Back in December of 2012, before my mental illnesses had fully taken control of my brain, I had made the decision to transfer from paper player to digital player. Traveling to tournaments outside of a certain radius of my house had been hard enough and that mileage restriction was slowly closing in. Grand Prix Indianapolis (and you know this story is from the long long ago because it’s called a Grand Prix still, instead of a MagicFest!) was going to be my last big paper event, and when my body felt like it, I would pepper the area with local appearances.
My goal after winning a Grand Prix Trial for the event was to make day two and not embarrass myself. I did make day two with a Selesnya deck that didn’t have a lot of clean answers to Pack Rat, but I started off 6-0 before a couple of quick hiccup rounds, one of which saw me get blasted by Pack Rat and ended up 7-2 to make day two. I ended up embarrassing myself, but not because of how I drafted, that was fine, I did pretty well at that part, all things considered, but, and this is to illustrate how my brain function even today, did make quite the fool of myself while recapping my draft to my buddy Scott while he was playing some kind of Magic format I hadn’t seen. I talk quickly, and want to sound impressive, so I shortened Tom Martell to Tom Ma, not knowing that Tom Ma was an actual Magic player. I said Tom Ma was passing me, and he looked at me and was like, no I wasn’t, Scott looked back and said I meant Martell.
That memory haunts me to this day, and it’s innocent enough, but when I think about it, even eight years later, I wanted to cringe myself in to a black hole.
Fast forward a year, and I had basically become the shut in that I didn’t want to be. I struggled to get back and forth to work, eventually losing my job at Western Kentucky University, but still graduating from the school. I rarely ventured outside, and my last actual paper event was a Friday Night Magic that I forced myself to go at Hard Knox Games in Radcliff whenever I was out from a visit to the hospital. Since then it’s been all digital everything. I sold my paper collection off at the time, because well, when was I ever going to use it again? I’ve since started to rebuild it, but I’m not sure why. I don’t plan on playing paper Standard ever again, and the state of Pioneer seems to be tenuous at best.
Since 2013, the pro dream has been dead for me. My body rejects most of the food I eat, and I haven’t been in a car for a trip longer than up and down my drive in years. Getting to the airport, getting on a plane, flying, getting a car to the site, playing, and coming home seemed to be to much for me, and I ended that dream.
Though to be fair, my results may have ended that dream more than anything that I had actually done. I haven’t placed in the top eight of anything since shortly after my son was born, and I think the last time I actually did top eight a PTQ, it was an MTGO one back in 2011. There may have been one more recent than that but I don’t recall. I did have a lot of medium results, a few prize finishes, and a cash payout in a Twitch Rivals event, but since then, I’ve mainly been happy to stream and have as much fun as possible.
I was, for the most part happy with this. I was able to stay on the edges of competitive play, have fun, make some extra money, but things kept pulling me back as much as I resisted. I was making great progress with my therapy, getting outside more, spending more time out among the things that my brain is telling me are great dangers to me.
Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.
Wait, that’s not what happened.
Some time in March, I began to become very aware of things going on in the world around me. I mean I was already, my brain made sure of that, but the greater part of the world around me. I noticed reports out of China that slowly trickled to reports out of Washington State that slowly turned into daily press briefings from the Governor of Kentucky that ended up with the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.
Things started to get cancelled all over the place, suddenly going to MagicFest Louisville, which was a goal of mine, had ended, because it was no longer happening. It became clear that this was going to be a long term issue when ChannelFireball and Wizards of the Coast moved the Player’s Tour online, and started to host last chance qualifiers for them.
As someone who hates to play the ladder system, having actual swiss tournament paths to the higher levels of premier play on Arena felt nice enough. True this stuff does exist on MTGO, and I could take more advantage of them, but they were a bit more expensive, running about 30 dollars a chance, and ChannelFireball events were 10 dollars a play.
I finished in the top 16 of the first one I played in, and lost in the elimination rounds, but something about having to be on discord, and navigating multiple webpages for pairings and decklists overwhelmed me. I quickly stopped playing those events. It had all the feel of playing in a store event, but none of the community.
