….Well, famous in the Magic world at least.
Week in and week out, the number one question I’m asked is, “I’m an average PTQ player with no contacts and nobody to test with. How can I get to know
people and network better?”
If you’re one of the people asking that question, you’ve clicked on the right article.
After my article on breakups and metagame choices
got linked around a lot, it seemed as though an entirely new readership was barraging me with the same question. Suddenly, my average of one or two
requests swelled to twenty or thirty. I’m all about writing what you guys want to know â€” and I have to say, for such an important topic, this certainly
seems like one that’s underdiscussed.
I was absolutely that guy once too. No, not that guy, the one who always does that one social thing you hate â€” but rather, the one in
the same position as many of you. No contacts, no real breakthrough performances, and no idea about where to go next in Magic. And somehow, from there,
I ended up here.
You basically have two options if you’re going to network. You can either fast track yourself by making 8 of a Pro Tour or Grand Prix (recommended) or
slowly and surely work your way ahead. If you’ve done the first already, great job. You have a name some people will recognize and working with the
upper echelons shouldn’t be too difficult if you try. But, if you haven’t, then you’re going to want to read on. No two experiences are the same, but
this is the general process you should aim for.
So here you are. You’re a player of average to above-average skill level. Maybe you have a PTQ top 8 or two under your belt, maybe you’re relatively
fresh. Whatever the case, the two most important things you can do are these: play more Magic, and find people better than you to play Magic with.
The first of those two is hopefully self-explanatory. In case it isn’t clear, playing more Magic will make you a better player simply by way of
becoming used to card interactions, intuition about the format, and â€” assuming you have some sense of humility â€” understanding what mistakes you made.
Figuring out where you messed up is one of the most important things you can do after a match, win or lose. A favorite tip I like to give Magic Online
players is to watch your replays after a match to figure out what you did wrong. You can see how the game progressed from each decision tree and
understand what each block or each play led to. If you lost, you can almost always find the reason why you lost and alter your future play accordingly.
Is purely playing Magic enough? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Charles DuPont — Aceman022 on Magic Online, as he’s known better — is a player who
firmly believes that the best way to “playtest” is to play a lot of Magic.
When preparing for a major tournament, Charles doesn’t spend weeks deciphering the format. He’d much rather sit in Tempest Block Draft queues on Magic
Online and go play grab bag drafts at the local store to hone his overall playing skills. Some people laugh at Charles for his unique take on
playtesting — but a top 4 at Grand Prix: Seattle and a top 40 finish at Pro Tour: Austin with virtually no playtesting and a last-minute deck choice
would lend some credence to this theory.
Part of the reason I feel Charles found success with his theory, though, is because of his opposition. He wasn’t simply going to a random FNM every
week — he was playing against the tough opposition found on Magic Online.
That brings us to the networking half of the equation: finding people better than you to play Magic with.
One great way to do this is Magic Online. I can honestly not stress the product enough. Every single person I have recommended playing Magic Online to
who has wholeheartedly taken my advice has found their skill level increasing. If you consistently do well on Magic Online, people will begin to
recognize your username which can lead to building a network.
However, while excellent for getting better at the game, Magic Online actually isn’t that great of a networking tool. It’s more of a replacement for a
playtesting group; you can use it to get better so you’ll perform at a higher level in major tournaments, which in turn will build you a network. A lot
of the old camaraderie you could build on Magic Online by way of clans and specific chat rooms is harder to come by these days. As opposed to real
life, when you can talk to people between rounds, messaging people on Magic Online is a lot more anonymous and you risk bothering people while they’re
trying to play.
That finally brings us to real-life, local-level networking.
Working Your Way in
The first thing you have to realize is that, for better or worse, Magic is a game that fosters cliques. Players like hanging out with the people they
know, testing with the players they like being around, and are less likely to seek out people who aren’t in their circle between rounds. They (usually)
aren’t as vicious as what you might remember from high school, but cliques are still a product of the environment that you have to be able to deal
As a result, you have to slowly work your way in. You can’t just try and strong-arm them by running up and asking for an invite to their next
playtesting session. After all, what reason do they have to playtest with someone they don’t know? You have to grab their attention first.
