Magic 2030

Check out this interesting, creative piece from two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Ben Friedman about what his future son’s experience might be like if he teaches him how to play Magic.

“Every father’s dream is to see his son one day surpass him.” —Alex Majlaton


July 25, 2029

Dear Diary,

Today my dad taught me how to play this weird game with old pieces of cardboard with cool pictures of dragons and explosions on them. He said that some of his favorite memories from his childhood were playing board games with Grandpa and that he thought I would really like Magic cards. He always talks about the tournaments that he used to play in back before I was born, and I want to play in them too. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be as good as him, though, since the rules are so complicated! I just want to play all my cards and attack, but there are all of these rules about how many cards you get, how you can cast your spells and attack with your creatures, and there are a lot different types of cards like artifacts and planeswalkers and emblems.

My favorite one was definitely Eldrazi Conscription. It won the game when I cast it on my Birds of Paradise, and I bet Dad never saw that one coming! He kept playing these planeswalker cards, though, and he beat me most of the time with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That card is so unfair! It kept returning my best creatures to my hand, and he would win every time I didn’t kill it. Then we switched decks, but I had no idea how to play any of the cards in his deck! There were like five creatures, and I always lost. What a dumb deck. At least I got to stay up past my bedtime, and we got ice cream too! Dad also said that if I like the game, he will get me some new cards because all of his are from like twenty years ago. I turn ten in only sixteen days, and I really want Madden ’30 for the Apple iGame 3, but maybe some Magic cards would be nice too. Maybe I’ll ask Mom for Madden ’30 and Dad for Magic cards.


August 8, 2029

Dear Diary,

Today my dad bought me two Starter Decks for my birthday. One is Fire and Skull mana, which is called Rakdos, and the other one is Water and Sun mana, which is called Azorius. He said I could pick whichever one I wanted to play against him with, and of course I picked the Fire and Skull one. The cards are just so much cooler! I wanted to add some of his old cards to the deck, but he said that if I was going to do that then he could add old cards to his deck too and I didn’t want to play against Jace anymore. So we dueled like ten times, and I won six! I told him that I was going to be better than him, and he said that I would need to practice a lot because he was going to start playing harder.

If I like the game a lot, he said, he would even let me enter tournaments to win prizes and money for my iBank mini. Then he explained that I can upload my deck onto Magic Online with the microchips implanted in them and play on my iGame against other people around the world to practice, which sounds awesome! I asked him if he ever played Magic Online or if they even had that when he played, and he said that he did but he thought that real life Magic was more fun. They don’t have too many real life tournaments anymore, he said, and that makes him sad. He said that it was more fun when you played in person because you would make friends and hang out, which you don’t get to do online.

I told him that I still hang out with my friends online, like with video messaging, but he said that it’s not the same. Then we played Madden and I beat him a bunch before dinnertime, which was pizza. I get to go to Grandma’s tomorrow after school, so maybe I’ll look through boxes of Dad’s old cards and use them in my deck!


August 9, 2029

Dear Diary,

I asked Grandma where all of Dad’s old Magic cards are, and she laughed and said, “Oh no, not you too!” I told her it was fun and that I was going to be better than Dad. Grandpa took me down into the basement to find a big cardboard box that said “Ben’s Cards” on them, and he told me a story about how this all started with Dad getting a Pokemon card on the bus to summer camp when he was even younger than me. I asked him if he had ever played Magic, and he said that he never learned how to play, although he liked hearing about Dad at tournaments and gave advice to him on how to get better. He said that Dad always needed help to stay focused and not get overconfident and that sometimes I take after him that way. I told him no way, that I never get overconfident, but he laughed and asked if I was ready for my birthday dinner.

Grandma made quesadillas, which were awesome, and for dessert we had an ice cream cake with my name on it. Grandma and Grandpa’s present was kind of weird, though. They gave me a box set of Lord of The Rings books, in paper and everything. I told them that I could just download the books and read them on my iPad, but they said that nothing compares to reading a real book, so I said thank you. All of Mom and Dad’s real books are grown-up books, but now I have some real books of my own. Dad said that reminded him that he had another real book for me to read about Magic by a good friend of his. It would help me get better, he said. I can’t wait! Tomorrow Dad says we’ll go online and buy some cards for a cool deck. I don’t want it to be a Water deck, though, because those never get the cool cards. I think maybe Gruul or Rakdos would be a good deck.


