It was a special scene during Saturday morning's seat all players, as three generations of the male line of the Wagenhoffer family of Quebec City got ready to play together for the first time at a Grand Prix. The grandfather, Robert, is in his sixties. Thomas is in his mid-thirties, and his son Malcolm is ten years old. It was just a year and a half ago that they first heard about Magic. I sat down with them to learn how they got into the game, and how their journey brought them to the Grand Prix.
“It was actually Malcolm that got us all started. He used to play Pokemon with his friends at school, but they weren't really playing the game so much as collecting the cards. Then he found out about this game called Magic and he wanted to learn how to play it. I went out and bought a 2-Player starter, and it was pretty complicated so I called up my dad who's been playing games his whole life, from boardgames to chess to help me out. Took us a few days and a lot of phone calls to the store to figure out what we were doing, but by the time we did we were hooked.”
Thomas, Malcolm, and Robert Wagenhoffer
They succeeded as instructors. Malcolm picked up the game quickly, and soon all three were attending Friday Night Magic at their local shop.
“We have a great store, it's got a very casual atmosphere. Everyone's there to have a good time. Every store in town has its own vibe, so maybe this one's a little more competitive, over here you have the guys who are really serious about winning, no time for talking. So depending on what someone's looking for they can find the store that suits them.”
I asked what it was like going from just picking up the game with a couple random decks to playing constructed at a store. Robert laughs. “I still remember the first time Thomas said to me ‘Hey Dad there's a new Magic set out' and I said ‘What, there's more?' I had no idea there were, you know, twenty-thousand or so different cards. But yeah it was a bit of a learning curve, but that's one of the things I love about Magic is how social it is. You meet all kinds of interesting people, everybody's got their own deck they like to play. The format I love is Modern. That's actually how it is in Quebec City, everyone loves Modern. Even Malcolm has his enchantment deck, his Bogles.”
I gave Malcolm a surprised look and he shrugged, a bit embarrassed at being in the spotlight. I asked him how he did when he played Bogles, and his dad rescued him from cross-examination. “Oh he wins a fair bit. People are always a little surprised.” Robert nodded along, beaming at his grandson. “It's fun to watch someone smiling – everyone is very friendly and polite, but you know, smiling because he's playing against a kid, and then suddenly he realizes he's losing and the smile goes down just a little bit.”
Grandfather Robert has been blazing a trail into higher-level competitive play for a few months now. “All those FNMs and GPTs I've been playing in I kept piling up Planeswalker Points. The Grand Prix in Montreal, Thomas and I went to that.” Thomas added “That was sealed deck, a bit too complicated for Malcolm still.” Robert continued “Then with all the Points I had I got an invitation to the World Magic Cup, so I played in that. It's all about the Points for me right now. I play so much, next year I think I'm going to start getting a bye for Grand Prix. So, you know, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.”
I asked what it was like making the move to playing in Grand Prix. Though it was his first experience in a tournament of this size and seriousness, young Malcolm looked right at home as he played his matches. “His opponents have been great. Everyone has. It's a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere. People are here to win but it's all very positive.”
Now unfortunately this story doesn't end with Malcolm upsetting some pro to sneak into Day 2. None of the Wagenhoffers made the cut, but they were back this morning playing in the Sunday Super Series Standard event. As I met up with them a second time to ask a few additional questions, Malcolm had just swept his opponent 2-0.
I asked if they'd be attending more Grand Prix in the future. It was a hearty affirmative from Thomas. “We're hoping next year to bring Malcolm with us to Grand Prix Montreal, and maybe even Toronto. I have family in Philadelphia so maybe we visit them and go to a tournament as well. We'll see. But mostly it's just great to have something we all do together.” Here, Robert cut in to add that they also train in martial arts together. “The family that plays together, fights together.”
Thomas continued “Also a lot of Malcolm's friends are playing too, so it's been great helping them out, bringing them with us to FNM. We all share cards so people can make the decks they want. It's great to see them all working together, learning together, they're like a little team.” Team Wagenhoffer might not be knocking over any tournaments in the near future, but they are reminding us about the fun of the game that brings us all together.