The most important thing to do is attend every tournament you can. The idea is pretty simple: the more people see you and play against you, the more
people will recognize you. It doesn’t even really matter if you’re a good player. As long as you pass muster as merely “okay,” people are going to
recognize your face. From this point, you can work into the circles of better players in a number of ways.
Way number one is simply talking to them. Here’s a little talked about piece of information: most great Magic players are actually just nice people,
Yeah, I’ve heard stories about particular players disparaging people who come up to them and want to talk, but for the most part these stories seem
fairly unsubstantiated. You don’t want to siphon away their time — they have people they’re trying to seek out, too — but checking in every round,
listening to their stories, and trying to be a part of their tournament experience can go a long way. I’ve made a lot of friends in the Magic community
simply by talking with them every now and then.
Some of you might not be outgoing enough to just go up and talk to somebody. Other times, it’s just hard to find an opening. Fortunately, Magic has a
way of forcing you to talk: being paired.
If you have the fortune of being paired against someone who has an “in” in the community, that’s a great chance to get to talk to them and get them to
know you. You even have the freebie of asking them how they did every round after that. And, once again, the more tournaments you go, to the more
likely this will occur.
If you end up in the good graces of one player in a circle of better players, then you can kind of start poking your head into their discussions
without seeming out of place. From there, it’s only a matter of time until you start working your way into their group. Now you should be in a network
of people with cards you can borrow, people who want to playtest, and players you can learn from. Congratulations!
One final word of caution: your reputation is everything. If you are an unfun player to play against, harass other players, have any kind of history of
shadiness and so on, that information will spread quickly. People will know who you are — but not for the reasons you want. That could hinder you in
the long term.
It used to be that local networking was everything, but we live in a different world now. Local networking is small game compared to what networking on
the worldwide scale can do for you. Not only can it put you in touch with the best players in the world, but it can escalate you to another level by
becoming a name that people recognize across the Magic-playing circuit.
This might sound difficult or grandiose. Fortunately for you, it’s actually easier than ever to reach these goals if you just try.
Let me list off four names you might recognize:
All of these people have something in common. Have they all made top 8 of a Pro Tour? Unfortunately not. Have they broken multiple formats? Nope. What
all of these players share is they rose through the ranks from scratch to write for StarCityGames.com from essentially scratch.
If I had shown this list to you a year ago, how many of these people would you have known existed? In very little time, using just the tools that were
at their disposal, these awesome individuals decided to put in a little extra effort — and it paid off.
You could be next.
So how did they do it? Well, there are multiple things they did right.
First of all, they used the power of social media. Facebook is a clear one, but the real winner here is another outlet:
A couple years ago, I might have even told you forums were the way to go if you wanted to build a name. However, the world has changed. Signing up for
a Twitter is the number one thing I feel you can do to make a name for yourself currently.
Why? Because it actively creates the same kind of situations you used to your favor at tournaments during local networking — except those situations
occur over and over, every day.
People get to know who you are through sheer repetition of talking with you. If you send a tweet at Gerry Thompson or Patrick Chapin, they’re probably
going to send one back, and they’re definitely going to see it. Not only is this very cool and useful for improving yourself, but it shows other people
who you are.
My favorite example of this is Jonathan Richmond.
Who’s Jonathan Richmond, you may ask? Why, Norbert88, of course!
Who’s Norbert88? Just some dude. He doesn’t write anywhere, he doesn’t have a blog, he isn’t a professional player. However, he just so happens to be
“some dude” who a vast majority of Magic players on Twitter have talked to or heard of at some point. Why? Because he’s active!
With over 13,000 tweets, Jonathan talks to everyone. He follows popular Magic figures, is active in their discussions, and has even amassed a healthy
400+ followers simply from talking to people.
If Jonathan wants advice, he can ask the best minds in the game. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Another great example: Justin Treadway, a.k.a. GriffnValentine. Granted, he’s an artistic master of Magic spinoffs who has his own blog (which certainly gives him an angle)
â€” but even then, he’s someone who has really taken advantage of Twitter.
