This week I will be talking about a topic that I haven’t before.
While I began playing Magic in late 1996, I was very new to the tabletop gaming scene. The Pro Tour was very new in those days and I was a very competitive anyway. I HATED losing. While I couldn’t play most sports due to my vision issues, I was a very competitive bowler.
For the couple of years, I played the game just for fun at school or at home with my younger sister as we didn’t have a store to play at. Once a store opened up, we began playing FNM (and Saturday and Sunday Magic) at Video Station. While I played Magic (and Pokemon and L5R) in the late 90’s, my younger sister and I always did well. I had many friends and a couple of rivals, good friends Nathan Quinn and Greg Keeling. Nathan was around my age and was a constant challenge to play against but I did manage a few wins against him. Greg was the older player in the group and he owned me in constructed formats.
This only fueled my passion for the game. I tried to get my sister Brandy into the Junior Super Series, but DCI changed the age brackets to 14 and under the year we tried to get her qualified. She was a much better deck pilot while I was a better deck designer. She could pilot anything I handed her, but I could only play certain styles.
Despite this, I never attempted going to a PTQ until September 2001. I was in my first semester at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, TN. My first PTQ was an Invasion block PTQ in Atlanta with this:
4 Lay of the Land
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Evasive Action
4 Worldly Counsel
4 Allied Strategies
4 Collective Restraint
2 Pernicious Deed
2 Destructive Flow
1 Legacy Weapon
1 Goblin Trenches
1 Ordered Migration
1 Yawgmoth’s Agenda
1 Overgrown Estate
At this event, I met Sol Malka who was one of the judges there and quite the terror on the PTQ scene in his day, as well as one Donnie Nolan. Sadly, I didn’t do well at this event going 2-3-1 before dropping. I had rode to Atlanta with Jesse Savage, a Cookeville native and ran into Matthew Norton and his wife Liz who were also at the event. Matt, who I was also a TTU student, was trying to re-qualify for the Pro Tour.
Re-qualify? You mean, I got to met someone who had made it to the Pro Tour? Somebody pinch me.
I did my best to absorb as much information from Matt as I could over the next couple of years. Matt’s wife, Liz, had folks who lived in the New Orleans area and the Pro Tour that he was trying to qualify for was in New Orleans. While we were chatting once we got back to Cookeville, Matt told me that he Top 8’d but still feel short and that was his last chance for PT New Orleans. I corrected Matt and let him know that he still had another chance. There was one more PTQ close by in Huntsville, AL the following weekend. His eyes lit up at another shot.
Several of us planned to carpool to Huntsville to Bob’s for this Invasion Block Constructed PTQ. This time I ask Matt for some advise. Domain wasn’t really my jam so I asked him for something a bit more straightforward:
After winning my first round, I met my second round opponent: Matthew Frazier. Matt was a huge player in the PTQ scene at the time and is also know as being Pro Tour Champion Craig Wescoe’s best friend. I didn’t draw well at all in these 2 games against Frazier and made a boneheaded play (that turned out to not matter thanks to a Fact or Fiction that flipped a Dromar’s Charm).
So the next game I won a nail biter to move up to 2-1 before playing against another PTQ power player, Matt Noble. Noble was playing what we would call Grixis today (UBR). Noble won the match in 3 against me but I did get one of the best plays I ever had. Noble played Lobotomy on me in Game 2 and got Urza’s Rage. He looked at my top card and said looks like you had a Skizzik coming as my next card. After my deck got shuffled by me and cut by Noble, I proceeded to top deck 3 consecutive Skizzik ending Game 2.
After that roller coaster of Win, Loss, Win, Loss, I rattled off 3 straight wins to finish 5-2. With that record, I knew I had a chance. Final standings…13th
Both of my losses, to Frazier and Noble, made the Top 8, along with Norton whom I road with (the Matt trifecta). Sadly, Matt dropped his Top 8 match (and in those days, only the winner got the coveted ‘Blue’ envelop).
At this point, I was hooked on the competitive scene.
Sadly, no matter how many times I tried, I never got the coveted trip to the Magic Pro Tour.
Despite my lack of success there, I was able to successfully qualify to multiple other Pro Series (Lord of the Rings TCG, dot\\Hack, Vs. Series) and played in multiple major events and did some good work.
So why I am explaining this?
Nathan, Greg and Matt were mentors that helped me raise my game to the next level.
My journey could not happen without the help of others.
The biggest thing that will grow you as a player is to find other players who are better than you and challenge you to grow every day.
That is my role now.
My pro career is over, but yours is just beginning.