Teaming with Seth and Kevin reminded me why I played Magic, because of my friends and the experiences we shared. Going to qualifiers with two other players and having our fates in the tournament intertwined was a remarkable experience; at the first tournament, Kevin cast Compulsion on turn 2 and cast Basking Rootwalla turn 3, only to use Compulsion at the end of his opponents’ next turn. (He never did anything like that again, once we brought him up to speed on how Madness worked.) Our chance of doing well all too often sat on my shoulders, being the patient one saddled with the Blue/White control deck, and since I’m stubborn and refuse to let go and give up when I could instead scrape my way back up the mountain on the bloody stubs of my former fingers, I was the best suited to sitting there with that fate resting squarely on my shoulders for twenty or thirty minutes a round. Being calm, composed, devious, and determined can have a wonderful impact on winning a match.
By the middle of the season, we were pretty much qualified on rating, and attending a New Jersey: Grand Prix that helped to display exactly what that stubborn tenacity can do for you. I double-mulliganed a crucial game three of a tied match, drawing first. My opponent’s first two plays are Wild Mongrel (matched with Patrol Hound, a dog of an entirely different caliber) and Standstill (hey look, have some more cards!).
I won that game.
A couple rounds later, my professional opponent in a YMG tee tried to kill me quickly with a Gurzigost and got me down to one life before I stabilized the board, with sixteen life points of his own and no hope of getting through any more attacks in the near future, it being hard enough to protect what I had and not die to, um, Gurzigost (it was still there, just being held in place by a Shieldmage Advocate). My team-mates walked away because they couldn’t stand to see me tank that one, being in an impossible position. They didn’t want to see me struggle for three turns and start to get up hope before the next card off the top of his deck just killed me. Twelve or thirteen turns later, I’d cast two Scorching Missiles, drawn my tenth land, and flashed them both back unchallenged for the kill. Still at one. With Gurzigost still in play.
Making it to the Pro Tour was a great experience, and one I longed to write a tournament report for just to brag that I’d finally gotten there, even if I didn’t stay after my first appearance. It never happened though, because the only thing that had been holding me to the game was that I’d never made it to the Tour… and now I had, so I could let it go. A few weeks after, I played a Pro Tour Qualifier with my favorite Extended deck, the Extended variant of the free-counter Fish deck that had (nearly) qualified me for Nationals during the Replenish fiasco. Round seven drew, against a then-teammate, and I had two choices when the slip came: bully him for the win and play for the envelope, or be on time to my LARP downtown. The priority that won out was the role-playing game, and I realized I’d accomplished everything I required of myself and that I’d had fun that day – more fun than was promised by the gray years of hanging on to this game “just because.” It was kind of sad when I realized I’d had as much fun as I ever was going to, and that everything else was downhill from there.
It’s depressing to realize everything else is downhill when you’re 22.
And that was the day I quit Magic. I went about what I was doing, got rid of the cards a few weeks later so they weren’t cluttering up my bedroom, and didn’t look back for a while. Every once in a while, I’d read an article by someone I had been friends with when I played, like Zvi, BDM or Flores… but other than that, and working the pre-releases to keep up good relations with some people, I didn’t touch the game for almost a year. You see, there was just one complication… while I’d quit, I was still qualified on rating for the next Team Pro Tour with Seth and Kevin, and so an exception had to be made: I don’t play Magic, except for the Pro Tours I still happen to be qualified for. Not a statement I ever expected I would have to make, that’s for sure.
And it seems I only got better after I quit; we played a Grand Prix Trial to practice, and I was 5-1 with the unimpressive janky beatdown deck, just playing the Black/Red deck while my team-mates got the good cards so they could carry me in case my rustiness was a problem. Not having as much of an emotional investment in the game let me relax and look at things from a perspective I’d never considered before, putting the game itself into a new context and forcing me to re-learn what it was I was getting out of it. It was all about the friends, and the experiences had together, something I’d somehow missed. I was having those friends, and those experiences, playing live-action RPGs that helped broaden my experiences interacting with other people from the arrogant and fitful prattling of my younger days, still chained to my inner loser with no self-confidence that skipped the Prom to 1-3 his first Regionals, into an actual way of interacting with the world around me. All I had to do was pretend I was someone else to get over myself… funny, that.
But if I stayed gone, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?