I think I’m welcoming myself back to my articles as much as I’m welcoming the readers. The last couple months for me have been a struggle to find balance. On one hand, I have Magic. It’s a hobby that I want to be competitive in, so there’s a struggle to find enough time to practice and to make time to travel to events. (Not to mention enough time to record the podcast and write these articles!) On the other hand, I have a life. I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve got a wife that I’m more in love with every day, a job that is generous enough to work me as much or as little as I like, and friends that are getting married at an ALARMING RATE. (seriously though, could you fools please just coordinate and all get married in the same weekend so I don’t have to keep travelling to and from Baltimore? I left for a reason.) Then, on the other hand, there are other distractions. Hearthstone happens to be a really outstanding game. I’m a full on Soccer addict (yes I call it “Soccer” because I live in the US and I don’t want to have to spend the rest of my life explaining to people that I mean “Soccer” and not “Football” when I say “Football.”) and proud EVERTON F.C. supporter because Tim Howard and I’d rather walk alone. I love Professional Wrestling and have been a subscriber to the WWE Network for the low low price of just $9.99 since day 1. I took off work for the Network launch. (It’s actually FREE for the month of November including the Survivor Series Pay Per View.Thank me later.) On top of all that, I just got a PS4 with Destiny, The Last of Us Remastered, and Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition. This is the first console I’ve owned since PS2 and Gamecube. My name on there is YoMTGTaps since some idiot (probably me on one of my friends’ systems years ago) already has the name “bigheadjoe.” If you see them in-game, headshot them for me. If you see ME though, the REAL me, feel free to friend me.
Worst case scenario, hey, 3 hands. Pretty sweet. It’s apparent though how it could be hard for me to find time to make my way back to these articles or Magic in general. My wife is super supportive of my hobby and I love her for it, but I guarantee she’d be even MORE supportive of my decision to quit. This game takes me away from the house for way longer than either of us wish it did, and although I’m pretty creative about how I spend my limited budget on the game, the game costs me more money than I should be spending. Worse yet, despite all the effort I’ve made to improve my play and all the travelling I’ve done I only have 1 PTQ Top 8 and 1 TCGPlayer cash finish to show for it. I can see why the cheaters would be tempted to do what they do, as each fruitless endeavor makes the pursuit harder and harder to justify. More harrowingly, given the recent top level cheating scandals, each wasted trip makes me wonder how many cheaters gave in to those temptations to get past me, which makes the whole thing seem even more futile. As I said on last week’s episode, it really makes me wonder just how widespread this sort of cheating is and discourages me from even making the effort.
I can’t honestly say if I’d be playing Magic right now, given all of my other distractions from it, if we weren’t doing Yo! MTG Taps! again. That’s not me saying that I’m only in it for the money. We’d be doing the podcast with or without a sponsor, I simply saw an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship with LegitMTG.com and went for it. The podcast serves as a way to reinforce just how much I love the game. I’m as passionate about talking about the game as I am about playing it. I don’t feel like I could do one without the other anymore. It’s just ingrained in me at this point to want to create something to document my experiences in the game. The closest I’ve come to only doing it for the money was towards the end of our run on SCG. I was in a pretty dark place in my life and I needed a drastic change. As much as I love Joey, talking to him about Magic every week was the furthest thing from my mind, but we were locked into our sponsorship. I felt obligated to keep going, despite my fragile mental state, in order to avoid disappointing our sponsor or, more importantly, my best friend. Fortunately, we were able to recognize this and bring that era of the show to a close before our output or selves suffered too greatly.
Now I’m in a better place, both geographically and personally. After taking about a year off from the game, a store opened in Dallas that needed a Tournament Organizer. Common Ground Games was close enough to me that I could conveniently get there on a regular basis. My personal life had greatly stabilized with my impending marriage and nearly 1 year of sobriety, so I answered the call. I had originally planned to just run the events and not get back into playing much besides the occasional draft or prerelease. Unfortunately, I had already touched the addictive ink and it was too late.
