For some of you this is going to be great, and for others, you might be pretty bummed out. Hopefully you'll feel something, which is about all I've ever tried to do when it came to writing Magic articles. Regardless, this is a story that begins with a very long drive home and is punctuated by buying lemon juice.
Stick with me.
You'll see what I mean.
The last event I played in was the Knoxville Open almost two months ago. In Magic years, that's practically eternity, and the longest drought I've experienced since playing competitively over the last…eh…six or so years, except for a three-month break I took back in 2014. I made a pretty stern promise to myself, which was that, if I didn't have a remotely respectable finish, that I would have to seriously reevaluate my participation in Magic going forward.
I remember starting the tournament 1-2. I sat back with Brennan DeCandio, Brad Carpenter, Emma Handy, and Tannon Grace (not Aaron, because he was off somewhere being an adorable teenager) and I lamented the fact that I felt completely out-of-practice. You know how it is. You turn to self-deprecation when the chips are down. They all knew that I'd be taking a serious step back if I failed in this event. It wasn't about just one SCG Tour® stop. I used to feel like I was good at Magic, but during that span I felt like I was getting increasingly worse. Brad jokingly put his hand on my shoulder and said, and please be sure to read this in Brad's voice: “Hey, uh, Mark, how about you just don't lose any more matches today. That would be pretty sweet.”
So I didn't.
Things started clicking. I played better. And I didn't lose another match the rest of the day. Cool.
I ended up in I think 24th place, which in my book qualified as a finish that I could at least get behind. Have I done better? Sure. Was it meaningful, however, that I was able to do slightly more than mediocre? To me it was. The bigger triumph was watching Emma Top 8 her first Open, and Brad nailing down another finish to inch closer to the Players' Championship. We talked relentlessly about the deck, everything going forward, the Invitational we'd all be at, and more.
This was it, right? That was what I needed. Kickstart My Heart, baby. I'm back.
Now this is the part where I mentioned earlier where there was a long, long car ride home. About fifteen hours total. When I finally got home, I collapsed into bed, content with how my trip had gone and looking forward to the next adventure, which was only weeks away. Rock on. The fire was burning again.
My wife doesn't ever wake me up when I'm sleeping. She works the graveyard shift, so usually she's gone from about 10:30 in the evening until eight or nine in the morning. At that point, like a true Millennial, I'm usually sound asleep. Noon or bust.
Today was going to be different, because she nudged me until I grumpily stirred, but she was holding a present and wanted me to open it.
This is the best way to wake someone up, for your information. It's hard to be mad when a white box with gold ribbons greets you.
There was a lot of tissue paper in it, and each had a different piece of paper over them chronicling how long, involved, difficult yet rewarding our journey has been together.
At the bottom there was a onesie. It said “Worth the Wait.”
There was also a familiar-looking little plastic device that we've gotten very, very acquainted with over the last decade. It had two lines. Another, similar test had a plus sign.
“Shuffle all cards in the game together and deal them into three decks. The game continues with a new player.”
Deep down, I knew the minute she handed me the box. I had joked with her that the nausea she was feeling while I was in Knoxville wasn't just from being sick. I cast Intuition.
Living the Dream Every Single Day
Life changes pretty rapidly when you find out that you're going to be a parent. I'm sure many, many of you out there know what it's like. For me, it felt very natural and fluid. You see, I've always said I hate children. I always said I'd be the guy who never had them. It just didn't fit my lifestyle.
When I found out? My heart immediately melted and I fell deeply, deeply in love with someone I had never met. I hate everyone else's children, but not this one. This one is the reason I kiss my wife goodbye when I go to work and make sure to kiss her belly, too.
"Over the moon" doesn't really begin to describe it.
Some of you are nodding your heads. Others are shaking theirs. Good thing you don't pay for this. What the hell does this have to do with Magic?
It has everything to do with Magic.
I got to live a pretty cool dream. It was a very modest dream, but it was a dream nonetheless.
