Bad Owners, Bad Policies

By: Cliff Daigle

Let me give you a situation that you might not remember having been in.

You’ve been playing Magic for a few weeks. Maybe a friend taught you, maybe you played Duels of the Planeswalkers, maybe you found an intro deck and just liked the art. You feel ready to head to your local game store and you head there, being told that you can rule at FNM, or something to that extent.

I want to share with you some things to watch out for, as a new or experienced player. These are financial pitfalls that can ruin your experience or turn you off from that store for good.

Rare Redrafting

There is no situation that will sour me faster on a store than the practice of collecting the rares after the last round of the draft and then having first place in the draft choose a card. I get what it’s for: a reward for having won, your choice of the cards that were opened. Instead of the best cards in three packs, you’re looking at the best of 24 packs. Seems like a great idea, right? It’s even good training for a high-level draft, where you’re choosing card quality over card value. 

If you and a group of friends want to redraft the rares, that’s pretty awesome. You’re playing for something of value without needing to have extra packs. If this is how you and seven friends want to draft three times out of two boxes, more power to you.

At the store level, though, there are real problems with a rare redraft. One, it feels terrible to open a sweet card and know that you’re not going to be able to keep it. Imagine that you’ve had a bad two packs of a draft. You misread signals, you opened poorly, someone in front of you changed colors, etc. It happens to all of us. Then in pack 3 of Khans, there it is, a foil fetchland. Congratulations! You view tonight as a win.

With a redraft, though, there is little chance that you’re going to hang on to that foil. Unless you do something sneaky, like take it out of circulation. Draft the card, hide it in a deck box, and don’t tell anyone. They’ll notice at the end of the draft that something is wrong, and that’s the second issue with redrafting: I’ve rarely seen it work where 8 players put up 24 rares. With the foil fetch example, what’s to stop me from swapping in a Clever Impersonator out of my binder once the time comes?

It’s especially egregious to have a redraft in place of prize packs. Stores get excellent prices on their packs, about half retail price for the most part. Stores that charge you $12 to draft and give a redraft as the prize are shorting you on value and experience.

Shoddy buylisting/credit

True story: I went to a game store six months ago and was seeking to sell a Gaea’s Cradle. It had a retail price of about $120 then. I went into the store, which I had drafted at before, and they had a tablet set up displaying their buylist. I could browse what prices they gave without troubling a clerk. I picked out a few things and told the clerk I wanted cash, not credit.

“The price on there is the credit price. We give half of that credit if you want cash.” So I got offered $35 cash on a Gaea’s Cradle.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back there.

Stay away from stores that are trying to make too much money off of individual transactions. It’s just bad business and it’s going to leave you feeling angry that you were taken advantage of in such a way. Not getting full retail for your cards is a part of the game, but getting dimes on the dollar is just too much.

Cheap play area

There are some remarkably awful places to play Magic. I’ve been in stores where neither side of a table had room to get in and out, but instead each player had to pull the table to them, in order to let someone else out. I’ve done a draft in a store that had room for exactly eight players, and anyone extra was going to play outside. Heaven help me, I’ve played PTQs in the cheapest, flimsiest of IKEA chairs.

My wife wins, though. She visited her parents in upstate New York, and for fun, went to an FNM draft. This place, in October, had drafts occurring in an open garage, around a high table with no chairs. She was the only one who brought sleeves!

If you encounter a store that can’t bother to have a place to let you play, don’t give them your money.

On a related note: Don’t stay one minute if anyone ever talks to you about table fees.

Arbitrary store owners/employees

This is less of an issue than it used to be, I hope. I learned to play at stores that tolerated Magic, but who felt in their heart of hearts that everything should be comics or miniatures. I knew, for a fact, that Magic made them more money but they didn’t like having to learn a new game or depend on something they didn’t understand.

So they didn’t bother.

This would lead to store owners who didn’t care, or worse, let some constantly-present customer take over. I know the era of ‘I don’t work here, but I get treated like I do’ isn’t over and that’s a shame, because that can be bad for business.

Perhaps the worst is when a buddy of the owner decides he doesn’t have to play by any rules, and the owner allows it. That store won’t be around long and you should plan for their going-out-of-business sale.

Tolerating cheaters/bullies

If you’re a high-volume trader, seller, or speculator, you might do a lot of business with one store, building a relationship with them over time. This is usually beneficial for you, for them, and for the other players at the store who get access to more cards that they want.

