Magic the Gathering and its role in your life can be just as complex and intricate as the lines and strategies within the game itself. Magic in its purest form is a game that most of us had exposure to in our early years. Beyond that, we’ve either continually played, or left at some point only to come back years later, my experience being the latter. It has many followers who take on many different roles, such as collectors, artist enthusiasts, players, business owners, amongst others. For players, there exist varying levels of the game, enjoying the game from the kitchen table in your childhood home with siblings and friends as a simple hobby, to the local gaming store at Friday Night Magic, to playing your first competitive event at an SCG Open or Grand Prix, or all the way up to a career culmination of being on the Pro Tour. Despite these levels players are typically categorized, and tend to fall, into two categories: casual, and competitive. My purpose here is to share with you my experience, as well as some insight into what goes into being on the competitive side of the game we love.
In order to do that, we need to first know a little bit about how my career started. I first experienced Magic when I was eleven and my older brother brought home cards to teach me how to play. I picked it up rather easily and before long he was taking me along to the city to play in FNMs with him. I was hooked! For about 3 months that is… I quickly put the cards to the side and apparently focused on other things for reasons I can’t remember. Thirteen years later, that same brother came to me and expressed his excitement about his rediscovery of Magic. I quickly scoffed it off and essentially told him there was no way I was getting back into the game. Until the next week, when there I was drafting cards from M15 and re-familiarizing myself with game mechanics in anticipation for the big release of Khans of Tarkir. The set launch came and went, and I developed new friends, re-discovered my play style. With it, I also re-discovered my love for the game, and continued playing casually until I received a very unexpected invite to travel for the 2016 SCG Standard Open in Columbus, Ohio. I knew I had been getting better and I noticed that my skill level was increasing consistently over time, but after having a terrible showing at a recent local PPTQ, I was hesitant to once again throw my hat into the competitive ring. My lack of confidence was no match for my friend’s sheer peer pressure and reassurance. Before I knew it, we were play testing day after day, attempting to lock onto a deck to pilot for the event. Friday morning came, and with no clear deck emerging, I experienced my first taste of sacrifice when I called off work to instead focus on helping the team settle on a deck. By 10:00 am I came up with a rough draft for the team, and by 5:00 pm we had put together a solid list of B/R dragons that had developed from my core idea, and we were ready for Columbus.
Throughout the tournament I lost my dice twice, accidently dropped from the tournament by failing to hand in a match slip twice, had one judge call for missed life gain from my Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Despite these mishaps, I had not only achieved my first Open Day 2, but finished 50th overall and cashed the event. I was hooked all over again. Never did I envision competing the way I did, but once I took that step I realized it was by far the best experience with Magic I had ever had. The concept of being rewarded for playing precisely and proficiently was so gratifying that it quickly became the most enjoyable way to play Magic.
With a boost of self-confidence thanks to my finish in Columbus, preparations started for my first Grand Prix, GP Toronto 2016. After an upsetting round one loss, I honed my focus and by the end of the day I had achieved another milestone, my first GP day two with a record of 8-1. Day two continued the way day one had ended, and by round thirteen I found myself sitting across from a future hall of famer, Jon Stern. This was also my first experience under the camera for a feature match (see how it went here). After a disappointing loss, my momentum stalled as my record dropped from 11-1 to 11-4, good for 75th place and only missing out on cash due to tiebreakers. It was an experience that I would dwell on for months after, and sometimes still do today, but it has helped me become the player I am today.
Those two events set in motion my competitive Magic career. We attended an increasing amount of events, sometimes playing at three tournaments in a month. Shifting into competitive Magic means you have to learn to multi-task better; balancing home and work life with it, while also preparing for travel. Some of the costs we pay to compete at a high level include late nights testing, long drives, days away from home, but ultimately we get much more out of it than we give up. I have developed great friends and relationships from around the world that I would have never had if it hadn’t been for Magic. I’m also a bit of a foodie so getting to try all the local BBQ and cuisine at our destinations is also incredibly satisfying. When your face and name show up at high profile events, camera matches, and top tier deck lists, you start to build your reputation. With that reputation the pressure you put on yourself to succeed increases, but so does your pride in the community and your role within it. I love being able to give back by teaching newer players, and even help veteran players bridge the gap between levels of play as they experience the tournament grind. If you’ve ever thought what if, yet felt just too unsure or nervous to come with us to a tournament, don’t be. Contact me whenever for anything and I will do what I can to help. If it weren’t for my friend’s confidence in me, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. We would love nothing more than to keep this Magic community growing.
I hope you all enjoyed my first article, and I look forward to doing more and more, from standard to modern to legacy, to tournament reports and trip reviews.