved in that one, but it would get people into the idea of actually going to tournaments.

Gary Lynch said:
Tournament awarenes can be a problem, many times I have spoke to people that do not know that there is a tournament on such and such date. Usually between us on here we keep each other up to date, but what about the players that dont read this site?

Is there a Facebook group or page for Magic in the UK? If not it would be handy to keep people updated on events around the country.

I still think side events may encourage more people to come along. After enduring a 7 round sealed event for a release once, it kind of put me off events with lots of rounds, and I normally just stick to drafts at pre-releases and release events nowadays. If the only thing being offered at an event is a long 5 or 6 hour plus tournament, some people might be put off going at all.
Gary - it's on monday, I called Eclectic.

Simon - I think you're points about new players are really really interesting. The problem with me commenting about this kind of thing is that I am massively competitive, almost to the point that winning is more important than actually playing magic for me - this is why I love big tournaments, where you mentioned you dislike a 6 hour tournament, and I'm sure many players feel the same way as you do. From an organisational perspective, pleasing everyone is one of the hardest things to achieve at a big event. This is one point that Jason has nailed on the head with his prereleases and open dueling (though, conversely, everyone going to london for prereleases stifles smaller clubs as their player base is displaced for big events). Southampton use their university SU for tournaments, and it works pretty well.

When I used to live in Brighton, there was only a club in not-so-nearby eastbourne where I cut my teeth playing regular magic tournaments, and myself and my good friend Ben Shaw looked into getting a club set up in Brighton, but there wasn't a TO interested. Now Jodi Bunnag has set up an amazing magic scene down there (amusingly she was the first person we approached to TO). Unfortunately the two clubs were not entirely able to coexist, as players did not want to go to both, and most were closer to Brighton (a good example of a displaced player base stifling the magic community, rather than improving it). What we initially tried to do there was have a grudge match between the two clubs, as well as crawley, and this actually saw a good turn out for a while, but died with the ultimate demise of the eastbourne club. Some kind of county event which ultimately led to a grudge match between the north and the south would be awesome!

From my experience speaking with newer players, I tend not to be the friendliest person, and if I'm completely honest my attitude is probably not that nurturing, which is certainly something I'll try and correct in myself. What kind of tournament format do you as a new player think you would want to play in? Would you want the prize to help you, as a deckbuilder, advance your collection (eg first place gets 4 jaces)? Or would you want something else?

I like the idea of getting people to comment Gary, it seems impossible that London gets 300+ players to prereleases and then sees 8 for a standard day. The cost of decks definitely puts people off constructed, and the perceived lack of ability to create new decks probably doesn't help. If you had an entry fee of £15, and you had a minimum number of players to guarantee prizes (say 32) then thats £350 to play with. If you're at an inexpensive or free venue (let's assume we're living in a perfect world) then you can put £250 into prizes, which gives you a jace for first, gideon for second, maybe some fetchlands thrown in, and then a box of boosters to throw around. If you had the event sponsored, then that could be increased. I agree mike is already the local trader, but he pays for that privilege no? What if he provided prize support rather than paying? It's entirely possible that I am looking at this entirely the wrong way and magic as a non-qualifier non-prerelease type event just doesn't exist in the UK any more.

I've been playing for 5 years, but only started doing to DCI sanctioned events about 3 years ago (and that was only drafting at a local-ish place). At first I mainly played big casual multi player games, with no prizes (apart from celebrating defeating everyone else) and it was still fun, so I don't know if getting bigger and bigger prizes is going to entice everyone to go along. Obviously some people will be drawn to events with big payouts for prizes, but its not going to interest everyone (at the same time, it might discourage some from going along if they think that because there's a big prize most the people there are going to be overly competitive). Sometimes just the satisfaction of winning can be enough to get people to come along, or at least go along in the knowledge that they'd be able to have fun no matter if they win or loose. I'm liking the look of some of the possible formats in the big London event in the summer ( ), like pauper and tribal wars, just because they seem fun; I don't particularity know or care if they'll have prizes or not, they seem fun enough on their own for me to go down to play in them.

I think you've mentioned it already, but location can be important in successful events; London is very easy to get to and from by train, whereas other venues around the country can be harder to get to (especially if you can't drive) unless you live nearby.

Some kind of central website for all UK events would be helpful in new players finding out about nearby events for them to attend.

