Gaming event will bring kind of magic to Arena

Magic: The Gathering GB National Championship 2011 at Ponds Forge.
Magic: The Gathering GB National Championship 2011 at Ponds Forge.

A WEEK after hosting the national chess championships, Ponds Forge international sports centre will be staging the UK finals of a very different indoor game.

Magic: The Gathering GB National Championship 2011 will bring hundreds of aficianados of the original collectible card game to Sheffield.

Participants in the grand prix event have won through from trials around the country during the year and are vying to be the top three players who will qualify to represent the UK at the world championships in San Francisco in November. Magic: The Gathering (known as Magic or MTG) is a collectible card game created by American mathematics professor Richard Garfield and introduced to the world in 1993 and patented by Wizards of the Coast in 1997. The first example of the modern collectible card game genre it continues to thrive with approximately six million players in more than 70 countries.

Magic can be played by two or more players each using a deck of printed cards or a deck of virtual cards through the Internet-based Magic: The Gathering Online. The GB Nationals will be taking place in the International Hall and the event will also include a number of pick-up competition and trade stands.

It is a game mostly played by boys, said Lupita Garcia, assistant brand manager in the UK and Iberia for Wizards of the Coast, although she is one of a select band of female exponents.

“The advisory age is 13+ though there are players as young as eight or nine who have stepped up from Pokeimon,” she added. “The prime age of participants in the nationals is from 18 to mid-thirties. But there will be other events so we expect the age range to be from 10 to 50. The senior open competition is for over 40s but there may be sufficient demand for an over 50s tournament.”

Last year’s national championships in Brighton attracted between 600-800 people.

The game is played through hobby stores around the country, such as Patriot Games on Lady’s Bridge in Sheffield, and many people come to it after discovering Magic through the online game which is called Duels of the Planeswalkers.

Each game represents a battle between mighty wizards, known as “planeswalkers”, who employ the magical spells, objects and fantastic creatures depicted on individual Magic cards to defeat their opponents.

Although the original concept of the game drew heavily from the motifs of traditional fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons whose fans were attracted to give it a try, the gameplay of Magic bears little similarity to those kind of adventure games. It also has many more cards and more complex rules than many other card games.

The company who commercialised Magic: The Gathering, Wizards of the Coast set up an organised tournament system where players can compete for sizable cash prizes and a community of professional Magic players has developed. At the same time the collectible aspect continues and certain Magic cards can be valuable due to their rarity and utility in game play. They come in five colours - red, white, green, blue and black - representing different spells.

Registration for all events opens at 9am on Thursday, August 18, at Ponds Forge and the event runs through until Sunday.