Welcome back! Today in The Science and Art of Hosting Home Magic Events, I’ll be covering some advice for guests (compared to last week’s advice for hosts) as well as some of my favorite formats and events I’ve hosted. Let’s dive in!
- Tip 1. You got invited to an event, yay! Thank the host (and maybe ask them what about you they liked if you’re feeling bold). Do you want to go? If so, great, let the host know. If you don’t want to go or can’t go, consider letting them know why, and what sort of future events you’d love to join.
- Tip 2. Commit to join early and often, regardless of who else is going to be there. Magic people are pretty special and if you like the host, chances are you’ll like a lot of folks they bring.
- Tip 3. If you’re a maybe, which happens sometimes, rather than not responding to the host at all, better to let them know you want to go and should know if you can on X date, and ask them if that’s okay. Be understanding if they don’t want to wait. If you don’t know exactly when you’ll know, you may want to explain the situation to them. Again, let them make the call how long you can be a maybe. They might really like you if they hold the spot for you for awhile.
- Tip 4. Ask what you can bring, or bring something (if not clear in the deets). They may have a suggestion, or they may tell you, “I’ll get back to you on that, thanks!”, or they may say, “we’re all good, thanks!” You can bring something anyway, and it need not be anything big, but the thought does count in a snack to share, drinks and/or something specifically for the host.
- Tip 5. If you’re not clear, ask about details (format, prizes, rules, can you bring a friend, etc.). Better to ask well in advance of the event if possible, as hosts can get busy day-of. As a guest, sometimes asking your friend you know who is going to the party but isn’t a host may be preferred to contacting a busy host. Still, you may not know anyone, and Magic events aren’t usually the 50 to 75 person parties where my phone’s blowing up with folks asking for my address (that I provided in the invitation) while I’m rushing to get the house ready. I know, I know, should’ve gotten it ready earlier, haha.
- Tip 6. Giving feedback on the details is great! But tread carefully and respectfully here, especially if you’re someone who’s never hosted. I don’t recommend suggesting pretty major changes like “I don’t love Innistrad; can we draft Homelands instead?” Do your favorite set when you host. But if the host specifically asks for ideas on food, set, format, prizes, by all means chime away!
- Tip 7. If you have to be late or potentially leave early as soon as you know, let the host know and feel things out. It may or may not make sense for you to attend, depending on how late/early it is.
- Tip 8. Try your best to keep your commitment and be early/on time. If you need to cancel, let the host know as soon as you can and offer to try to find a sub and see if they want you to. The day of the event, let the host and maybe another friend attending know how late you’re running. Ask what the host advises (maybe through your friend who is already there!).
- Tip 9. Be respectful, positive, friendly, humble, empathetic and flexible at the event, and if the host asks for help or feedback, try your best to make hosting a little bit easier for them and the event better for your fellow guests. Be yourself of course! If you’re among good friends, this is easier. But if “yourself” is few of the things above, you may want to consider stretching yourself in these directions, Pout-Pout Fish. No one’s perfect! I screw up regularly and remind myself to act appropriately, don’t say hurtful things, apologize, give people the benefit of the doubt, and try my best to be the host, guest and friend that I want to be.
1. Two-Headed Giant Draft
This is my favorite for so many reasons. First, it’s a collaborative team sport. Very close second, it’s DRAFT, the best kind of Magic. Third, you get to pick two cards out of a pack which is just fantastic (kudos to whomever designed Cogwork Librarian in Conspiracy). Fourth, you have a pretty easy out if someone has to cancel last minute and you can’t find a sub in time – just have one person draft and run both decks: you can offer to do it as host, since it’s not as fun… or if there are prizes, I’d randomize (heaven forbid fortune is not smiling upon y’all and two people cancel, in which case I’d pivot to 3vs3 Team Draft – see next event).
Interesting for those who didn’t know, 2HGD used to be a Grand Prix side event – I got to play one with my buddy Ben during Dragon’s Maze. Was bummed to see it go bye-bye.
2. Team Draft (3 vs. 3)
I love how Team Resources and Lord of Limited/Limited Level Ups now have a regular Team Draft challenge each new Standard legal set. This format is an absolute blast. It’s a collaborative team sport, and if you buy a box with 36 packs as most are, you can run two team drafts instead of only one eight-person regular draft. I specifically recall doing Khans of Tarkir (definitely in my top three draft formats of all time) 3 vs. 3 with two different sets of friends. Ben on the opposite team passed me a Bloodstained Mire and whispered, “take the value.” I definitely did, ha. Word of caution – a last-minute cancellation is pretty back breaking going from six to five.
