Magic And Me

Meet little Benny Beatdowns, before he knew Magic. What got him interested in the game? What were his goals once he learned it? What’s changed from then to now? Read Ben’s opinion on the latest Organized Play changes.

I have been wanting to write an article for months now, but every time I start one I get bored with myself and feel like I am not passionate enough to publish what I started writing about. I had some pretty good ideas on new Modern decks (I got to play in a team tournament where I played Modern), how to build RDW properly (people have recently figured that out though now that they are playing Galvanic Blast), and even thoughts on Legacy and how Snapcaster Mage is the new Dark Confidant. None of those could write an article by themselves, though, but luckily you guys are all caught up on that stuff (other than Modern, which doesn’t have much of an audience yet). With Wizards’ new announcement, though, I finally found something that I was more than passionate about.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was that got me to start playing Magic ten years ago, but it was definitely a mixture of things. When I was in middle school, I had it all. I had one of the highest percentiles of the physical fitness tests in the school; I was the starting point guard for our basketball team; my artwork was in art shows; I won the most awards at the school’s 8th graduation; and I went out with all the prettiest girls in the school. Toot toot.

Then something happened, or didn’t happen, in my case. Puberty. I didn’t grow or have any hair under my arms until probably 11th grade. Embarrassing, I know. During this time, I was still scoring the best on all the physical fitness tests, but I just wasn’t big enough to play ball with the other guys. I sat on the bench and thought about how it “wasn’t fair” that I couldn’t play something I was good at only because I wasn’t big enough. I remembered stories of my father telling me he didn’t grow until college, so after a few games, I did the only logical thing and handed the coach my jersey. Oh and the girls, they all moved on to the older, bigger guys as well.

It was time to do things that I could rely on myself to be good at. School was the obvious answer, but it was very boring, and coasting though high school was super easy. Also, a giant BOO YAH in the face of my fellow classmates when I scored higher on a test wouldn’t make the best of friends, especially when I was only beating them by a couple percent anyway. I wanted to win, and I wanted to know I was the winner.

Some options I thought of were track, tennis, videogames, chess, or whatever else I came across when I was that age. I was good at everything I tried, but nothing was really satisfying what I was looking for.

At this time I went to one of my cousins’ house, David Shibley; you don’t know him, but he deserves a name drop anyway. I saw him playing Pokémon with one of his friends who does not deserve a name drop. They asked if I wanted to play, and I laughed it off. Pokémon for me? Sorry, I am too cool for Pokémon, cuz. Plus I didn’t even like the cartoon. A little bored, I started flipping through their Inquest and saw something beyond awesome… a Trained Orgg. I am a sucker for good artwork, so naturally right then I wanted to learn more about that game. My cousin went into his closet and pulled out a few more sweet cards, and I asked where he got them. Turned out he accidentally bought them thinking they were magic tricks and just didn’t know what to do with them. I told him it was time to put them to use.

Being new to card games in general, my cousin easily dismantled me time and time again. His Inquest Fires of Yavimaya deck just wouldn’t give my Elves the time to set up like I wanted. Nothing could stand in the way of his Blastoderms and Shivan Wurms. I needed to find a bigger, badder creature.

Denizen of the Deep.

I must have spent around $80 trying to crack one of these bad boys out of the starter packs, but in the end it was well worth it because I had something that was going to put my cousin’s Shivan Wurm on defense. A few games later with my new deck and I already had enough. Denizen was not the card I needed. This game was stupid; whoever had the best card won, etc. I took a look at the Inquest one more time to try and find something that would keep me going. I had never been a quitter, until I handed in that Jersey, and I didn’t want it to be my new way of life either. I flipped page after page until I saw what I was looking for.

Shadowmage Infiltrator.

Now, in no way was I ever planning on playing a one-power, three-mana creature, but I saw, and I learned. The best player of all time made this card. His picture was put on a card. I wanted this. Winning a major tournament was pretty awesome, but being put on a card and remembered forever was not something to sneeze at. I learned about the Pro Players Club and how I could get paid to play at high-level events. I started reading articles from various websites by Brian Kibler and Gerard Fabiano and couldn’t help but think that one day I would be just like them.


A deck commonly played by the best players at the time was Psychatog. As much as I hated losing to my cousin’s “net deck,” it was time to join him. I put together a bunch of the best blue and black spells and fell in love. I started winning the majority of FNMs that I attended, and I wanted more. A couple PTQs and top 8s later, and I started to see my goals were not only attainable but right there in front of me. It was very rewarding to see that the time I was putting into the game was paying off. Around this time I thought of a list of accomplishments that I could strive for, which included making the “gravy train” of getting paid at least $500 to attend a Pro Tour, making the US Nationals team, designing a Magic card and having my face painted on it (win the Invitational), and writing articles in hopes to influence someone in the ways that Gerard and Kibler influenced me. Throughout time, however, these goals have changed.

Which brings me to the main point of my article.

The recent announcements by WotC are a huge dagger in my heart.

I am not exaggerating or leaving out my original goals. Those are the things that I wanted to do more than anything. Winning a GP was not on my list. Winning a PT was not on my list. Top 8ing one would have been awesome, but that was barely important to me. Those were bridges I would cross when I got there. I drove to countless PTQs top 8ing many of them only to come up short at the end. It was very hard to win a PTQ, but eventually I got there.

My first Pro Tour was Honolulu, and the rest of the year was pretty awesome as well. During the year, I was in the running for rookie of the year right until the very end. I even accomplished a couple of my goals, making the US Nationals team and gravy train in the same year. Nominees started going up for that year’s Invitationals in 2006, and Paul Cheon and LSV were both on them. This hurt quite a bit, as I wanted this more than anything in the whole world, but I was the only national team member not on the list. Nothing against them, since they are both phenomenal players, but it is always a terrible feeling to be left out.

During my time on the PT I saw the end of the pro player cards (not something that was an original goal of mine, since they were relatively new, but something I really wanted), the end of the pro player lounge (something that made PTs more enjoyable, but not the end all, be all), a cut in PT player club benefits, and the Invitational’s extermination. (I still don’t understand this. Look at all the hype for Snapcaster Mage on top of all the hopes and aspirations of people to one day get their face on a card.) Oh, they also cut a PT.

Now they are taking away the last few things that made me interested in this game when I started playing. Nationals doesn’t feed the World Championship, and you can’t walk the flag and represent your country! There are no player benefits?! What is going on? There is nothing for the me of ten years ago to want. Sure, I would think the artwork was still cool and probably learn a little about the game, but after that, then what?

Qualifying for a PT is going to be way harder, and you get nothing other than the PT payouts for the prize. Why even bother? Tournaments just aren’t prestigious anymore. If you do well, who cares? Keep doing well. If you don’t do well at the PT, you did all that hard work for nothing and have to start over again anyway.

Not only do I have a problem with them cutting all of this little by little, but it makes you wonder about the future. A couple years ago, I would have never guessed they would cut this deep, but that is exactly what they did. You have to wonder what they are going to take away next year and the year after that.

The only proposal I have for WotC is to make one of their new World Championship prizes an invitational card. It meant so much to me when starting the game, and hopefully with Snapcaster’s recent printing they can understand the power of invitational cards to the rest of the community. It is the only rare in recent sets to have a price tag that rivals planeswalkers. It shouldn’t cost them very much, and it will give people something to look forward to, which I think is what they are lacking right now.

I may be in the minority here, and maybe these things aren’t important to the rest of the community like they are to me, so please share your point of view too. I am very interested to hear everyone’s thoughts regarding these issues.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you.

Benny Beatdowns