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Breaking Away

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Magic Culture, Standard

Breaking Away

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

I turned 40 this year, and at my core, I’m still the same insecure 18 year I was twenty-two years ago. I want people to like me. I want to think that I matter, that I do something besides float on here reliving the same day after day after day.

I want people to respect me for being good at something, and somehow that thing has turned in to being good at Magic. I used to write for StarCity. I had regular columns in magazines when those were a thing. I played on the Pro Tour. I won tournaments.

These are things that don’t happen to me anymore. I haven’t written for StarCity in more than a decade. Magazines for card games no longer exist. The Pro Tour is something entirely different now. I still win tournaments, I mean I can’t discount winning local events held over the MTG Companion app like they didn’t exist. I did win, but I went from Regional End Boss to Local End Boss so gradually that I didn’t really notice until it was far to late.

Having gone without attention for so many years, I crave it, I make cries for help, I do whatever I can to destroy myself to have others rebuild me, and that’s something I am working on in therapy. It’s not just a Magic thing though. This has been a lifelong struggle. To like myself for who I am.

My scholarship, of course, wasn’t pulled, but at that moment all I could think about was not only how I blew it, but let everybody down, the band director for believing in me, the rest of the band, the professor.  I nailed the solo when it counted though.

It didn’t keep me from crushing myself.

I found myself needing to get ten points for the end of season championship. I was at 90 after taking participation points into account for last championship qualifier, and after staring at my bank account I finally made a reasonable decision. I wasn’t going to buy my way in to the event, because I couldn’t afford it.

I mean I could have, but it would have ate up nearly all of my money, so I decided to try to spike one. I loaded up Temur Reclamation, finally taking this seriously, and with my back against the wall, lost two straight.

The browbeating began immediately. I started off the week so well too. I took an interest in a sweet looking Jeskai Planeswalker list that had finished like 24th in the weekly, and made a few minor changes, there were some one ofs that didn’t feel good in the main, and decided that Dovin’s Veto needed to have more of a presence. I added those, and went 3-1.

Nick Prince, unreleated, is a heck of a human being. 

I beat mono red, mono green and Selesnya aggro. I lost to Gruul, but hey, I tore up some other aggro decks. Further giving me hope was another player played a similar list, using more Shark Typhoon and crushed the matchups I wanted to see.

It was a very good start.

That start lasted about as long as it took me to write this sentence.  The worst part was, needing points badly, I stuck with the Jeskai deck.  If it did well, I could surely do it again right? 


I went 0-2 in my next event. 

7-12 and 7-13 Challenges
Jeskai Walkers
6 points earned
20 credits earned. 

I was forced to take a full day off, not because it was driving me nuts, but because I was out of money and needed a deposit to hit my account before I tried again. 

I played Bant Ramp in the next one, I started off 2-1, and lost my 4th round, making sure I only got the minimum. 

I went back to the Planeswalker deck, because I loved playing it.  I went 1-2 again.  I beat Ari Lax though, who I recognize as a super talented player, and figured if I could beat someone of that caliber, who was on Temur Ramp, then if I could just get things figured out, I would be okay. 

Spoiler:  I would not be okay. 

I followed that 1-2 up with an 0-2, and then we’re back to the Temur Rec plan that started this recap off with.  I promised I wasn’t going to spend the rest of account to get in to the championship, and that if I were going to make it, I was going to do it on my own terms. 

I was going to go down defiantly.  I would go down with as much fight as I could muster. 

I registered Azorius Auras for the last championship qualifier.  All That Glitters was gonna take me there. 

I of course lost my first round to Temur Rec, I overextended into a Blast Zone, didn’t have a diverse enough set of creatures in play and didn’t have Karametra’s Blessing at the ready. 

Next round I got paired against Bant Ramp, and took down the first game, when my mother came in to my room and sat down.  While sideboarding, I looked at her, noticed she didn’t look well, and asked her about it.  She told me what was bothering her, and trying my best to manage things, I ignored Arena, because much more important things were going on. 

We thought mom was having a heart attack.

I called her boss, because that’s what she wanted me to do, she does work for a doctor, and after a quick interview, we decided to call 911.  I’m calm and collected as I talk to dispatch, then call my brother failing to reach him.  I call my sister in law and make arrangements for her to meet at the hospital, because well I’m still agoraphobic, and having a huge stress on me isn’t going to serve my mother or son well.

I have Cassius give his grandmother a hug and a kiss goodbye, because one of my huge regrets from my own father’s passing is I didn’t have a chance to do that before he died, and waited outside in the sweltering heat for the ambulance to come.

Mom was up and about, breathing fine, talking, and we got her in the ambulance.  My brother, an EMT as well, showed up to the house, went with them, and they went off to the hospital leaving me with my son, a quiet house and a defeat screen on Arena. 

I told the staff at StarCity what was going on, and they talked to my opponent, who offered to play game three for me, but as I wasn’t in the right headspace to do that, I went ahead and dropped from the event. 

