Again, I feel the need to start off with an apology. I haven’t written for ages. I don’t want to bore people with tales of work and the like, but I doubt anyone actually cares. My personal financial situation is such that it hasn’t afforded me the luxury of driving up and down the country each weekend chasing blue envelopes as frequently as I was last year. I had the opportunity of going to Amsterdam for the legacy GP with my girlfriend, or doing a few Innistrad Sealed PTQ’s around the country. I’m not a big legacy player, but I do enjoy going to big Magic Tournaments, so this was a reasonably easy choice. Also, for those who don’t know, I’m a father, so 1 weekend away is considerably easier to justify than 3, as I’m sure many of you can attest to….
Having returned from GP Amsterdam, it was obvious that the only PTQ of the season I was going to be able to attend would be the ‘local‘ one, in Dundee. As Rob Wagner‘s mentioned previously, he came up to crash with me beforehand, and we got in some excellent Winston drafts using my Pauper cube. Those more familiar with my writing will recall a soft spot in my heart for the commons-only format. You will have to forgive Rob’s embellishments regarding the results we had, I don’t recall dropping a match to him all weekend… Perhaps his brains were too frazzled from living on a train for the better part of a day’s travel to properly recall his results :P
The PTQ itself, sadly ended in some controversy. It’s not my place, nor my intent to go into why here, but it did lead to some heated discussion in a few Facebook groups, which got remarkably out of hand.
The aftermath of this got me to thinking about the way in which Magic players conduct themselves, with each other in person, and online; so what can be done to improve our own experiences of what we actually get out of the game we all love so much? I don’t intend to produce a set of rules, or anything so Draconian, but I’d like to lay out how I’d like to think I conduct myself, and why.
I don’t intend to give a list of how to interact with people, because frankly, that’s overly patronising, and unnecessary.
Essentially, and without wanting to come off as overly mercenary, pretty much everyone I meet playing Magic on a semi-regular basis has something to offer. I don’t particularly care for casual formats, but I won’t explode at someone who’s asking my advice on an EDH deck, for example. The relationship between the casual and the competitive player HAS to be symbiotic, or it won’t work out in any fashion.
There are people who I’ve played with in the past who’ve been terrible at the game, but are great fun to be around, or have massive collections that they’re prepared to share with the other local players. It’s certainly not in my best interests to alienate these people, who might be supplying me with the last 2 cards I need for my deck for the PTQ I’m going to, or lend me a stack of Power 9 because I’ve scrubbed out of Nats, and want to play Vintage etc. Conversely, if they’ve got decks, and want advice, I am happy to look through, and suggest things that can be improved upon.
Any sustainable relationship, business, casual or otherwise has to offer both parties something, or it’s doomed to fail. You can’t always be going to people borrowing cards for PTQ’s etc, and then being aggressively rude to everyone at all other times. The Magic community in the UK is pretty small, but it’s not small enough that it can’t remove the more troublesome elements from itself. A large part of the problem is that a lot of the people who play this game do so because they feel alienated from ‘popular culture‘, and the desire to fit in leads people to tolerate this sort of behaviour, thinking that it’s normal, and acceptable to be talked to like you’re something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, just because you don’t want to spend £60 on a Tarmogoyf, or don’t quite understand why Jace the Mind Sculptor is good.
There’s a lot of people that are looking for almost as many things out of Magic, and no one view is more or less correct than the other. I want to play on as many Pro Tours as I can, but that doesn’t mean that the guy that just plays 100 card messes on the kitchen table with a couple of friends once a month and I can’t co-exist, or learn anything from each other.
In addition to borrowing cards, just because a player is bad, it doesn’t mean that their deck design is bad. A friend of mine qualified for Nationals this year with a Tempered Steel deck, that splashed for Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas…. I don’t for a second think of him as a ‘bad player‘, but he’s definitely on the more casual end of the spectrum. His mana in this deck was appallingly bad, and he ran 4 Inkmoth Nexus as well, cos why not, right? The concept was sound enough, even if the execution was somewhat lacking, and he played in Nationals this year, while I sat at home. I built the deck on MODO, and was quite surprised at how powerful it actually was, when it came together. The format was really hostile to it, at the time, but the raw power was definitely there. I would have seriously considered playing a similar deck, were I to have been playing in any high level tournaments.
