Archmage Ascending: It’s A Magical Life

Brian DeMars has reached Archmage rank in the Planeswalker Points system! Today he looks back on a Magical journey almost two decades in the making that ended, not at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, but at Friday Night Magic.

Spring 2014 State Championships

I remember it all like it was a few weeks ago (because it was). I was competing in a Friday Night Mages’ tournament at my local stomping ground.

For this event I had chosen to harness the power of Island, Plains, and Swamp mana and came prepared to duel with a powerful array of Esper spells at my
disposal. In this particular tournament I had already fought my way past many other wizards. I had dispatched a forest mage who specialized in summoning
hydras, narrowly bested an evil necromancer who rallied a battalion of rats and demons to his cause, and triumphed over an aggressive water wizard who
allied himself with the God of the Sea incarnate.

My journey had been long and difficult and was only becoming more difficult as I was next paired to duel a representative of my natural elemental nemesis:
a red fire mage.

In our first duel I was easily bested by my foe’s cascade of fiery magic. Not even the aid of my old friend Jace could save me from the crack of his
lightning spells and fiery phoenix. In our second meeting a victory was won with the aid of a treacherous old vampire I had met in my dealings with the
Orzhov back when I visited Ravnica last year.

The third duel of our match was a real knock-down-drag-out war. My rival spat forth a flurry of searing hellfire that burnt and scorched my armor, but I
fought back with every bit of defensive magic that I could muster. Toward the end of the duel the red mage and I stood upon the battlefield, reeling and
completely exhausted of all our magical powers. My opponent dug into his satchel in hopes that he might find one more spark of red magic to finish me off
but found nothing in his bag of tricks.

I knew I must seize this fleeting opportunity and stave off this mountainous mage here and now if I was to have any chance of continuing on my journey. I
looked to the heavens and heard a mighty voice answer the questions that I hadn’t even asked out loud. It was the voice of Isperia the mighty sphinx, and
she revealed to me at that fateful moment exactly how I was to win this hard-fought duel. I was recharged and invigorated. I had the strength and
know-how to cast all of the spells I could ever have wanted or needed.

I could feel my powers growing stronger as my Orzhovan acquaintance dealt the death blow to my worthy adversary, the red mage.

It was different from other victories. My Planeswalker spark burned hotter and my magical powers seemed to expand into a new realm of spell-casting. I
wasn’t sure what had changed, but I knew—I knew that something was somehow different. I could feel it.

Then my phone started to blow up.

Incoming Text from: Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir:

Congratulations on making Archmage! I’ve been hanging out with Archmage DeMars since before you were born (Time Travel, obv.) and am looking forward to
going back in time and catching up with you in your version of the future!

Incoming Text from: Jace, the Mind Sculptor:

Nice Job, Archmage! Wish I could congratulate you in person, but stuck here on Ravnica. It’s boring. The only fun part is that I keep mind controlling
Niv-Mizzet and making him misplay at cribbage. He has no idea lololol!

Incoming Text from: Nicol Bolas:

I still remember like it was yesterday when I became an archmage… It was 65 billion years ago, before any remnant of recorded history had begun. Your
accomplishment is obviously nothing by dragon standards, but an impressive feat for a puny human.

Incoming Text from Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius:

Welcome to the club! Hangin’ out with Jace. I keep letting him win at cribbage by misplaying on purpose. He thinks he’s mind controlling me. What a
newb. Luring him into a false sense of security and going to play him for the Guildpact, lol!

So, that was it! I had finally, finally leveled up to Level 46, Archmage, based on lifetime Planeswalker Points!

It occurs to me that I have played an absolute ton of Magic over the course of my life and that it has been a long and interesting journey from where I
started to where I am now.

I started playing Magic in 1994 with my little brother Brandon and my cousin Jerry. We started out with a Starter deck of Unlimited and two booster packs.

It didn’t take long before we were all hooked and were making routine trips to the local comic book store for more packs.

It’s funny to look back at those early days of Magic because everything was so different then. For a long time the three of us had a very loose
understanding of the rules. For instance, the first month we played Magic, we thought you could play as many lands in one turn as you wanted. It was not
uncommon to have games that went Turn 1: Plains, Plains, Island, Island, Island: Serra Angel, go!

It wasn’t until one of us pulled a Fastbond in a pack that we realized we were doing it wrong.

This card really sucks!

I was talking to my friend Mark the other day about playing Magic in the olden days and he had an exactly similar experience to one that I remember having:
we both thought that colorless mana meant mana of any color.

