Gnothi Seauton

Magic is meant to be fun for you and all who play. To maximize that fun, Emma Handy expounds on an Ancient Greek saying: “Gnothi seauton.” Know thyself!

Who are you?

I don’t want to know your name. Don’t describe your appearance, or what you’ve done. Describe who you are.

Magic is a game that has so much to offer, and so many of us become caught up trying to do all of it. Do you want to immerse yourself in the art of the game? It’s out there. Cosplaying? Got it. Traveling? We’ve got someone for that.

That’s not even get into playing the game! Magic has something for just about everybody, and that’s why it continues to flourish and grow at an astonishing rate.

The problem? You can’t do it all.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of spreading myself too thin, and Magic honestly hasn’t helped in that department. It’s common for people to ask me something to the effect of “So what do you do other than Magic? There’s gotta be more!” Well, honestly, there isn’t much more. I bought a video game recently, and watch Netflix sometimes, but other than that, there’s so much in Magic that can be done, I keep myself preoccupied with it.

Part of growing as a Magic player and as a person is understanding how to prioritize different parts of your life. Earlier this year I wrote an article that touched on fitting Magic into your life and understanding where you are, and it’s as important as ever.

If there were a single most important section of that article that I could use to sum it up, it would be this excerpt:

Despite us talking on rare occasions, Andrew Shrout gave me a kernel of the most profound Magic advice I’ve gotten:

“Balancing Magic-life and real-life becomes much easier when you realize that there isn’t a difference between the two. Magic is just part of your real life.”

This can be taken a step further and isn’t something I mentioned in initial piece: why do you play Magic and what are you doing to get the most out of it?

Timmy, Johnny, Spike

The idea of Timmy, Johnny, and Spike has been around longer than 90% of us have even been experiencing the game. The issue is that, as the game grows and different sects of the game are created, the model becomes more and more obsolete. At the risk of sounding political, people don’t fit into boxes, and that’s okay! Wizards of the Coast has to have some sort of model when designing products for a target audience, and it’s understandable that they have this type of system set up.

This isn’t going to work when looking at yourself or your friends as individuals. Rather than trying to determine why people play the game, it’s more important for each of us to analyze ourselves and realize what we want to get out of Magic, and then try our damnedest to achieve that goal.

For a good chunk of players, that’s going to fit into the aforementioned model and the path will be intuitive. For other people, finding that balance of what you want and taking the necessary steps to accomplish that goal can be impossible.

To use myself as an example I check most of the boxes of a Spike. I netdeck, I prefer playing in high-level tournaments, I generally avoid building new decks, and I make a living in part because of my notoriety in the game as a player. That being said, I also play Commander, regularly stream Vintage Cube, and would have trouble caring less about my tournament results. The category of Magic player that I most identify with can be completely different depending on which parts of my playing that you examine.

This has led me to reject the idea that people need to be grouped into different sections of players. In a lot of cases, tournament levels and format selection will do a lot of the legwork required to group like-minded players together. A lot of friction we experience and observe from player to player is a symptom of people trying to put themselves in situations where they aren’t putting themselves in a position to be happy.

Make Happy

For most people, Magic is a hobby. Magic is supposed to be fun. This can be playing the game or doing any of the incidental activities in the vein of the art and cosplaying I’d mentioned previously.

There’s so much Magic that you could be doing, but you can’t do all of it. There isn’t anybody that can successfully have their hand in that many baskets; trust me, I try. For at least a few minutes a week, I consider doing each and every one of the following:

  • Playing in a large tournament
  • Practicing Standard
  • Practicing Legacy
  • Practicing Draft
  • Practicing Modern
  • Playing in a local Magic Tournament
  • Attending a Grand Prix for reasons other than the tournament
  • Cosplaying at a Magic event (maybe Jhoira of the Ghitu or Kaalia of the Vast?)
  • Learning Pauper
  • Building a Commander deck
  • Putting together a trade binder with the intent of maintaining it
  • Streaming Magic
  • Reorganizing my collection
  • Building a Cube

There literally aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of these things and keep up with them. Please just take my word for it when I tell you that putting too much on your plate will just make Magic a cause for stress, rather than something to relieve it.

Magic is about being happy. It’s important to figure out what it is that you like doing in the game, and focus on that. It doesn’t necessarily have to only be a single thing, but it’s much more rewarding to be happy with your favorite parts of Magic than to try to stay up-to-date with every single part of Magic that you have access to.

Don’t like doing something? Don’t do it.

During my time working at a game store, it was mind-boggling at how many people would complain about playing in Standard tournaments and then enter Standard FNM instead of Commander FNM. At the risk of sounding condescending, there are more important things than a couple of extra booster packs at FNM.

Remember that that kind of atmosphere is for enjoying yourself. If the profit margin were that important, most of us could pick up an extra shift at work to make up the difference in booster packs between one tournament and another. Play Magic for you.

This isn’t all to say that you shouldn’t try new things. You wouldn’t play Magic if you’d never tried it for the first time. This is to discourage you from doing things that you don’t enjoy for the sake of playing more Magic or being more involved with the game.

Being part of the game is great, and being committed to something feels wonderful. That being said, it’s passion that keeps the game great, and when you remove passion from the equation, the game quickly loses its allure.

Let People Like Things

Liking one part of Magic doesn’t make you better or worse than anybody else in the game by virtue of what you enjoy. I’m not going to throw shade at Chris Lansdell for being a brewer, or Brad Nelson for being a “try-hard Pro Tour player.” Maria Bartholdi being primarily known as a podcast and commentary personality doesn’t make her any better or worse than somebody who is known for being a Platinum-level pro. Some people are only going to like Magic for the Dungeons & Dragons Plane Shift series. Others are going to walk into the card store and refuse to buy booster packs because it’s more efficient for them to exclusively buy the single cards they need for decks (from fine websites like this one).

Part of Magic that’s fantastic is the people that you meet while playing and the connections that come as a result. The droves of people that you’ll meet through the game are a direct result of how rapidly the game has grown, and that is contingent upon Magic players being welcoming to everyone who wants to enjoy the game, even to those who enjoy the game in a different way from how they do.

Putting someone down for what they like doesn’t actually put anybody in a better position. It only serves to make someone unhappy and possibly push them away from the game that we all love. Magic is great due to the sum of its parts; don’t mess it up!

Go Forth

Once you figure out what it is that makes Magic, well, magic for you, what now? Push yourself! There are trailblazers in every single part of Magic, and there’s something to learn everywhere.

Build the best decks, perform the best at tournaments, get the most cred as a cosplayer, learn everything this is to learn about the lore…the possibilities are endless. Magic beats out games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Force of Will in part because it crams so many games and hobbies under one umbrella.

There’s something for you in this game, even if you don’t realize everything that it’s got in store for you. Without giving it your best, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Very few of us are going to actually be the best at something, and that’s okay! It’s still possible to be great, and be happy. Why not give yourself the best chance to accomplish it? In the words of Steve Prefontaine:

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

What’ll you do to use yours?