The weekend began like any other Grand Prix for Noah Bradley. By now a veteran of countless Grand Prix as one of the most prolific Magic artists in the field, Bradley sat down at his booth Friday afternoon and greeted fans all day. Signing cards, scribbling drawings and shaking hands, Bradley knows the routine. A part of the community and adjacent to the tournament, Bradley feels comfortable around the game.
But he's never been a part of the Magic.
Noah Bradley, Magic artist extraordinaire, at Grand Prix Milwaukee. Playing Magic.
Bradley has been creating Magic for nearly six years. He's a fan favorite who has connected in a big way with players, who have enjoyed following the process of creating art that Bradley readily shares with the community. It's a connection that few other artists in the game have cultivated, and one that has made Bradley feel more like a member of the community than just someone who makes art for the community.
In all that time, he has never competed in a Grand Prix. For most of that time he rarely even played Magic. But no longer. This weekend may have begun like any other for Bradley, but it will end very differently.
"I grew up playing card games with my brother, and I always loved them," Noah explained shortly after winning the fourth round to move to 2-2. "We played a little Magic then, and I've always kind of wanted to get back into it, but I never did. But I've been to enough Grand Prixs as an artist and watched people playing, having a blast, that eventually it hit a tipping point. I wanted to jump in, and I finally did at the Shadows Over Innistrad prerelease."
Bradley was immediately hooked. For someone who spent their childhood playing sports, Magic was a welcome return to competition, and Bradley has jumped in excitedly.
"My nature is to be competitive, but I picked a career that isn't really competitive at all," he explained with a laugh. "In art my competition is usually people I'm friends with, so Magic is a chance to beat people at something and win with a very clear way. I grew up on sports and I don't have an outlet to do that anymore, so something like Magic stimulates the desire to think very hard, socialize and engage with the community I've been involved with for five years."
That began with frequent Magic Online drafts, and culminated here in Milwaukee in Bradley's first Grand Prix experience. But don't expect it to be his last.
"It's been really fun, and I'm having a blast," he said. "This isn't the last Grand Prix I'll play in, and it's probably not the last one I'll sign cards at on Friday and then play in on Saturday."
There's one other you're probably wondering about, and yes, you're right. Bradley's first purchase when he decided to play Magic won't disappoint.
A full set of the universally praised Battle for Zendikar lands that carry his name – and the art of a man who is no longer just a Magic artist, but a Magic player for life.