Players from the Past

Posted in Event Coverage on August 4, 2018

By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

We all know of someone who once played Magic more then than they do now, but the little secret inside us all is that you never really quit. Not really. You eventually get the urge to shuffle up and draw an opening hand again. You yearn to tap a few mana for something, and best of all, you long to get in there for 2. Nothing beats attacking for 2.

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary has been a special event for all of us, luring some of the great names of Magic's past for another chance to throw down with their friends again.

Antoine Ruel was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2009 after he spent the turn of the century winning far more Magic than most would consider reasonable, and was even immortalized as Ranger of Eos after he won the Magic Invitational in 2006. But after that, like many, he faded from view.

"I think I played too much," Ruel admitted. "I lost the Eye of the Tiger. I was wanting to play my own deck brews for enjoyment and that was at odds with the idea of being competitive, and for me, losing at Magic...wasn't acceptable. Then along came life..."

Which is a sentiment I've heard from many Magic players, and one I can attribute to myself as well.

Hall of Famer Antoine Ruel will always have a passion for Magic.

"But I will always have a great passion for this game. I love it. I played at the Pro Tour in Bilbao (Rivals of Ixalan) this year. Everyone in this room has a great passion for the game, and it's a passion that we all share. Many of the people in this room have changed over the years. Exactly who is in this room has changed, but we all still share the same passion for Magic."

Back in 1998, I was a voracious reader of anything Magic-related, and I vividly remember reading the coverage of the 1998 US National Championships, where Matt Linde beat Mike Long in the finals. When the seventeen-year-old Linde beat Long's Cadaverous Bloom combo deck with his Aggressive Empyrial Armor White Weenie deck, it was like a fairy tale in the making. Linde then led the US team to a win at the World Championships that year and placed in the Top 4 at the World Champs the following year. He won the team Pro Tour in Boston in 2003 alongside William Jensen and Brock Parker, but like Ruel, Linde then just...disappeared.

"I moved to the Caribbean to work for six years," Linde said. After that he started a family, and before you know it, more than a decade had passed since he won that Pro Tour in Boston.

In some ways, Linde's story and mine are both quite similar. (Well, except the bit about winning Pro Tours, that's all him.) We both have daughters around four to five years old and we shared a chuckle over the trials of tribulations surrounding teaching them sportsmanship while playing board games and the like.

"A buddy of mine suggested we try to qualify for this Pro Tour, because team events are just the best. Obviously team events are the best. It's been fourteen years for me, it was twelve years for him, and seventeen years for the other guy. We started grinding the qualifiers together to qualify, and it's been great."

Fourteen years on from his team Pro Tour win in Boston, Matt Linde still can't say no to another team event.

I don't think any of us expected Magic to have such a lasting impact on our lives. I know I was sixteen years old when I opened my first pack of Magic cards (the rare was a Shivan Dragon, ooooh yeah!) but if you would have told me then that the game would give me the opportunity to travel to events around the world I would have never otherwise had the chance to so many times I've long since lost count, I would hardly have believed you. And that seems to be the case for most people here. Magic has opened doors for us we could never have dreamed of, so here's to it continuing to do so for another 25 years to come!

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