This week, I am picking what I think is my best article of the year. Interestingly, I didn't write it. Before I get to that, though, let's talk about the runner-ups (in addition to a few of the articles I singled out last week):
How to Write an Article—I've spent the last twenty years writing about Magic. I finally wrote an article about writing.
We Will Survive/Smart Thinking/Finishing First—These are the first three of the wedge theme weeks. For each of them, I did an interview where I interviewed the three colors of the wedge. If color-pie philosophy is something you're interested in, you should enjoy these.
My pick for the best article of the year is called "A Touch of Magic." In it, I reached out to Magic players to write in and explain the positive effect Magic has had on their lives. I was happy with the response I got and the letters came together to make my favorite "Making Magic" article of the year.
For those of you unaware, I have a blog called Blogatog, where I answer questions every day; post my daily comic, "Tales from the Pit;" and link to my weekly column and podcasts. About a month ago, someone wrote in wanting to go to Friday Night Magic (FNM) at the local game store (LGS) but had some anxiety issues and was curious if I had any tips. I did not, but I opened up the question to my blog readers, whom I affectionately call Question Marks, because I thought there was a decent chance some of them would have good advice to give, having lived through something similar.
Well, the advice turned into stories about their first trips to FNM, which then turned into other stories about how Magic had improved their lives. I was touched by the tales, which I posted all during that day. It then dawned on me that this would make a great article. I've talked to so many people over the years who have shared how Magic has positively impacted their lives that I felt it was time to actually document some of this in an article.
So here's what I did. I went out to my social media and asked for stories. I limited people to 200 words or less because I wanted to be able to post as many stories as possible. I also promised to only reveal the authors by their first name so people could feel free to tell their stories as honestly as possible. Note that what follows is all in people's own words and that the stories go from relatively light to the very serious, so I want you to be forewarned.
Magic has obviously been a wonderful force in my own life. It has gotten me my dream job, allowed me to meet my wife, let me travel the world, and have the opportunity to do things that most people never get the chance to do. So, it is with great joy that I share today's column about a mutual love we all share: Magic.
Gifts Given (WotC Holiday Promo) | Art by Jason Chan
My Magic story may be small, but it is an essential part to my life. My wife and I met in college and during our "get to know you phase" I taught her to play Magic as a social activity. She continues to red/black blast her way through my white/blue defenses to this day. Our tenth wedding anniversary is this year.
I could talk about how critical thinking and problem solving skills I learned playing Magic are essential to my chosen career (computer information security), but having a life partner with a shared fun activity matters more.
So I had only been playing Magic for a few months when my girlfriend broke up with me. I was down and didn't want to really go out and interact with people. However, after a few weeks of absence, my store owner/TO sent me a Facebook message asking if everything was okay. I was so touched that he had noticed my absence that it pulled me out of my sadness and I started going back and interacting. To this day, he has no idea how much that meant to me
I first learned to play Magic back in 2001, but I didn't get too deep into it. In 2008, I realized I was transgender and began transitioning to female. It's a slow process and I didn't come out to everyone in my life at the same time. So there was a period where some people knew me as female and others knew me as male.
I picked up Magic again in 2012, shortly before Avacyn Restored was released. I was interested in going to FNMs, and one of my goals was that with the Magic community I would only present myself as female. It was rocky at first, but I stuck with it and found a very understanding play group at a local store.
Being comfortable with my play group helped me when it was time to come out at school and at work. I now live full time as female and the open and welcoming community built around Magic played a role in helping me reach that. Thank you for that community and thank you for the game I love.
P.S. Thank you for Ashiok!
Magic has given me a great way to spend time with my two sons (14 and 10). I taught them both around age 9 using a "trainer Cube" of core set commons and uncommons. Now they both go to FNM, Prereleases and release parties, and GPs with me. And every Friday night eight to twelve neighborhood kids come to my house to draft with my oldest son. I doubt my story is in any way unique, but that's what makes it a good story. Magic is giving dads, and moms, all over the world a means to relate to and spend time with their children.
