Over the weekend of February 2, 2019, the Twin Cities metro experienced a break in the dangerously freezing polar vortex temperatures that had closed schools and forced postal delivery to a halt during the week before. It was a balmy 30-some degrees outdoors, the perfect weather for a groundhog to poke its head out of its burrow as well as for 28 Magic: The Gathering players to stay indoors and raise $600 to help prevent suicide in LGBTQ teens.
Through Weirdcards Charitable Club, a 501(c)(7) social group, the players brought their Modern-format decks to Lodestone Coffee and Games in Minnetonka to compete in five rounds of play for a modest entry fee of $20—all to benefit the Trevor Project, with all proceeds going to the charity.
Kyle Pietsch, a regular at Lodestone, had heard about the event through word of mouth. “I’d been meaning to get back into Modern for a while, [and] I recently bought and finished up a deck and this just happened to be the first event I was able to make,” he said. It was only Pietsch’s second Magic event at the store, though he plays Dungeons & Dragons and other games there a couple of times a week. He feels that the vibe at the store makes it easy to decide to come and play. “A few stores I’ve been to, it’s pretty clique-ish, [where] they have a group of regulars and everyone else is an outsider. I haven’t felt that at all here,” he said.
Another thing that made it an easy decision to play in this event was Weirdcards donating the proceeds of the tournament to the Trevor Project; Pietsch stated that it was definitely a factor in his decision to come. He said he would attend in the future if the club runs more events in the area, citing Weirdcards’ regular events being in Rochester as an inhibiting factor.
Level 1 Magic judge Andy Peterson was introduced to Weirdcards through one of the organizers, whom he’d met at a Magic judges conference a year and a half ago. Not being a really competitive player, Peterson, like Pietsch, said knowing the proceeds were going to the Trevor Project helped him make the decision to come and play in this Modern tournament. “I have lots of LGBTQ friends, and being able to support [teens] who are going through a very conflicting time—having someone who can say, ‘We’re here to talk with you’—is something anyone needs, especially those who are marginalized and can’t go through normal channels,” he said.
This isn’t the first fundraiser that Lodestone has held for the Trevor Project, according to general manager Aaron Richardson. However, it was the first time the store had collaborated with Weirdcards other than through donations of bulk cards. “Weirdcards share our core values to create a generous and inclusive community, and bringing people together through Magic: The Gathering is one great way to do that,” Richardson said. He also mentioned that player turnout was above what had been expected. “We received a lot of good feedback from players in the event, [and we] look forward to partnering with Weirdcards again in the future,” he concluded.
According to Weirdcards cofounder Jason Egginton, this was hopefully the first of many events with Twin Cities–area stores. “There’s a great gaming community here in Minnetonka . . . a positive, competitive community up here,” he said, crediting the demeanor and welcoming attitude of the players themselves for part of this tournament’s success.
The managerial staff was also very helpful. “Lodestone made it easy for us in terms of being open to the idea of an outside entity, an unknown quantity. The trust and the willingness to take a chance is what sets Lodestone apart [because] they want to be charitable,” Egginton said. “Being able to trust in us to give the money to the cause they chose was really flattering.”
That said, there are limiting factors. Egginton said, “We have a finite number of people who can take time away from their full-time jobs and [volunteer] at activities like this, and as long as we can, we’re dedicated to being able to do it. . . . We’d be open to more collaborations, but at the same time we want to respect the time and effort of our volunteers who create [and run] these great events.”
“It has to do with being a 501(c)(7)—‘traditionally social in person,’ as guided by the IRS,” he added. “With enough notice and coordination, it is possible [for us to partner with a metro Twin Cities store]: usually with 90 days’ notice, engaged volunteers and an involved charity.”
As for future events elsewhere, Egginton said Weirdcards is speaking with people at Channel Fireball Events to be the charitable face at more MagicFest events, including the upcoming one in Cleveland, Ohio, from February 22 to 22, 2019. “That structural relationship is very sound, and I think we offer something that no one else does,” Egginton said. He was referring to Magicards’ existing MagiKids program, which collects donations of cards that MagicFest attendees don’t want to take home with them and repackages them as kits for interested teachers and other mentors to use to teach children how to play Magic.