Shop hosts weekly Magic: The Gathering tourneys — and play is ‘cutthroat’

JARED FIELDS • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — It’s just before 7 p.m. on a Friday night, and there are about 15 people in Sam Pearce’s store.

One person is playing a video game on a TV, a few kids are playing a handheld video game and a few others are comparing their card game collection while an extra table is brought into the lobby for the overflow crowd.

Soon, this gathering at Gameday Cards, Comics & Video Games in Marble Falls won’t be so scattered. It’s time for the weekly Magic: The Gathering.

One young player buys a pack before the game begins.

“You get anything new?” his friends asks.

“Nothing good.”

Without adding much to his collection, the player finds a seat, and Pearce begins calling roll and first-round match-ups.

Magic: The Gathering, introduced in 1993, was the first modern trading card game. Players collect cards to play against their opponent during gameplay.

Pearce said Gameday, 1814 U.S. 281, has been open for nine years, and Magic has been a part of his business even with the store moving to three locations.

“The one thing that’s been consistent has been Magic,” Pearce said.

Gathering (pun intended) every Friday, Pearce said the weekly tournaments range from eight to more than 20 players, who range in age from middle school to adults with children of their own.

James Clarke has been playing since 1995. In fact, he’s part of the reason Magic was introduced to Pearce.

“There’s actually been a small group of players around a long time before Sam’s shop,” said Clarke, who lives in Burnet. “I approached him about playing tournaments, and I was running the tournaments the majority of the first five or six years.”

The game is ever-changing and evolves on a nearly weekly basis. Old sets become irrelevant, and part of the strategy, away from head-to-head competition, revolves around keeping up with gameplay.

“The main thing I like is that it’s constantly changing.” Clarke said. “In a competitive environment, you have the strength of decks change almost weekly. A strong deck can have a counter and become mediocre.”

Clarke has earned some fame for his play. In 2007, he won a regional tournament for the Austin/San Antonio area that earned him a spot in the national event that year in Baltimore.

Last year, Clarke played in a record-setting tournament. The Grand Prix Las Vegas had 4,492 competitors, a record for the largest trading card game tournament. Clarke said he went 1-3 before dropping out.

“Competition at a Grand Prix event is always pretty strong,” he said. “There is a small group of professional players that travel pretty extensively.”

While the level of competition at Gameday might not be as high, the games are no less serious.

“This is tournament-level, competitive, cutthroat,” Pearce said of the weekly events. “I mean, you’re trying to really kill your opponent fast before they kill you.”

That’s how Nick Wiz plays.

“I play to win,” said Wiz of Round Mountain. “Some just want to spend time with friends.”

Wiz said he began playing Magic: The Gathering about six years ago as a means to befriend his nephew. It’s turned Wiz into a gamer with more than 15,000 cards who, like Clarke, travels to play large tournaments.

“I probably have spent an obscene amount of money. I don’t want to think about it that much,” Wiz said.

Wiz said Magic: The Gathering is his favorite game. And while he’s traveled with friends to numerous tournaments, the weekly Gameday tournaments keep him coming back nearly every week.

“I suppose I would rather play here every week than play in a tournament,” Wiz said. “Getting good at this game requires playing a lot.”

Aside from the Friday events, Gameday also hosts Saturday events. Gameday is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and can be reached by at (830) 798-2787.

jared@thepicayune.com

IF YOU PLAY

WHAT: Magic: The Gathering

WHEN: 7 p.m. Fridays

WHERE: Gameday Cards, Comics & Video Games, 1814 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls

FOR MORE: Call Gameday at (830) 798-2787; hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturda