By: Jerad Karasek
Magic: the Gathering is the most popular trading card game with over 20 million players worldwide. In the game, players assume the role of “planeswalkers” to cast spells and attack their opponent with creatures. Decks are constructed with a 60 card minimum and cards are obtained by opening booster packs, buying pre-made decks, or buying individual cards off the secondary market. The game was designed in 1993 by the company Wizards of the Coast and its creator Richard Garfield, at the time a graduate student, as the first modern trading card game. Since then, the game has amassed a competitive professional scene and continues to define and redefine the genre.
Magic events in Chicago have been limited for quite some time, including smaller, local-level tournaments. The last major event was Grand Prix Chicago in 2014, and brought a massive crowd of 2,049 competitors. There are currently only eight stores in Chicago that host magic events, and the largest store, MTG Card Market, closed mid-2017. Some of the stores are Good Games Chicago on 1145 W Webster Ave, Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo on 5550 N Broadway #1, First Aid Comics with two locations on 1142 W Taylor St. and 1617 E 55th St., and Near Mint Games on 4023 W Irving Park Rd. None of the stores are large enough venues to host major events like a Grand Prix, so booking a convention center is one of the only options.
StarCityGames is a Magic: the Gathering retailer based in Virginia that is one of the longest-running Magic content sites as well as one of the largest Magic dealers in the world. They also hold major Magic events and tournaments across the United States on the SCG tour. Jared Sylva, an Organized Play Department Manager at StarCityGames describes some of the limitations of holding these events in Chicago. “There are many issues in securing a venue in the Chicago area, cost chief amongst them, but venue size and accessibility are also significant factors,” he said.
Unfortunately, the accessibility problem is prevalent throughout the entirety of Illinois. There are hundreds of stores in the areas surrounding Chicago, but none of them are large enough to hold a major event. Solutions to the problem are not apparent, unless the costs of renting a venue becomes cheaper in Illinois or a more affordable venue is willing to cater to a Magic event. There are some stores that host mid-level tournaments like Pastimes in Niles, with prize support of $1,000. For the competitive scene in Illinois the available option is to travel to other states for major events, which is costly and time-consuming.