Friday night magic

Every week Critical Hit Games hosts Friday Night Magic tournaments and prerelease events at their store on South Linn Street.

Thayer Abu-Hijleh, Entertainment Editor

Every Friday night, thousands of people gather in card shops across the country to play the most popular collectible card game in the world: Magic the Gathering. In Iowa City, the main Magic rendezvous is a business called Critical Hit Games, at 115 South Linn Street. Inside, you’ll find everything from Pokemon cards to Dungeons and Dragons. But on Feb. 11, it was hard to notice anything but the piles of Magic cards on tables throughout the store. Upwards of thirty people —more than a typical Friday Night Magic event—sat and stood tearing open booster packs. The owner of Critical Hit Games, Chance Kirchhoff, explains why the store was in a frenzy.

“[Friday Night Magic] is just a tournament so people can play Magic,” said Kirchhof. “[But] that event is not going on tonight…because of the prerelease.”

Critical Hit Games is located at 115 South Linn Street in downtown Iowa City. (Thayer Abu-Hijleh)

A prerelease is where shops allow players to use cards from a set before it has been officially released. It’s a big deal because it lets people get a sense of the direction a new set is headed. 

One of Critical Hit Games’ most frequent players known as M, has been coming to Magic events for over two decades. Having played at several Friday Night Magic venues over the course of twenty years, M finds Critical Hit Games to be one of their favorites.

“We’re at Critical Hit Games, which is basically a basement in Iowa, [and it’s] one of the best card shops I’ve ever played in,” said M. 

M particularly enjoys the sense of community at Critical Hit Games. Although they have had problems at other shops, M explains that Kirchhof’s leadership and business skills have fostered a fun and welcoming environment for all Magic players.

“It’s been pretty great [at Critical Hit Games]” said M. “I think Chance runs a really good shop and makes sure that happens. I’ve had problems in other places in my life, but I haven’t had problems in the Magic community that aren’t in any other community…It’s a good group of people. It’s a lot of dudes [playing Magic]… you get what you pay for. ”