The Importance of your Local Gaming Store (LGS) in Testing

By Laurie Glover

There’s an old saying, that it takes 10,000 hours of playing to become an expert at something. I’ve been playing Magic for 16 years at various levels of engagement with the hobby during that period, and I’m still a long, long, long way from being an expert. Formats change, some faster than others, cards are printed and cards rotate. It’s a constant battle to stay on top of a shifting metagame or to understand the inner workings of the latest set for Sealed.

What you develop over time is a better set of fundamental skills in magic, a sense of advantage and tempo and strategic approaches to matches rather than rushing all in. These are the skills that carry over between sets, formats and the like. They’re earned one game at a time, with a view to be mindful of where you went wrong (or right!) and to learn from yourself and those around you.

It’s undeniable that Magic the Gathering Online is a good way to test – it can be expensive because it requires buying digital copies of the decks, but there’s magic on tap 24/7. The metagame can be a little warped compared to paper magic and no amount of Discord servers or Skype calls can make up for face to face feedback.

That’s why I prefer to test in store whenever possible, I’ve listed out the Top 5 things I look for when it comes to a LGS.

1. A Creative Atmosphere & Good Playing Space

My day job is in Marketing, I understand the value of a nice creative space and its role in thought processes and learning. I’ve also played Magic in a lot of slightly dark and cramped spaces in my time, and I’ve come to appreciate and understand the role that a good environment plays.

It extends beyond having high ceilings and good lighting, solid and comfortable chairs and tables that don’t sag in the middle though – it evolves into the atmosphere and that is created by the players and the staff. A good LGS has a friendly knowledgable set of Staff and players open to self improvement, you’ve got to be able to speak up to express your ideas or offer friendly and constructive feedback after a match.

Being able to comfortably tell someone ‘That line of play was very tight, I don’t think you could have played differently’ or even ‘That attack was a little overly aggressive and left you exposed to more outs from me.’ is an important skill and the atmosphere nurtured at the store goes a long way to ensuring that kind of feedback can be offered, and received, effectively.

2. A Good Selection of Food & Drink

Events are often run in the evening, and some form of sustenance is required – even with dinner on the horizon, a good selection of drinks and snacks – both healthy and less-healthy are a welcome addition to any testing space. A coffee machine is bonus points without a doubt, the warm hug of caffeine goes hand in hand with testing.

The selection at the Chaos Cards Table Top Gaming Centre is excellent, and the staff always happy to give change to use on the vending machines. Branston Pickle Mini Cheddars may just be the secret-sauce for inspired plays.

3. A Supportive Community

A community helps with motivation, it helps with shared ideals, card pools and camaraderie. Magic builds lifelong friendships and some of the strongest come from those who with shared aspirations, all striving to improve their ability within the game. These friends become great sources of enjoyment and the friendships often extend far beyond Magic itself in the long run. It all starts in the store.

Chaos Cards lost one of our regular players recently – someone who was constructive and contributed, was always up for a journey to a PPTQ and could generally jam cards in the correct order. During his last event we got him a cake and shared it out during standings, it’s the small things that tie a community together and turn a bunch of people into a group.

4. Regular Events

How much Magic is too much magic? Gosh, it’s a tough one to answer. I try to get to one event a week minimum alongside some dedicated testing beside that. My real life schedule varies and I can’t always make the same day so knowing I have options to practice different formats in the week is fantastic. I know that there’s always Friday Night Magic, but Chaos Cards also offers Monday Modern and Thursday Drafts each week – perfect.

With our sights firmly set on GP London in January 2018 the store is preparing for additional testing nights on the Thursdays as we get more information about Rivals of Ixalan and how it’ll play out in the Sealed format. We’ll have to truncate our test process given how little time there is between release and the main event!

5. Access to Singles

Sometimes I’m just a few cards short, and for casual testing I might proxy those cards – but when the time comes to sleeve up properly it’s reassuring to know I can get the cards quickly. That’s where your LGS comes in, or more importantly, their singles folders!

Speed is of the essence in these situations and being able to walk in and there be a high chance they have the cards you’re missing is fantastic, I think I’ve only come up short once but a well stocked and curated singles folder is one of the true assets of your LGS when it comes to putting your testing into action.

In conclusion, your LGS is the beating heart of your playtesting – a location for you to meet up regularly with like-minded friends with common goals. The additional benefits it offers set it ahead in terms of value compared to Magic Online but don’t misconstrue me, there’s room for both in a healthy testing schedule.

If you’re looking for some Sealed practice ahead of GP London in January 2018 keep an eye on the Chaos Cards Tabletop Gaming Centre’s Facebook page as we’ll doubtlessly be holding some focused testing sessions!

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