By my count, my interview with Stefan and Max is pushed back three times. First, someone has to start the Top 8 of the Eternal Clash Legacy tournament in Flensburg – Max’s job. Then, concessions runs out of Soda – Stefan’s turn. Finally, a new judge from Bremen has to pass his level 1 exam – it’s up to Max again to get him sorted. A good twenty minutes go by before I finally get both of them to sit down and answer my goddamn questions.
Running a successful regional Magic tournament series, it seems, is a busy job. Especially when it’s a two-man, non-profit business.
Stefan and Max are the organizers of the Eternal Clash, a Legacy tournament in Flensburg. Flensburg is neither a large city (the last census counted 85,000 inhabitants) nor in any way central (Germany’s northern border with thinly populated Denmark is under a mile away, while Berlin is a five-hour drive), but since 2014, the tournament routinely attracts close to 100 players.
How to organize your own tournament
“At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to drive to Copenhagen or Hannover to play in larger Magic tournaments,” Stefan recalls. “So we just started thinking about doing our own thing. I had never organized a tournament, and Max wasn’t a judge yet. But still, I started looking around for a suitable location, while Max began studying for his judge test.”
The Magic community in Flensburg itself was mid-sized, but very active. The key, though, was getting other northern German players to come to Flensburg – as well as players from Germany’s northern neighbor, Denmark.
“From the very first Eternal Clash, we introduced ourselves to the Danish Magic community. We used our personal contacts to get out word of mouth within Germany, and we used internet forums to tell Danish players ‘You know, just across the border, in Flensburg, there is a tournament that is worth the drive.'”
When the first Eternal Clash happened, over 20 Danish players showed up.
“They drove from Aalborg and Aarhus to a German tournament no one had ever heard of. That was a huge leap of faith, and we did not disappoint,” Max recalls. Ever since, bringing together the Danish and German Legacy scene has been one of the key strengths of the Flensburg tournaments.
The event is still a two-man job
Since the first event, the division of labors has largely stayed the same: Stefan does a large share of the work in the days leading up to the event and afterwards, especially setting up the location and taking care of the Eternal Clash website. On the day of the tournament, he’s (mostly) free to participate as a player, while Max’s job as head judge begins.
“I like judging,” Max says. “When we organized the first Clash, I’d only been a judge for a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve grown to be quite active.”
On this day, four judges officiate the tournament. Among them is a friend of Max’s from Hungary, as well as a new judge about to take his exam. “Having qualified judges is a bottleneck for tournament organizers. The more judges there are, the easier it is to set up regular tournaments.”
“It’s important that there are regional events like ours,” Stefan says. “We’ve actually had offers to help organize events elsewhere, but we’re local guys. What we do works because we do it here.”
“We know exactly where we stand. We’re in a middle segment. If we wanted to grow too much, a lot of things might need to change – We’d need more judges, another location, other prizes, more formats. We want to keep the Eternal Clash a two-man job and leave the rest to the professionals.”
Prioritizing what players want
Asked why they think the event has been successful so far, the two organizers offer up a simple explanation:
“Our event is community organized. That changes the atmosphere. And we know how to offer an attractive prize payout that prioritizes what players want – good cards. Even so,” Max recalls, “The very first time we did this, our count was off and both of us ended up paying about a hundred dollars out of our own pockets.”
Stefan laughs. “Still worth it.”