Like most Magic players, Mike Sigrist is used to traveling. Playing the game at the highest level requires a lot of travel, jetting across the world all year to compete at Grand Prix and the Pro Tour. Or, as is the case this weekend, the 2016 Magic World Championship.
Whatever the tournament, Sigrist has a morning routine. It's not that different from anyone else's, really—brush the teeth, grab the coffee, get ready to play in the tournament. Except, unlike the majority of his peers, Sigrist has one other thing he must do each morning before shuffling up.
He video chats with the three most important people in his life: wife Heather and twin one-year-old daughters Anabella and Sofia.
Mike Sigrist and wife Heather welcomed twins shortly after he was crowned the 2015 Player of the Year last summer.
"Every morning before I play and every night before I go to bed, I Facetime with them," Sigrist said. "When I'm on the road, I'm wishing I was at home with them."
Most fans are used to seeing Magic pros in a particular light—they're gods of the game, natural geniuses who understand every interaction and are easily able to play circles around most players in the room. They are asked to sign autographs and appear regularly on the Magic stream. They're living the dream and it's a life that seems very far removed from the daily experience of most people.
For the most part, these assumptions are right; but there's another side to Mike Sigrist—2015 Player of the Year and No. 13-ranked player in the world entering the World Championship—that never shows up on stream.
That Mike Sigrist is changing diapers.
"It's something I swore I would never do, but I got used to it," Sigrist laughs as he recalled his life eighteen months ago. "I'm a stay-at-home dad, and I love it."
It's a balance nearly impossible to strike, but Sigrist is doing his best and openly sharing the details of his search for that balance.
"I've learned to play with a purpose," he wrote shortly before locking up his invite to the World Championship. "Before my kids were born, I would play a lot of Magic, but it would be unfocused. I'd be drafting instead of preparing for the Modern Grand Prix. I'd play Cube when I needed to focus on Standard. The birth of my daughters has made me take what I do more seriously. When I'm playing Magic right now, it's almost always in preparation for my next major event. I don't only want to succeed for myself anymore; I need to succeed for them."
It's a fitting description of the struggle every new dad faces, but incredibly Sigrist is not the only World Championship competitor to make it to Magic's biggest stage on the heels of having a child. Luis Scott-Vargas and Seth Manfield have both also welcomed daughters in the past year.
"We aren't naming her after a Magic card"— Luis Scott-Vargas (@lsv) June 30, 2016
"There's no *card* called Naya"
Say hi to Naya Scott Vargas Sarcedo! pic.twitter.com/hLcONZIO8D
"I've definitely played a lot of Magic holding Naya," admitted No. 4-ranked Scott-Vargas, who is playing at the World Championship thanks to his improbable run to three straight Pro Tour Top 8 appearances. "It makes you treat Magic more efficiently. Of course, it's also been responsible for a few more midnight streams since I'm awake with her. It's been funny because the times she's been with me when I've streamed she's been asleep, so people have the impression she's the most well-behaved kid in the world."
Anyone who has had a baby in the house knows that's never the case, but while many people take a step back from Magic when they have a son or daughter, this trio of competitors at the World Championship is demonstrating that the two are not incompatible.
No one is a better example than No. 2-ranked Seth Manfield, your defending World Champion. He spent the week with his family before arriving in Seattle and locking himself in his hotel room, where he estimates he played 150 matches over two days to prepare for the tournament.
Seth's daughter, Eve, is one year old and loves to mess up any cards her dad tries to organize inside the house.
"I'm really the trendsetter here," joked Manfield, whose daughter Eve is the oldest of the bunch. "It definitely hasn't been easy, and when I'm gone at tournaments it's hard to be away. But at the same time it's really cool that we're making it work. I've loved playing Magic for so long, it's always going to be a part of my life in some way, and it's great that I'm able to be in this position."
Win or lose, Sigrist, Scott-Vargas, and Manfield all have something waiting for them at home that means a lot more than any trophy they might win this weekend.
Not that they don't want to win that trophy.
"Talking to them while I'm here really reminds me of how important this tournament is—I've been more stressed about this tournament than any other I've played," Sigrist explained. "At the same time, every night when I talk to them at home I am reminded of something else.
"Even if I do bad, my life is still great."