My story may be simple, but has meant a lot to me and changed forever my life. Two years ago, with my wife, we opened a little comic book store in a little town. One day, an offer came to start selling Magic and we accepted, knowing little how it would turn out. But it has been pretty great, I'm now about to become a L1 Judge, and our local community has grown beyond anything we could have expected. Magic saved our store and gave us a bunch of new friends; can you ask anything more?
Magic has taught me that it's okay to lose, and that losing can be a learning opportunity. Now I try my very hardest to not be a sore loser :)
Before we got into Magic, my wife and I had very few "offline" friends. My wife is deaf, and we are both incredibly shy people who suffer with social anxiety.
After picking up the game on a whim, we started attending Friday Night Magic tournaments and Prereleases. This forced us to be more outgoing, and having a shared hobby made it easier to talk with strangers. We are now far less afraid of striking up random conversations, and this has had a positive effect on us outside of the game. We both feel more assertive and confident in our daily lives.
Through these events, we met a great many players and are now part of four different casual gaming circles. It started with just a couple of people, but friends of friends started attending our casual events, and our network of pals has grown tenfold. Without Magic, we may never had the chance or confidence to meet this many new people.
It has been a lifelong goal of mine to travel to Japan. While judging the Lorwyn Prerelease, two senior judges were talking about how they just got back from Europe where they judged a Pro Tour. "So wait," I asked, "Wizards flew you to Europe?!!" "Oh, yes, it was an incredibly fun time," they replied.
I made it my goal right then to go to Japan with the help of the judge program. I emailed the judge liaison, Andy Heckt, asking what I would need to do to make that happen. He replied with "Do all you can in the judge program and become a Level 2 judge." From there I judged at nearly every event I could get to, wrote and submitted questions that appear on judge tests, wrote articles, participated in online judge discussions, did a judge seminar at a Pro Tour, and—while at a Grand Prix in Denver—passed my Level 2 Judge exam.
An article I wrote on layers ended up getting 2nd place in a judge article contest, and the prize was full sponsorship to any Magic event in the next year. The winner was Riccardo Tessitori; he decided to pass the prize to me as he already gets sponsorship to events for being a Level 5 Judge. Off to the Worlds 2010 Championship in Chiba, Japan, I went.
I originally played from Fallen Empires up to Mercadian Masques, and although I lived outside of the normal tournament circuit, I kept up with it all over the Internet. I was active on the various websites/IRC channels that existed way back when. My life took a different turn when I moved to a much more rural location, and I fell out of Magic.
Several years later, my life was kind of in a rut. My professional life wasn't going well, drowning under the General Anxiety Disorder that I suffer from. I was generally unhappy. Then, one day I noticed at a local shop a poster for the Worldwake Prerelease. I was like...you know, I'm going to go and see how the game is doing.
I had a good time. First pack? Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Now, I had no clue how Planeswalkers even worked. But I played it, and had a good time. (Although my all-star was actually my second pick...Stoneforge Mystic).
I traded off the Jace for most of a deck and started to play FNMs. Truth is, this is all one of the best decisions I've ever made, and it started the next phase of my life. I've been building more of a social network, and the changes within me...my anxiety isn't nearly as much of a problem as it used to be. I'm a lot happier.
And it's all thanks to a Jace.
My daughter is in Grade 1, and was not keen on reading, but loves games. Though I hadn't played Magic in years, I thought it might be a way to encourage her to read (and do math) in a game setting. We had a rule that she had to read the card before we would explain what it did, so she quickly took to reading because she wanted to be able to use more cards.
Not only is Magic her favorite game today (especially Commander, because of the card variety)—but she was tested last week at school and is reading at a Grade 4 level (she is also scoring 100% in Math, by the way). She looks forward to game night, and is now a better player than my wife! You can watch for her on the Pro Tour in about 10 years.
I've been playing Magic since the fall of 1994. It's always been a great creative and competitive outlet for me while still being a fun way to relax with friends. Originally, it was only with friends and family I already knew and it was that way until 2005 when I moved away to take a new job near Philadelphia, PA.
When I moved, I knew no one and had no family to connect with in the area. A few weeks after I moved, I decided to take the plunge and try going to an FNM for the first time. I did terribly with my UR suspend deck but I ended up winning a random promo Goblin Legionnaire for participation and decided to go back. Playing FNM was how I made most of the friends I had in the area for the five years I was there.
