North Bethesda, Md. — A game store isn’t where one would expect to find many people congregating late on a Friday evening. Yet, that is exactly where several excited card game fans were found this past Friday night.
Every four to five months, Wizards of the Coast releases a new expansion to their most popular card game: Magic the Gathering. Early next month, the next set of cards, Theros, a set based off of Greek mythology, will be released. However, fans are still anxious to try the new cards. To capitalize on this excitement, Wizards allows certified game shops all around the world to host pre-release events, where the participants are given packs from the new set a week in advance, to use in constructing decks for use against the other players in a tournament. These are generally big events for Magic fans, and even smaller shops can experience large volumes of traffic, like Dream Wizards, a small gaming store in White Flint.
“What a weird way to spend a Friday evening,” said John Jenkins, one of the roughly 100 attendees at the pre-release for Theros. On the cold Friday night, Jenkins and the other attendees waited outside the store at 10 p.m., eager for the midnight pre-release event to begin.
Once let inside, Jenkins and the other players picked one of Magic’s five core colors to build their deck around and were seated according to their choice. Blue and white were the player’s top choices, while green was among the least popular. At midnight, the players were allowed to open their packs and were given 50 minutes to construct their decks. From there, the players engaged in a four-round Swiss style tournament throughout the early Saturday hours. If players got enough wins and stayed the entire night, they would receive additional packs. “A lot of us crazy people enjoy staying up till 6 [a.m.],” said Brandon Paul Jones, another participant.
The tournament is not the only reason why so many people are willing to come play cards until the crack of dawn, however. “When a new set comes out, people are extremely grabby,” says Jones. “A lot of times, the new cards are worth a lot.” So far it would appear that Jones is correct, as popular online card shops such as Star City Games price some of the newer cards as high as $80. These prices are often used when determining trade value among players.
“I can’t get a beat on what [Theros] going to do to the metagame,” Jones says. “I’ve been wrong before when trying to speculate.”