The first time I played Magic with new friends at my middle school, I’m pretty sure I opened up with Plains, T: Sol Ring. T: White Knight.

Um, that doesn’t work…

Mark told me that he simply played Urza’s Tower and Urza’s Mine in his deck without even having the ability to make “Urzatron” because he thought they were
painless City of Brass!

The best fixing in 1995 Magic!

At my first ever non-sanctioned Magic Tournament in Ann Arbor (where I played a Killer Bees themed deck), I upgraded my four Revised Taigas to Beta ones at
a price of $5 each.

Oh, to live in the days of $5 Beta upgrades again…

I paid $20 for my fourth Legends Killer Bee and $20 to upgrade all of my Taigas to Beta. What a world!

After years of playing Magic, I finally sold out of the game once I made it to high school. I was playing hockey, had a girlfriend, and was playing in a
rock ‘n’ roll band full time and I simply didn’t have time for my Killer Bees and Mana Drains anymore. I traded my entire collection to a friend for enough
money to buy a Fender American Classic Telecaster.

Once I got to college I found that a lot of my new college friends were fans of Magic. I watched them play a little bit and caught the bug to play again.

I got back into the game the same way that I started: with a Starter deck of Invasion and two booster packs with my little brother Brandon. We had a lot of
fun times battling those decks against one another at the cottage up north. I distinctly remember he had this one card in his deck that he seemed to always
beat me when he drew it:

He always got the good pile…

It’s funny because the card didn’t seem that good at first, but it always won him the game!

Before long we had upgraded our hodge-podge of packs to real decks and my brother and I went to our first ever sanctioned Magic Tournament. My official
Planeswalker Point journey started on May 5th, 2002 at Pandemonium Games in Westland, Michigan.

I went 3-2 playing a Squirrel Nest / Opposition deck that I had been tinkering with for a couple of weeks. After winning my first couple of rounds, I got
paired up against the always popular Psychatog deck twice in a row. I didn’t do any net decking or following of popular decks up until that point, so
playing against ‘Tog for the first time was quite the eye opener about what an actual good deck looked like.

It turns out that Fact or Fiction was good in real decks too, not just in my brother’s starter deck!

It is pretty interesting to me how the experience of tournament Magic was so polarizing for me and my brother. Basically, we both got crushed by every
Psychatog deck that we played against. The experience for him was frustrating and annoying, saying that “I don’t want to play with people who just netdeck
and play the same lame thing,” whereas I was really galvanized by the experience to delve even deeper into the game.

“Should I play Psychatog, or is there a way to build a deck that crushes Togs?”

When I had played Magic before in the 90’s, early on in the history of the game, everybody in Michigan had played Type I, which is the precursor of
Vintage. The players who were good were actually the players who had the biggest pocketbooks and actually owned all the Power 9 and expensive cards.

It really struck me that now Magic wasn’t about who could afford all the Power, but rather it was about what people were calling “the metagame.”

I was hooked and there was no going back after that.

The coolest thing about living the gamer life is that a person constantly gets to meet new and exciting people. I’ve met so many fantastic people playing
Magic that I couldn’t possibly name or thank them all in one sitting.

Magic: The Gathering is the greatest game ever invented. The game is unfathomably big and full of opportunities, experiences, and possibilities. It’s hard
for me to even imagine what my life would be like if my brother, cousin, and I hadn’t bought those first few packs more than twenty years ago.

I’ve gotten to play on nearly a dozen Pro Tours and travel all over the United States (and the world) to play a game that has become one of my life’s
passions. I’ve gotten a chance to write weekly articles for the biggest and best Magic site in the world and over the past five years have published nearly
150 articles! I’ve parlayed my career playing Magic into a job managing the local neighborhood game store where I grew up and learned how to game. I even
got lucky enough to win a trophy somewhere along
the way.

I think that gaming, and Magic in particular, is truly a fulfilling and worthwhile endeavor. It’s something that a person does with their friends and
family that enriches one’s life and I’m thrilled and proud that I get to do what I love every day. I love that on a daily basis I get to be part of helping
people improve at doing what they truly enjoy (gaming and playing Magic).

Sitting here on my porch, thinking about twenty years of playing, enjoying, and learning from this one game, Magic: The Gathering, I just want to say thank
you to all of the people who have helped make this life possible for me. Thank you to SCG, RIW, and all the great friends and mentors I’ve met along the
way and thank you all for reading.

It truly is a Magical life.

Spring 2014 State Championships