When I came home to Rochester, NY, Magic was what ultimately let me reconnect with friends here and make new friends, too. I can't imagine what my life would be like without Magic, but I'm sure it would be a lot less happy.
My grandfather taught me how to play when I was thirteen. I am twenty-two now. At first, I was socially awkward, but we started to go to FNM and Gen Con with my cousin and the Magic community was so nice to my family and I that it helped me get over my social anxiety.
My best friend had been playing since the beginning, but quit during high school, probably around Kamigawa. I remember when I got his call from the hospital: "...they think it's cancer."
He was diagnosed with AML leukemia.
He stayed in an out-of-state hospital for six months. While he was away, during M12, our town finally got a game store. We stopped in while he was home before another six-month hospital stay, and he was able to get back into the game and teach me to play. He's now cancer free, and we've never been closer.
As an avid Question Mark, I followed the inspirational stories on Tumblr this weekend. Most of the stories were about overcoming anxiety and breaking free of social isolation through Magic. This great game, however, has helped me in quite a contrasting way. As someone with ADHD, I'm quite outgoing and socially active, yet one of the main challenges I had to face was learning how to put structure in my everyday life. Playing Magic, with its turn structure and its strategic planning, has helped me develop my focus, heightened my ability to plan and to segment my workload. Being forced to sit down and sit still will, even at 35, never grow on me, though. ;-)
I had just wanted to share my story about how Magic has influenced my life for the better. Since I was young, I had my eyes set on becoming a scientist. I kept on this path throughout college, but grad school was a very hard time for me. I had a lot of unpleasant experiences that included changing programs. My self-esteem during this period was really low and I was beginning to question a lot of long-held views about who I was and what I wanted. Fortunately, it was around this time that I started to get into Magic. As silly as it seems, Magic, especially the color pie, helped me reevaluate who I was. Certain personality traits that I think are somewhat marginalized in the world of academia are celebrated in red, green, and white. Somehow, playing with cards in these colors helped me explore these new sides of myself that I had not really thought much about up until that point. What's more, the fact that all ten color pairs are routinely played together helped me realize that I could follow a "blue" career path while still celebrating the parts of myself that belong to the other colors!
When I turned 21 I was diagnosed with cancer. Not something you want to hear at that age, and it was even worse when I beat that round and had a completely new cancer show up two years later. I hadn't played Magic since the first Mirrodin block, but started playing Duels of the Planeswalkers on my Xbox. That alone was such a blessing, and provided a much needed distraction. My wife took note and bought me a set of Duel Decks soon after and the rest was history. Even now, with my modest collection and three years of being cancer free, Magic helps me deal with a mood disorder that was a result of my treatment. Thank you sincerely to all those who make this game.
After high school, my friends and I drifted apart. We never really had anything bringing us together but our friendship. Magic changed that. Magic gave us an excuse to hang out again, and not only that, but has expanded my circle of friends manyfold. Without Magic bringing us together, I'd be less of a person, I wouldn't be the me who exists today.
When I first got to college, I had sort of a hard time making friends outside of the four or five I had in my dorm. I joined my school's Magic club and went to a few drafts and small events. Eventually, I learned how to play Commander and was soon meeting new people through this game.
Now, right after the end of my sophomore year, I have met an awesome group of people with whom I am really close friends, meeting multiple times per week for Commander, Modern, and Drafts. A few of these guys I would even consider to be some of my best friends! Next year, I'm going to be the president of the Magic club, and hopefully I can help newcomers have the same experience I did.
This is my story. For years, I have suffered from social anxiety and depression. Last year, I started going to tournaments at my LGS. It was nerve-wracking the first time. There isn't much where I can handle crowds, but my local community makes me feel welcome. I feel at ease among them, and have been asked a couple times to help out a new player play the game and feel welcome.
Because I loved Magic, I went to my first FNM three years ago, and then almost every week thereafter. At all these FNMs, I met people who invited me into their homes and celebrated holidays with me, people who took me across the state to grind PTQs and GPs, people who introduced me to new worlds and friends outside of Magic, even a person who got me the best job a college student could ask for. I have a life far better than I had ever dreamed of, and Magic helped me get there.
