The world has changed so much in the past 18 months, and a whole new subset of social experiences have helped to shape the pandemic zeitgeist. Between wearing pajamas to work (at the dining room table), experimenting with hair or fashion styles, or even just giving your food delivery app a greater workout, everyone has developed some form of “lockdown mode.” These coping mechanisms have kept us going through the past year, and have even helped to break down some of society’s expectations when it comes to things like work/life balance. But with restrictions easing and the world slowly returning to normal, shedding our lockdown lifestyles can prove tricky.
With Wizards of the Coast’s in-store play suspension already lifted in the US, and its return due in Europe on July 2, we gamers are starting to return to our natural habitats. It’s been quite some time since we’ve been able to play in events and hang out in person; as such, it’s understandable that readjusting to LGS life may take a bit of practice. I’ve made this quick guide to returning to play in your LGS, so you can get right back to making amazing new memories in no time!
Having good table etiquette has always been valuable, but it might be even more appreciated now. Not everyone will be completely comfortable with the old ways of interacting with opponents when sitting down to play a game of Magic. It might feel instinctual to just pick up a new card to read it, but that could be extremely uncomfortable for your opponent.
Shaking hands is emblematic of sportsmanship, but it’s not the only way to show it. I was at MagicFest Brussels in early 2020, and one of my Two-Headed Giant opponents asked that we didn’t shake hands, as they were wary of this new virus that was making the rounds. I was slightly confused, but I happily obliged. We had a fantastic game filled with questionable tactical decisions, and we parted ways with a simple nod and a smile. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if this becomes the norm going forward.
Some stores may also implement new rules for tournaments to help provide a safe environment for all staff and players. Wizards recently mentioned this in a WPN update article, with some examples of new rules being:
- Players may only shuffle or cut their own decks
- Cards must remain on the owner’s side of the table when control is changed
- Cards attached to cards owned by other players should not physically touch
- Mechanics that require an opponent to search a player’s library, hand, or graveyard are performed by the owner displaying that zone to the active player without cards changing hands
These are just examples, and they will vary from store to store. Be sure to ask your LGS what additional rules they’ve put in place to make sure you’re doing right by them and others around you.
It’s also worth continuing to wear your mask in-store, regardless of local safety requirements. Aside from being a simple extra precaution, it will show your opponents that you care about their well-being, which will lead to a more relaxed and pleasant experience overall.
From Desktop to Tabletop
One huge change that many players may not be ready for will be the return to paper Magic from Arena. In Arena, you get to play the game free from burdens like triggers. You never have to worry about remembering to pay for your Pact of Negation on your upkeep, and you can let Arena do the shuffling for you; these are all things that I’m sure many players have taken for granted. In a tournament setting, forgetting your triggers can be detrimental to your success, and shuffling can become tiresome after cracking just a few fetchlands. If you haven’t pulled out your paper decks since lockdown started, now would be a great time to get yourself reacquainted with them to help you get back into the swing of things.
One important point to note about moving from Arena or MTGO to tabletop is that you’ll no longer be facing a computer, but rather a real person. Losing to a lucky topdeck on the Arena ladder can be a frustrating experience, and you could be forgiven for cursing at your screen, but it’s important to remember that doesn’t translate well face-to-face. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with a loss or shaking off tilt, but be sure that it doesn’t offend the person sitting across from you. They’re here for a good time just like you, and a negative comment (even one that wasn’t directed at them) can ruin the experience. We all deserve some good games after everything we’ve gone through, and you don’t truly know anyone else’s situation. When in doubt, lead with kindness and respect.
If you’ve spent a lot of time in lockdown on SpellTable like I have, you’re in for a treat. Returning to in-person play will be extremely refreshing. It can be hard to gauge player mood and intent through voice alone; being able to see your friends’ facial expressions and body language while you all play the game will make the whole experience much more enjoyable. You’ll also have a much better time playing with commanders like Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Gyruda, Doom of Depths, provided your pod (and LGS) is okay with players touching each others’ cards.
Patience is Key
It will come as no surprise to many, but a lot of people haven’t been keeping up with Magic at all during the pandemic. The return of in-store play may be their first time playing in over a year, so they may be a little bit rusty. It’s important to bear that in mind when you’re sitting down to play at your LGS.
There could be any number of reasons why your opponent might be examining their hand carefully or trying to read cards on the board. Maybe they’re a new player, or that it’s their first time playing a particular format. They could be trying to remember a particular sequence in their deck, or what shock land to fetch for; these processes take significantly longer when you’re out of practice. This is especially true of players that are moving from Arena to paper for the first time, as well as completely new players. Treat them with the same patience and enthusiasm you’d want from your first Magic experience, and you should do a great job.
Giving players the extra minute or two to get into the swing of things will make a world of difference. After everything we’ve been through, we owe it to each other to be kind.
It may seem like a lot to remember, but this will all become second nature again in due time. Safety and comfort should be at the forefront as we return to play events and spend time with fellow spellslingers. The only thing I can’t help you with is remembering how to make small talk; it’s been so long since I last had to do that, and I could use a guide for it, too!
With all of this in mind, I hope you enjoy the transition from telling friends they’re still muted on Zoom to asking them “do you pay the 1?” in person once more.
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.