Sponsorship a Boost for Unalaska's Magic: The Gathering Players

Friday, March 27 2015

Kids and adults at the Magic tournament eat some pizza and build their decks out of new cards supplied by Bosco's in Anchorage. (Liam Andersen/KUCB)

For about a year, Unalaska’s community center has hosted a monthly tournament for the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. But last month marked a big step forward: A new card store in Anchorage has agreed to sponsor the event from here on out.

For local players, it could mean a chance to compete on a larger stage. KUCB's Liam Andersen has more.

On the last Friday in February, almost 20 kids and adults are gathered at the Parks, Culture and Recreation building to play some Magic. Some of them have years of experience; others are brand new. It’s not exactly cutthroat -- but in a room full of teenagers putting their pride on the table over a few small sheets of paper, you never know what can happen. 

Ken Vanevenhoven: Sooo... I play this now?
Sean Conwell: Yeah -- it's an instant, but...

Middle schooler Sean Conwell is teaching adult Ken Vanevenhoven the basics of the game. Players use cards with creatures and spells to whittle down their opponent’s health points until they die.

Carlos Tayag: Check it out, guys! Listen up. In about 15 minutes we’re going to start doing the actual draft...

Carlos Tayag is the community center coordinator who’s been organizing these tournaments. He’s introducing a new style of play: a draft, where players improvise decks out of brand-new cards on the spot.

Those new cards are fresh off the plane from Bosco’s in Anchorage. The store has agreed to be the Magic card supplier for Unalaska -- as well as a link to Wizards of the Coast, Magic’s parent company.

"You can go on their website and get a number, and that way at any tournament that you play at, you get points, so you can rank yourself against players all across the world," says John Weddleton, who works at Bosco’s.

He says the sponsorship will help link Unalaska’s players with Magic in Alaska and around the world via DCI, the official ranking system.

"The advantage of you guys being an off-site location for a Bosco’s tournament is that you can have officially sanctioned tournaments, which you have to have to get DCI points," Weddleton says.  

For players on a remote Aleutian island, that’s a gateway to even higher levels of wizardry -- including international competitions in places like Las Vegas, with thousands of dollars at stake.

[sound of deck-building]

But that’s a long way off from what’s going on right now in Unalaska. At the Friday tournament, the Bosco’s cards are shuffled out between the players. It takes about an hour for them to build their decks.

Then, it’s time to engage in combat. The matches go until closing time, when it’s decided that Friday Night Magic will become Saturday Noon Magic. The remaining competitors turn in their decks, so they can’t modify them overnight.

The next day brings fewer players back to a smaller room in the rec center. In the end, the championship comes down to two teenagers: Nick Upton and Kennan Jordan. 

Jordan: I might make a comeback, I might not, depending on the card in my hand.

After two successive comebacks, Kennan finally beats out Nick for the top spot.

Kennan: Woo!
Upton: Ughhh.
Tayag: Kennan wins! Kennan’s the draft king.

Once everything’s finalized with Bosco’s, Jordan and players like him will get to turn those wins into the points they need to compete on a bigger scale. Until then, though, it’s the casual spirit of competition that’ll keep players in Unalaska coming back for more.

Liam Andersen is a KUCB contributor and a junior at Unalaska City School. 

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