May 31, 2016

A Magic Tutorial That Sticks

This incisive take on teaching Magic is propelling a small-town Florida game store toward Advanced Plus.

May 31, 2016

A Magic Tutorial That Sticks

This incisive take on teaching Magic is propelling a small-town Florida game store toward Advanced Plus.

Big Daddy Games has created a vibrant, sustainable Magic community in record time—and virtually out of thin air.

Of the 116 players that they've drawn since opening a mere six months ago, 79 had never played in-store Magic before—a staggering 70% of their player base.

Owner Matt Steinhower attributes that success to their unique, incisive take on introducing the game. It's a three-stage program called Magic 101/201/301, where players learn a lot more than just gameplay.

Here's how it works:

101: There's More to the Basics than Just the Basics

Magic 101, naturally, covers the rudiments. Untap, upkeep, draw. You don't tap mana, you tap lands. The fundamentals.

But Matt takes a broader view of those fundamentals: he introduces the element of identity, the idea of recognizing your own values in the values of Magic's characters.

To communicate that, he gives players a rundown of the imagery and ethos surrounding each of Magic's five colors, then issues the Welcome Deck most likely to resonate with them.

"You can see their eyes light up—like, yeah that's me," Matt says.

The Color Pie explained:

The color pie describes the philosophy behind each of Magic's colors, and illustrates where colors intersect with one another. Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic, explains each color like this:

White is about achieving peace through structure.

Blue is about achieving perfection through knowledge.

Black is about achieving power through opportunity.

Red is about achieving freedom through action.

Green is about achieving acceptance through wisdom.

To read at length about the color pie, go here.

Whichever play style they gravitate toward, this message is "you belong." When a player can identify with the philosophy of a given color, it creates a sense of inclusion and ownership. Which, in turn, creates a deeper, more satisfying play experience. From there, retention follows naturally.

201: There's More to Strategy than Just Strategy

The curriculum gets loftier in phase two: from "what are lands and spells" to "what's the right land/spell ratio"; from "what's mana" to "what's mana curve."

But Matt's ultimate goal is loftier still: create a high-emotion gameplay memory.

He does this by setting up card interactions that lead to powerful, surprising results—for example, wiping the opponent's board with a timely Cone of Flame (found in the red Magic Welcome Deck).

The potent effect creates the thrill, and that thrill creates the appetite for more.

"Those positive emotions to get them excited about the game," says Matt.

301: There's More to Know than How to Play

With a firm grasp of gameplay in place, Matt starts building confidence by elaborating on gameplay elements sometimes left to tribal knowledge—things like draft etiquette, and how the Standard rotation works.

For example, to get players comfortable with drafting, he distributes a Booster to each player and holds a mock draft, passing cards in a different direction after every few picks.

Once a player knows the decorum that experienced players usually take for granted—like "don't stack your draft piles," or what to do with the basic land—there's a feeling that they've "unlocked" a whole sphere of Magic that once seemed inscrutable.

And once they have that new knowledge, they want every opportunity to use it.

"I have a dad and son pair that come in every Saturday," Matt says. "Because they love that they know how to do it."

Empowering players like that has helped build a community from next-to-nothing, and maintained a retention rate to boast about.

Contact us for Welcome Decks and apply some of Matt's ideas to your own Magic demos!

Store Stats

Big Daddy Games

Location: Saint Augustine, Florida (population 13,000)
WPN Level: Advanced
Opened: December 2015
Size: 2,600 sq. ft.

By Matt Neubert

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