Looking Ahead To 2018

Brennan DeCandio has plenty to look forward to in 2018! From his new team to the possibilities of the SCG Tour, he’s ready to give Magic (and the fine art of traveling to tournaments) all he has in the New Year!

It feels like only a blink of an eye ago that I was beginning 2017 on the right foot, having just won back-to-back Opens. The highlight of course was when our own Cedric Phillips bet I wouldn’t win a third in a row by claiming he would eat a hat if I did. While I got off to a fantastic start at the January Open in Richmond, ultimately I fell short of making history and having a great story for Cedric to tell.

2017 has in fact been my most successful year in Magic, with a pair of Open titles in Season One, my first time cashing the Pro Tour with an 11-5 record, streaming on Twitch nearly every weekday…it’s been a wild ride. With the New Year on the horizon, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make as to how I want to approach Magic and reevaluate what it all means to me.

For some, Magic is a whimsical hobby that they indulge in with friends at FNM and occasionally will do a local draft during the week; for some, they grind and grind on, whether at the Grand Prix circuit, the SCG Tour, or the Pro Tour itself. I fall in there some way or another, traveling to most every SCG event I can get to while giving some attention to the Pro Tour when it’s convenient. I tend to avoid Grand Prix events and treat them more like a convention than an actual tournament because they’re typically more costly and the sheer amount of people in attendance detracts me from wanting to participate. Aside from tournament Magic itself, I think what I get most from the game is streaming, which is my primary form of social activity outside my personal life.

I love talking to people of all sorts with all kinds of opinions and want to be able to reason with them about my decision-making process. While sometimes people disagree and can get rather defensive about their standpoint on things, at least we had a conversation and I try and learn from every experience that I have. While some might find the de facto “Twitch Chat” user to be nothing more than an internet troll or the like, I know there are those out there genuinely curious about things I do while playing a game of Magic, and being able to answer those questions and explain my reasoning if often the best part about my day. For all the naysaying I do at times, my real goal is to be a positive force in the community for people to rally behind or at least learn from to better their own experiences with the game.

This year has been a whole redefinition of what Magic means to me, and I can honestly say it’s been the best year of my life. The friends I’ve made this year are top-tier and I wouldn’t trade my experiences with them for any amount of trophies I could have. That’s what Magic is really about, isn’t it? The Gathering?

The Gathering of what, you might ask? Likeminded people and an accepting community in which people are allowed to be themselves and not to be alienated for being a little different. All throughout my years of high school and my time in college, there were groups and cliques that frowned upon certain normal behavior just because it was different. With Magic I’ve been lucky enough to not have to deal with that, since we are all oddballs in our own way. A great part of who I am today is because of what Magic taught me, and not just about the game itself, but how to act and who to grow into as a functioning adult (depending on whom you ask).

So let me take this brief moment to say thank you to the Magic community as a whole. I know there are those out there who do their best to ruin the experience for others and put a black mark on the collective, but I do truly believe that, for the most part, we are a force for good, and I hope that we go the extra mile in the years to come to be the best we can to one another.

It’s been an amazing journey this year. Much like all good things, it must eventually come to an end….

Just kidding. I’m not going anywhere!

As a matter of fact I’ve gone and turbo-charged my engines for next year and become a member of @Team_BCW! Todd Stevens, The Tannon Grace, Ross Merriam, Jim Davis, and I form a team who plan on streaming, competing, and writing all throughout the next two SCG Tour seasons and putting in all the work we can to dominate the Tour.

You’ve seen several teams appear on the SCG Tour and do quite well working together to achieve a common goal. Well, our goal is very simple: win all the Opens we possibly can. With the shift to more Modern Opens this year, who better than Todd “The Modern Master” Stevens to lead the charge? With his keen eye on the pulse of the format at all times, there’s no one I’d rather be working with. Along with the shift in there being an increasingly large number of Team Opens, I’m glad to have my partner in crime, The Tannon “Jawline” Grace, coming out to more and more of them.

Oh, and I’m glad to have Ross Merriam and Jim Davis as my own personal cheerleading squad too!

Okay, I’m taking the joking around a bit too far with that one. Ross Merriam and Jim Davis bring a whole new dynamic to the old Team Dapper, giving us an upgrade from a Star Destroyer to the full-blown Death Star. I’ve been super-thrilled with the level of enthusiasm these other four guys have brought to the table, and while my spark for Standard might have been dwindling the past month or two, this has given me an entire new reason to up my game and become a much better-rounded player.

Along with the new roster of teammates to work with, I’ve come to some much-needed revelations about myself. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to making a list of things to do with the New Year. I could go on about how I want to improve as a player and how I can learn from my mistakes in preparation for tournaments, but that’s not all too interesting, since much of my preparation is streamed and isn’t out of the norm for many people looking to improve.

A certain aspect of my year was almost infamous this past year, as my ability to learn how to travel needed to catch up to the modern world. I believe I missed a total of three flights, booked two incorrect ones, and double-booked once. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it certainly adds up when it comes to traveling. Another big area of improvement for me is reading. While that sounds silly, SCG does a pretty great job of outlining exactly where the venues are for events months ahead of time. Just because an Open might be in “Washington D.C.” doesn’t mean it’s completely accessible from most airport-local hotels, so be sure to look into the exact location for the tournament and plan ahead of time.

I wouldn’t consider myself much of a foodie, as it were, but I do enjoy making sure I’m not getting scammed out of my money when it comes to food. I’d say a big tip I have and something I’m sure as heck going to be sure to do for every event I go to is bring something to eat throughout the day at an event. Convention hall food is the worst, often reminding me of a high school cafeteria but significantly overpriced. I couldn’t be more disgusted with my eating habits in the early days of this past year’s events. My advice here is to visit a local grocery story the night before and bring plenty of water bottles and snacks to eat and you’ll save yourself enough money to have that victory dinner you planned with your friends.

A final piece of advice for anyone looking to learn from my mistakes is to enjoy yourself. While that sounds obvious to many, traveling is what you make it. It can be a strictly business ordeal and not involve any activities other than the tournament itself, but take the time to realize that not everyone gets to travel to these all the time and see the sights you are currently taking for granted. I always want to make the most of my trips when visiting places like Baltimore, visiting the harbor and maybe even the aquarium. In Columbus, the barcade there is second to none and I look forward to getting my NBA Jam on this go-around. As for Charlotte, the city itself is amazing, and if you have the time to check out one of my favorite places to eat, “The Red Ginger,” do so!

Sometimes Magic events don’t go exactly the way we plan, and still being able to enjoy the weekend regardless is a secret to not getting burnt out by making life feel like a constant grind. Enjoy your friends and the time you get to spend with them; these years come and go faster than you can turn your head. I would know. I’ve just looked back and recounted a lot of what I went through during 2017, and I can say that I know 2018 will be even more of an amazing ride.

Here’s to the New Year. I hope everyone stays safe and sticks to the resolutions they made, and I hope I get a chance to make new stories with everyone that I meet from Magic. Cheers!