What Magic Is To Me

Magic is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Today CVM shares what it is to him and asks you to post your own story in the comments!

"What is Magic to me?"

Magic: The Gathering.

A card game targeted at small children meant for fun times with friends over the last twenty-plus years has become much more than that. Magic is a lot of things to a lot of different people, and I’d like to share with everyone what Magic is to me.

I was first introduced to Magic when I was a freshman in high school (1995-1996). Well, technically, I first saw Magic in middle school while I was traveling for chess tournaments. I was quite the competitor throughout middle and high school, and a lot of the kids I saw at every tournament were always playing some card game in between rounds, zip-lock baggie, rubber bands, and all.

My first actual exposure was at a card shop in Tacoma, Washington called Nybbles & Bytes. One of my best friends (and still is) Jesse and I used to play the old Decipher Star Wars CCG and went there to play and buy some booster packs (I really needed another Son of Skywalker for my Rebel deck!). While we were there, we saw a giant ten-person group game of Magic being played, and instantly I recognized the backs of the cards. Jesse explained what it was and that he knew how to play. We got some cards, and after I learned all of the basics, I had an awesome U/W/R deck that was packed with every U/W/R card that I owned and towered around 90 cards. I was beaten very easily in the group games and was never really able to cast a spell, but I had a blast!

When I got home I explained the game to my mom. She had always been a fantasy buff, telling me stories of epic D&D games from when she was a kid and being able to recite the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I knew she would get a kick out of a fantasy card game with faeries and elves. I had some old Duelist and Scry magazines around for my Star Wars game, and she found that there was some Magic content and decklists in them. She found one she liked since it could make Pegasus tokens. In fact, it would make infinite Pegasus tokens with Sacred Mesa and Earth Craft. She bought the cards without me knowing, and when we played next, she made infinite creatures on like turn 3 or 4 and I had no idea what was going on.

One match into Magic and my mom was infinite comboing me out—I was in love.

I took her deck to the card shop the next time we went, gladly telling everyone that it was my mom’s and that I was going to kick their butts. I did just that, infinite comboing everyone fairly early, and thought that it was awesome; however, Jesse and I were the only ones who did. I was quickly booed and told that I couldn’t play that deck there again in the group games, but I quickly started to grasp the difference between competitive and casual Magic and instantly knew which side I wanted to be on.

Throughout high school I played a lot of Magic and spent a lot of time at the Wizards of the Coast Game Center in Seattle, Washington. The day it was no more was a sad day, and anyone who never got the chance to go is really missed out. To this day I still remember the Game Center as the best place on the planet for geeks and nerds alike!

As you walked into the Game Center, to the left there was a pathway to Dalumti’s, a restaurant with awesome food and the cheapest and best fries ever, along with an area for the BattleTech pods where you could become a giant robot in a large mech suit and battle against your friends. To the right was a storefront where you could buy packs, sleeves, dice, and whatnot, but straight ahead was where the Magic started. Hanging out over the stairs that took you down into the dungeon were two giant statues of Hurloon Minotaur and Serra Angel.

Once you got downstairs there were no windows, only tables, rooms, and games. Plenty of space for the multiple tournaments that were run, and they even had an area set up with SNESs, N64s, and big screens for Super Mario Kart. There were no official vendors or anything to do with buying and selling cards, so everyone who went knew JT. He was the man who had everything and would buy and sell cards all night and day. When you hear people talking about $5 dual lands in the 90s in Seattle, they weren’t joking.

Playing at the Game Center was surreal, especially as a kid. You really felt like you were a mage battling other mages for prizes and glory, and I will never forget it. My first tournament that I did well at was there, one of the Game Center Championships with Sui-Black. Using Dark Ritual to fuel Hatred on my shadow creatures, I crashed through all of my opponents. The deck was borrowed from a friend, and when I gave it back, I realized there were five copies of Dauthi Horror in the deck. Oops! Good thing we have decklists now so that things like this don’t happen.