But that’s not really why we come back to the game, right?
Speaking with Erin Campbell of The Deck Tease podcast a few weeks ago on Yo! MTG Taps! really got me thinking about this topic. Why DO we come back to the game? Why haven’t we moved from Magic into another hobby, the same way Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon players tend to upgrade to Magic?
One reason is that, unlike video games, our collections will never become entirely obsolete. I got a ps4 as an early Christmas/birthday present this week (reason #47262538582 why my wife is better than yours) and I’m already dreading how soon they’re going to try and get me to replace it. I’m the worst kind of video game consumer. I typically buy systems years after they are released for a fraction of their launch price, and the same goes for games. Magic cards are an investment, essentially the exact opposite of a video game console. Sure, a console serves some purpose for as long as it works, but it loses value every year. Magic cards on the other hand retain or gain value barring multiple reprints. The secondary market is so active that a lapsed player can come back at any point and, with smart trading, turn their previous collection into whatever decks they are now interested in playing. The cards can be shoved in a box for however many years their owner submits to the demands of the life phase we know as “not playing Magic” and when that box (Pandora’s?) is reopened those cards are as useful as they were when they were pack fresh. An old console not only loses value, there’s not even a guarantee that the owner’s TV will be compatible with the device. There’s comfort in knowing that we can easily pick the game right back up after a few quick rules updates without having to spend hundreds of dollars upfront to get current. Of course the argument can be made that Standard causes us to do exactly that. For a player who previously sold out completely that might be true, but that’s the beauty of the game. If someone doesn’t want to invest in Constructed there are multiple Limited formats to enjoy that don’t require a huge investment.
The more I think about the Reserved List the more I realize that it is a huge reason for players returning to the game. I hate it personally, but I’m finally coming around to the realization that Wizards has built such strong brand loyalty due to their dedication to ensuring consumer confidence. (I swear I didn’t get paid to say that, nor did I lift that sentence directly from a Phrases For Marketing Management book.) Thanks to things like the Reserved List, players know that they can hold onto their old collections with the confidence that Wizards won’t do what the makers (who is it this week?) of Yu-Gi-Oh have done and reprint every single card into worthless oblivion.
Certainly this is a factor that brings players back, but I don’t think it’s the primary one.
The part of the conversation I had with Erin that stuck with me the most is that, when she interviewed Kai Budde, he said that he quit Magic for years while he was at the top of his game because his friends stopped playing. What a stunning thing to hear. Someone who has found fortune and fame playing Magic, something we all daydream about doing, giving it all up because his friends weren’t doing it and it wasn’t fun anymore. That made me think more about Joey and Tim. I played so much Magic with them over the years, and I was certain they would keep playing after I moved. Joey can’t help but keep building decks but he rarely plays, and Tim is done playing for good I think. I was going to bring a deck for Tim to play while I was in Baltimore in September but he didn’t even want to touch it. I can’t remember his exact words but the meaning behind them was essentially “don’t tease me,” as if playing would remind him of times long past and the idea of bringing that up would be almost painful. (not to mention the ink)
I’m going to be 33 years old in February. I’m socially awkward despite my outwardly affable appearance. (Don’t believe me? Come up to me at an event and compliment me about the show. I still don’t really know how to handle that sort of situation, although I’m smart enough to know that turning and running full speed away from the situation is not a socially acceptable response.) I don’t know if I’d have ANY friends in Dallas if it weren’t for the Magic community. Not only do I have friends here now, I have GREAT friends that I’m creating memories with every week. I even felt a strong enough kinship with Stephen that I asked him to reboot the podcast with me.
In a world where most of us don’t even know who our neighbors are, having a sense of community is more important than ever. We all love to win. We love the idea of making a living from our hobbies, be it from shrewd trading or tournament success. But knowing that there are friends to be made in a community that will welcome us with open arms, no matter what city, state, or country we are in, is the most rewarding aspect of all.
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