Such things can sour, though, if there’s preferential treatment or awful behavior going on. If the guy who ‘runs’ the card case at a store decides he’s only going to play with Ice Age lands and no sleeves, and the owner does nothing, no one else will play!

Crazy Pricing

Finally, I want to bring up stores that don’t seem to know about the Internet. Sure, a brick-and-mortar store can have a small increase in price over a card’s price online, that’s part of the price you pay for getting the card immediately. If you need it fast, it’ll cost you more. (This is why Containment Priest was $50 on the GP New Jersey floor the morning of the event)

Some stores, though, never catch up. It’s understandable if they get bought out of a card before they found out about a card spiking (maybe they need to become ProTraders!) but I’ve been to more than a few stores that bought at the new price, and then tried to sell it at an even higher price!

Buying singles is generally the way to go. Buying packs and hoping to crack the value is usually not going to give you a return on your investment. Singles, though, are only worth it if the stores aren’t trying to make up for their mistake when buying.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful when you’re choosing a store to play at.

And if you have some ‘awful store’ stories, I’d love to hear them, in the comments or tweet me @WordOfCommander

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27 thoughts on “Bad Owners, Bad Policies”

  1. I set up a trade with a guy on my local MTG Players Facebook page, and we agreed to meet at his regular store. I had only been to this place about 4 times, and on 3 of those occasions I had spent money.

    I walked into the store and tried to find the guy. The owner says to me “Hey are you playing?”

    “No, I don’t have a deck.”

    “Table fee is 5 dollars.”

    I blinked. “For what?”

    “To trade.”

    I laughed and just walked out.

    I then proceeded to tell this story on the Facebook page and tell everyone about it.

  2. Great article! I like Arbitrary store owners though. They aren’t up to date on price spikes. Picked up some Dig’s when they spiked real cheap that way.

    Anyhoo I have one for you. A shop owner that has bulk and a set price for the bulk. After about an hour of picking bulk expecting to pay the price that’s listed there I’m told that they are going to look up what I’ve picked since I seem to know what I’m doing. Punished for knowing what cards are worth. How about that. Not been back since.

      1. I’ve had that happen as well, after the shop owner said that everything in bulk boxes was priced at $.10-$.25/card. At the time, he said it was because we, as customers, are doing the work to find what we want. It turns out that someone found Serum Visions or another $5 common and he re-thought that policy. If he were on top of prices and pulled out valuable cards, then that would be one thing, but he and his staff haven’t, so expensive singles are mixed between binders and bulk, and customers still do the work to pull cards.

        He also charges NM prices regardless of condition (the last few cards I bought had surface abrasions and I would expect them to be graded SP by other retailers).

        One final irritating thing concerns selling singles on eBay. He’s offered ridiculously cheap buy-it-now prices (e.g., a play set of Goblin Rabblemaster buy-a-box promos for $20) but never offers the same deals in-store to his regular customers.

        For these reasons, unless I’m in desperate need of a card, I don’t buy singles from this shop.

    1. That happens to me all the time. I have to use a ‘smurf’ to go in and buy from my local store because the owner doesn’t like me making money at his expense. My ‘smurf’ can walk around and buy anything and they don’t bother to look up the price, I go in and try and buy something and suddenly they’re looking up the prices on SCG and trying to make me pay SCG price. Last time they pulled this, I pulled out my phone and bought the cards I wanted from the SCG site in front of them. I HATE this.

      1. Took me a few months to find a good one. They can’t give too much away. Maybe I will write a little about it in next weeks article.

  3. Well, this is a nice article… unfortunately I am now living in Malta…. small country, small community, as a result only one store…. when I first went there I ask to look for store’s binders to find some cards I need. You know, I just found out that they do not have manu cards because both employees are huge collectors and they have no interest in growing store’s collection.

    No PTQs/PPTQs, no GPTs… We do not even have a LV2 judge there…

    Drafts go on without sync, people commenting, asking for suggestions. If we are 10 then 2 can’t play because FNM are 8-max only.

    It is also difficult to set some trades because half of the regular players are part of the same ‘team’, and they do not even need to build decks because they take cards from one of the above mentioned collectors.

    Said that, I should not even think about going there, but what should I do? All other stores are a flight away….

    1. Try out Pucatrade, it can help you get some cards for your bulk.

      If you really sign up, it would be awesome if you used my referral link (if that’s ok to post).