August 14, 2029

Dear Diary,

Dad said that he has a lot of extra unused store credit at StarCityGames.com, where we bought the cards, so he ended up buying two decks instead of just one. I couldn’t decide between Gruul and Rakdos, but Dad said the Gruul one is better for me, so we got that one. He got an Azorius deck again, and I asked him why he likes them so much. He said that he did the best with blue and white back when he used to play, so he was used to it the most. It also won the last Magic Online Grand Prix, he said, and the Japanese guy who invented it was very smart.

The deck I’m playing won the last Magic Online StarCityGames.com Standard Open though, so he is in for some tough competition, especially because I added some awesome cards that I found on my own. I don’t understand why that guy didn’t play more Natural Embrace because only four mana for a +5/+5 and trample aura is really good, I think. It was really cheap, too! I also wanted to play with Nissa, Sylvan Berserker, but my dad said I would have to pay for that one myself if I wanted to add it to the deck.

I also started reading Mental Magic, Dad’s book about how to get better at Magic, and it was even signed by the author. I haven’t heard of Reid Duke, but my dad says he got inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame and that following his advice is a great way to get better at playing tournaments. His advice about confidence in a tournament is good, because I sometimes get nervous when I play against a person online in a draft with lots of PTQ emblems on their digital playmat. Dad says that I can beat those guys, but I haven’t yet. Maybe with the new deck I’ll have a better shot.


August 30, 2029

Dear Diary,

I spent a TON of time playing Magic this summer, and I’m going to teach it to all my friends when I start fifth grade. I even played in a PTQ for a real in-person Pro Tour with my Gruul deck, to which I added the Nissas to after I got my allowance and cleaned my room. I went 5-4, but if I had won, I would have gotten to go to Beijing and miss school! Dad says I can play more online as long as I keep my grades up but that I can’t play more than two hours a day. How unfair is that? I can’t even play a Daily Event in two hours! He said that during the week, I will have to just play for practice because we have other stuff in our lives besides Magic. I told him that I have to play a lot if I’m going to get better than him, and he said that there would be time for that over the weekends but that I could read as many strategy articles as I want.

I finished Mental Magic and told my dad that I want to meet Mr. Duke and play against him. He said that it can be arranged over Thanksgiving break, but that I have to keep doing well in school for him to take me to a big in-person tournament.


November 28, 2029

Dear Diary,

I got to play in a real live Grand Prix this past weekend! It was all the way in Los Angeles, so Dad and I drove down for the weekend with some of his friends from work. They talked about old cards a lot, but they were very nice when I asked them what each card they named did. I learned so much about old Magic. The cards used to be better, according to them. Now they told me that the game is too luck-based and that things were better before Wizards made the game all about powerful expensive creatures. I told them that I like cards like Dungrove Warrior and Bloodsoaked Hellkite, which is a 6/6 trample for just one and two green and a 9/9 with deathtouch and flying for four and two red. They said that those were exciting cards, but that they weren’t good for the balance of the game. I guess, but I think that those cards are pretty awesome.

They told me about Faeries and Caw-Blade and how the best cards all used to be blue, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Cryptic Command. I don’t like those cards too much because they just don’t seem like they can win a game on their own. I read in one of the old articles that there are never wrong threats, only wrong answers, and I told them that. Even dad laughed at that one and said that sometimes the answers are better than the threats and that’s when control decks are good. His friends agreed, but they all said that I was going to be very good as soon as I start playing blue cards. I told them that I liked my Gruul deck for the Grand Prix and that I was going to make Day 2 just to show them.

Anyway, we got down to the tournament and went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with some of Dad’s other friends, including Reid Duke himself! I got to shake his hand, and I told him I really liked his book and that I want to be in the Hall of Fame too someday. Dad also introduced me to a funny older man who asked if I wanted to buy Day 2 insurance for the GP. I told him no thanks, that I don’t need insurance, and he told me that was “loose.” I laughed and told him that he sounded kind of dumb, but he didn’t mind. I think his name was Mr. Fabiano, and he had some great stories over dinner. He even let me pick which credit card was going to pay for the dinner at the end, which was exciting.