A few years ago, my goal was to play on a Pro Tour. When I say goal, I mean “End Goal.” I had done fine for whatever metric a grinder would be judged by, but that was my plastic bag floating in the wind. That was my white whale. That was my Holy Grail. Thankfully I did it more than once, and I had a blast. I achieved exactly what I set out to do when I decided to come back. Like I said, modest, but it meant something to me.
Creating goals for yourself is important. They don't have to be lofty or nigh-unobtainable. That's the best thing about them: you're the one that sets the parameters. It could be to win an FNM or Game Night. It could be to become a State Champion. It could be to get your first Magic article published. It could be anything. As long as you work hard to achieve it, things will be that much sweeter when you finally do.
I've been doing this since 2012. That means over 200 articles, with varying subjects from decklists, tournament reports, and guides to creative writing projects, stories, and my attempt at lore. Along the way, they let me do pretty much whatever I wanted. That's what some of you don't get. SCG gives writers the creative freedom to write about whatever the hell we feel like. Sure, if a new set comes out, they want us to hype you up.
Here's your Aether Revolt mention, Danny.
At the core, I've been given free rein to craft anything that crossed my mind. Humor pieces on why your deck sucked? Sure. Community niche articles on social behavior? Have it on my desk by Monday. A story about a little girl turning into an Eldrazi? Why the hell not!
A bunch of people have come at me with “They just want us to buy cards.” Let me set the record straight, kiddies. SCG has given Magic a soul. Might sound dramatic, but they birthed the SCG Tour®, which completely defines Standard and drives the metagame. They've given us Invitationals to rally around our favorite players. They actually encourage writers to break the mold and write insane things to challenge readers. Sure, you buy cards here, but you're also getting entertainment, a lot of it for free, to help you get better at Magic or, at the very least, pass some time reading and commenting about how much you hate what you ingested. Whatever you want.
That's the thing, folks. We're just the canvas. You paint the pictures.
Watch the Sky for Me
In the end, it comes down to lemon juice. We ran out of it, and my wife needed more because she had a cough. She's fiercely independent, and almost never, in our many years together, asks me for anything. She called and requested that I stop and bring her lemon juice, because we're out and she likes to mix it with hot water and honey to soothe her throat.
It's not about me anymore. It's about the life she is carrying within her.
I've spent years driving and flying to tournaments. I've been lucky enough to live a lifestyle that a lot of players want, but can never obtain. Key word: lucky. I didn't deserve it, because it was way too cool for someone like me. I battled all over the United States, coast to coast. I flew across continents to play Magic. I'm a nobody, but it's crazy what kind of somebody you can feel like when you're able to chase your dream down, catch it, and then live it for a while.
But that was the old dream. I haven't even met the new one yet, but I already know that it's infinitely more important to live that one. I'm excited. I'm terrified. I'm afraid. I'm optimistic. It's a bundle of emotions.
I went to the store and picked up the largest damn bottle of lemon juice I could find. Apparently this is common, the whole overcompensating thing and going overboard with almost every decision you make in an attempt to control a nearly-uncontrollable situation. That's when I knew I had to step away for a while.
It's usually those innocuous moments, right?
I got in my car, exhaled, and just knew that this was going to be it. I planned on finishing out January, but funny enough I was promoted at work as well. Everything is coming together. So it's time, kiddies, to say goodbye.
Thanks to everyone who took this ride with me. I appreciate each and every one of you. When you commented, that was important. When you told me that I was the worst writer on this website, that was important. When you shared my work, or Tweeted at me, or friended me on Facebook to talk about Magic, that was important. When you told me you liked my articles at events, that made me feel really good. When you played my decklists, you made me feel validated. When you created threads about hating me, that was pretty cool. I'm just glad we could do this together.
I have no idea how I'm supposed to end this thing.
I appreciate you inviting me into your life, and letting me carve out whatever itty-bitty niche that I did. It meant the world to me.
Just as every moment leads you to the past.
Just as everything has gone.
I'm the one you need to know that there is someone else.
Just as this is now:
I got to end with a nu-metal reference. To me, that's going out on top.