One of the things I’ve always found interesting since I have started working at my LGS is the number of players that I see daily, buying cards and interacting with the store. Yet I find many of them never end up making the jump to come down and play in events, even the more casual Drafts or Pre-Release events, let alone competitive tournament play. This got me thinking about when I first started playing and what it took for me to switch from a casual tabletop player to an FNM (Friday Night Magic) regular and eventually a MagicFest competitor. Now, there are many different reasons that got me into coming down and playing regularly at my local store. Some of the reasons are more obvious than others and some things I learned later but appreciate even more almost a decade later. With that aside, I’ll dive into some of my reasons on why everyone who plays Magic the Gathering should try attending at least one FNM, starting with meeting new players and creating a larger playgroup for yourself. Community Building: One of the things I enjoy most about Magic the Gathering is the social aspect to the game. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends with people from all over the world, simply from playing a game. I would never have been able to make these connections with many different people if I had simply stayed at home or in my friends' basement playing this game. I made these connections because I forced myself to come out of my comfort zone and interact with new people whom I’d never met, but who had one thing in common with each other, their love for the game. Now I realize that opening up to a group of strangers isn’t always the easiest thing to do. But it’s taught me to not only value the game, but the people who play it as well. I’ve met people who’ve helped develop my skills as a Magic player, people who’ve become regulars in my Commander playgroup or who I test with for competitive events. I’ve even been able to network with players who’ve helped me outside of Magic with life issues. I’ve been lucky enough to say most of these players have turned out to be great friends in life, all because I decided to step through the door of my LGS to sit down for a FNM with a bunch of strangers. Now I’m aware that everyones' experience with FNM will not be the same as mine: not every store will be as welcoming, and players tend to fall into their natural cliques now and then. I try not to let this be discouraging when I’m going out to play. There will always be the spikes of the community and they aren’t there to ruin your day. These players are only looking to win their prize packs and move on to the next event, which is fine. You just have to learn to navigate them and accept that you’re going to lose a game of Magic every now and then. Now if any of these players' actions change from simply wanting to win a game into more hurtful behavior towards another, it needs to be addressed with either the TO (Tournament Organizer), store owner or WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) directly. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome while trying to enjoy the game, yet sadly a small portion of the community tends to make others disheartened about the community as a whole. We all have a hand in maintaining a healthy community and we can do so by everyone making an effort to report abusive behavior and to speak out; that that kind of behavior is not welcome in our areas of play, whether online or in person. Most stores are going to be looking to create a healthy play environment for their players to maintain a happy player base and to continue to develop their community. Bringing me to my next reason you should attend an FNM. Hospitality: I’m extremely appreciative of the LGS that I go to. They’ve always had great staff and a great player base, which has made the jump from a casual player at home to playing at in store events much easier. I find most of the community at drafts or pre-release events to be wonderful for helping new players learn about proper deckbuilding, starting a collection, or helping them with their skills as a Magic player. Most LGS’s aren’t even looking to make money off of their in-store events: they typically are meant to get players into the door and from there make you feel welcome and a part of the community at that location. They’ll make their money by players spending on singles and other products. None of this can exist if that community in and around those stores and at those events isn’t helpful or accepting of newcomers. You need experienced players who are willing to take a small amount of time between rounds and help fix a draft deck or give new players some extra cards when they’re just starting out. This behavior is very much dependent on the players themselves but can also be encouraged by the TO. If the tournament organizer is also willing to take those extra steps to help others it makes it much easier for newcomers to be willing to make that jump out of their basement or kitchen table and into your seats at your stores' games room or play space. As the name of the game states, Magic the Gathering is also about simply that, the gathering. Now as many stores are beginning to open. We will see a rise of the social aspect of the game, that I find to be just as important as playing the game itself. We all will have to do our part to be inclusive to new players who might be looking to get into paper Magic after finding out about MTGA (Magic the Gathering Arena) and are starting to make their way out to their first FNM or Commander night at your favorite store. With everyone working together to create a positive environment for those new players, it will in turn help to create a positive environment for the store and their existing player base. It can foster more trading, can push groups to better each others' social skills and Magic gameplay and create even larger events which can lead to meeting even more likeminded players who were once nervous to come play but have gained a new level of confidence through the game. Becoming a Better Player: Another reason I encourage new players to go play at in store events is they will most likely start learning new skills and bettering themselves as Magic players. I’ve been a part of a group which enjoys their competitive play as much as our casual play and have been able to develop my skills as a player because of that. Up until a point, eventually you will match or surpass your playgroups skills and will have to look elsewhere to develop them. This is where going to events and expanding your group will come in, even if you’re not looking to become a competitive tournament grinder. Playing with others and learning from them can help you become a better Magic player and you can take those skills back to your own playgroups to share. As I’ve discussed in a previous article, it is okay to lose as long as you are able to take away something positive from a loss. If you’re new to a format, ask for help after a match from your opponent. If it’s a more casual setting or even from the store staff, if it’s your first draft, get the tournament organizer to explain things for you before you start, and don’t be scared to ask questions. Most of these events are made strictly for the players that attend them. The stores hosting them typically aren’t looking to profit, but instead are looking to create a healthy community with new players who are seeking different formats and interactions with each other and creating a positive play environment. Now I’m aware this won’t always be the case, there will always be a few bad apples in the community. If an LGS does however end up having a bad environment, most cities will have more than one store you can play at and you can track them down using Wizards store locator online to help point you in the right direction. Attending these events is also a great way to start your MTG collection, Drafts are a very affordable price point and you can often turn the cards you open in those packs into other more desirable cards. For new players this is a great way to jumpstart your collection, as well as developing your skills. You’ll also be able to learn about new mechanics as they’re introduced into the game, and will quite often be rewarded with promos that WOTC gives out to stores and entry packs that some stores provide as thanks for playing in their events. Attending FNM’s is typically where you’ll be able to network with players directly and start trading for different cards amongst the other players in attendance. Try to be educated on card prices and the possibility of fakes when trading with others. There are a ton of online resources available to players on this subject matter. If need be, the TO or other trusted players will be able to help you with this. Don’t feel as if you’re being pressured into a trade, you can say no at any point if it doesn’t feel right. In the end I believe everyone should try to make the jump to play in at least a FNM and even if possible, attend a Magicfest. Over the years I’ve been able to make many new friends all over the world and have learned far more than I ever would have from attending events rather than staying at home. They have been a great amount of fun for me and can also serve to escape your everyday hustle and allow you to de-stress from a busy day’s work. Over the years I’ve found attending events to be a positive experience and I hope that this can either reinforce these feelings or help you make that jump from a tabletop player to playing in events yourself.