As we grow up, our tastes and hobbies constantly change. The last couple years of high school I got wrapped up in football and girls and didn’t play much if any Magic, but that all changed once I got to college. Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington is where I went for my short college career, and while I didn’t play Magic going in, I was in deep when I left. I quickly found out that one of the guys I had befriended in my calculus class worked at the local card shop and started hanging out there more and more. I got to know all the guys there at the shop and traveled a lot for PTQs, States, and Regionals.

Magic was something that I could lose myself in. I wasn’t quite ready to go to college at seventeen, and after football season ended, I just focused on Magic and computer games rather than going to my classes. Mistakes are always made in life, and this was one of my big ones. But I like to think that things happen for a reason and all lead us towards something.

The next few years were filled with playing Magic, quitting Magic for a girl, playing Magic, quitting Magic for a video game, rinse and repeat.

I’m a pretty competitive person, and when I delve into a hobby, it’s no secret that I go all out. World of Warcraft and Magic: The Gathering have always been my two go-to competitive hobbies. I’ve tried to play both just for fun, but for me unless I’m trying to get better and win something, there isn’t much fun. I knew this from early on with my experiences with chess and football. A lot of people are able to do something competitive in a casual manner, but I just can’t.

In the early 2000s, I moved to San Diego, California for a change of scenery. However, shortly before that, I sold my collection to my other best friend Joe. He was still playing a lot of Magic, and I had something else in my life that I wanted to focus on instead of Magic and sold him my collection for safe keeping.

I’ve always been a trade grinder. Losing value on trades used to be commonly referred to as being "VanMetered" in my circle of people. Value trading is something that a lot of people have strong opinions on, but unless you are intentionally misleading or misrepresenting card values, then I think it’s a pretty fair game. It’s become much harder in the age of smart phones to gain value while trading, but there are still people who are successful at it. I’ve always had the mindset of more trades at a small margin work better for me anyway, so that’s ultimately what the system has become. I’d rather gain incremental value over a series of trades than try to scum someone for a large haul—that’s just in bad taste.

Jesse (from high school) was living in San Diego and graciously helped me relocate to sunny SoCal for some fun in the sun. He was still playing Magic, so I started playing again too, but it was only short lived as World of Warcraft took over again.

A man and his vices—that’s me!

Every time I quit playing Magic, I still keep up with the game and the spoilers/tournaments in addition to keeping in touch with friends I have made while playing. In fact, to this day all of my best friends are from playing Magic. Brogan, Justin, Chris GP, Jojo, Jesse, Joe—my life wouldn’t be the same without these guys and the children’s card game that brought us all together.

After spending a few years in San Diego, I wound up in gorgeous Wichita, Kansas with Joe playing nanny for a summer to his awesome little boy Jaden. Trying to find a balance between games, Magic won out for some time but ended up on the backseat.

The summer turned into a couple years, and after getting back into Magic yet again, I had the pleasure of meeting such classy characters as Ryan O'Connor, Adam Boyd, and Kenny Castor. Joe had been keeping my old collection safe the whole time that I hadn’t been playing, and when I moved to Wichita and reunited with it, I went back to business like clockwork. Ryan, Boyd, and I traveled a lot and played a lot of Magic, and in 2011 I had my first bit of success. After placing in the Top 8 of the Kansas City Standard Open, I won an Extended PTQ for Pro Tour Nagoya with G/W Trap (which was Scars of Mirrodin Block Constructed and I did miserably).

The rest of 2011 would go on to be one of the best years ever and allow me to create relationships with some people that are dear to my heart and pave the way for me to start doing something with Magic.

I met AJ Sacher and Gerry Thompson while grinding the SCG Open Series circuit. I was the nice, quiet guy who had all the cards and would let people borrow them.

I listened to everything either of them had to say about Magic and desperately wanted to get better. I kept playing the entire year, traveling with AJ and tweaking deck ideas, desperate to learn how to Brainstorm correctly. With a handful of Top 8s and a few wins, I was able to reach Level 8 in the SCG Players Club with my eyes set on another year of grinding.

During this time, I talked with Steve Sadin about writing for StarCityGames.com and dabbled in that a little bit. I enjoyed writing a lot but had never really done anything like it before. Thankfully Steve and everyone else involved were awesome, and I felt comfortable enough to write some articles.

