Last updated on November 24, 2021
Ghostly Touch | Illustration by Jason Felix
Although the pandemic-that-must-not-be-named isn’t quite over yet, there are a lot of positive signs that things are getting better. It may be time to think about getting back to the important things in life, like playing Magic. ChannelFireball’s recent showed that paper Magic is starting to return in a big way.
But after spending over a year with these new restrictions and limitations, your local MTG experience has likely changed. Maybe your local game store closed down or isn’t getting the crowds it used to. Or maybe you’ve never even played Magic in-person before because you first got into it through MTG Arena while stuck at home.
Whatever your story, if you’re looking to find other real-life wizards to battle but aren’t quite sure how to find them, look no further! Today I’ll be covering everything you need to know about finding fellow players of our favorite card game for in-person play.
Let’s get started!
The simplest way to find places to play Magic in person is to use WotC’s prebuilt tool on their website. This is a powerful and convenient tool and is a great way to get started.
Here’s how to use it:
1. Open the Wizard’s locator and then click on the appropriate tab for what you’re searching. Use Events Near Me for all events in your area, Stores Near Me for (you guessed it) stores near you, Premier Events for WPN premier events, and D&D Events for Dungeons & Dragons events.
Note: You can change what you’re searching for on the search results screen with the Find dropdown menu.
2. Type your location in the search bar and then hit “Enter” or click on the search icon to the right.
3. You’ll get a list of results in the area you searched.
4. You can further filter your results using the Filters tab on the left. When searching for events you’ll be able to filter by Date, Event Type, Formats, and Stores. Magic Prerelease and Friday Night Magic are great options if you’re not sure where to start.
If you want to give the locator a try yourself, search by your address, pick a local event, and get there a little bit early with sleeves, dice, and anything else you need to play. Say hi to some locals and enjoy slinging some spells!
One new consideration you should be aware of is that events are usually handled through the Companion app, so keep your phone charged and download the app beforehand on Google Play or the App Store. You should also carry a face mask or two in your pocket to protect yourself and other players.
Basic Event Types
Back to Basics | Illustration by Terese Nielsen
If you’re looking to play Magic in-person but it’s your first time, let me give you a quick recap on some basic events and what to expect:
Sealed prerelease events happen with every new Standard set and sometimes even with non-Standard sets like Modern Horizons 2. You get six packs to build a 40-card deck to battle other players in a Swiss tournament, plus a foil-stamped rare as a treat for participating.
Prereleases are usually four rounds of play but could be more or less depending on your store and player turnout. Prize packs are generally given out based on the number of wins.
Draft is the most popular way to play Limited. You sit at a table with eight players, each of whom is given three packs. Then you open those packs, take a card, and pass your pack face down to the left until no cards are left. Repeat this process going to the right for the second pack, and back to the left for the third pack.
Then every player builds a 40-card deck with the cards they drafted plus any number of basic lands, and everyone plays against other players in either a Swiss or single-elimination tournament for prizes. You can practice on MTG Arena or for free on Draftsim.
Standard is the most popular way to play Constructed. You bring a pre-constructed deck of 60 cards using only cards from recent sets. Then you battle other players in a Swiss tournament with a top 8 cut later if there’s enough players.
Commander, also known as EDH, is a casual multiplayer format beloved by many Magic players. Commander events vary in terms of their competitiveness and power level. I’ve seen some stores payout to the winner of Commander pods while others have players vote on who deserves prizes based on varying criteria like “most interesting deck” or “most epic play.”
If you’d like to get started playing Commander, buying a preconstructed deck is highly recommended!
Modern is the most popular eternal format. This is another Constructed format like Standard where you battle other players with a 60-card deck of your choosing. But unlike Standard there’s a massive card pool for you to draw from with nearly 20 years of Magic available. Competitive Modern decks can also be both expensive and complicated to play in comparison to Standard. It’s an awesome experience, but probably not where I’d want to start if I were newer to the game.
Chain Stores and Retailers
Mizzium Mortars | Illustration by Noah Bradley
While you can’t really play Magic at Walmart or Target, these can still be solid supplemental locations to pick up Sealed products. The best places to buy sealed MTG products in-person if you live in the United States are Walmart and Target, both of which tend to have quite a bit of product including recent packs and boxes, Commander precons, themed packs.
You can also find Magic cards at smaller stores like CVS or GameStop, but I wouldn’t recommend these unless they’re having a sale since they usually have slim product pickings. I rarely find myself buying cards in person at locations like this though, and that’s because…
You can just have the cards delivered right to your doorstep! Amazon is a great site for buying booster boxes, while TCGPlayer, Star City Games, Troll and Toad, and ChannelFireball are all solid retailers for buying singles. Prices are comparable to in-person or better, though you may have to pay shipping. I personally buy whatever cards I need from my LGS and order anything I can’t get there online.
