Back in the mid 1990’s, a new game arrived with a big splash called Magic the Gathering. It’s a collectible trading card game. The packs were distributed like baseball cards, with some cards rarer than others, but you could also use the cards to play a game involving a chess like strategy with a poker like randomness thrown in. Oh, and it had dragons and goblins and elves, oh my! It tickled every nerd vibe in me.
I had a job that required me to babysit a water treatment operation overnight. It was incredibly boring and so I taught my co-worker how to play. We then invited some of my friends to come over and play as well. We played casually, shuffling and tossing cards around without any regard to how valuable they would become over the years. Cards that are now worth over a thousand dollars were just grist for mill. After I got a new job that required more attention from me, my collecting and playing time dwindled. I also ran out of money, so I quit the game around 1998.
Fast forward to 2007 or so. I was getting my weekly pull at my local comic bookstore and I noticed people coming in to sit down at tables and play Magic. I was pleased to see people playing my old hobby, but I was more enthralled about the level of competition on display. I found out there were organized tournaments and something called Friday Night Magic, or FNM.
I was hooked. All in. I started showing up on Saturdays to play casually at first. I got a feel for the local scene; who was good; who I could learn from; who to trade with. I know I got ripped off on some of the card trades but I didn’t care at the time. I just wanted to build the best decks possible so I could compete at a high level. I re-arranged my schedule to play more frequently during FNM. I learned about different formats and rules. I became known as a good player.
The comic shop owner needed a new person to run the FNM tournament and asked if I was interested in the job. I suspect it was because I was older and more mature than the rest of the Magic playing crowd. So, I accepted on the condition that I would still be able to play in the tournaments that I ran. Of course, this served to embed me further into the Magic tournament world. I ended up attending every large tournament that came anywhere near me. The purpose of these tournaments was to qualify for something called the Pro Tour. I was determined to become a professional Magic player.
I studied. I practiced. I researched. I observed. In 2012 my big moment came. I defeated a player in a tournament who had previously made the pros. This launched me into what they call the “Top 8” of a major tournament. It’s a reset where the tournament starts over with just the 8 players with the best record after 10 hours of grueling competition. The top 8 was a “draft” competition where you take a single card out of packs passed around the table until you have enough to complete a deck. That is the deck you compete with. The Top 8 was single elimination. The prize was an invitation to Spain to compete in the Pro Tour that you would get paid for depending on how you do there.
I felt my drafted deck was solid and I was ready for this. At this level of play, the luck factor is reduced significantly. This level was all skill, not just of how well you play the game, but how you read the opponent. This was my downfall. I didn’t read my opponent correctly. I was too tired from the long day of competing and I was too over excited at having made it this far. There are a thousand micro decisions that go into this type of competition, and at some point during this match, I made the wrong one. I lost in the first round. The guy I lost to won the whole thing. The guy I lost to was going to Spain. The guy I lost to acknowledged my deck was better built than his. He just outplayed me. He had that killer instinct that I could not maintain.
Over the next five years I tried to repeat my feat. I made top 8 in a few minor tournaments and also a couple online, but never to that high a level. My dream of Magic Pro Tour attendance dwindled into reality. When Covid hit, my aspirations completely stopped. I still played casually online while watching you tube videos at the same time. That’s when a realization hit me really hard.
I hadn’t written anything since I started trying to play high level Magic. I hadn’t created anything other than the need to create better decks to compete with. (Dungeons & Dragons being the exception in everything.) The Covid shutdown started my creative urges once again. But, what to do? Start a You Tube channel, of course.