They say that if you got an interest or a pastime, then you’ll be happier if you end up making money from it.

Well, it’s highly likely that the same people are sportsmen, or TCG (trading card game) enthusiasts.


All leading TCGs have several unique traits that help ensure their continued popularity. The first, is the periodic release of new expansion sets that introduce new cards and game system updates, so the games remain fresh and exciting. (Well, they also boost gaming companies’ bottom lines, as steady sales is ensured this way.)

The other key trait is the fact that all leading TCGs have active player bases that take part in various competitions or organized play events.

The players at the 2008 Pro Tour the last major international Magic event held in KL

The players at the 2008 Pro Tour the last major international Magic event held in KL

Tournaments are so essential to TCGs that oftentimes, you can tell if a game is going the way of the dinosaur or thriving, just by looking at the available prize support.

And it’s no secret that the best-supported TCGs give impressive sums of prize money, depending on the level and locality of the competitions.

Signed Magic cards on display at the 2008 Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur. Expect more action tomorrow onwards!

Signed Magic cards on display at the 2008 Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur. Expect more action tomorrow onwards!

Local boy Terry Soh is no stranger to Magic: the Gathering tournaments for instance. Having earned over RM200,000 in the past 11 years playing the world’s most popular TCG, he represents the typical TCG enthusiast: the prize money was incidental to his greater desire to prove himself as the being a more-than-decent Magic player.

“I initially played it to better my command of the English language actually. Also, the shot at being recognizable and respectable in this game helps too, but the money does make it meaningful. If there isn’t money on the line, our reputations as pros mean less,” explained Soh.

He is no doubt the exception, rather than the rule: Soh’s relatively well-endowed prize winnings have come from being 2005 world champion as well as semifinal / 3rd placed finish in last year’s Magic world championships, among others.

Plenty of other games have local tournaments: from World of Warcraft (WoW) to Pokemon, the tournaments are vital in attracting new players and maintaining active play groups.

The casual and the serious

As far as competitions go, each TCG has its own variety or formats. As the most popular TCG in the world and in the country, Magic for instance, has different types of tournaments catering to casual players and the more experienced hardcore tournament regulars.

Terry Soh at a recent tournament

Terry Soh at a recent tournament

If you’re looking to test out your more offbeat deck, or a newbie looking to experience tournaments for the first time, Friday Night Magic (FNM) would be your cup of tea.

FNM assigns very few points for wins, therefore making it a popular event for those who are new in Magic. Local card shops and game centres often give booster packs as prizes, which may be all you need if you’re starting the game. After all, a powerful rare card is powerful enough an incentive for taking part in FNM!

Another fun and recently popular Magic competition variant is the Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) tournament format. EDH is popular for its ease of participation, as players only single copies of any Magic card, for their 100-card decks. The only exception to this is Basic Land cards, of which as many copies as required, is permitted.

Apart from “constructed” tournaments – so named because decks are constructed from individual or shared card collections, sealed formats are popular as well.

In sealed deck, “draft” or Limited competitions, smaller decks, usually 40 cards (instead of the standard 60) are built in a limited time, out of a small number of booster packs.

“It’s a really fun format, as players focus more on the game itself, rather than having four copies of all the game’s best cards,” said Soh.

His own favourite format is Limited or sealed deck. “For me, competitiveness surpasses all other reasons in playing Magic. Personally, I often excel and specialize in designing 40-card decks. In Limited, you have to carefully create your deck through the selection of cards, one by one, and in a shorter amount of time too,” summarized Soh. 

“There are also Pro Tour competitions, which offer air tickets to different Pro Tour locations, worldwide. These are for the more ‘battle-hardened’ and experienced players, as the level of competition at such locations, as you can imagine, is definitely more challenging,” said Michael Toh, a KL-area Magic tournament organizer.

According to Soh, some Pro Tour competitions (at least the finals) offer as much as US$45,000 for the first prize – no small amount for certain!

And for both Magic and WoW, fun variants to the usual format rules are introduced periodically to further enhance players’ deckbuilding skills. The commons-only rule – where only common cards are permitted in decks – is a universal one, as both Magic (called Peasant Magic) and WoW (“Lazy Peons”) have officially recognized commons-only formats.

Dateline: Grand Prix KL this weekend

And while we’re on the subject of competitions, this month will see Malaysia playing host to another world-class tournament.

This weekend's GP KL 2010's participation premium, while stocks last, is a foil alternate art version of Umezawa's Jitte.

This weekend's GP KL 2010's participation premium, while stocks last, is a foil alternate art version of Umezawa's Jitte.

This weekend, Grand Prix KL will be held in Cititel Hotel, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur. Some of the world’s top-ranked Magic players will be sparring in the various tournament events, which will include constructed and sealed deck side events.

Attendees of this weekend’s events will take home this an exclusive Umezawa Jitte foil, while stocks last!

The event will be another in a short list of prominent world-level TCG competitions that will make a pit stop in the country.

It’s certainly no mean feat as it pretty much validates the popularity of TCGs here, as well as recognizes the efforts of players such as Soh.

Cards & Boards will hope to capture the action going on then – till then, good luck competing, if you managed to qualify, and decided to!

Terry Soh talks more about his humble beginnings in the Cards & Boards blog. Click on for his inaugural post, as well as more game-related stories!

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