      I’ve had nothing but nice experiences on Pucatrade so far, it’s really easy to build a nice deck when you manage to ship cards that you’d never get to trade away otherwise (commons/Uncommons/bulk rares, etc.)


  4. I have 2 stores in my area that are GREAT for trading. They use Star City and treat most everyone with the same respect!
    If your near Detroit check out RIW games in Redford and Eternal Games in Warren. Honest and more than fair.

    I feel if you have a bad store put them on blast! Poor practices should not be tolerated by gamers.

    1. I go to RIW all the time! Great place. If you’re going north, BC Comics in Fenton is one of the best stores in our state. The owner, Bob loaned me 3 LED to play in a Legacy IQ the second time I was ever at the store. If you’re interested in other stores I’ve had luck with in your area you can email me on gmail mtglegacyhero. Always looking for local(ish) players for trading!

  5. Great article, would like all LGS owners to read this. Though I feel the need to defend the rare redraft – which is one of my favorite aspects of FNM. I understand the feeling of cracking a pack and finding something awesome, knowing that you’re probably not going to end up with it. But I feel the rare draft serves a couple of important functions. First, for game play. When drafting, if you know you’re not keeping the rares you pull, it encourages you to make your card decisions based on your deck/gameplay as opposed to monetary value. Making for a better deck and better games. Second is the incentive. Knowing there are good cards in the pool and that you have to place to get them spurs the competition and makes the matches count a little more. Lastly, rare drafting evens out the value. It’s easy to open 3 packs and only get bulk or rares that don’t fit your decks. Now if there’s 8 players and 24 packs opened, even last place gets 8th pick out of 24 which gives you a solid chance of picking up something you actually want. I just feel the rare redraft adds a fun dynamic to FNM and encourages more player interaction.

    1. Rare redraft is cool I remember doing one draft of Modern masters and I was building a hell of an affinity deck, and someone just pulled the Arcbound ravager because of the value, not because they needed it. That definitelay sucks because the quality of the decks you can build is damaged with something that has nothing to do with the game itself.

    2. I’m agree that the article author is way off base with re-drafting rares, especially to start the article with it as his very first “bad policy”.

      Rare re-drafting lets you focus of drafting the best deck you can. The way I have seen it done ensures even 8th place gets the 8th best rare from the draft pool.

      Obviously the store shouldn’t be charging extra for prizes when the draft is only supported by the rare re-draft. The entry fee at my local store for a draft is actually a little less than their regular price on the 3 booster packs.

    3. “When drafting, if you know you’re not keeping the rares you pull, it encourages you to make your card decisions based on your deck/gameplay as opposed to monetary value. ”

      Or it encourages people to secretly hide the money rares they draft and replace them with jank.

  6. I’m in favor of the rare re-draft, at least at my LGS. The draft itself is only $11, and you get to keep one rare that you draft, with the rest going into the pool (there’s also packs thrown into the prize pool too, as well as old promos). The only downside is the top three get the first 11 or so picks split between them, but when you consider the $4 savings over most shops and ability to keep one rare you pulled, I think it’s a fair trade off.

    1. This sounds really fair! If you get to keep one rare and only pay $11 that’s not too bad. I personally hate rare redrafting unless it’s among friends as Cliff stated in his article. If you want to draft a good deck and not worry about other players rare drafting play online where rares have a fraction of the value and it financially makes sense to draft a good deck to win packs and not rare draft. I believe drafting at a store should involve winning packs otherwise you and 7 players should pick up 3 packs and draft at someone’s house.

      I’ll give a shout out to Top Deck Games in Haddon Heights/Collingswood, NJ as a great place to play. The owner hosts Eternal Weekend in Philly and they really do try to put on good events even at the local store. I’ve seen the owner honor prize support for subpar turnouts and take a loss because it’s what was advertised. The pre-release events have a $5 buffet and prize payouts are typically top notch for drafts, GPTs, FNMs, etc. Unfortunately their online cardstore and website are a little lacking, but there’s typically plenty of room to play and it’s clean (and there’s 20+ restaurants and a few bars within a few blocks)

  7. How would you guys react to this situation? The shop runs a league using leftover Khans prerelease packs. Standard sealed league rules and $25 entry. After two weeks only 4 people sign up. Its pretty much impossible to get the required games in. We decide to end the league as theres no point with only 4 people. I ask the store owner for some sort of compensation, as everyone was going to get at least 1 prize pack at the end regardless of standing. I was simply blown off and told it wasnt their problem that we cancelled the league. The way I see it, the shop should have given us something, anything for our time, but has instead walked off with $10 from each of us. Ive since vowed to not play magic there. This wasnt the first time they have skimped on prize support. Thankfully theres plenty of places around me to play (mid-Michigan). The shop in question is Archangel Games in Clio, MI for those curious.