My Magic Story started in 1995, shortly after a boyfriend taught me Magic. I taught my BFF, Faith, who began playing at local events. She met a guy, Nick, and his friends at one of those events, and decided that he and I needed to meet. After a year of convincing him, Nick and I met at a local restaurant. A mere 14 months and a million games of Magic later, we married.
Magic continued to be a part of our lives, especially when our kids grew older. Family Game Night is often Magic, whether Constructed or Limited format. Our oldest started a Magic club at his high school while our youngest enjoyed his first Prerelease a few years ago when he was 8.
Now we are about to hit our 17th wedding anniversary, and Magic is an even larger part of our life than ever. Nick owns a gaming store, and I'm an L1 Judge. I can't wait to see what the next 17 years will be like for us, but Magic must be a part of it.
When I was a teenager, Magic was very popular at the school I attended. Because it was never translated to our language, it was usually the first thing to really force us to learn and use English, which became a huge asset on the job market.
I've had to build decks with the small amount of money I have and that's given me the gift of innovation. Besides becoming one of the best deck builders at my local game store because of this, I've applied that gift to real life. Whether I'm writing my college entrance essays or building a new Standard deck, this gift is something I'll utilize constantly. Thank you, Magic: The Gathering, for showing me that any Darksteel Relic has the potential to bloom into a Black Lotus.
When I first set foot in England six years ago as an overseas student, it was really hard for me to get used to boarding school life in the English countryside. The president (now my good friend) of the school's tiny Magic: The Gathering club reached out to me and introduced me to this fascinating game, and I've been playing ever since. Friday afternoons spent cracking boosters and playing Sealed were what I most looked forward to every week!
I've played Magic for many years. It was always a hobby, but five years ago, it became more than a hobby. Magic became a savior to me.
In November of 2008, I fell into a coma, lost my left leg and large parts of my intestines. I was deemed unlikely to survive, and after waking up and finding out what had happened, I fell into a deep depression.
Due to the coma and resulting malnutrition, I lacked much in the way of muscle, and rehab was very difficult.
My family realized the depths of my depression, and offered to learn how to play Magic so that I would have something social to do. It took a while, but I began to talk more, work harder, and think more positively due in large part to looking forward to playing Magic, talking Magic, and thinking Magic with family and friends.
It's been a few years, and while I do have other hobbies and responsibilities (college, etc.), Magic remains one of my favorite things to do, and I make time to play two or three times a week, mostly casual. Magic may have very well saved me from death at one point.
I began playing Magic in college because all of my friends at the time were playing, and I've never looked back.
I found Magic-related Internet content shortly thereafter (especially this column!) and my life was changed forever.
In the six years since then I have made as many friends through Magic as the rest of my life put together. I have become a judge and a tournament organizer. I have participated in the Great Designer Search and worked on Magic podcasts. I have experienced so many wonderful things I would have never experienced otherwise, and I have a clear path to my life. I love Magic, and I look forward to making it someday!
One of the many ways Magic influenced my life for the better was when only 2 weeks ago my young nephew (7) was visiting me with his mom. Having seen my cards before and getting some of his dad's old ones he now asked me if I could teach him the game. My initial reaction was one of uncertainty at him being able to grasp the game at his age and I suggested we try it in a couple years. Not much later, as I passed the cabinet with my cards in it—including 3 simple introductory level decks I had made—I regretted putting off this opportunity to teach him and decided to give it a shot anyway. He was enraptured from the get-go and showed a patience that I had not seen in him before. He has been struggling with ADD, so seeing him being able to stay engaged with something that was hard and that took him a while to understand was remarkable. That's also when I realized (and remembered) that I should not let my expectations get in the way of anyone learning and developing or just playing a great game with your "cool" uncle.
I play Magic with most of my friends, but Magic has helped me the most when I've been all by myself. I think games are useful because they replace our seemingly unsolvable problems in day-to-day life with very solvable problems. Make a living as a writer? My professors tell me there's no money in it. Reduce my opponent's life total to 0? Couldn't be simpler. Building to beat Mono-Black in Standard or listening to you talk about problems in design helps me feel more confident, and honestly, more passionate about solving my non-Magic problems. Thank you so much.
