Introducing The 2018 Gamers Helping Gamers Recipients

Join all-time great Magic personality and historian Brian David-Marshall for a look at the latest recipients in one of Magic’s greatest charitable causes.

It is my great pleasure to introduce the recipients of this year’s Gamers
Helping Gamers scholarship awards.

Gamers Helping Gamers

— or GHG as it is often called — has given away nearly a quarter of a
million dollars in college scholarship money to Magic players since it was
founded in 2012 by some veteran Magic players who were looking to return
something to the game that had provided so much for them when they were
approaching college age.

“Playing Magic over the years, I saw lots of kids who were smart and
motivated, but not motivated by school,” explained GHG president Tim
McKenna. “Many of these kids didn’t have a lot of money and so they were
losing out on college. I felt that maybe we could help get them to go by
offering a scholarship, as many of them would be missed by more traditional
academic or sports-oriented scholarships.”

McKenna brainstormed with Hall of Famers Jon Finkel and Bob Maher, multiple
time Pro Tour Top 8 competitors Chris Pikula and Dan O’Mahoney-Schwartz,
and Grand Prix Champions Matt Wang and Eric Berger to hammer out the
logistics of creating a non-profit organization to fulfill that mission.
That group would form the Board of Directors and, initially seeded with
only their own money, they began screening applicants to give away money
for gamers to go to college.

Jon Finkel pledges money he wins on the Pro Tour to the organization and
Brian Kibler recently announced that he and his teammates would be donating
part of their winnings to GHG. There have been tournaments held to raise
money, most recently at Kirwan’s Game Store in
Catskill, NY, and of course you can donate to help send a Magic player
through college by clicking the donate button on their homepage.

If you want to read more about past winners of this award you can find all
the links on the

GHG webpage

. But today we are looking forward at two young Magic players on the brink
of their college experience who are each getting four-year awards totaling
$20,000 to ease the way. Let’s meet them.

Carter Newman

Carter Newman is an 18-year-old, self-described Spike from Huntington, West
Virginia. He is headed to West Virginia University this fall where he plans
to study economics with the eventual goal of becoming a professor.
Eagle-eyed viewers of the SCG Tour will recognize him from his Top 8
appearance at the Modern Open in Columbus earlier this year.

Despite his success with G/W Company in Modern — he also placed in

the Top 16 at SCG Indianapolis

a few weeks later — that is not his preferred Constructed format.

“I love Constructed formats,” said Carter, when asked to describe himself
as a Magic player. “I am most fond of Standard, with Legacy following
closely behind. I recently started playing Vintage on Magic Online and am
thoroughly enjoying it. I play Modern almost solely due to the sheer number
of competitive events with the format.”

Carter has been playing Magic since he was in the sixth grade and playing
collectible card games two years before that. When one of the other kids in
his gaming circle made the jump to playing Magic, Carter jumped with him
and never looked back.

“I was attracted to the game by the sheer number of options presented in
each and every game, from the ones in deckbuilding before a game begins to
navigating the various matchups and then the individual, unique scenarios
that can occur from game to game,” said the recently graduated high school
senior. “I am very competitive by nature and that translated to Magic very

Obviously, there can be some stigma attached to the Spike archetype, but
Carter tries to model himself after one player in particular who manages to
maintain the qualities of being a ferocious competitor while being a
sterling ambassador for the game.

“I enjoy following Reid Duke not only his in-game qualities — constant,
clear communication, never conceding too early, and the confidence he
brings to the table — but for the kindness and civility he brings outside
of the game, always being approachable and being an extremely positive
figure to the community.”

While the competitive aspects of Magic may have drawn him into the game, it
was the community that kept him there. Carter describes himself as a man of
many words and he has been able to find kindred souls all over the world
always willing to discuss decks, plays, and general strategy about the
game. Carter has played on one Pro Tour in his Magic career and it took him
to Sydney, Australia for PT Eldritch Moon.

“There is not a more surreal experience than qualifying for a Pro Tour,”
reflected Carter on when he won an online RPTQ playing Shadows Over Innistrad Sealed Deck. “It had always been my dream
to get there. I have watched every single Pro Tour diligently, and I wanted
to play on that stage. Not even necessarily the feature match area — I was
a first timer — but to be there and know that I made it.”

One of the memories from that event that really stood out for Carter was
playing against a player with no common spoken language between them. As
someone who had never played on this stage before, that was something he
had not anticipated and was momentarily nervous about. That quickly abated
when both players were able to clearly communicate their way through the
game largely on the basis of hand gestures. “We were still able to have a
full blown ‘conversation’ through playing the game. That is a very unique
thing to Magic.”

