A Gathering: Store to host Toledo qualifier for card game’s Pro TourWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was the first real trading card game, a concept which married the joy of seeking out rare and valuable cards with the joy of competing, all merged under a fantasy theme. The end result was called Magic: The Gathering and it became a worldwide phenomenon. Even now, over 20 years after its introduction, Magic commands millions of players and a Pro Tour that holds events worldwide.
On Jan. 18, local store CheckMate Games will host Northwest Ohio’s first-ever qualifier for the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour, with an event at American Legion Post 468 at 5580 Centennial Road, Sylvania. Sign-in starts at 8:30 a.m. and play begins at 10 a.m. The tournament is open to all for a $25 fee.
“There’s about 60 of the Pro Tour qualifiers being held across the country, and more across the world,” said Ken Solo, owner of CheckMate Games. “The Pro Tour is a worldwide event. Obviously the bulk of the concentration is in North America, but there’s players in Europe and Asia and all over the world.”
CheckMate, a relatively new arrival on the Toledo gaming scene, caught the eye of Magic’s publisher and governing body with its weekly “Friday Night Magic” events devoted to the game and the high turnout they generated, Solo said.
“We were invited by Wizards of the Coast, the publishers of Magic: The Gathering, I think just because we had great growth in attracting new players to the game. We just posted a message to our Magic players earlier this week that over the course of 2013, we had 414 unique individual players come and play Magic with us.”
The winner of the Toledo event will earn a spot at the “Journey into Nyx” tournament being held this May in Atlanta, as well as airfare. There are no small stakes involved for the eventual victor — in addition to the prestige of being considered one of the best players in the world, the winner of the “Nyx” tournament will earn a share of a $250,000 prize pool.
Since this is the first time a Magic event of this magnitude has been held locally, Solo said he’s unsure of just how many players to expect. He’s planning on about 200, maybe 250. The actual number could far exceed that.
“No one’s done one of these in this area before,” Solo noted. “The best comparison we could come up with was an event in Columbus about a year ago, and they had about 250 people.”
Hosting an event like this is just the latest step in the rapid rise of CheckMate on the local gaming scene. Since opening in 2011 — on a Friday the 13th, no less — the store located on West Central Avenue has become a hub for local devotees of a wide variety of games.
Solo opened the business in an effort to fill the gap left by the 2009 closure of Mind Games — a mainstay of the Toledo players’ community which had built a loyal following over a quarter of a century.
“It seemed like it would be good for somebody to continue on. If I can follow in his footsteps for another 25 years, I will be satisfied with what we’re doing,” he said.
Solo — who traces his own gaming roots back to playing with those plastic army men in his backyard as a kid, and making up rules for how they would engage with each other — noted how it’s been critical to the success of CheckMate to encourage and nurture a community of gamers throughout the area. CheckMate holds events and gameplay sessions virtually every day in its storefront.
“We’re trying to not only have a place where you can find all of these games that you’re not finding at the big box stores, but we’re trying to create a community as well,” Solo said. “Because most of the games that we play, that we sell and that people will play, are multiplayer games, they’re not Solitaire. You can’t take them home and plug them into the television and entertain yourself all afternoon. So you need other players.
“So if we create that little community space where other players can find each other, find other people who are interested in the same types of things that you are, and then it all rolls from there.”
And for the player who rises above the rest and wins the Magic qualifier, it will keep right on rolling down to Atlanta — and if they’re lucky, and skilled, maybe far beyond that.
“This is their opportunity to go pro, if that is their dream. There’s also a good purse up at the pro circuits,” Solo noted.