Not bad, for a casual player, right?
The internet has been a massive boom for competitive Magic. Decklists are constantly available, and programs like Cockatrice and MODO means that so are opponents. Social Networking has become hugely important. Facebook groups for Magic players, Twitter and the like are all hugely important to anyone trying to stay ahead of the curve. Again, this ends up being a double edged sword. The quasi-anonymity of the internet has afforded people the luxury to word-vomit whatever they think, whenever they like. Just last week, French Pro Lucas Florent received a lifetime ban for comments made on an internet forum.
On a considerably smaller scale, I know some of the Scottish stores have had to post ‘Rules for Posting‘ in their groups due to extreme content and extreme viewpoints of some of the members. This is sad, in that it means that people can’t be trusted to self regulate what they say, and a large portion of what is written online seems designed just to insult, ridicule and belittle other Magic players for no discernible reason or benefit.
Just be careful, don’t be an idiot online.
It’s important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and that Magic comes to people in different ways, and at different times. My personal Magic story was me playing super casually for a few years around Mirage and Tempest block, then quitting because Beers and Girls were more important than playing cards in the library at break times.
Many years later, and I was working next to Ben Cabrelli, and saw him reading Starcitygames. In the time that I’d quit, the card frames had changed, so I didn’t quite know what it was he was looking at, but I did know that he spent a large portion of his day looking at it. (Spoiler: Neither of us work for that company any more ;-)). I saw the Magic logo, and told Ben that I’d used to play in School. He said if I wanted to, he’d be happy to play after work. I went round to my parents house that evening, and picked up all my old cards, spent a couple of hours sorting them by colour, then putting all the red spells I owned with ‘X’ in the cost into a pile, added 20 lands, and took them back to Ben…
He spent the hour or so after work in the pub dismantling me with decks featuring Dark Confidant, and Sensei’s Divining Top and the likes, but it was enough. I remembered everything that I’d initially loved about the game, but only now, I had tonnes of disposable income to throw at it. I went home that evening, and went shopping. I bought sets of Dark Confidants, Phyrexian Arenas, and a 1-year premium subscription to StarCity among other things.
It was through Ben though, that I got introduced to some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and people that I would consider among my best friends. People like Jeremy Mansfield (who is probably the only person in the world I’d concede a PTQ final to), Adrian Fraser and Andy Morrison (good luck at the Worlds!).
The thing was, these guys were playing a different game to me. They understood stuff that I didn’t, but they were willing to teach me. I had no real cards of my own, so they would lend me decks. Jeremy in particular was fantastic throughout this period. You’ll know Jeremy, he’s the guy at the tournament with the horned hat, screaming ‘Biff’ when he attacks. The first time I Top 8’d a PTQ, Jeremy provided the entire deck, drove me there, waited till I lost, then drove me home. The guy is a saint. Every Magic group should have a Jeremy Mansfield.
Still, at this point, I was terrible at the game. I turned up to Magic tournaments to get drunk, and have a bit of fun, but these guys welcomed me into their group, furnished me with decks, and drove me to tournaments, because they are genuinely nice human beings.
Most of them have moved on now, or are playing far less than they used to, but that was my re-introduction to Magic, and I don’t think it could have been a better one. Now I find myself in the position where I’m the ‘grizzled veteran‘. The one with all the cards. The one that can actually build decent constructed decks. The one who wins practically every draft. And I want to help the people who’re breaking, or re-breaking through. Not because of anything that I can get in return, but because it’s the decent, human thing to do.
Anything else is just gravy.
Bonus Modern Decklist – Grixis Punishing Fire
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.