Sower of Discord | Illustration by Wisnu Tan
Discord is a free popular chat and social networking program for gamers, and one I use pretty heavily. One nice thing about Discord is that it has a host of active Magic communities including local communities for you if you’re lucky.
I have access to “MTG Orlando” (general channel for Orlando-based Magic players) and “The Collective” (LGS) on Discord. These are great tools for me to figure out which nearby events are popular without having to leave my house.
If you want some non-local Discords that are popular with Magic players you can check out the official MTG Arena discord, the official Spikes subreddit discord, or Draftsim’s very own server. These are great places to discuss the game or find other players to play online with, but keep in mind that finding people to play with in-person isn’t their primary purpose.
Facebook is still the most popular social media platform in the world, even if it seems like no one ever has anything nice to say about it. I’ll challenge convention by saying one nice thing about Facebook is that it’s a great tool to find people to play Magic with!
A simple search like “magic the gathering groups near me” can get you started since many of the stores you’d have found on the locator website also show off their products and interiors on their Facebook page. Groups like MTG Orlando are also popular for discussing the game or buying/selling/trading with local players.
I encourage you to poke around with the website’s search feature and see if you can learn anything interesting about your local Magicscene!
Pointed Discussion | Illustration by Jarel Threat
Reddit is another great place to discuss Magic. One of the site’s strengths is its split nature with “subreddits,” niche communities dedicated to discussing different things. Some of the more popular Magic subreddits I’d recommend are:
- magicTCG: A basic all-purpose subreddit that’s useful for news, art, and community drama.
- MagicArena: A fun community with jokes/memes and some Standard-focused content.
- spikes: A competitive Magic-focused subreddit. This is a useful resource for improving at various formats and testing your ideas.
- EDH: A Commander-focused subreddit. Commander is a very diverse format so there’s quite a bit of material here.
- mtgfinance: The r/wallstreetbets of MTG. Learn how to lose a bunch of money with cardboard instead of stocks!
In addition to these Magic subreddits, you could try to find local Magic players using a local subreddit to ask for Magic scenes in your area. If I were struggling to find drafters, I could try asking if anyone is playing MTG these days and looking to draft at my local store on the Orlando subreddit. It’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s 100% free and should only take a few minutes!
Hero of the Games | Illustration by Josh Hass
An outdated but personally beloved type of store is the “LAN center,” now more commonly called a “gaming café.” This is generally a location with high-end PCs and great internet set up for you to pay per hour to play games with or against other patrons.
It’s possible you could meet other Magic players if you have any near you, though I’d wager that action games like League of Legends, Valorant, Call of Duty, Dota 2, Fortnite, Smash Brothers Ultimate, etc. are likely much more popular than Magic.
As bizarre as might it sound, there are bars and pubs that could be great places to meet Magic players! Your best bet is geek-themed bars. They’re usually easily identifiable with names like “The Geek Easy.” You could meet cool people to play D&D or board games with at worst if you don’t meet any MTG players.
Work and Personal Life
Workshop Elders | Illustration by Iain McCaig
Another way to find new Magic players is to create them! MTG Arena has made it easier than ever to find new players and Magic is a ton of fun once you get the initial learning curve down. Getting a curious friend started with Arena and then taking them to a prerelease once they get the hang of it is a surefire way to get someone hooked on the game!
And you never know who at your office plays or has played the game. It’s nearly as old as I am, after all! Just don’t be shy and try speaking out about your hobbies when a good moment presents itself, as these kinds of things are best shared with friends.
If I have one regret about my time in college, it’s not being open enough with my hobbies. There were some awesome groups like this that I could’ve joined with other students. I also could’ve used the college subreddit to set up games like this player did:
The key to finding other people for your hobbies is confidence, openness, and persistence!
Well, if none of this helped you find a vibrant local community or if you’d rather wait for the-pandemic-that-will-not-be-named to be over, you can always try online!
MTG Arena and Magic Online are both great ways to enjoy a variety of Magic formats without having to leave your house (or even change out of your pajamas). Arena is free-to-play and great for faster paced Standard and Draft gameplay while MTGO is slower and harder to learn but great for Modern, Pauper, and generally more competitive players.
Finale of Promise | Illustration by Jaime Jones
With spunk, persistence, and a lot of internet searching, I trust that you can find the local Magic community of your dreams.
Crimson Vow prereleases have already happened and I sincerely hope you got to experience the joy of cracking some packs with friends like the old days. If not, well, there’s always the next set! The future of Magicis bright despite the past darkness of an admittedly subpar time to play card games worldwide.
What about you? Do you have any fun or wacky stories about finding and meeting local Magic players in-person? Maybe a particularly interesting event or competition? Let us know in the comments below or find us on Twitter. And if you’re getting your friends or coworkers hooked on MTGA to make new players, make sure they’ve got Arena Tutor to help them out.
Until next time, may your local game stores always be full of players!