Remembering Neutral Ground: One of the Most Important Magic Stores in MTG History

Quick, name the most famous Magic: The Gathering-focused gaming store.

Quick, name the most famous Magic: The Gathering-focused gaming store.

Long-time players out there might name the former Wizards of the Coast game center, while younger players may name one of several chains or regional chains. However, it terms of floor space and tournaments held, the honor probably goes to Neutral Ground, which was once the Mecca of Magic: The Gathering in New York City.

And a lot more than that.

Opened in 1995 right as MTG was building a worldwide following and board and other tabletop gaming in general was making a comeback, Neutral Ground quickly became a nerve center for Magic not just in Manhattan, but the East Coast in general.

The store itself focused on MTG and Magic products, with the store actually hosting some pretty big tournaments in the '90s and '00s. That's what you get with 3,500 square feet of playing space and being one of the largest Magic dealers in the world in one of the largest cities on the globe.

How big was it at it's peak? Let's put it this way: Neutral Ground was pretty much the only store ever covered by Wizards of the Coast in a Magic video, and helped standardize the matches to how we know them today.

The chaos of judges running around a large tournament area? Neutral Ground helped find a way to make it less chaotic with it's larger floor space. It's even been said that the owners even invented the WotC to hold a Pro Tour stop there.

Most early champions played here often, honing their skills. It pretty much rivaled Seattle as "Magic Central" for awhile. After all, why not celebrate the stores that helped popularize tournaments?

However, as the 2000s went on, things started to shift.

A rise in real estate prices in the mid-aughts drastically increased rent, and the Great Recession hitting in 2007 and 2008 didn't exactly help matters, either. With fewer players coming in  and costs rising and rising, Neutral Ground announced in late 2008 that they were closing their doors after 13 years of being an epicenter for the game.

Few Magic: The Gathering stores have even come close to the legacy of Neutral Ground, let alone what they did for the game itself. Still, nearly a decade and a half, this was a major hub of Magic, and as that video we shared earlier in the article showed, even Wizards of the Coast recognizes it still as one of the more historical and more important parts of the game history.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.