I pulled out the black American Express so Dad’s other friend Mr. Costa had to pay for the dinner, but he was really nice about it. Everyone thought it was funny that he had to pay for dinner, but I didn’t get it. He said that when his daughter was old enough, he’d love to teach her how to play Magic, too. I said that I thought Magic was for boys, and Mr. Costa said that girls play the game too, and there were more than there used to be.

The tournament was kind of disappointing because I had one bye from my online play. I won my next two rounds before losing one to a guy who was kind of mean to me when I beat him game 1. Games 2 and 3 I got unlucky and lost, but I still thought I could keep winning. I beat two more people and then lost again. It was a girl that time. Then I lost again to a friendly guy who was in high school, so I was out of contention for Day 2. I won my last round, so I got some Planeswalker Points and a cool badge to add to my online Planeswalker Profile, but Sunday I didn’t get to do anything but watch my dad and Mr. Duke play more Magic and play in a side event for a box of Shards Reforged.

Dad and Mr. Duke played each other in round 13. Mr. Duke won, so he got to make the Top 8. Dad only made Top 32, but he said that he made a lot of mistakes and that we could watch the video of him playing Mr. Duke later and talk about the game. I want to know why Dad and Mr. Duke didn’t play any of their cards for so long! They both had a lot of cards that they could have cast, but they just waited and played lands for like ten turns. I think if Dad had played his cards out, he could have won, but he said that waiting was better. I wonder why?

The drive back was too long, but I fell asleep on the ride home and Dad said I didn’t have to go to school that day. I think I want to play in the next Magic Online Grand Prix, which is in a month. Hopefully, Dad can give me advice in between rounds and having food right there will make me less tired when I play.


January 4, 2030

Dear Diary,

The Magic Online Grand Prix was no fun. I got eliminated almost right away, even though I had two byes! I went 1-3 with my Gruul deck, and Dad says it’s because the format has shifted. I don’t really understand what that means, but I think that what he was saying was that more people are playing cards that are good against my cards. Wall of Roots is just so good at stopping my offense, and my opponents all had more Doom Blades and Day of Judgments than I could deal with. I guess this is what Dad was saying when he said that the answers are sometimes better than the threats. I’m going to practice more and figure out how to beat the best deck. If only Dad would let me play more on school nights…


April 2, 2030

Dear Diary,

I won a Magic Online Grand Prix Trial! I played the Gruul deck, and after making Top 8 at 4-2, I beat two white decks and a mirror match to take the three byes that I can use at any in-person or Magic Online Grand Prix for the next six months! I got a sweet badge for my online account, too! Those Nissa, Sylvan Berserkers were good, and no one else believed me! Well, the fact that no one has been playing much red means that Nissas have been great, and they won my Top 8 and Top 4 matches. Putting two 1/1 Elf tokens into play for zero loyalty is great, and combining it with my lands that let me sacrifice creatures to deal damage let me run over the other decks in the late game. No one else plays that combo, but I’m going to take this deck to a PTQ and win it!

I’ve been reading lots of old coverage of events my dad played in and some old articles by him and his friends. There’s just so much out there to learn! I’ve gotten better at drafting too, and I win about a quarter of the Shards Reforged-Invertigo drafts I play in now. My dad shut off the video screen chat in the games, but if he didn’t, I bet all of my opponents would be mad to lose to a ten-year-old kid. My dad said that if I wanted, he would coach a Magic club at my school once I start middle school in the fall. I think that would be a lot of fun, and I’d get to play more Magic with my friends!


July 10, 2030

Dear Diary,

Magic 2031 is about to come out, and I’m super excited! There’s going to be a bunch of new powerful black cards, and I’m going to build a Golgari deck to take to the Magic Online Grand Prix in a week. I think that it can beat the aggro decks with a lot of removal spells, and it can beat control with all of the discard it has in the sideboard. I especially like the card Duress since I’ll be able to take a control deck’s best card and then beat them with a Golgari Grunt or Loxodon Undead. I’m really looking forward to this tournament because I love building new decks and even my dad says this one could be good!