While getting to the Pro Tour was amazing, Carter’s favorite Magic memory
is that Top 8 at the Modern Open in Columbus. After coming back from
Australia, it seemed that Carter had lost his mojo. He had become
accustomed to financing his SCG road trips with a reasonable number of cash
finishes, but at the point where he had not cashed in almost a dozen events
he was not sure he could continue to justify those weekend Magic
excursions. And then, just like that, he was facing off against Kevin Jones
in the Top 8 of the Open, the first such finish of his career.

“Words can’t describe how much it meant. Sure, I had qualified for a Pro
Tour, but I had never made the Top 8 of an event before. I was even the
feature match for the quarterfinals. I had people from home — who were not
even Magic players — tuning in to watch me play. The love you get for
something like that is amazing.”

With his Senior year of high school underway, Carter became aware of the
Gamer’s Helping Gamers program by watching sixteen-time Pro Tour Top 8
competitor Jon Finkel streaming the Holiday Cube on MTGO. Finkel was using
the stream to drive donations and increase awareness of the program and
Carter immediately threw himself into the application process.

“I enjoyed the application process as it gave me an opportunity to relive
parts of my Magic career and also answer questions about the game that I
had never thought of before, despite playing the game constantly for
years,” explained Carter. Subjects on the application range from least and
most favorite mechanics to how players can apply lessons from Magic to real
world situations. Carter’s discussion of his love of cycling and his
disdain for hexproof as well as his observations about the community’s
ability to solve problems through discourse impressed the selection
committee and they gave him a four-year award.

“This is a unique, quantifiable merge between my academic and Magic lives,”
marveled Carter. Because I played Magic and created a career of sorts out
of it, I was able to obtain a scholarship that will allow me to graduate
debt free without obtaining a job, which therefore allows me to continue
playing Magic — when I am not entrenched in school work that is.”

Community was a reoccuring theme while talking to Carter, and it came up
again as he reflected on an older generation of Magic players and their
generosity in the light of their success. Whether it was Gerry Thompson
eBaying off his PT Amonkhet trophy for Planned Parenthood or Brian
Kibler’s announcement that he would be donating his — and his teammates as
well — money to the ACLU and Gamers Helping Gamers.

“It is just amazing that (GHG) have created this opportunity where they can
give back to Magic players. The game that provided for them at one point
and now they are going to give back to it.” It is incredible to see that
from the Magic community.”

With the stress of college tuition off his mind, Carter can now take the
summer and enjoy himself which, of course, means playing Magic. He had a
Vintage league all queued up to go on MTGO once we were done with our
interview and plans to be at some permutation of SCG Indianapolis and Grand
Prix Richmond. Make sure and say hello if you see him. He is always excited
to talk about the game that has played such a big part in his life since
the sixth grade and now on into college.

Clay Spicklemire

Clay Spicklemire is an eighteen-year old from Indianapolis who is among the
youngest players to ever win an individual Grand Prix when he won GP
Columbus at just sixteen years and two weeks old – playing Legacy, no less.

He’s heading to the University of Alabama this fall where he plans to study
engineering. He has a clear plan for the next four years and now has some
financial maneuverability thanks to the award from Gamers Helping Gamers.
But it was not too long ago that Clay’s life was filled with day to day
uncertainty and he had no idea what his future would hold.

“In October 2015, I got my first taste of Magic success when I top 8d my
hometown Open in Indianapolis. I played poorly in my Top 8 match and lost,
but that finish put “the fire” in me. Playing Magic against good opponents
for thousands of dollars is exhilarating and addictive, and I was hooked,”
recalled Clay of one of the last good moments he could remember before his
entire life was upheaved by a medical diagnosis. “Less than a month later,
I was diagnosed with Stage III synovial sarcoma.”

“Clay became ill very suddenly,” said Tawn Parent Spicklemire, Clay’s mom.
Clay had not been feeling well and a trip to an urgent care center
escalated to hospital to specialty hospital to a cancer diagnosis and being
prepped for major surgery. “Overnight his whole world fell apart. The
doctor said you are done with school for the year. When you are fifteen and
school goes away in November for the entire year? Your life has no
structure. He was in a number of extracurricular programs… and then
suddenly everything was gone. And his whole life was cancer.”

“The next seven months were riddled with fear, pain, and chaos. Virtually
every aspect of my life was stripped away. I lost touch with many of my
peers as they were clueless on how to react to my situation, not to mention
the natural toll not attending school for six months has on relationships –
friendships built on seeing each other in school every day,” said Clay.

While many things changed for Clay, one thing remained a rock-solid anchor
in his life — Magic: The Gathering. Whether it was his local game store in
Indianapolis, the constant outlet of Magic Online, or his new Magic playing
friends he made in Chicago.

