about two years ago, i got back magic: the gathering.
i stopped sometime in high school around the time the fallen empires set was released — some 20 years or more ago. my friends and i would save up our quarters and make weekend trips to buy packs.
i never pulled a shivan dragon or a vesuvan doppelganger. and i regret trading away all of my dual-lands.
whatever i didn’t trade away, i sold off when i quit. if only i had just held onto them — some of those cards might be in a few of my commander decks today.
ever since i got back into magic, i’ve been thinking about starting a magic club at school.
sometime last year, a student walked into my class during lunch, introduced himself, and asked if i would be an advisor for his board game club next year.
i didn’t make any hard commitments at the time, but i told him i was open to the idea.
“come back next year and ask me again,” i told him.
at the beginning of the year, he entered my class as a student. he reminded me of his plans. the game club was born, and on tuesdays, the kids hang out in room 4 to play board games. after school, they roleplay dungeons and dragons.
on wednesdays, they set up the tv in my room and play video games.
the club was filled with kids, and it seemed like the right time to start a magic league.
i contacted my buddies at the local gaming store, mythic games, who supplied us with a box full of welcome decks. i bought sleeves and deck boxes from bcw. i created a slide presentation containing a broad overview, league rules, and an faq.
a handful of students came in and paid their $5 due. ms. brown, the co-advisor for the game club, came in and dropped off $10.
“use the extra $5 for anyone who needs it,” she said.
the kids waited impatiently for the first official day. at lunch, they rushed in. i passed out score sheets, and the kids sat down for their first matches. kids won, kids lost, and kids taught each other how to play.
they were having fun and meeting new people.
they were learning.
the club has since grown to almost 40 students with very little advertising, and we’re in our sixth week.
something that’s helped — creating an achievement worth 20 points for bringing a friend into the league and teaching them how to play.
points can be used on cards, so the kids have begun building their decks according to types. i built a control deck to show the kids how it’s done, and now the rest of the blue players have followed suit.
the lamentations of the other players can be heard throughout the school.
in a way, i feel like a kid again. magic seems new, as if i’ve gone back into the past. usually, when i buy a pack, i head straight to the last three cards to see which rares and uncommons i get. now, i’m seeing cards i’ve passed over in draft become real threats. i’m seeing the game from a new perspective where things like guild gates are critical.
a 3/3 at three mana is a game-changer.
i posted my league guidelines on reddit and received great feedback. (thanks, reddit!)
i also got to read how others ran their club, which helped me set expectations.
i can say it’s been a success here, and i wanted to share what i created and learned. it’s funny — as ultra-competitive as i am, i can’t help but smile when i hear the words: “i beat jacob! i beat jacob!”
here’s a link to my guidelines. feel free to use it for your own club.
also, head over to wizards of the coast to request a welcome kit and a club kit. that will net you some welcome decks, a couple of posters, a bag of spindown counters, two planeswalker decks, a deckbuilders toolkit, and a playmat for teaching. (thanks, wizards!)
if you’re a teacher or organizer, play with your club. i made myself, the co-advisor, and my teacher’s assistant bounties for a few weeks, and the kids get a kick out of seeing established players work through the turns. it also gives me a chance to sit with my students one-on-one to give them pointers and help them with more advanced techniques and plays.
reward your players for playing, losing, and teaching others. give them an incentive that goes beyond collecting — make them experience the game.
and on that same note, a warning — don’t give away too many cards. make the players earn them.
find that balance where the players who are good and participate most can get ahead on the curve, but they’re not so far out that the students who are busy with other extracurriculars drop out. as the league organizer, you can control the gaps.
it can all be summed up with: make it fun and have fun.
and maybe, like me, you’ll catch yourself staying until 6 pm on a monday, way past the last school bell.