3. Commander/EDH Cube
If you liked Commander Legends drafts, this may be for you! Make a Cube with cards good in Commander, then make a mini-Cube with only legendary creatures (or planeswalkers who can be commanders) and different colored sleeves. My mini had 40 to 50 legends, mostly balanced between two and three-color ones. The first “packs” everyone would “crack” and pass would be of four or five commander potentials, and you would only get three picks – the leftovers went face down in a pile for the rest of the event. That pack would go to the left, and then the remaining three regular 15-card packs from the normal big Cube would go right, left, right. You might want to allow legends drafted who aren’t used as commanders in the deck if the colors work, but beware that the player may forget to switch the sleeve back to the mini-Cube sleeve. You may want to add more legends in the normal cube that are options as well for commander – I did this with some monocolored legends, and I remember Alex drafting and building a Thassa, God of the Sea monoblue deck.
A great thing about Commander Cube is you target around eight people but if you end up with anywhere between six to 12 (or even more, your space allowing), you’re fine – no need to scramble for subs. Six is two games of three people, seven is three people and four people, eight is two of four, nine is three of three, and ten is either two games of five or (my preference) three, three and four, etc.
I’m trying to be better at building Cubes around themes and balance versus jamming together a bunch of fun OG Commander and Commander 2013 cards, along with other favorites that were collecting Dust to Dust. I’m torn whether to update this Cube next, since more friends seem to like it, or this next one, since I like it better…
4. Innistrad/Dark Ascension/(Avacyn Restored)/Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon Cube
As a huge fan of Werewolves, Vampires, Spirits, Zombies and even Humans, I am heartily looking forward to Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow this spooky fall, where hopefully Halloween will be more fun than last year. I was a Vampirate one Halloween and I wonder if WOTC will ever print one (no, changelings don’t count).
5. My First Home MTG Event!
In 1998, I was a senior in high school and I had seven friends over to my parents’ place for a chaotic Sealed! Draft didn’t exist yet. My mom cooked dinner, and I somehow chose for everyone a 5th Edition starter deck plus three boosters from Mirage, Visions and Fallen Empires ($0.99 pack special!). We had fun.
6. My second home MTG event!
In college, I organized another Sealed – this time Mercadian Masques and Nemesis – utilizing my dorm’s common room. I remember us eating dining hall Sunday brunch and listening to a mix CD I burned where every song had Magic in the title. How many can you name without Spotifying/Googling?
7. Rubik’s Cube Party
I attended a Rubik’s Cube Party once in grad school and just had to host myself. I’m not sure who thought of this, but it’s genius – you wear exactly six articles of clothing, one for each sticker color of the cube (Rubik’s, not MTG). The goal is to make trades such that you’re one of the first wearing six articles of clothing all of one single color. Photos from these can be pretty striking. Lots of people changing clothes a lot at a party can also be intriguing to some, and so I do recommend this one for adults, although there’s probably plenty of possible kid-friendly variants. You as host can also change the standard colors – I elected for mine to be yellow, pink, teal, silver, black and white. I do love different types of rainbows (and faeries, and unicorns, and musicals…).
8. Wacky Prize Events
I don’t recall the format but recall distinctly Cobblebruting together some memorable prizes, most of which were regifts – a big erotica coffee table book, AMC movie gift cards, a nice wine opener/paraphernalia set and some random semi-valuable rares. 3-0 got to take their choice, then runner up, then a random roll of the two other 2-1s for third and fourth.
On the topic of prizes, anteing a pack for a prize pool is something a lot of folks like to do. Having the winning 3 vs. 3 team keep all the cards drafted is another or drafting the card pool at the end with best record gets first pick on down is another common way. I would make the prizes clear up front, in writing before people commit, then again verbally during the event, since it very much influences picks in the draft.
Ben describes prizes well:
“If the prize is cash or say, a booster pack per person, you’re likely to get more serious competition. If you are offering a Nicol Bolas plushy for “spiciest play” and a box of cookies for “most losses,” you’re likely to have a much more casual (and I personally think fun) event. And again, communicate to everyone what the expectation is, sort of like when you sit down to a Commander game with a new group – discuss what the power level is going to be so everyone is on the same page.”
I don’t think you have to have prizes at all. Some of my favorite events I attended didn’t, including several of my own.
9. Planeswalker EDH/Pauper EDH/Points EDH
I am a pretty darn bad Elder Dragon Highlander player. My decks are often trending towards synergies of Limited Magic power level and subsequently I frequently have a Wee Dragonauts fraction of the cards, permanents and life compared to my opponents. I tried playing the first rare I ever opened, Balance, for this very reason, and all three of my opponents simultaneously chirped, “that’s banned.”
Still, EDH can be very fun to build and play! Before Wizards produced ‘walkers that could be your commander, I ran an event allowing them because planeswalkers are so cool – I recommend this for any planeswalker in your casual Commander games, especially because even the most busted ‘walkers aren’t as powerful in multiplayer. Pauper EDH was an uncommon or common creature as general (need not be a legend, although these days there are probably enough uncommon legends to choose from) and the rest of the cards commons. And the “points” EDH event I ran kept track of points for not only of wins, but also “kills”, coolest decks (via votes), alternate win conditions, biggest creatures, most creatures/permanents, highest life and negative points for which overused/groan test Commander cards your deck ran, like Sol Ring.