Towards the end of the season in 2011, an announcement was made that the benefits for the Players Club were being reworked. There were no longer going to be byes or appearance fees, but you could attain byes for all of the new Invitationals that were being added. Anyone who reached Level 8 would still receive their 4x sets for the next year, but the byes and more importantly the appearance fees were what made traveling all over the country every week feasible.

I had it real good in Wichita with Joe and his wife and kid. They graciously allowed me to stay during the week and watch Jaden and travel the weekends to battle with all of the powerful wizards. With the change in the Players Club came another change for me.

Back to World of Warcraft I went.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life playing World of Warcraft. Slaying dragons in Azeroth has been a vice of mine that has battled for my affection with Magic forever.

Eventually I moved out and got my own place in Wichita and worked a couple random jobs. Call Center for AT&T, overnight stocking for Target—jobs that you take when you need one but no one ever really wants to do.

During this time, Jesse had relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina to be closer to his family, and once again I was ready for a change in scenery. But that wasn’t the only reason. Multiple times throughout 2011 and 2012, I had joked with Gerry about moving to Roanoke, Virginia if I could get a job at StarCityGames.com. I had plenty of experience floor dealing and felt like I’d be a good fit as a buyer. Moving to the East Coast would get me closer to Roanoke and closer to SCG.

I had some money saved up when I moved there, but not really knowing what I wanted to do coupled with sitting on the computer all day slaying dragons put me in a pretty bad place. I spent five months looking for jobs in Fayetteville, with Magic and World of Warcraft as the only things keeping me sane. Eventually I got a job at FedEx unloading trucks every morning and hated it. I had sent my resume into SCG shortly after I had made it to Fayetteville but hadn’t heard anything back, and then I received a call for an interview.

Driving up four hours for the interview, I had great expectations. I knew Magic in and out. I knew all of the cards and the prices and could sort like the dickens; I just had to not blow the interview. I was already acquainted with one of the interviewers from my time floor dealing and liquidating to the buyers at the Opens, so we mainly talked about what exactly they were looking for and if I would be a good fit.

Two days later I was offered a part-time inventory job four hours away from where I was living, and I took it in a heartbeat. I posted on Facebook about getting the job and looking for housing in Roanoke, and Glenn Jones informed me of a room available in an awesome house.

The move went smoothly, and once I arrived Lauren Lee asked me if I wanted to pick up writing again and if I wanted to rotate into the cycle of Versus video players. Dream come true.

The week that I moved to Roanoke I quit World of Warcraft and haven’t looked back since. I had achieved in the game what I had sought to. I had joined a sponsored guild and was raiding competitively, but there was no return and Magic was where I wanted to be. I had made some very good friends playing WoW, some of which I still keep in touch with. It’s pretty amazing how games like these can help build bonds between people that last forever.

The rest is still writing itself. I get to travel around with Brian Braun-Duin and battle in Magic tournaments for riches and glory. I have even built a bit of a fan base with the BBD vs. CVM videos, articles, and my stream, and it’s completely mind blowing. I still get super excited every time someone asks me to sign something or just stops to say hi and tell me they enjoy my content.

It all comes back to Magic.

For me, Magic has always been that one constant in my life. It’s always there; even when I go off somewhere else to try something, picking it back up is like sliding on an old glove that I’ve worn for years. Magic has created life-long friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and now it’s even my livelihood. I love every single minute of it.

I genuinely love what I’m doing right now and have StarCityGames.com and all of you to thank for it, and I don’t plan on slowing down. I’m going to play even more Magic, stream as much as possible with as many guests as possible, and keep writing and beating BBD in the basic land game in our Versus videos.

Magic has had a pretty big influence on my life, and I’m interested to hear the experiences other people have had with it. I know some of you have even met your significant other through Magic (one could only hope), and I think that’s awesome too. Please let me know your story in the comments below!

Make sure you check out my stream this week, as I will be joined by SCG’s own Mark Nestico for #TypeTuesday and will be battling with BBD as usual for #TestingThursday (probably a little later than normal due to it being Thanksgiving).

Keep playing Magic. It was originally designed to just be a game, but it’s become so much more for so many people and that’s beautiful.

<3 CVM

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