June 05, 2015

My Magic Origins

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My Magic history is one that spans 21 years, a full two-thirds of my life. This game has intrigued me, captured me, and even obsessed me since I was 11 years old, and I've gladly put more time into Magic than just about any other pursuit. I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to translate that passion into a career, and it's still mind-blowing to think about how much it changed my life when I bought that Starter Deck of Revised back in 1994.

My best friend at the time, Seth, told me about a new game he'd heard about, and said we definitely needed to check it out. We both were able to buy a Starter Deck, after which we began playing “Magic” against each other. I say “Magic” because we only had the barest grasp of the rules of the game, but that didn't matter. All we knew was that the pictures were awesome, the cards were awesome, and the game was awesome. My first distinct Magic memory is attacking a Dancing Scimitar into Seth's Hypnotic Specter.

Now, that isn't a good attack for multiple reasons, and Seth rightly blocked. He then didn't attack back, because he wanted to block next turn (and I obliged by attacking again). We were both satisfied by our play.

After slowly getting more and more into Magic (and eventually learning that you didn't need to shuffle your entire collection into one monstrous deck to play), I was shown my first combo.

No jokes, Channel Fireball is the first “real” deck I built. The best player at our local card shop said that it was exactly what my red-green-black deck needed to make it better…and he was right. By sacrificing Havenwood Battleground, I could even do it on turn three! Little did I know how much the words Channel and Fireball would mean to me later. For now, I was just happy that I could win a match or two at the local store tournaments.

Fast forward a couple years, and my main goal in Magic was to collect a set of The Power 9. I had just gone to my first Magic convention, the auspiciously-named Dundra-Con, and it was the best thing my 14-year old self could imagine. Not only were there a TON of people there playing Magic, I could trade for all sorts of incredible cards and play in awesome tournaments. I remember playing in a Vintage tournament with an Alpha Ancestral Recall back when it wasn't clear how legal Alpha cards and their rounded corners were. The head judge said I could play it if everyone in the tournament agreed, and to my surprise, they did. I managed to win that tournament with my sweet White-Blue-Black Control deck, and was very pleased with myself.

My entry into the tournament scene was still years off, though I was an avid consumer of online Magic content. I remember reading The Dojo, the first big Magic website, and following Pro Tour coverage on www.sideboard.com. In fact, I sent in some awful decks to (now Hall-of-Famer) Zvi Mowshowitz back when he ran a deck doctor column on the Dojo, though I doubt he remembers that. He even wrote back, and patiently explained why using Urza lands to cast Mind Warp was a bad idea, or why my Black-Red Yawgmoth's Will + Steam Blast control deck wasn't quite powerful enough for a format that included the card Yawgmoth's Will.

I took a bit of a break from Magic during high school, but that didn't last. In my second year of college, I wandered into a local game store one night, and found out that they were doing drafts. I started drafting every Wednesday, then every Wednesday and Friday. And it wasn't long before I was convinced to go to a PTQ. The format was Onslaught Block Constructed, and I entered with a deck very similar to the one Osyp Lebedowicz won the Pro Tour with:

Osyp Lebedowicz's Astral Slide

I lost to none other than David Ochoa playing for Top 8 of that PTQ, but I was hooked. Tournaments were exactly the competitive outlet I was looking for, and I wanted to play in more. I ended up switching to White-Blue Control for the rest of the season, and finished in the Top 8 of the next two PTQs I played in. I even conceded to a friend in the Top 8 of one of them, because I couldn't really fathom the idea of getting on a plane for a Magic tournament (speaking of things that didn't last long).

A short year later and the Pro Tour was coming to San Diego. I was living in Northern California at the time, and decided that driving to San Diego didn't feel too bad. I resolved to win a PTQ…and did, qualifying me for my first Pro Tour. I went 8-7 in that Pro Tour, which wasn't quite in the money.

It didn't matter.

I'd had an incredible time, and playing in Pro Tours was something I wanted to do more of. I continued to qualify for them, along with David Ochoa, and soon Paul Cheon. Paul and I met at Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005, and spent the weekend doing side drafts after scrubbing out of the PT. A few months later, he ended up moving in with me and my roommates, and it was all Magic, all the time.

2007 was the first year Paul and I played all the Pro Tours, and the first year that we truly became pro Magic players. We ended the year at level 7 and 8 in the Pro Club (Paul being level 8), and even had a few accomplishments to our name. I'd finished third then first in back-to-back Nationals, and had picked up a GP title on the way. Paul had multiple Grand Prix Top 8 finishes, including a win in Vancouver, and we were in.

Since then, I've played every Pro Tour, and I hope to continue that streak. Magic has grown in importance to me, and I continue to enjoy playing it, making content for it, and being a part of it.

In 2009, I was lucky enough to be one of the founders of ChannelFireball.com, and I'm very proud of how that's grown. Being able say I'm a part of creating something that's provided countless hours of entertainment and even taught a few people about how to play Magic (my draft videos at the very least offer some good lessons on what not to do) is incredible.

Getting voted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 was another incredible moment in my personal journey through Magic, and really was the culmination of a lot I'd worked towards during my time in Magic. It feels awesome to know that people like what I do, which is something I still consider extremely lucky. I love to play Magic and make stupid jokes, and apparently other people enjoy that, which is why I get to do what I do.

I hope that everyone gets what they want out of Magic, regardless of what that is. I know I certainly have.

LSV



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