Last week I turned 40. It’s hard to believe, but for more than half of those years, I’ve been closely entwined with this wonderful game we play, Magic.
After years of the pandemic, and my own personal struggles inside of it, things were finally in an optimal place to celebrate, My wife, friends, and old testing partners organized a get-together that I will never forget.
We rented a cabin in Maine and were snowed in during a snowstorm that dropped over a foot of snow. We had plans that had to get moved around, so instead we played a lot of Magic. We played Vintage Cube for hours, and Tom Martell also brought Extended decks from GP Houston 2001 and we battled with those.
Tom and I began by battling an old Zombie Infestation deck against a friend of mine’s GP-winning Sultai Control deck. We laughed about how bad the Infestation deck was by today’s standards and talked about all the stuff that made Magic special back then. Low-powered threats, high-powered spells, and most importantly, the metagames’ diversity, not because of format health, but because of the lack of online options leading to much less proliferation of the strongest archetypes. Formats moved incredibly slowly, and those who worked hard had a huge edge over the field. The most glaringly obvious thing we noticed was how much different it felt to come back from behind. It was actually possible, and that was refreshing.
Others proceeded to join in the fun, and we had a good time experiencing old Magic.
Cube drafts started firing, and while winning didn’t provide anything to the winner, the person who went 0-3 was forced to make a snow angel. Fortunately, this was the same person each time, Sam Pardee. He managed to achieve this record three times. Impressive stuff, really.
We played most of the Arena Open. I fired a single bullet and missed for day two, and as much as I love playing the draft Arena Opens, I wanted to cherish every minute with my friends who spent their time, money, and attention to come see me. We reminisced about the past and pondered what the future may look like. A couple of the people made day two, but I believe only Sam Pardee managed to take it down playing his last few matches at a restaurant when we finally got out of the house. He went clean undefeated and won the $2000.
Upon this success, as the master of ceremonies, I declared he was absolved from doing a third snow angel.
We spent a little time watching the RCs in other regions and brainstorming. It was like being in a testing house but without deck submission deadlines. It was amazing. While I did the same stuff I do most weekends at home on Discord. Being in person just hits different.
At dinnertime, it was Marcus’s turn to shine. Cooking fantastic meals for a group of 18 people is tough, but he killed it.
Big shoutouts to both Nicole and Jacob, as well. Jacob tended the fire all weekend in our beautiful fireplace, while Nicole did God’s Work cleaning up, doing dishes, keeping snacks refreshed, and tolerating all of our BS.
Escape rooms are something we always try to do when we get together. We went to a fantastic spot called Maine Escape Games. We split into groups of five, did two separate rooms, and competed for who could finish both in the fastest time. My squad consisted of myself, my wife Heather, our friend Nicole, Tom Martell, and Alexander Hayne. Our opponents were Sam Pardee, Jacob Wilson, Matt Nass, Marcus Luong, and Devyn March.
I was impressed with both Heather and Nicole’s ability to adapt to an experience relatively new to them, and my team was firing on all cylinders. We lost a bit of time when Hayne attempted a puzzle that consisted of tracking many colors. Hayne is colorblind, so this was not an optimal strategy. We completed both rooms with little time to spare. As someone who’s gone to many of these rooms, this was one of the best I’ve been to, and even Matt and Sam who do tons of them mentioned it was a top five place. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area. While we were able to do one room faster, we did the other slower, and the only logical tiebreaker was total time in which they beat us by about 10 minutes total by finishing the room we did first at a much faster pace.
Matt Nass was awarded the trophy, proudly holding a pile of fake cash in his sweatpants and Bahamas hoodie.
Feeling defeated, we wanted to challenge Sam, Matt, and Jacob, also known as Team Panik, to a little team Vintage Cube draft. A fearsome trio that has a ton of team Limited success. My team, Team Tron, has played a single team GP together where we managed to accomplish the incredible feat of cashing without making day two. We were dogs to say the least.
Nevertheless, Tom managed to find his form and finish 3-0, backed up by my 2-1 to carry Hayne to a victory. Typing this with Hayne sitting next to me, I told him I just remembered he owes me a snow angel. I plan to get it too.
(Hayne here- it was a strategic 0-3 to bring the greater victory to the team)
After this we went to sleep as champions. Knowing the time was ending, we spent the last few hours chatting.
Paper Magic is back, and things are returning to normal. It’s important to remember the most important part of this whole journey, which is quite literally, the friends we made along the way. To me, this is the single most important thing this game continues to give me.
It’s cliché to say things like your results don’t matter, and to be honest, I’ve never felt like that. My results have always mattered to me to some degree, but not because of the glamour and recognition that comes with strong finishes. It’s more about the opportunity to spend time with friends, doing the thing we love, and coming together for a single purpose. While doing well in tournaments and being recognized as a strong player helps me feel better about myself, my friends will always be able to do a better job of that. The reassurance they provide is worth more than any trophy, but the trophy provides something even more meaningful, which is more time with them.
I’m so grateful I got this experience and to everyone who came and made it possible. I felt lucky to be able to see my friends again.
After this trip, the fire is a little more lit. I was previously unsure if I’d attend the RC. It’s far away, and I have to spend time away from my family. These are big downsides, but spending time with friends is also important, and I’m not ready to give it up. Unless something changes, I’ll see you in San Diego.