I walked into the store a bit nervous. I wasn’t scared of a place filled with people I didn’t know, and I certainly wasn’t scared of playing against them. I was nervous because I had played Magic in America exactly once in the past four years.

That experience was one I would like to forget. It involved a great comic shop owner in New York City, incredibly friendly and obviously passionate about improving his store, and his event manager, a selfish and biased man unfriendly to new faces. Perhaps I’m a bit harsh, but that’s the impression I left the store with three years ago.

Today was going to be different—or so I hoped. This was a smallish store in suburbia. Surely they would be a bit friendlier.

I had come half an hour early as the staff member had suggested when I called earlier that day. While I waited for things to get rolling, I took a quick look around. A number of rambunctious twenty-somethings were playing arcade fighting games on the Playstations and monitors to one side. A few card players sat quietly at the tables before me, playing Vanguard or another CCG. The other side was filling up fast with Magic players pulling out binders for trading or playing some form of Constructed. No one seemed interested in a new face.

Seraph of Dawn
Things were a bit disorganized. As we started the Draft, a staff member had to shout over the arcade players to explain where each of us sat—no table numbers, no postings. Rather than go over the rules, the staff member told those of us experienced to help the newer players, and then left us to our own devices.

Other than being a pod of ten—perhaps unavoidable—the Draft went smoothly. I decided to force red Humans since they seemed so strong at the Avacyn Restored prerelease, and I pulled together a decent aggro U/R deck with some reach.

The first round got underway, and I put on the early pressure. After putting my opponent to 10, a Seraph of Dawn plopped onto his side.

Not a big deal. I pushed him down to 6.

Then came the haymaker Sigarda, Host of Herons, the one and only card I knew my deck could not beat except by racing.

When my next attack phase came, I went deep into the tank. That’s when my opponent spoke up.

“Looks like your best bet is to attack with everything.”

I had heard of players like this: the guy who tells you what to do. Perhaps it was just his nature, but the fact his suggestion was strategically horrible led my mind to believe he had more nefarious intentions.

Coming back to the States after playing Magic for so long abroad was a jarring experience. I had dealt with exactly one rude player and one cheater (that I know of) in my four years and hundreds of matches in other countries. While my opponent above could avoid either of those classifications, he skirted the line of both and probably falls into the category of people who degrade the Magic community.

Before you start thinking I view American Magic players as the scum of the earth, you should read this tweet:

So, what’s the difference between my local store and the people I met at Gen Con? There were hundreds, if not thousands, of Magic players at Gen Con, and my local store had thirty to thirty-five. That’s not it, though—I went to Gen Con with a very short list of people I wanted to meet. While I ended up meeting Magic players not on that list (I’m not an anti-social snob!), the total was not significantly larger than my local store.

Was it because the majority of people at Gen Con paid sizable sums of money for the express purpose of being there? That’s a piece, but there’s more to it.

I would argue that the difference between these two groups is that one cares about the larger community and the other is indifferent to it. The majority of players at the local store are content with how things are run and their surroundings. The majority of players I met at Gen Con are either actively attempting to make the community—whether their local communities or the Magic community at large—better or are at least aware that their actions matter and therefore act to make sure they don’t negatively affect others.

Why a Good Community Is Awesome

I decided to go to Gen Con approximately forty-eight hours before arriving in Indianapolis. (I recommend better planning.) If it were not for the amazing people I know in the Magic community—almost solely via Internet interactions—I never would have made it. I found sleeping arrangements through someone whom I had barely talked to prior to her help. I found a badge through this very site’s sponsor, CoolStuffInc. I also found at least a dozen others who provided advice, information, contacts, and support.

“Okay, so you got some free handouts. That’s nice to rub in the faces of those of us who didn’t go.”

Not quite. I never would have received any of that had I not already been a part of the online Magic community. Because I spent the time and energy to write articles, talk with others over Twitter, and actively discuss everything from social issues to the merits of a mono-poison Standard deck, I was someone people were willing to help.

Good Versus Indifference

“But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” – The Boondock Saints

I’m not here to say my local store should be shut down because of their lack of friendliness or organization. If they’re happy with how things are going and can do business that way, who am I to stop them? The same thing applies for individuals. This article isn’t about forcing someone into doing something they are not passionate about.

What I am saying is that indifference will not help our community grow. If you don’t care whether your local store supports newer players or gives out prizes for casual tournaments fairly, that’s fine. If you are someone who cares—someone who enjoys an open atmosphere or friendly people willing to greet newcomers—I challenge you to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be life-altering or shake the status quo, though those things certainly will certainly make a difference; just going to the effort of greeting a new face at your store can change our community drastically.

Final Thoughts

Natasha did a better job of describing how a community works and what membership means better than I ever could. I hope I’ve shown you two extremes of our community and challenged you to help one conquer the other. If nothing else, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought the next time you enter a store and find an uninviting atmosphere.

Bonus challenge: Leave a short note in the comments below or send me a tweet (@bweisko) describing a store, gaming group, or tournament you found exceptionally positive or miserably depressing. I will post all of them in next week’s article to help others be aware of the places they may want to go. (Foul or derogatory language will not be accepted!)