I grew up a pretty shy kid, and the first time I went to FNM was a massive ordeal in overcoming personal fears.
I couldn't be happier that I did, though—I'm still pretty introverted by nature, but I'm no longer terrified of social interactions. I've even become a judge working on the floor of large events, which would have been practically impossible for me before.
So anyone else who feels nervous about going to FNM: try it. It'll be worth it. :)
As a fourteen year old who has been playing Magic for four years I feel I have learned a great many things, the most important of which has been to never give up. The first time I walked into an FNM I looked around, noticed there was no one even close to my age and thought, "Well, this looks like an adventure." I'll admit, I wanted to leave, but I didn't and instead managed to win a match, despite having no knowledge of the format, and left with an Erebos. Over the few following weeks I made some new friends, met some old ones, and kept improving. Today, whenever I walk into the door of my LGS I feel confident knowing that I'm going to do my best and try to have as much fun as I can. I believe that my success in Magic has reflected in my life as I can constantly try to improve myself.
I started playing Magic when I was in high school but gave it up when I graduated. About two years ago I went through a rough divorce. One of the women I dated had a son who played Magic so I picked up the cards again. While I am no longer dating her, I had rediscovered my love for Magic. The friends that I've made playing FNM is a major reason why I pulled out of the depression, and I met my future wife playing Magic. Magic even played a huge role in how I proposed. I took a page from Richard Garfield's book, and printed up a card I called "Engagement Ring!"
Moving from one city to another is a step, moving from one country to another is a hop, and moving from one country to another when you don't speak the language is a leap. I moved from Canada to Japan last summer and wanted to continue to play Magic while living abroad. When I arrived I didn't have many friends, as would be expected with a move this big, but I did have the Magic community. When I first arrived at the local gaming shop I was greeted with a little hesitation because of my very poor Japanese; however, the more I went the warmer the welcomes became. We regarded each other as acquaintances at first but as time went on we saw each other as friends. Around New Years I was asked to come join a private tournament and Year End party and this invitation told me that I was now one of them. I know that friendship isn't something that always comes easily, especially in a foreign country, but Magic has allowed me to improve me Japanese and find friends, which has helped make this country home.
I met my husband when I moved to England and went to play Magic at the local store. In some ways I knew he was the one because he was not afraid to talk to a female who wanted to play Magic, and he also skipped lunch to continue playing casual games. If you want to hear more about how Magic has helped my life let me know. We both now live in Canada and have two beautiful children, and we both still play Magic.
When the Navy recruiter had talked to me, he asked me what I liked to do, I mentioned that I like playing games, like Magic: The Gathering. "They play games like that on the ship." Those where his words to me back in '94; I signed up almost immediately. I graduated high school and joined the Navy in '95. Since leaving home, I've never failed to find a group of friends to play Magic with. From Bahrain, California, Germany, Guantanamo Bay, Hawaii, Illinois, Iraq, Texas, Washington, and my final tour in England, this game has led me to some awesome friendships and great times. Thank you.
My dad passed away in 2009 right before I graduated high school. For the past five years I've been battling severe depression on and off. Whenever I sit down to play Magic, though, it's like everything goes away. It's just me, my opponent, and the game, and that has helped me through so much more than I could ever fit in a little email.
While it may not seem that large, Magic actually gave me common ground with some international students. I live in an international house on my campus and my roommate introduced me to Magic. Following this, we discovered that some of the Japanese and Chinese students played as well. While we were on good terms before, it was hard to find a common interest. Using Magic as the starting point, we became extremely good friends and would play many nights a week. Additionally, as time went on, other students learned to play and we formed our own group that played almost daily throughout the school year. I now am planning on visiting many different countries this summer such as Germany, China, and Japan, as the students have offered me housing when I visit. Thus, I should say that through Magic I am able to interact with many different cultures and now able to explore the world as a non-tourist.