I am ashamed of how much money I already spent on this to come up this close and still fall short.

— Joshua C.H. Claytor (@JoshuaClaytor) July 18, 2020

In the end, my mom came home a few hours later, she wasn’t having a heart attack, which is great.  My son played, my nephew came over, and we set up all three systems to play Fortnite.  We managed to take down the only squad game we played, because a pc, xbox one, and ps4 all on the same wireless network will cause a bottleneck. 

I spent 540 dollars on tournament entry fees to chase a dream that may not be for me anymore.  I got 100 dollars in store credit, which seems like I could have just spent 540 dollars on decks and had something to show for it. 

I don’t think the system is exploitative or anything like that, but it did cause damage to me.  So much damage that I am not going to play in the next season, despite wanting to chase that dream.  Typing out the results of everything, seeing how much I spent to get nothing back in the end was a hard truth that I needed to see.  I beat myself up more than anyone else could have, and this is coming from a person that had Jeff Cunningham tell him to kill himself some 17 years ago. 

I’m not the player that I want to be anymore, and I am not sure what I want from Magic. 

The pandemic has been great for me.  It’s allowed me to socialize with people I had lost contact with, even if it is over Discord.  It’s allowed me to chase a dream that I had long since thought dead, though maybe it should have been dead.  Having the ability to qualify and play in the highest level of play from your home is nice. 

Everyone that plays Magic today though is significantly better than people that played the game in 2004, or even 2010.  The internet makes things easier, it allows people to jam so many games that they can learn from.  It spreads ideas quickly.  It allows for nearly instant feedback and recognition. 

It also allows for one to beat themselves up mercilessly.  It supports and tears down. 

I had decided to go on a break, both from Magic and social media after everything wrapped up on Sunday.  I am writing this on Wednesday morning, a few days after. 

Right now?  I’m happy.  I know previews are going out for Double Masters, but I haven’t been caught in the outrage cycle.  Look I get it, it’s expensive, it’s a little tone deaf to release it in a pandemic, but a business exists to make money and that’s what WotC is doing right now.  If you don’t like a product, that’s okay, you don’t have to buy the product.  You can support your LGS in other ways.

I say that knowing full well that preorders are being hosted on the site, and I have already bought some of the product.  I also support stuff like this from Wizards and have long wanted different price points for product.  I mean I spent much more than 100 on a pack of basketball cards, we’re not the same I guess.  Is this exploitative?  Absolutely.  Capitalism thrives on that. 

I’m off on something unrelated.  I just know that without the constant scrolling of the news feed, without being pissed off all the time, my head feels better. 

I know that it comes from a place of privilege to be able to turn things off, that as a white man, I will not experience things that others do, but is every battle something I have to participate in? 

I probably will come back, in time, when I can manage being on Twitter or Facebook for hours upon hours.  I value the friendships that I have made on these sites, and the growth that has been accomplished to much to just turn tail. 

Will I be following as many Magic players?  I’d like to think so, I’ve curated a list of so many wonderful people.  People that seem to care about me, even if my brain doesn’t believe it. 

Will I be using it to degrade myself as often as I have been?  I hope not, though self-deprecating humor is about the only thing I have left going for me. 

What about Magic? 

I haven’t kept up with Double Masters at all.  I couldn’t tell you what is being played in Historic, or what did well over the last weekend of events. I woke up upset that I wasn’t battling in the championship, but as my son and nephew woke up, and I got breakfast ready for them, that went away. 

The hardest day was Monday, when I woke up, sat down for work and went to load Arena and MTGO.  I had to stop myself.  There was no point in opening them if I was not going to play.  In fact I went through pretty weird withdrawals intentionally not playing, which is different from just not having the time. 

What do I want from the game? 

I don’t know, and until I can answer that question my relationship with it is going to be tenuous at best. I feel so stressed all the time.  I think I let my bosses, Heath and Nate down each time I fail to make a top placement.  I find it hard in my brain for them to justify continuing to pay me.  They have never once mentioned my results as a way to keep my gigs secure. 

I feel like I let down the writers of the sites because I am not doing as well as I used to. 

PureMTGO is mainly casual. 

Legit has turned into a vanity project.  I am only letting down myself.

I feel like I let down the employees of Legit because if I don’t do well no one reads my content, and that drives down clicks here. 

We’re mainly supported from Amazon, TCGPlayer and eBay. 

I feel like my friends would like me more I did well. I have a great group that busts my chops when it is needed and supportive when it is needed.  They aren’t my friends because I play a card game, they are my friends because I add value to their lives. 

Maybe I do not need competitive Magic at all anymore. Jamming EDH is so much fun. 

All I do know is that I made an effort, and cries for help that went answered during the season, and I ignored them all.  They were not what I wanted to hear I guess. 

One day I’ll figure it out.  I’ve still got time right? 

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