July 28, 2030

Dear Diary,

I made Day 2 of the Magic Online Grand Prix! I even made Top 64, so I got 300 dollars and a Pro Point to put on my online Planeswalker Profile! Dad didn’t play since he just wanted to fix the water heater and encourage me between rounds, but he said he was very proud of me and that if I keep working I’ll probably qualify for the Pro Tour in no time! I told my friends that I was a pro player now, and they were pretty amazed at the badge on my account. They asked me what I am going to do with the $300. I think I want to get an iGame game, maybe Final Fantasy XXII or something. Dad said that I could play in three PTQs the rest of the summer, but I think I can convince him to let me play in more than that. I just have to make the Top 8 of one first…


August 17, 2030

Dear Diary,

For my eleventh birthday, I got a great present. I made Top 8 of the Magic Online PTQ! I played my Golgari deck, and even though I lost to a Russian guy in the Top 8, I went 8-1-1 in the Swiss, and I got another cool badge for my Planeswalker Profile. My dad showed me some of his real life PTQ Top 8 pins and they look kind of cool, but I like mine better because it shows up right next to my name when I play against someone. Dad and I went out for milkshakes afterwards, and Grandma and Grandpa got me a cool pair of Nike shoes. I can’t wait to try out for the middle school basketball team in these because they look so cool!

I’m excited to watch the live virtual reality webcast of Pro Tour Etherea in Monaco, which lets you walk around the tournament hall and see all of the competitors playing through uploading every game as it’s happening to Magic Online. It’s going to be super awesome to watch all of the pros play. I heard rumors that Jon Finkel, 23-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, is going to return because he doesn’t want Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa to break his Top 8 record. I can’t wait!


December 12, 2030

Dear Diary,

I lost in the finals of a PTQ today. I’m so upset. I know I played horribly and I embarrassed myself in front of a hundred people watching the final match. I think the pressure got to me. My dad was away on a business trip, so he wasn’t able to give me a pep talk when I really needed it. I don’t know what I want to do. I think I need to take a break from Magic, maybe for the rest of the school year. My dad told me it’s okay, that he lost in the finals of a PTQ before he won his first, and that I shouldn’t give up. He told me that he played for over five years before making a PTQ Top 8, while I’ve already made two within a year and a half of learning to play. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I think I’m just going to focus on basketball for now and see if I want to start playing again in the spring. I saw that old movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, on iMovie OnDemand the other day, and I’ve been wondering if I’m going to get upset and quit playing if I don’t relax for a while.

I told Dad about this, and he said I was right. He said I should take a break for the next few months and then decide if I want to start playing competitively again.


June 1, 2031

Dear Diary,

I’ve started playing Magic again. I’m going to sleep away summer camp this summer, so I don’t think I’m going to be able to play any PTQs, but I’m going to practice against the other kids there who have cards. Hopefully I’ll be ready to play in PTQs once I get back from camp. I’m practicing drafting a lot right now. I like it more than Standard, which Dad said is good although he always liked Constructed more than Limited.

I told him Constructed is sometimes boring and I like that in Limited the cards you play with change every draft. He said that he loved Constructed because you got to improve your deck every week and get better and better with it. I have to find a deck I like enough to keep working with it over a whole PTQ season. Dad suggested that I try a U/W tempo deck that he read about from the most recent Magic Online StarCityGames.com Standard Open. He said those types of decks were always his favorite and that maybe I’ll get better by playing it.


August 26, 2031

Dear Diary,

I did it! Two years almost to the day since I learned how to play Magic, I won a PTQ for Pro Tour Marinna in New York City! I’m still so ecstatic I don’t even know what to say! The U/W deck was so good that I didn’t lose a match all day. My dad explained to me that after every game 1, my opponents would be preparing for an aggressive strategy, so when I took out my aggressive cards using his specially designed sideboard to make it more controlling I won every match! He called this “transformational sideboarding” and told me that it was one of his favorite things about Constructed back when he used to play.

He watched me play in the finals, and when I decked my opponent with Tamiyo Untethered’s ultimate in game 3, he actually started tearing up. He told me that he is sure I am going to be a great Magic player and that he is so proud of me for learning to play so well so quickly. I told him that I will do him proud, and I thanked him for helping me with the sideboard plan.

He told me that eating dinner with Grandpa after qualifying for Pro Tour San Juan was awesome and that he always valued the fact that his dad cared enough about Magic to check in on him at tournaments to see how he was doing. He said maybe Grandpa and Grandma would even come to New York to watch me play in the Pro Tour, and he told me he would help me prepare as much as I wanted because he wanted to see me do better than he ever did at Magic. I gave him a big hug, and then we got pizza and ice cream for dinner. But then he told me I still have to go to my first day of school tomorrow. Dagger.

Best wishes,
Ben Friedman