I know there’s a stigma around Twitter. A lot of people feel it’s stupid. A lot of people feel it’s just for people who would climb to mountaintops and
shout, “HEY, LOOK AT ME, SEE HOW AWESOME I AM?” to everyone below. However, regardless of your feelings, you’re really missing out on
a great opportunity to network if you don’t use Twitter. It costs absolutely nothing but a little bit of time to use, and the upside is tremendous.
Plus, some really interesting discussions go on there that you won’t ever see if you don’t have an account.
Of course, not only does Twitter give you a way to talk to people, but it gives you away to promote your own endeavors too.
Those four names from earlier — Sam, Thea, Lauren, and Jonathan — all have another thing in common: they all started from blogs.
There are so many Magic blogs out there that you need a good reason to push any one over another. Without a major name like, say, Mike Flores attached
to your blog, it’s going to be a hard sell. Being able to connect with an audience — over, say, Twitter or forums — and create a platform for yourself
gives people a reason to go read what you have to say.
I’m sure you guys all know of Tom LaPille, now a staple of Magic R&D. It wasn’t that long ago that he, too, was just some PTQ grinder without a
name for himself. Then he created a blog, found ways to promote it and make people care, and suddenly found him with tons of visitors to his site, and
a column on StarCityGames.com not long after.
In some sense, he was one of the trailblazers for people like Sam, Thea, Lauren, and Jonathan. However, Tom didn’t have the power of Twitter aiding him
like the new wave of writers has. He had to advertise his blog the hard way, where Twitter gave this generation of writers a much more accessible
If blogging isn’t your thing, there are tons of sites out there that are looking for up-and-coming writers. Many StarCityGames.com writers formerly
wrote somewhere else to build up their craft, and then, once they were established, were able to find a spot here at StarCityGames.com. It gives you a
platform without having to push your blog so hard, and it’s definitely an avenue worth keeping in mind. Similarly, podcasts can serve the same purpose.
I recognize not all of you want to be writers — you just want to be shipped tech. Fortunately, there is one last thing you can do that plays into that
If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend travelling to major events. You don’t need to be as extreme as going outside of the country, but
attending domestic Grand Prix is a great way to meet people that can be crucial in networking you further.
Sure, obviously doing well at a Grand Prix is great â€” but even if you do poorly, there’s a lot to be gained. When you fly out to a Grand Prix and
people see you there, it builds the same kind of image as when you were local networking and people saw you at PTQs. You can socialize with people,
meet some of the best players, and become someone people know. (And ask to borrow cards from.) You’ll be invited to dinners with people, and broaden
your circle even further.
I know not everybody can do it, but if you can afford to it’s definitely worth it. I know I’ve certainly gained a lot from flying out to Grand Prix and
even Pro Tours I’m not qualified for because of the people I meet, not to mention the fun times I have. It’s certainly something for you to consider.
All of the same strategies as local networking applies while at major events, so you can just transpose all my advice from those events onto the larger
Show up to events, be active on Twitter, and people are going to know who you are enough to trust that sharing their information with you is
worthwhile. If you have the inclination to write, it’s a big help — but I recognize it isn’t for everybody.
It’s a phenomenal world where an entire age of Magic players can all communicate and recognize each other. With some effort and a little bit of luck,
you could easily be the next person writing for StarCityGames.com or being shipped a sweet deck by Gerry the night before the event. If you want to
network with the best, go out there and pave your own path — it’s all yours to make happen.
If you have any questions, let me know and I’d be happy to help however I can! This is a topic I get asked a lot, and I tried to cover all of the areas
people typically want to know about, but I’d be happy to field any of your thoughts in the forums, on Twitter @ GavinVerhey, or via e-mail at Gavintriesagain at gmail dot com.
I’ll be in Denver this weekend. If you’re there, feel free to do a little bit of networking and come up and say hi! I’d be happy to talk with you.
Otherwise, I’ll see you next week!