For the past few weeks, I’ve had the pretty cool opportunity to play the role of the Hipster’s foreign correspondent. And for the next month I’m writing and posting from Shanghai, China. While I’ll miss the chance to draft Conspiracy with my friends and fawn over M15 spoilers, exploring new cities has always been one of my favorite things to do.

I apologize in advance if you’re looking for summer “how to improve at Magic” content. I’ll be back exploring Standard and Limited in the near future, and now there’s a brand new core set for me to fumble through.

Living in Shanghai, like most big cities, taxes your patience, ability to dodge oncoming traffic, and capacity for bullshit. The world’s biggest metropolitan region also comes with its unique set of quirks*. For the first few days of my trip, jet lag and culture shock had me completely out of sorts.

* I use the term pretty loosely.

After sleeping for three days, I started to search for the really important things in every new city: public transportation, food, and Magic. Shanghai is linked by a fleet of buses, taxis, high-speed rail network, and expansive metro system. Everything is very English-friendly, and getting lost is actually kind of difficult, although I’ve managed a few times.


Finding good, cheap street food, on the other hand, is pretty easy.

My local metro stop, Shaanxi South Road, is busy. Located in the heart of Shanghai’s old town Xuhui area, it services a big portion of the city’s former French Concession: lots of expats, the city’s best high schools and universities, charming pedestrian side streets, and warren-like neighborhoods of residential apartments. A couple decades ago, someone had the foresight to plant sycamore trees along the main roads, and the region, while incredibly crowded, is pretty beautiful. The whole district has a strong sense of place, and it’s pretty easy to see why it’s a desirable home for both locals and young foreigners.

Also: Shanghai has a lot of shopping malls. They’re universally clean, brightly lit, and pretty uninteresting symbols of both purchasing power and the appeal of luxury brands. This particular one (“iapm”) is attached to an office tower. The basement food court is pretty nice, but pricey by Chinese (and, in some regards, American) standards.


This is actually one of the smaller malls I’ve visited. The architecture is pretty neat, though.


Also spotted: sculpture made from recycled toys.

The search for Magic cards is a little bit less fruitful. My Chinese is abysmal, which doesn’t really help things (although it does give me a plausible excuse for ignoring aggressive salespeople/panhandlers).

After asking some friends and inquiring on reddit, I learned that most of the city’s Magic scene is apparently centered on a single store. Toy’s Dream is located in a shopping complex called Buynow 2. The building had once been home to a six-floor Best Buy that had since buckled and vacated. Vendors now occupy the labyrinthian space, using cubicle dividers to construct storefronts.


One of the more official looking stores.

Loosely associated with technology companies—or selling brand name wares of dubious origin—they hawk everything from Lenovo laptops to graphics cards to television repairs. Drop off your XBOX to get fixed, pick up a few bootlegged movies, buy a new computer monitor, and grab a drink at your friendly coffee shop before going.


I honestly can’t explain this.

The shop is maybe a few rungs below your typical LGS. Picture a few folding tables, chairs, and a lot of display cases that carry every single questionable anime/cartoon sleeve you could ever want. I picked up a Chinese Theros pack for about $3.50, although I’m pretty sure I got overcharged (not entirely a rarity, however). Yu-Gi-Oh, alongside Magic, seems like the game of choice, and I saw some students on their lunch break playing a few games.

To make things better, there’s an “anime cafe” next door. The lights are dim, waitresses don French maid uniforms, and a bunch of TVs run shows on repeat. The place was too depressing to stay for long, but I’m told the place gets pretty crowded during FNMs. Pretty cool, I guess.


This was one of the more work-friendly displays.

What’s in store for next week? Internet cafes, FNM, hanging out with Magic-playing Americans, and more! Shanghai is a big city, and I’m not entirely convinced that this store is the best Magic scene they have to offer.

Tony is the Hipsters’ traveling scrub, and Scrub Report is his attempt to make sense of the world of Magic from a new player’s perspective. Find him at

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