When I was in college I struggled with severe depression and health issues. I saw people, including someone I fancied but didn't know how to approach, playing cards and asked them to show me how to play. I got to talking to the object of my affections, who was also very depressed, and together we were able to help each other. Magic played a huge part in helping us to find the strength to deal with our depression because it was something we could play together; it helped us bond. Four years ago we got married; we now have two beautiful children together.
My partner is currently receiving a lot of support from our LGS and our Magic playing friends. She is transgender and has recently begun to transition from male to female. She has had severe problems with her family over this choice, but we have received nothing but wholehearted support, acceptance, and friendship from our local Magic community.
I always like to say Magic saved our lives and helped us find each other when we needed to!
Magic has been a part of my life for many years now. I started before Mercadian Masques, quit during Mirrodin, and came back now with my son playing during New Phyrexia. It has brought us closer together playing it. Always trying to come up with new ideas and the sportsmanship he has learned from it is great. It has helped me to teach him strategic thinking, conceptualizing when building a deck, and much else.
The coolest thing that I am the most proud of, though, is his 202/627 finish at the SCG Open at the end of last year. My own day had gone downhill after punting a feature match but my son fought almost to the Top 64 with two close matches at the end. Magic has brought me and my son closer and taught us a lot.
I am a 21-year-old who just graduated college. My brother is a 15-year-old. Naturally, this makes relating difficult sometimes. However, on a recent visit home my brother was talking about how he was playing Magic at the game shop that had opened up near our house. Remembering the fun I had playing Magic in game shops when I was his age, I rushed to find my old collection and try and reassemble my old Elf theme deck I owned. We quickly were playing and having fun. He was amazed at how big my Heedless One could get and how many Insect tokens I was able to get from Wirewood Hivemaster. I was confused by the hybrid mana symbols and new mechanics of RTR.
Months later, he and I are attending the Prerelease to Journey into Nyx comparing sealed pools and what we pulled from our promo packs. It's moments like that when the seven-year age gap that is often a barrier to relating to each other fades away and I can relate to him like I would one of my peers.
Magic has completely changed my life. I was given my first Magic deck from friends who had "extras" of cards in high school and it gave me a place to fit in. Ten years later, I met my fiancé through Magic groups. We now have a one-year-old son together and are getting married in the spring. We have friends over every Friday for our own in house FNM. Thanks for a perfect life, Magic: The Gathering!!!
In primary and middle school, I was a bit of an outcast and had trouble making friends when my family moved around. Through Magic I was able to make friends at school, and got a chance at my LGS to make friends and interact with people outside of school. It was also able to help me meet queer people, which made a huge difference to me as a young queer man, where I was able to meet people I could call friends and talk to about what was going on.
Thank you so much for your work on Magic, and also again thanks to you and the creative team for things like the flavor text on Guardians of Meletis.
In the spring of 2001, when I was 13, a friend of mine introduced me to Magic by the Starter 2000 set. I found the game fascinating and, when a few months later I underwent heart transplant surgery, I asked my parents to buy me my first deck (the Seventh Edition Bomber Theme Deck). It was small enough to be carried around with ease even wearing pajamas, it wasn't very expensive, and even looking at the wonderful illustrations was a great pastime. But the best thing about it was that every time my friend visited, we would spend the afternoons chatting and playing almost as if we were on vacation. I still fondly remember our games: they added a sprinkle of Magic to the otherwise dull and hard days of my hospitalization. At the time I was discharged, my spark had been ignited, and it keeps burning bright after so many years.
Once again, thank you for your interest in players' stories about Magic, and thank you for bringing us this wonderful game.
I just want to wrap up today's article by thanking everyone who took the time to send in a letter. I got permission for today's article to run a little longer than normal and even then I was only able to post a fraction of the letters I received. To everyone who took the time to write in, not only did I read every letter but I collected them all so other people at Wizards of the Coast could see them as well.
While I always like to get feedback, I am particularly interested to hear what people have to say in response to today's article. You can email me through the link at the bottom of this page, respond in the thread to this column, or talk to me through any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).
Join me next week for yet another Preview Week as Magic 2015 starts approaching.
Until then, may Magic do its magic for each and every one of you.