I turn 40 today!
Turning 40 is a significant milestone for most people, and a rare one for most Magic players. Reaching this milestone has me thinking of my Magic life. This article is not a “woe is me, feel my suffering” kind of article. This is not a “learn from my mistakes” article. I want to share with you how Magic has enriched my life and how at 40, Magic is as big a part of what I do as it ever has been.
Kelowna years – The Discovery
My first interaction with Magic involved buying cards for friends. I was living in Wyoming at the time and some friends living in Kelowna (a city in Western Canada) asked me to buy some cards. At the time the Canadian dollar was very low in comparison to the American dollar, but even after the conversion, the cards were still cheaper in theUS. I didn’t know what “Ice Age” or “Magic” was at the time, but I went to the local game shop and bought a box of Ice Age for my friends.
When I brought it to them that summer, my friends introduced me to the game. My first game was a 5-man chaos game that was crazy. I couldn’t imagine a better introduction to the game! I saw so many cards, and learned so many interactions on that first day. I went out and picked up a package that included two “Starter” decks, a cloth bag with the Magic logo on it in white, full of light and dark blue beads, and a tiny Fourth Edition rulebook. I supplemented that with another booster pack of Fourth Edition, and two packs of Homelands and Fallen Empires. Those packs cost less than the other ones in the shop, and they had cards that were different than the Fourth Edition cards. It seemed like such a good idea at the time…
My first game with my own cards was the next day with the same group of friends. With a little help, I ended up with a G/W/B deck that had pretty much all my green, white, and black cards. I learned the value of politics early on in the game. I played what seemed like a pretty fearsome beast to me: the Rabid Wombat. I knew I had some cards to enchant the Wombat (they weren’t Auras then, just “Enchant Creature” cards), so I figured this guy was going to get ugly in a hurry. My friends weren’t interested in wrecking my first Magic game with my new cards, so rather than destroy the creature, they enchanted it as long as I promised not to attack them with it. I let them know that whoever put the most enchantments on the Wombat would be safe from the Wombat. My 18/18 trampling, flying, regenerating, lifegaining Wombat was a force on the board and ensured that I’d be playing this game for a little while.
Prince George years – A Golden Age
While my initial group of friends had all seemed like pros to me, I discovered that they had only been playing for a few months before I started playing with them. Once I moved to a different city, I found that my group of friends there were playing as well. Several of them had been playing for a very long time. Dual lands were common and the occasional Ancestral Recall would show up in games with that group.
At this point my Magic collection was tiny, and it seemed unlikely that would be changing all that quickly. Money was very tight at that time in my life, so finding money to buy Magic cards was low on my priority list. My entire collection could fit into 6 foot-long white boxes, with enough room in each box to double the collection.
This limited collection pushed me into building decks that were mostly one-ofs. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t able to fight toe to toe with the other decks in my group, so I learned the importance of politics and threat assessment. When you are running a weak deck, improper threat assessment would likely mean I would be out of a game pretty quickly. It was during this time that I learned the value of being the quiet guy, and biding one’s time.
It was also during this time that I became much more serious about Magic. I was reading more and more online about the game. Like most casual players, Anthony Alongi’s articles were something to look forward to. When The Ferrett showed up at StarCitygames, it became very obvious to me that his playstyle mirrored mine. I started writing at this time as well. My early writings on Starcitygames are no longer available in their archive, but I did manage to win a few contests. I earned a box of Invasion for one contest, and with help from various readers, my Chicken deck was played in one of the early invitationals by Scott Johns. Prizes and encouragement from The Ferrett and John “Friggin” Rizzo kept me writing for close to a year.
Between the writing and playing pretty much every week, this was my first “Golden Age” of Magic. The playgroup grew and contracted, but the core stayed the same and we had a blast. This group saw me through a messy breakup and a difficult work life by giving me a place to escape once a week.
When I got into law school, I left Prince George for Winnipeg. On my last day, the group presented me with a t-shirt that had an Auratog stitched in it with the words, “Beware the Quiet Guy” in a semicircle around the bottom. I still have that shirt.
