MTG’s Community Is A “Brother in Arms” – Eric Cheng

Founder of the Facebook group "MTGA Arena Singapore Community," Eric Cheng is all about forming bonds through a game that has stuck with him since his childhood.

MTG’s Community Is A “Brother in Arms” – Eric Cheng

Founder of the Facebook group “MTGA Arena Singapore Community,” Eric Cheng is all about forming bonds through a game that has stuck with him since his childhood.

Tell Us About Your Magic Playing History. When And How Did You Start, And What Formats Do You Play?

My first exposure to MTG was back in 1998, during the 5th Edition and Urza Saga blocks. It started as a hobby at my neighbourhood bookstore with a few of my secondary school classmates when we formed decks using booster packs (Drain life was so badass when I was new).

The ‘chase’ cards back then were Cursed Scroll, Morphling, Stroke of Genius, Masticore, and Force of Will. I used to flip InQuest magazine to check on card pricing, played MTG outside Bishan MRT’s ‘World of JJ’ bookstore, and used MOTL (Magic Online Trading League) forum to mail trade cards. After Nemesis set was released in 2000, I put a halt to MTG to focus on my studies.

Top 8 at Singapore WMCQ in 2014

Eventually I picked it back up with my peers during Innistrad, that was released in 2011, so I kind of missed all the goodies from Shards, Ravnica, Lorwyn, and Kamigawa block. It has been a good time from Innistrad to the present day. I’ve attended a few Grand Prix, some local WMCQ, and always looking forward to playing Prereleases for new sets.

I’m currently a casual grinder on MTG Arena, I play tabletop Modern format, and am also a semi-competitive player in Legacy format.

Have There Been Any Positive Experiences From The Magic Community?

Yes, there are many! The local magic community feels like a brother in arms to me, where everyone shares the same passion and interest. An unexplainable ‘click factor’ when you talk about the MTG meta, deck discussion, speculation, combo brewing, and sideboard tips with another MTG player. It feels heartwarming when we discuss it with enthusiasm!

I’m glad to know players who have gone from casual gaming to ProTour professional, a father and son playing at the same FNM (Friday Night Magic event), and even someone who started as a trader, then running one of the most successful Local Game Stores (LGS) in Singapore (you know who you are!).

“I am optimistic about the future of MTG, as there is unlimited room for ideas on cards, format and meta developments.”

Everyone in the community has been very engaging and helpful with each other. For example, players cheer for those who attend a Grand Prix or Pro Tour. Others help tag players who are looking for specific cards to complete their deck in the auction groups, or answering questions from format meta to events inquiries. 

There are also lots of helpful community judges who help to answer gameplay inquiries between micro playgroup discussions, players volunteer themselves to be involved with teaching new players to get onboard the game. I’ve also seen kind souls who are willing to donate his collection to an institute for education purposes. Too many positives!

MTG Has Been Around A Long Time But It’s Not A Household Name. What’s Stopping More People From Playing?

Although MTG is one of the best tabletop card games in the world, the learning curve and barriers to entry are high. Fundamental blockers are the cost of committing into the game, meta preference, and the loss of your cards’ value due to format/set rotation.

“Smothering Tithe” by Mark Behm

When a format rotates, the opportunity cost will strike new players really hard, which can be quite depressing when they overspend on unnecessary cards or not knowing when is the right time to let go or keep the cards which will be useful to them in other formats. Many players are now working adults that can keep up with the game financially, but sometimes family commitments will be one of the key reasons to take a break.

Since MTG involves an element of luck, what you draw in a game matters. I’ve encountered players who were emotionally affected when they did not draw the crucial cards at the right moment (e.g. in Pro Tour Qualifiers, or Mythic Qualifiers) and end up hibernating or exiting the game. Also, for the past 5 years, footfall at the Grand Prix or Pro Tour Qualifier has been severely reduced or abolished from the Southeast Asia scene. My personal opinion is that changing rotation rules, banned and restricted card lists, creation of new formats (e.g. Pioneer, Historic or Pauper), and the strength of local event frequency all play a crucial part in the MTG community’s growth. 

Community is very important for growth of MTG
Grand Prix Singapore in 2016

In Your Opinion, What Are The Ugliest Aspects Of The Game?

Since MTG is a tradable card game, money is the root of all evil. Players who are not close to each other will usually want to get the best out of each trade deal. That can create a barrier of mistrust. There are also times when players turn nasty against each other because of disagreements during gameplay.

The competitive nature of MTG can create discord among the community.
“Opposition” by Todd Lockwood

MTG has complex gameplay, therefore the time required to develop a high level of play can be quite long. It might not be an enjoyable experience from the spectator’s perspective. Limited to paper magic, your invested collection has the risk of being stolen. For example, it only takes less than a few minutes to un-sleeves your deck and split separating your cards into different locations, one moment later and “poof” they are gone.

Personally I feel that abolishing the Planeswalker DCI points system was not a good move for the community. As the Planeswalker portal had planted many beautiful memories for many players, Wizards of the Coast should have kept it intact, or improved the Planeswalker points concept moving forward.

What Do You Think The Future Holds For Magic?

“Glimpse the Future” by Andrew Robinson

The community has come a long way, and card art has involved from Alpha’s painted art to today’s digital illustrations. I am optimistic about the future of MTG, as there is unlimited room for ideas on cards, format and meta developments.

Also, the quality of the newer MTG Arena platform is continually getting better. And even after a decade, MTG Online is still standing solid as a digital platform for older formats. MTG is one of the future proof hobbies, where you can peel your eyes off the screens when playing at your LGS, enjoy socialising with people from different backgrounds, have cheap thrills on monetary investment (if done correctly), and most importantly, to have fun playing with physical cards.

Ultimately, when poker has a card pool of 52 + 4, while MTG has more than 20,000 unique different cards and beyond, the possibilities of MTG are limitless. And what else can defeat the excitement of cracking open a pre-release kit or booster pack!

The community could help you, or misadvise you in financial decisions!

What Cards Would Be In Your Very Own “Signature Spellbook?”

Gideon Jura

Usually wins the game for me after I cast Wrath of God. The first Planeswalker I personally owned. May he RIP (he sacrificed himself in War of the Spark)

Geist of Saint Traft

My pet Creature, which gives you a beautiful Angel when attacking, just love the art and card design.


I have a playset of Thoughtseize, signed by my all-time favourite artist Aleksi Briclot.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

This particular Planeswalker is the face of MTG and also loves to screw with your mind, enough said.

List the Deck That Is Closest To Your Heart.

Eric Cheng, founder of the MTGA Singapore Community group on Facebook

Azorius UW Control / Stoneblade / Midrange for life like a blue sky!

Honorable mentions: Type 1.5: High Tide Palinchron Spiral – a Stroke of Genius deck back in 1998, when Force of Will was priced at $25.

Standard: Red-Black-Green Wolf Run Ramp – First win in FNM

Standard: Mono-Blue Devotion – Singapore 2014 WMCQ Day 1 undefeated

Modern format: Blue-Red Splinter Twin – Why I got into Modern

Modern format: Red-Black-Green Midrange – Grand Prix Singapore 2016

Legacy format: Dredge – The first deck into Legacy

Legacy format: 4 Colour Deathblade – First win in FNM

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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