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The last year, for me, was not a great one.
Aside from a Top 4 finish at the StarCityGames.com® Season One Invitational, I only made the Top 8 of one other tournament. But honestly, that's mostly my own fault. I decided, early on, that I wouldn't travel as much this year. I'd take some time off in order to get my head together. And, over time, I found myself wanting to go to tournaments less and less. The appeal of my warm bed and a bunch of new video games coming out was a little too much to overcome.
And I've been happy.
But my work has suffered. It is pretty difficult to write a primer on a deck you've only watched being played. It is tough to talk about the ins-and-outs of a matchup you've only experienced a handful of times on Magic Online. And above all, I haven't felt confident because I wasn't always sure that my writing was worth reading. And that's a terrifying thing to contemplate as a content producer.
But over the holidays, my wife Kali and I did a lot of driving to visit family. The trip back home to 'Bama, nine hours each way, is pretty brutal, but it gives you a lot of time to think. And when you make the trip twice in less than a month, the time allows for the formulation of ideas on what kind of content I want to create. But aside from that, it also had me reflecting on why I started to play Magic in the first place.
So join me, if you will, on this trip down memory lane as I try to recapture what exactly made Magic: The Gathering so near and dear to my heart in the first place. Maybe, in the process, you'll remember something you've lost too. Let's start at the beginning...
Kitchen Table Magic
My first experience with Magic came at a young age. When I was around thirteen years old, my best friend invited me over to his house to hang out. This was nothing new, except I hadn't seen him for about a year. Throughout most of my childhood, my parents had custody battles over me, my brother, and my sister. When one parent would slip up, they'd file for custody, and we'd spend six or more months figuring out which parent we were going to end up living with. But it rarely lasted more than a year. So when I finally got to hang out with my best friend Trent again, I was ecstatic. And, to my surprise, he had learned to play a new game.
So there we were, sitting on his bedroom floor, and he taught me the rules. Creatures could attack, but not the turn they entered the battlefield. Draw one card per turn, play one land per turn, etc. But the artwork, the abilities, and concept of it all just blew me away. Why had I never heard of this game before? Oh, right, because I'd been living in a rural town in the south of Georgia on and off for the last few years. There weren't any comic book stores. The nearest GameStop-type store (Electronics Boutique, I think?) was 45 minutes away. Hell, the closest Wal-Mart was about the same.
But there was just something...oddly appealing about the whole affair. We were wizards casting spells in some ultimate battle. And after the battle was won, and everything was said and done, we could just shuffle up and do it all over again. We played for hours, Trent showing me all the different decks he'd created. Mono-Blue "Timmy," where all his creatures could ping you to death. Big Green Monsters. Red Burn Spells. White and black lifegain. I was stunned. This was unlike anything I'd ever played before.
The very next day, I asked my mother if we could go to Barnes & Noble to see if they had any Magic cards. All I could find were some Portal II starter decks, but they were good enough. I bought a couple and had enough cards to start throwing together some decks. Unfortunately, at the time, I was just visiting for Christmas, so I didn't get to play with Trent and his other Magic-playing friends very much before I set sail once again for Podunk, GA.
Once back home from the holiday, the only person I could interest in playing Magic with me was my older brother, but his interest didn't last very long. After all, you can only get so much enjoyment playing the same "all my green cards versus all my red cards" for so long. But instead of letting the game fall to the wayside, I opted to start playing games against myself.
Once school started back, I asked around to see if anyone else had heard of this wonderful game. In fact, two of the people in my grade owned Magic cards, and played every now and then. I was saved! But after getting thoroughly trounced, I decided that maybe the best approach wasn't to just shove all the cards I owned from one color into a deck. Some cards had to be better than others, and some of the cards I owned just didn't seem very good. And for the love of everything, I just couldn't seem to beat a Sibilant Spirit.
So I did some digging during computer class and found a website that actually sold Magic cards. Since I didn't own a credit card, I asked my (very skeptical) teacher if I could buy something with hers if I gave her some of my money. And, somehow, she agreed. It made my day. It made my year! Finally, I found the all-encompassing answer to Sibilant Spirit!
I had never seen that card before! It was wonderful! It solved all of my problems! What else could I find? While searching this website whose name is long-forgotten, I came across a dozen or so cards that I thought I could incorporate into some existing decks, and I might even be able to create a new deck if I moved some stuff around. My card pool, including my total number of basic land cards, was pretty limited. All-in-all, I ended up buying around $13 worth of cards, and happily paid my teacher back the next day.
And when my cards finally arrived, I was able to beat my friend's U/B Sibilant Spirit deck for the very first time.
During another transition period a year or so later, which would luckily be the last, I ended up moving back to Birmingham, AL with my mom. After doing some research, I found a few places around town that sold Magic cards. What can I say? I was hooked. I found a nice little comic-book store that sold singles and booster packs and was only a few miles away from my house, and asked my mom if she'd drive me there. Once I arrived, I talked to the owner of the store, and he was more than willing to help us out.
After showing me the latest set on display, Prophecy, and telling me about some of the card types in it, I was eager to get my hands on a few booster packs. I had bought a couple of Nemesis preconstructed decks from a GameStop-type store a few months before, and it was the first block of expansion packs I'd purchased after my Portal II starter packs. I just wanted more cards that worked with the cards I owned, and it seemed pretty logical. And to my surprise, I opened this monster: