Ongoing Modern event, with some EDH players in the front. Arn (the player in the green t-shirt) is the one who helped me finding games (and not only that).
While attending Worldcon 75 I sometimes had to leave the convention center. There was simply too many people for me to handle and especially after I spent ages waiting in a line just to see the door closed in front of me I felt even worse. At first I thought I'd just go out of the building, sit down on a bench in the nearby park and chill. My curiosity about the Magic community was too great and I ventured to Poromagia - a local game store. I planned on going to the store for certain but I didn't expect to go there every single day. So what made me visit the place every single day?
I went there soon after the store opened and there were few EDH players. I walked around the store to check some games and other products, their prices (expensive) and the place in general. Then I went to ask the person behind the counter about events and the community. I was curious about eternal scene. I know that German Highlander is kind of big there but I don't understand how it came to be like that. He told me that the most played format is Modern and EDH. I also learned that they don't have that many events like we do for example, but they also have League play that obviously works there. Then he told me one more thing that surprised me - he said that normally the store is full most of the time. This is something that doesn't happen in our stores. People come there to either buy/sell cards but they don't usually stick to play a casual game of Magic or something. We come to LGSs to play in events and after an event ends the store becomes empty once again. That is also why League play doesn't really work well here. I didn't believe what he was saying but later I learned that it wasn't a hyperbole. It was reality! By 2 pm the store was full of people, playing Modern and EDH mostly. He also mentioned that the players would even loan me a deck if I would want to play few games. I didn't have the courage to talk to anyone, but he asked the players in my stead and I found myself having a deck in front of me and several opponents. That was certainly very unusual for me considering experiences from our stores. Note that those people never heard of me, knew that I am a foreigner and had no idea what my skill level is. They were willing to teach me Magic even, if I wouldn't be good enough at Magic.
I'll digress a bit to make one remark. The players had problems with figuring out my gender and age and I was too afraid to correct them or give them the right idea (this usually means even more hate for me, but I was silly not to try. The people were too nice there for this to happen...). Even though this was obviously confusing to some, they all treated me well no matter what they thought about me. I'm very grateful for this. I felt like a human being there. I really wish LGSs and the Magic community would be like that here too. This experience at Poromagia gave me hope that things can actually get better and if not that I can retreat to a different country and things would get better for me.
Arn, the Jarad player, checking if anyone of us could deal with his Lord of Extinction that would kill us next turn...we lostAfter we finished pregame procedures I was asked if I know how to play the game. I answered that I know how to play Magic. I had to reconfirm that few times (note that everything on me screamed Magic, but obviously a Magic player without a deck is kind of strange) and then we could play our first match. I'm not entirely sure what deck I had in my hand for the first time (but the deck wasn't really good). The other decks on the other hand were nice decks, not competitive or anything but built to win. That was another oddity because in our playgroups many players somehow forget that a game of Magic usually ends with a player winning. Often when that player is me, more often than not, I become always the number 1 target. In this case nothing like that was happening. The players were happily killing each other and no one really complained (well, sometimes a player or two got screwed which didn't make them happy, but that's normal) about it (At one point I was playing a combo deck and I had to ask if I can kill them with Bomberman or if the game should go on. Obviously no one had problem with dying immediately).
I was coming back each day and always played some cool games of EDH. I had a great time. I was asking the players about their community and formats they like and if they don't have problems in their EDH groups. Actually their community looked like one big group rather than many small groups which is the case here. I also wondered if the same people playing EDH play also Highlander but found out that is not the case. Also while these players liked winning they were far from being the competitive kind of players we have here. I was very happy to be among players that enjoy the game and accepted me without a problem right away.
My artifacts were useless because of Stony Silence somewhere on the table, so they were pretending a board presence. Later on I actually managed to get some creatures and I could find Craterhoof Behemoth and possibly swing for lethal. My attempt failed and I died to very big plants with trample instead...
Apart from meeting very nice people I was also surprised by other stuff. I already noticed that the people in Finland 'work on mutual respect basis' and that they reach higher levels of efficiency because of it. That is something that doesn't work here at all but ordinary people tend to be ok. In Magic community, respect is often gone completely and the players find ways how to insult others or how to do some harm or steal. While this got slightly better overtime you can still see that people pack all their belongings if they just want to go to the bathroom (and I highly recommend doing this in our country, not joking). It's not like someone would just leave while leaving stuff (a deck for example) on the table and a bag on the chair. That is why I was rather shocked when many of the players went to fetch food in the nearby restaurant leaving everything behind unattended.
The decks I played were combo Breya (finding out that this deck often can piece two cards together, but Breya is still a beating), Jarad (that could also kill everyone in one turn), Jhoira (that didn't want to suspend anything and by some accident got more board presence than midrange and ramp decks!), Kruphix (that wasn't that bad afterall), mono black zombies (Gisa? With this deck I terribly flooded so I didn't really see much of it). I also had the opportunity to see a Shapefshifter Tribal deck, Saskia aggro, Ambassador Laquatus mill deck and Neheb the Eternal (that killed everyone with a Comet Storm with the help of Neheb swinging for 19). All the decks were interesting and seemed lots of fun (while also doing a lot of mean stuff).
This was an epic game that was all about hidden information and how I and my opponent would read each other. I decided to go with the safest route in the end and lost because of that.
As for competitive play, the decks at the events I saw - Modern, Standard, Standard once again (Standard Showdown), HOU/AKH draft - were varied. It wasn't the very compact metagame of top 8 decks from latest big event. I've seen anything from Turbofog to RDW and the skill level was very varied as well. Everyone seemed to be nice to each other though and the events were going smoothly without too much delays (with an exception of one round where two people took 8 minutes to try to kill each other, ending up in a draw). There was no arguing about where people would sit, no one was going outside to smoke when the round already started, people talked to each other in friendly manner... Everyone was organized and even there wasn't too much space to move around they all calmly sat down and started playing. I was amazed. Here sometimes one feels like entering a zoo instead of a local game store.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is that their community is awesome. If I lived there I wouldn't have the need to play on Magic Online because I would have no problems finding players willing to play with/against me. And as I thought playing on Magic Online was rather looked down upon by many.
If you will show up in Helsinki, you love Magic or retro gaming, make sure to visit Poromagia (check their website). The address of the store is Opastinsilta 7B, 00520, Helsinki. It's close to Pasila train station which you'll most probably end up/pass through if you will travel around Helsinki.