“The community was overwhelmingly supportive, with my local game store
community of friends even teaming together to gift me a complete Modern
Affinity deck, my favorite Modern deck at the time. They each signed one of
the cards and gave it to me before I left to live in Chicago for a couple
of months while receiving treatment at a specialized proton therapy
radiation center. This was a touching act of kindness, and I’ll never
forget how selfless and meaningful it was.”

“I came to be so so grateful for Magic. Before he got sick, I just saw it
as some kind of a hobby, but I really started to see it as a community
where people really cared about him where he was able to go and feel normal
and welcomed,” said his mother, who could not imagine what the battle would
have been like without the lifeline of the game. “Magic Online was
something he just kept doing throughout his entire illness. We would be in
the hospital and as long as he felt up to it he was playing Magic. When
everything else was gone from his life this was a way for him to feel
smart, to be funny. To feel part of something and feel a shred of normalcy
in the midst of this insane existence.”

“In a time when I barely recognize myself in the mirror, Magic let me feel
like I was still me. I’m not sure how I would’ve made it through without
it,” said Clay who began to avail himself of the LGS scene in Chicago when
his immune system was strong enough to venture out. “In a world where most
people saw a bald kid in a mask and looked away, acting as if I didn’t
exist, the Magic community did what so few others in my life did and
treated me as a normal person. Playing in tournaments was one of the few
things I could do to forget about everything happening to me and pretend
everything was normal, to get lost in the game I love, if only for a

With his extracurricular activities narrowed down to playing Magic Online
in nearly every waking moment, Clay found that he was getting better and
better at playing the game.

“My work paid off in June of 2016 when I won Grand Prix Columbus the week
after my final cycle of chemotherapy. Winning in only my second Grand Prix
the weekend after I finished chemo felt scripted, but words cannot describe
how incredible and meaningful the experience was.”

Clay’s Grand Prix victory came just six years after he first learned how to
play the game under the tutelage of his older brother. He took to the game
immediately and was always attracted to the most competitive aspects of it.
Clay started playing the game because it was fun but stayed with it because
he liked to win. He enjoys pretty much every Magic format with the
exception of Modern, but his absolute favorite is Team Sealed.

One of the key figures in Gamers Helping Gamers is also a player that Clay
holds a lot of admiration for, largely because of the way he balances his
life with playing the game.

“I really admire players like Jon Finkel who find success in Magic while
also holding a full-time job. I don’t see Magic in my future as a full-time
job and plan to become an engineer, but the fact that the man widely
accepted as the best to ever play our game is also a wildly successful
hedge fund manager is truly inspiring.”

Clay had filled out plenty of scholarship applications throughout his
senior year of high school, but the Gamers Helping Gamers application was
the only one that did not feel like a laborious homework assignment.

“I love talking, thinking, and writing about Magic, so answering open-ended
questions about my favorite/least favorite aspects of Magic and what it
means to me didn’t feel like work at all. Writing these essays felt like
talking to a friend about Magic on a road trip, not at all the dull, menial
task applying for scholarships generally becomes.”

Topics for the essays included discussing his favorite card, Cabal Therapy,
how Magic illustrates the sunk-cost fallacy, and how cohesive teams are
much more effective at solving problems than those people all working on
their own. Much like fellow scholarship recipient Carter Newman, Clay had
little time for the hexproof mechanic.

“It’s a keyword that makes creatures all but impossible to interact with,
and against decks trying to remove creatures it reduces the game to a
simple spot-check of whether or not a player has one of the few answers to
the creature or the game is generally over. Hexproof illustrates quite well
one of my biggest complaints with Magic in general, which is when cards and
mechanics don’t lead to interactive games and instead just generate
runaways in one direction or the other.”

When the news came that Clay was one of this year’s recipients Tawn — who
described herself as walking around with a ridiculous grin all day — could
not possibly have been prouder of her boy.

“It is like a football player winning a football scholarship,” Tawn said
with more than a quaver in her voice. “This is the thing that he loves
most, more than any other school activity that he has done. For this to be
the greatest joy and source of satisfaction — and it really is an
intellectual exercise for him — it just felt very validating of all this
work and time he had spent playing.”

“This scholarship means that it isn’t necessary for me to work as much as I
had previously thought to afford the ever-increasing cost of college, and
that extra time can be spent as a lab assistant, getting involved in
extracurriculars — or playing Magic!” grinned Clay. “I’m very thankful to
have been chosen to be the beneficiary of this generous scholarship, and I
hope I’ll be able to contribute to Gamers Helping Gamers once I graduate to
help make college affordable for another young Magic player.”

Clay was already at orientation for school as we did this interview but was
eager to spend some of his summer playing the game that has meant so much
to him over these last few tumultuous years. Look for him at an SCG Tour
event somewhere soon. He will be the young man with the huge smile and the
unruly mane of hair.

If you want to read about past winners of Gamers Helping Gamers
scholarships you can find all the links