Mtgmelee.com started to gain a lot of space in the community during this time, and daily I would try to find a place to play. Local stores were not running online events, and we tried and failed to get any going here at LegitMTG. Sword and Boards in Radcliff gave up after about a month of events, and it was back to finding a place I could call home, even if it was just a rental.
CapefearGames in Wilmington, North Carolina runs a wonderful event, as does Adventures in Comics in Games in Sacramento, California.
With the organized play season decimated, in store play forced to close, and premier play being cancelled for the year, StarCityGames brought their organized play to MTGMelee as well.
Six times a day there are challenge events. 4-0 one of those, get 10 points and you’re all set for the Saturday Qualifier, which could potentially get you to the end of season championship. They are 22 dollars to enter, which is pretty reasonable to me, and the prize support for the higher tiers of the series seemed to be great.
I shared this news with my friends in Hardin County, and we got to work! We were going to take this by storm, and it was going to generate a lot of content, a lot of store credit, and we were going to do remarkable.
For the most part we did okay. The first event me and Will played in saw him go 3-1. We played the same deck, Yorion Elementals and I went 0-4, but I was just so thrilled that one of my friends did well.
July 12, 2020 7pm Challenge
I flew solo for the next one, and after a check change, from Temur Elementals to Simic Flash, I scored a 3-1 of my own. I lost to Brandon Burton in the final round, and there is no shame in that at all, as saltydogmtg is a Grand Prix winner and an incredible aggro player.
July 13th, 2020 9pm challenge.
I went alone again for the next one, this time playing Dimir Control. I played me way to a 2-0 start, before losing to Bant Ramp and then Mono Red Aggro. It was during this challenge where things started to go sideways for me personally. It wasn’t loud enough yet to worry me, but it was there and I noticed it. Because of that I decided to take the rest of the day off. I had progressed nicely, I only needed two more points to qualify for the qualifer and didn’t need to add anymore pressure.
July 14th, 2020 2pm challenge.
The next day I saw a sweet list from somewhere. I don’t recall, probably an LCQ because those were still going on but Orzhov Yorion started to see an uptick of play. I went with it, because casting Burglar Rat appealed to me for some reason. It was probably more the Doom Foretold, but I finished 3-1 in this one as well. I lost to Bant Ramp in this one, but was pleased with my finish.
July 15th, 2020 7pm challenge.
It was around this time that Matt decided to jump in these events and go for the qualification as well. It was me, Will and Matt, three old friends doing the best we could at a game that probably passed us by a few years ago. I played 4 color Yorion in this one, and started 2-1 before losing the last round and the drumbeats started again, amplified, more focused. This was the first time that I remember my brain telling me that I didn’t deserve to do well. That would be a recurring theme.
July 18th, 2020 7pm challenge.
I ended up take a break again, until the first championship qualifier. 116 people played in it and I loved my deck, Bant Auras. I lost a quick one to Temur Rec in the first round, beat Bant Ramp round 2, and lost to Temur Rec in round 3. After testing it on the ladder, the Temur Rec matchup felt very winnable, but these games were not. It might have been because Blast Zone hadn’t seen a lot of ladder play, but I was getting dominated by the land. In Round four I lost a matchup to Grixis Mutate that was one of the most mind blowing losses I think I have ever taken. It was soul crushing. They had beat Will earlier in the day, and I was out to avenge my friend, but instead I just got ran over. I was never in either game. Round 5, I got back in the right column with another win over Bant Ramp before dropping after a round six loss to Orzhov Yorion.
With Core Set 2021 coming out soon, there would be a break in the action from the events. Standard had grown stale, but even with my crappy performance in the first qualifier, I had plenty to be pleased about. I earned 24 points, which was a nice chunk and put me on pace to qualify for the end of season event.
Also trading 100 dollars for 40 dollars in store credit wasn’t ideal but if I could hit the end of season event, I was positive I could compete to get back to a break even point.
Weeks later things would be different, but for now, things were as right as they could be.
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