There are only about 160 level-three Magic:The Gathering judges in the world, and Newfoundland-based Chris Lansdell is one of them. The certification allows him to travel the globe, getting paid to judge Magic tournaments.
“Considering there is a $50,000 first prize, people do cheat and questions get asked … and interactions between the cards can be a bit complicated, so there is a need for judges at these tournaments,” Lansdell said.
Magic is a customizable game with over 15 000 unique cards. Players build their own decks by purchasing or trading specific cards and then use the deck to compete. It’s a strategic game with a fantasy-twist, Lansdell describes it as Dungeons and Dragons crossed with poker and chess.
Lansdell has been playing Magic on and off for almost twenty years, he travels about once a month to judge competitions and has made friends on every continent through the game.
“My first time in both Las Vegas and New York City were travelling to play in tournaments. So I got to see things like Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, I got to walk down the strip in Vegas, all of that would not have been possible without Magic,“ Lansdell said.
Lansdell explained that Newfoundland is a national hotbed for Magic enthusiasts with an exceptionally large but close-knit community meeting several times a week at Migard Gaming in Mount Pearl.
“The guy who is in charge of organized play in Canada published some numbers about how many active players there were per province and the percentage of the population represented in Newfoundland was well ahead of anywhere else. The market here, considering the population we have, is very very dense,”Lansdell said.
Migard hosts regular tournaments and often provides the winner with money to put towards airfare so they can compete in out-of-province tournaments. Lansdell said the community is always excited when someone gets an opportunity to travel off the island for a tournament.
“When people travel, everyone who’s at home flocks together to support them…we’ll all provide messages of support and lend them cards, basically anything they might need to make their tournament easier,” Lansdell said, ”…there’s certainly that Newfoundland pride that we always see in local news whenever someone from here does well in anything.”
Lansdell went on to say that fellow players will often tag along with the competitor, sharing hotel rooms to save money. On Lansdell’s last visit to Toronto sixteen local players travelled with him.
The thing Lansdell loves the most about Magic is the sense of community the game cultivates. When people meet playing the game, whether it’s at home or abroad, they know in advance that they both have an appreciation for fantasy and gaming. Being aware of those shared interests from the get-go makes forming friendships easy.
“It’s a very welcoming community we have players ranging from age 12 up to 50…Just come down to the store and on any given day there’s going to be someone there playing and you’ll be able to greatly expand your friend network,” Lansdell said.