August 23rd 2013, the weekend of Grand Prix Oakland. Hosted by Channel Fireball, the attendees of this particular Grand Prix were treated to an excellent seminar about how to build a proper deck in a Sealed tournament by two masters of the game, LSV and Ben Stark. Using a slide presentation and a microphone, they talked players through the M14 sealed format.
Chances are the players in the crowd increased their overall win percentage just by paying attention during the seminar. Many came for the strategy and stayed for the puns.
The whole idea may seem counter intuitive. Why would two professional players want to teach the opponents they will likely face over the coming weekend how to play better? I can’t speak to the motives of either Stark or LSV but the effect is obvious. They and Channel Fireball by extension are building goodwill and authority in the Magic community. As competitive Magic players at the apex of the game, they are both great examples of what a skilled and caring ambassador can do for the game and for the company they work for. They are mentors to the Magic community at large.
So what does this have to do with your community? Well, that depends where on the competitive spectrum your player base lies. When a player reaches the top of their game their experience with the local community changes and due to the competitive nature of players at this level, a number of undesirable attributes can become more prevalent.
The trouble with highly competitive players is that if left unchecked, they can become a negative influence in a store’s player base. Competition has its great aspects like achievement, personal growth, and sportsmanship. Even rivalry can be positive if put into the right context, each player or team striving to outperform the other will make both parties better in the long run.
Competition also has its negative aspects as well. It can lead to trash talking, a sense of entitlement, confrontations, and at its worst, cheating and theft.
As a store owner, you should create an environment that encourages and rewards the good behaviour and discourages and if necessary, punishes the bad. A good set of rules and guidelines that you announce before most of your tournaments is a good start. Enforcing them fairly is how you follow through.
A code of conduct will help keep the assholes out of your store but you can do more to bring in the good ones. One of the better ways to do this is to identify the leaders in your local community. They are easy to spot. Frequently they are the players who are fielding rules question’s during events or helping the tournament run smoother by helping the organizer.
One of the most important axioms in economics is “people respond to incentives”. Give the natural leaders in your community as reason to make it a better place to play and many of them will. This is how you recruit mentors from within your local player base.
A system of rewards such as free entry into tournaments, store credit, or even a more realized approach of hiring them as employees will allow your best Magic players to become champions and mentors within your community. The best players are largely an untapped resource. Bring them on board to use their skills in a constructive capacity while earning rewards by doing so. They will likely be flattered you asked as many of them would already do those thing for free.
Mentors can help bring in new customers, teach new players, and are excellent at promoting the health of your community. By being proactive with your best players, you can avoid the problem of the cut throat few ruining the experience for everyone else and instead have them build a better place to play the best game in the world.
For those who don’t want to play nice, sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and fire them. It’s hard but your business and your customers will thank you for it.
Leave a comment down below and share the strategies you’ve seen that take advantage of a competitive player base or stories of how it can go wrong. I would love to hear them.
Until next week.
ps. Check out the Manaverse Podcast, on iTunes today!