Winnipeg – The Dark Ages
If Prince George was a Golden Age, then Winnipeg was the Dark Age. I was never able to get a group of Magic players together for group games. My schedule was pretty limited with law school anyway, but I just couldn’t find enough players. I did find Troy fairly early on in Winnipeg, so it wasn’t as though I was never playing Magic. Troy and I played almost every week on Friday nights. Troy worked the night shift at Tim Horton’s[i], so we would get together there and play one on one games all Friday night.
Some of you are undoubtedly saying: why not just play FNM? As far as I know, there was no FNM at the time. There were some stores that held tournaments, but I am not a tournament player. Beyond the occasional prerelease, I just don’t play in tournaments. FNM was the last place I would have wanted to be.
Others are likely saying: Friday night? Really? Yes, really. I have never been a party guy. I was in a long-distance relationship so I wasn’t dating. That made Magic on Friday night perfect. I had no classes the next morning to drag myself to, so staying up late had no repercussions. For me, Friday nights were best.
Troy and I talked Magic initially. We talked about articles, new cards, deck ideas and ways to improve our decks. We showed plenty of strangers how to play the game, and enjoyed our escape. For Friday nights, I didn’t think about the law, or pending exams or papers. Troy didn’t think about his economic woes or the shift that would be starting at midnight. We just thought about Magic. At some point though, we started talking about our families and plans for the future too. Troy became more than just the guy I was playing Magic with: he became a good friend.
Calling this a Dark Age isn’t really fair to Troy, but there were only two of us. Both of us preferred to play multiplayer games and one on one just isn’t the same. When law school came to an end, I had high hopes for Boston.
Boston – Golden Age Revisited
I suppose the title gives it away, but Boston has been great. First of all, my economic woes have lessened and I can afford to spend some cash for cards! Now I can hide in the weeds with better decks, improving my win percentage even more!
Being a tournament organizer is something that started in Boston as well. This has been a wonderful experience. When something has been as good to you as Magic has been to me, you want to give something back, and being a TO is how I do it. From my TO reports, most of you know that the players in my tournaments tend to be younger players who are just getting into the game. Getting a chance to introduce new players to the game is a great thing.
The Muse Vessel and all the writing that has come with it has been a big part of making Magic fun over this last year in Boston. Getting to write with Brandon and Daryl has plenty of behind the scenes benefits that you the reader doesn’t often see. These guys are great and Magic brought that together. The Muse Vessel is the reason I’ve been able to do two preview cards (so far!). The Muse Vessel is the reason Andy from Commandercast dropped me an email when he was in Boston for PaxEast and ended up sitting in my dining room playing Magic with my group. I never expected writing about Magic was going to create friendships.
My play group while I’ve been here has been spectacular. Early on I started playing with Josh and that soon expanded into a solid multiplayer group. We added and removed players over the years and now the group meets every Thursday and we usually have eight of us every evening, and we are bursting at the seams. The decks are crazy and we play a variety of formats every night. The guys, to a man, are an awesome bunch.
Most of my friends in Boston have come from that play group. Josh and I were always there and have become good friends, even outside of Magic. I went to his wedding a couple of years ago and we regularly get together outside of Magic as well. Happy Anniversary to Josh and Liz!
Magic has been a passion that I’ve been able to share with my youngest son too. I’ve written about this before and won’t rehash it here, but how does this not make Boston a Golden Age?
Yet to Come
Thanks for joining me on what is admittedly, a self-indulgent article. I have had a great Magic life and things only look to continue that way. I hope all of you will have enjoyed Magic as much as I have when it is your turn to enjoy this milestone.
Thanks for reading,
[i] For those of you who don’t know, Tim Horton’s is simply the best donut/fast food chain in the entire world. It is primarily in Canada, but there are locations in parts of the northern United States. Canadian Crème donuts are the best donuts ever. To say otherwise simply proves you have never had one.