Gathering peoples thoughts is, of course, a great idea to get opinions and gauge interest in events from people who don't come to this website. Should this be a paper questionnaire one to be filled in at events (and which events? Big events or weekly events, or both?) Would an on line questionnaire work better? And what sort of things should it be asking?
I'm a new player. Since zendikar, i've been drafting at the games club most weeks on monday or tuesday and turn up to some fridays or limited events on saturdays (pre-release etc) as of yet I've not made the jump across to constructed for a few reasons:

The cost of competitive standard decks is pretty riduclous. Especially if you have only just started collecting cards again.

The combination of the format looking a bit dull and not having played enough standard to be competitive makes justifiying sinking a ton of money into a deck not that attractive a proposition.

Spend £80 on the rest of devastaing Red for the london qualifyer and probably get crushed or do 6 drafts for the same money and have a good chance of winning packs in each of them?
Even if we had a massive UK Magic website that was excellent, we still have to get people to use it - i've given DT cards (directing people here) or written the URL down on a piece of paper probably 30 times in the last 6 months, and very few of these people bothered to sign up, and even those that did only check the site once a week for the most part. People like myself, Tom Baker, and others try to get people involved on a grass-roots level, but some just aren't interested.

Another issue is that of collaboration - in a small country where PTQs are a field of 50-100, what incentive is there for a group of players who have an edge on everyone else to share their tech, improve everyone else's ability, and increase attendance? All it's going to do is diminish their excellent chances of qualifying!

There are a huge number of problems to solve with Magic in the UK to get it up to the standard of the rest of Europe, and i don't even know where to start with them, the above are just 2 I can see. Will post more later.
I've added the PTQs for Amsterdam to the Events section of the site:

Graham had already added the Southampton one which is cool. We should try and stay on top of these. Anyone can add an event so feel free if you notice anything missing :)

As for the wider problems, I wonder what it is we're actually trying to solve. Perhaps we should set ourselves a goal and work to make it happen? I'm not sure what that goal would be, though?
1) has been around for a few years now, and that has ( or used to at least) a lot of UK magic info.
Wizards inability to make a simple website which can present information is a problem- I seem to constantly be telling people when events are. DT is useful for this.

2) I agree with Tom- there needs to be a defined aim. I'll be honest and say that I'm not really keen on UK ptqs being huge- nothing in it for me.
I'd say the aim should really be something like "Increase the number of people who play DCI sanctioned magic".

3) Inter Uni/Area Magic- On behalf of my club (Imperial) I'll gladly challenge anyone. I'll drive a team somewhere, put people up in London, it doesn't matter- we'll destroy you ;)

4) @ Gary- Collaborating in a public forum really isn't ideal.

5) Making tournaments more attractive- My philosophy with drafts at uni has been to make it as cheap as possible, and not have prizes. The more prizes there are, the more the worse players subsidise the better ones, and that's not how I wanted my club to run. I think that for weekly things, you just want the barrier to entry to be as low as possible.
I think that day/ weekend trips to play magic far away are fun, but I can easily understand why that doesn't appeal to a lot of people.

6) Sponsorship- I don't really understand what'd be in it for mike, everybody knows him. Maybe for Jimmy Chung (Firestorm) or the other smaller guys.
How are big UK PTQs not beneficial to you? You get to play more magic against better players, thus cultivating a better attitude and play ability in yourself and your immediate magic group, thus allowing for stronger and stronger finishes at international events - what's the point of winning a 50 person PTQ then just scrubbing out of the PT? Dan I'm tempted to get a uni club together now :)
I've got to get to the stage where I can win a ptq first...

Uni club took time and effort, but has been VERY worth it. A few years ago there was talk of them doing something to help make uni clubs easier to run- nothing came of it.

Rob Wagner said:
How are big UK PTQs not beneficial to you? You get to play more magic against better players, thus cultivating a better attitude and play ability in yourself and your immediate magic group, thus allowing for stronger and stronger finishes at international events - what's the point of winning a 50 person PTQ then just scrubbing out of the PT? Dan I'm tempted to get a uni club together now :)
Well you aren't going to get to the stage of winning a PTQ if your attitude is that there is nothing in it for you for PTQs to be made bigger. Without there being a more competitive environment in Britain we will never have pro tour greats!

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