Community Stories: Magic Con Philadelphia

During the weekend of February 17-19 of 2023, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) hosted the second official Magic The Gathering convention in Philadelphia. Hosted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, this event heralded the return of the Pro Tour and was noted to be a massive improvement from Magic 30 at Las Vegas. Much of the complaints were aimed at the quality of the experience for the money spent. This contrasts with my experience with Vegas as I felt the event was not even being ran adequately leaving me concerned about the quality of future events.

Though I didn't attend the event, I reached out to the community to recount their stories and experiences of the event. Big thanks to Magic Arcanum and the Magic Historian for putting out their videos of the event. From what I gathered from the community, the ones who reached out seem to have an overwhelmingly positive time at the event with everyone seemingly being able to do what they wanted. There weren't as many glaring problems like with Vegas. From their stories, it honestly felt like the proper return to Magic events that Vegas should have been. 

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Events and Staff

One of the major complaints about Magic 30 was the staffing and organization of the whole event. As a Vegas attender I can say with confidence it was so bad that it should have ruined my trip. Fortunately for Magic Con Philly and WotC, few complaints came regarding this aspect.They stepped it up with the baseline experience and it showed. 

The staff was a huge improvement. They were friendly and informative regarding the events and convention schedule.  This shouldn't even be said as it is expected but because these things didn't happen in Vegas. Whatever happened here, they need to either maintain this level or even improve it.

Events ran well throughout the weekend without major incident. I didn't notice a whole of complaining regarding missing events or the app not working. So good on judges for making sure events were running well and on time. For those who are thinking about playing in an event, be aware that there are two type of events at these larger magic events: scheduled and on demand. Scheduled events are events you need to preregister for, while for the on demand events, an attendee would just need to queue up waiting for a pod to play in. Ryan Gomez of Magic Arcanum had noted that the on demand events were not as casual/money friendly as he would have liked them to be as the ticket grinders were constantly playing in them. If you want to play events, but are concerned about this, I would suggest playing scheduled events. It should be said that events were a big time killer and made it difficult to do things if you schedule too tightly, so plan accordingly.


The highlights of the event will vary as everyone has different goals for the event. These events do allow you to do almost anything you want in regards to Magic. Here are some highlights I've heard from the community.

Being able to watch the Pro Tour again was the coolest thing for me as it really brought back a lot of the excitement I had watching Magic in general. The stakes, the stories, and the personalities really come together at these tournaments. The commentators did a great job at creating excitement and selling the narrative of the event. There was an issue with how cards were displayed to online viewers since they had a bird's eye view and not every card was captured immediately. Other than this I felt the event ran well. So I hope competitive Magic remains an important part of the game to WotC and the higher ups, so that they can do their best to improve this part of the game.

The actual convention being divided up into different rooms each tailored towards a specific function. I think this was a perfect change to the event as it helps create different environments that cater to the different types of Magic fans ranging from the casual enjoyers to the mtgfinace guys. I thought it was a little strange at Vegas, where you had the excitement of news being announced on one side of the room and the cutthroat competitive environment a 5 minute walk away. 

From multiple people on reddit, simply being able to play Magic all weekend was all that mattered. Most people I communicated they were just excited to play commander with people from across the country with a person mentioning they played 19 games (I could only assume it was at minimum 30hrs of game time) across the 3 days. There were others who were grinding events to get high end prizes from the prize wall such as an oversize card or collector booster boxes. And to not forget all those who were able to find people to play their niche format or their cube they've been wanting to play. There was plenty of free space that was available, so no one had to play on the floor this time, a random hotel ballroom, or the bathrooms.

Fighting games being played in hotel bathrooms

Panels are a large part of the experience of a Magic Convention. Magic Arcanum mentioned that one of his big highlights was attending the panel with the first look at March of the Machine. The emotion from the crowd vibrated throughout the whole room and was only kept amplifying as WotC kept revealing pieces of the new set. Being able to share the experience with others elevates it to a whole new level. You can hear, feel, think the real reactions from a room filled with other Magic enthusiasts. There were other panels available to like a live session of Game Knights or a discussion on cube as a format. It's not a huge reason to go to Magic Cons, but it will definitely enrich your experience.

Magic cosplay has also been getting better and better as more people get involved and get better. There's a ton of cool cosplayers walking around the floor and playing games. It's always amusing to see a cosplayer play a deck reflecting their cosplay. What is also neat is to see the appreciation for less talked about characters like Jiang Yanggu and Ashiok. I remember seeing Dark Pact's cosplay of Ashiok in person and one of the things that the pictures can't capture is how cool it was to see the smoke coming out of Ashiok's head. So good luck and find your favorite Thalia cosplayer to your heart's content.

Tying in with this, almost all of the attendees mentioned how stoked they were to be able to meet their favorite content creator, Magic personality, and artist. I heard little negativity in this regard as it seemed these folks took the time to really meet and talk to their fans in response. The Magic Historian ( who is normally critical of WotC) even made a comment about how passionate and dedicated Mark Rosewater (MaRo) is to both the game and the fan base. This shouldn't be too surprising as MaRo really does involve himself with the community answering their questions almost every day.

For those thinking about attending a future event, hopefully you found something in this section that can you might want to partake in.


The biggest complaint I heard this time around was the Command Zone, which was already a problem area with Vegas, and the VIP Black Lotus Lounge, which I heard was a massive downgrade from the one in Vegas. 

Let's start with the Command Zone, which is supposed to be a dedicated area for Commander players to play commander. It was an additional fee separate from most of the tickets. It sounds like an okay, not good mind you, idea on paper, however there was so much space for free play and it was right next to the command zone. Not only was it not needed, many content creators did not get the access as part of their badge. This created a loop where many creators ended up playing in the free play area with their fan base, pulling players out of the command zone. When considering the area was the only perk of paying the additional fee, this was definitely not worth the money.

The VIP experience was a whole other mess that was actually worse here than it was in Vegas, which might have been the only good thing about Vegas. Much like the command zone, they had an exclusive play area as well. This was placed right next to a free play zone, undermining the convenience of being able to play in this area. The actual lounge, if you could call it that, was underwhelming as well with the area looking like any part of the convention except with a barely filled snack table. The extra perks provided mirrored much the same as the lounge and play space, subpar and negligible. WotC did try to fix it as much as possible, but I can only imagine it was not too satisfaction. Magic Historian covered a reddit post regarding this if you want to know more.

It ultimately just seems like WotC trying to gauge how much people are willing to spend and put up to maximize their effort to profit ratio, which is fine cause they're a company. They just need to actually deliver an exceptional experience. Instead, they sold an expectations they did not deliver upon.

The End Step

From what I am seeing regarding these events, it is very clear to me that WotC is trying to figure out how to make this event as enjoyable as possible, while ensuring that these events remain possible. WotC announced they are trying a cheaper pricing option with Magic Con Minneapolis that makes attending the weekend significant more affordable than previously available. Taking into account that Magic Con Philly ran as it was supposed to and it's clear to me that WotC is trying, though it may not be how we want it to be. I can only hope that they improve these events with time as I do plan to attend more events. So hopefully I can run into some of you guys and we can enjoy some games together.

Outside of blog writing, I've been also working on my YouTube channel running a general magic podcast with my friends and making YouTube shorts about cube. It's been an interesting endeavor and I plan on continue working on it, but I don't find it as enjoyable as writing these articles for a variety of reasons. If you want to take a look, just click this link here.

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