Steve Wise remembers vividly the first time it happened.
"Four or five years ago, I had just moved to Omaha and had been playing some Commander there but nothing else," he said. "One night we were playing Commander and they announced the Standard tournament was starting and I wasn't going to be able to play in it.
"Then the guy behind the counter just handed me a complete Jund deck."
It was the first time Wise borrowed cards, but it was far from the last. After returning to Magic from an extended break that started when he was in the eighth grade and had no idea how the rules actually worked, he dove in on the next go-round almost a decade later.
"I started playing Magic four nights a week and began traveling for PTQs and Grand Prix," he said. "I hung out with guys who traveled and I really got into it. I had fun and I liked traveling and going places. I started getting better and I became a level one judge. I would use store credit from winnings to buy cards, and I grew my collection that way."
Before long, Wise didn't have to worry about having the cards he wanted to play a particular deck. And he made sure no one else in his area did either.
"He takes it upon himself to make sure people can play the cards they want to play with, instead of just what they have available," said Kyle Smith, who along with Wise made the 11-hour drive to Cincinnati. "He borrowed cards for a long-time, and now he's the go-to guy for loaning cards to everybody. He'll loan entire decks and not ask for anything in return."
It's a story not unique to Omaha, but players like Wise make a unique impact wherever they are. Not only does he provide cards for his community, he also judges local events and organizes trips to larger tournaments, giving players who may not otherwise be able to attend a group to travel with.
For the Iowa native, it goes back to his childhood.
"When I was in high school I didn't have a car, but the upperclassmen would give me rides," he said. "That's something I didn't forget. It instilled in me that it was the right thing to do, so when I was an upperclassmen I returned the favor.
"With Magic, I didn't forget about being loaned that Jund deck. I try to be there for the community, whether it's borrowing cards or giving people a ride."
Smith said that, even moreso than Wise's actions it's his attitude that has helped their local community to grow in recent years.
"It's really good to have someone like him who helps people be able to play Magic the way they want," Smith said. "And he's gotten really good, really fast."
That's for certain. Wise has made the elimination rounds of a PTQ several times this season and has come tantalizing close to realizing the dream that first began taking form when a stranger handed him a Jund deck to borrow.
"I've come really close to making it to the Pro Tour," he said. "I've lost in the finals of a PTQ and I made the Top 16 of Grand Prix Oklahoma City earlier this year."
With just one loss late in Day 1 at Cincinnati, this may be the weekend that Wise makes that dream a reality.