    1. Maybe I’m missing something here. You signed up for a league that cost $25. The league was canceled without playing any games. How does the $10 come into play here? Did you get your initial product to start the league? If it was canceled you should get your money back but I can see not giving away any prizes if there wasn’t any games played. However, if there were games played and it was then canceled, I can see the case being made for some sort of prizes being handed out.

      1. The $10 is the difference between the $25 entry and roughly what prerelease kits costs a store. Games definitely were played, we tried to get more people signed up for two weeks. Last league had 20+ signups, so we certainly didnt expect any difficulties finding games.

      2. Gotcha. Tough call. I mean the owner did what he was supposed to do. The league didn’t get the numbers expected and was cancelled early. The owner probably sees it as ” I did what I was supposed to do, but it’s not my responsibility to reimburse the four players for their time.” Which isn’t ideal but defensible. That being said, if it was my store I would give everyone a pack to keep my customers happy. It wouldn’t stop me from going there but I would probably troll the owner about it from time to time.

  8. Here in Montreal, we have that notoriously lame store (that’s right by my house but after giving them a couple chances, i’ll never walk in there again) but 1. They have a big “name” — Carta Magica; and 2. Somehow, a huge crowd of the new players and standard players end up playing there, feeding the monster. Things they do that pisses any experienced player (and human being): overcharge by a ~20 freaking percent margin on singles, and when you ask how that is possible, they’ll gun you down with something like “mind your own business” (store owner); try to rip you off over grading when buylisting — obvious SP are considered MP, which adds up; have some “favoured players” to who they lend money cards to play into in-house tourneys in exchange of their share of the prizes won; the owner and a couple boys from his staff walk into an other, smaller gameshop’s FNM, show-off with their Carta Magica t-shirts and cocky-ly inspect everything while talking to players. They’re really just subtly bullying . And they just treat everyone like shit. Attitude-wise, I don’t know what to say. It might not be an objective business issue, but I know a lot of people who just don’t go to Carta Magica anymore because of the trash-attitude of the team.

    I rather drive half an hour to get to Face to Face Games to play my MTG. Best store, staff and experience around.

  9. I had been throwing around the idea of opening a brick and mortar store in my town. Finding a suitable commercial property has thus far been unsuccessful. It’s either much to large and/or pricey, or to small to have a suitable playing area.

    I had considered opening up without a play area until I am able to come up with a suitable property, mainly so I could at least get the business up and running, do some advertising and get the word out. Hopefully, the store would be partially established by that time, and attendance to events would be more predictable.

    So naturally, I was concerned when I came across this statement, “If you encounter a store that can’t bother to have a place to let you play, don’t give them your money.”

    The statement came off as absolute, no play area, no reason to support the store. On the other hand, it was in a part of the article for which the content of said part was more about inadequate play spaces as opposed to not having any play space at all.

    So I ask for clarification from the author, as well as opinions from others as to, from a players vantage point, would it be worth it to open a store without a play area? Would such an idea be so offensive as to cause players to not consider the circumstances the proprietor might be dealing with?

    1. Magic players want to play magic. They want to try out and playtest cards and then buy them if they like them…or they buy cards for a new deck idea and then play it against other players…or they buy the new SCG decklist to win an FNM or even compete in a large event…or they play against a deck, like cards in it, and then want to buy those cards. Even with good intentions of treating magic players with respect on sales, you essentially are just like a Walmart or Target store (or ebay dealer) and you’d probably have to sell your product and singles cheaper or at a loss to get business. I do NOT think a store that sells MTG product but doesn’t have a place to play is a successful business idea no matter how nice the owner (or it’s extremely difficult and not recommended). Hope my opinion helps.

  10. Rare redrafting is the only way to learn how to win at drafting. In the long term you are rewarded for being a better player. If you just draft for fun then you’re still getting the 8th best card out of 24 (+).
    Take note of the guy from Malta above too, outside of USA you’re unlikely to have access to more than one draft a week, making it a terrible strategy for building a collection of rares. Much better to buy singles or even, gasp, crack packs if you’re value conscious.

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