The Habit: There And Back Again

Raynor Barton has been playing Magic for about as long as I have – that is, between the release of Weatherlight and the legality of Tempest.

This week, I bring you a tale not about me, but about one of my friends. Everyone’s heard the sad tale of the once avid player who, for one reason or another, quit the game. Today, I bring you a likes of which is rarely related: You see, my friend recently renounced Magic, declared it a waste of time, and started searching for buyers of his collection. Now, though, I’m happy to say that he’s in productive rehabilitation, and his progress is coming along nicely. That’s right; I have a Magic success story waiting for you. So sit back and be ready to be inspired!

Raynor Barton has been playing Magic for about as long as I have – that is, between the release of Weatherlight and the legality of Tempest. Over the years, he’s always been one to go for just what he’s wanted. I used to think that I was ripping him off horribly in trades, for I’d get sometimes four to five times a card’s value (priced, of course, by our over-valuing InQuest); however, Raynor learned early to trade down for cards he really needed. Of course, being extremely lucky can’t hurt. Although the people to find all-foil packs are indeed very lucky, Raynor’s the only guy I know who could crack a Cursed Scroll and a Tradewind Rider in the same booster pack.

So, as you might be able to see, Raynor’s always been relatively competitive. Once his local comic shop started holding weekly Standard tournaments, he began to attend them – and eventually, he started to win. He’d bring with him any of a number of decks, be it Bridge Wildfire, Sligh, Red/White, or something totally random, he always found ways of winning. When I played in the same tournament as him, I made a sideboard specifically against his deck. After all, he’d beaten me every game I helped him test his deck. (The tournament was no different.)

Right before Raynor renounced Magic, he had thousands of cards and more Invasion Block commons than he knew what to do with. He won several packs a week for many months – that builds up after a while, especially throwing a box in every once in a while.

And then Raynor no longer had access to a place to play.

With no competition, Raynor dropped out of the ranks. He stopped reading Magic articles and stopped buying cards. He didn’t play a game for weeks. So, what did he do with his time? I guess we have Sony to thank for inventing the Playstation, else Raynor’s sudden emergence of a ton of free time might have driven him insane.

However, this couldn’t last him for long. Eventually, he started to pay some attention to Odyssey. He said he wanted his last tournament to be States. After that, he was determined to sell his entire collection, renouncing Magic for life. He told me that once he looked at his cards, neatly arranged in a huge pile, and commented,”What a waste of time and money.”

But the lure could not be resisted for long. Wanting to go to States rekindled Raynor’s fervor for winning. Therefore, he had to begin playtesting his deck. As you can imagine, playtesting his deck got him more into the game. I was pretty sure that he’d be back into it relatively quickly.

Wasn’t I surprised to see States gone and Raynor done with Magic? He started asking around for prices on his collection. I convinced him to keep a casual deck – I also managed to convince him to keep one tournament-quality deck, hoping to keep him interested in the game. Once he made this decision, though, he stopped caring altogether. He stopped looking for estimates on his collection, and he didn’t mention Magic for a long time. He was… How do you say it? Normal. For a while.

And then I get the following query:”Do you have any of the following cards?”

And that, my friends, is how a trade begins. I told him what I had and asked why he needed the cards.”For my deck,” he explained as if I should have known all along.

“But I thought you were done with Magic,” said I.

“Well, I gotta have my deck!” defended he. I shrugged it off. I guessed he had just taken to heart the advice to keep one deck around.

So, Raynor was in a state of semi-awareness of the Magic scene around him. I’m not sure if he knew anything about Kai Budde amazing winning streak, but I’m pretty sure he realized the power of Shadowmage Infiltrator. This state of ambiguity remained until Raynor hit the golden nugget: A computer upgrade!

At last, his ISP was allowing him access to MIRC – and, more importantly, Apprentice. Raynor’s tried several times over the last couple years to get Apprentice to work on his computer, but he hasn’t been able to until just recently. Now, the one thing that kept Raynor away from the game, a lack of a place to play, has been removed. His computer can introduce him to any number of opponents.

This happened about two weeks ago. The night after Raynor got Apprentice working, he says to me,”I won an online tournament last night.” My jaw dropped. Months without practice and Raynor was still a machine. Since then, he’s played in at least one online tournament, and I believe that this reintroduction to Magic is proceeding nicely.

You might take this as a pro-Apprentice piece, or you might walk away thinking that the lure of winning calls back all its servants. However, I look at our story of Raynor Barton as one of the love of a hobby. For years, Raynor played, read about, and loved Magic: The Gathering. He enjoyed the novels and couldn’t wait to unwrap packs. The whole lifestyle catered to Raynor, not the least of which was the thrill of victory which Raynor likes so much (and often attains). Even when he decided that he was done for Magic, Raynor couldn’t stay away for long. Maybe it was because he still had his collection, and maybe it was because his friends still played Magic. Or maybe, just maybe, Magic is so ingrained in his soul that he couldn’t take too much time off.

Personally, I believe that the hiatus was good for him, that it will only increase his love for the game in the future. And it’s that message that I hope gets related. If you feel disenchanted about Magic (no pun intended), I suggest holding on to your collection for at least a couple months. Give yourself a break from the game, but don’t make it impossible for you to begin playing again. It’s not a bad thing to need a break from the game. But, I would suggest recalling why you played it in the first place. What was the allure? What kept you playing for as long a you did? Keep that in mind as you go about your other activities. If you find the same feeling in an online game or a sport, good for you. But, it’s quite possible that the gap in your life can only be refilled by Magic itself. And I speak from experience when I tell you that your Magic-playing friends will rejoice when and if you rejoin them in their pastime.

If you’d like to get in touch with Raynor for a more personal version of his story, he can be reached at [email protected]. I’m done for today – go ahead and talk to him. I’m sure it’ll only help his readmission into the game.

Daniel Crane

[email protected]