This year was tough. Covid continues to thrive, and we’re learning to live with it as opposed to eradicating the virus. As the husband of an emergency room nurse and as a person with underlying health conditions, this is especially stressful.
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the competitive Magic scene as well. In-person events returned to a degree this year.
Local smaller events, a giant Magic event in Las Vegas, and an SCG Invitational were put together. However, they were nothing like the care-free environments we used to attend.
Personally, this past season was mundane. I didn’t do particularly well in anything but did well enough in league matches to secure a spot in the MPL Gauntlet, locking myself into the last season of Rivals.
I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on my relationship with Magic and contemplating what it is I want out of Magic.
My personal motivation dwindled as the season progressed. I’ve always had the fire lit to some degree, which was still going at the beginning of this year.
I tested with my usual crew of Paulo, Sam Pardee, Matt Nass, Martin Juza, Jacob Wilson, Zach Kiihne, and Grzegorz Kowalski with new faces popping in and out as the season went on.
We were active the early half of the year and spent many hours testing together on Discord. Even when the matches didn’t feel that important, it at least made me feel like I was accomplishing something.
The pandemic disturbed my sense of purpose professionally as nothing counted toward anything bigger during the partial season. I decided it was a great time to take a break and not go too hard during the partial season as the prior MPL and Rivals seasons were exhausting. When the new season began, I would just turn that competitive light back on.
As this season continued, my sense of purpose began to dwindle. Competitive Magic didn’t feel the same. The tournaments didn’t feel glamorous to me anymore.
Looking back on it now, playing from my own desk was convenient, but it didn’t have the Pro Tour’s glamour of playing under the lights surrounded by cameras at a feature-match table. I’d walk by that table and wonder when would be my next chance to play on that stage for something meaningful.
When, if ever, will be my next PT top eight?
Now they’re not the same to me. When people would ask me what I do for a living, I used to be enthusiastic when answering that “I play an esport” or “I play Magic professionally.”
As the season went on, my enthusiasm turned to dread. I was always proud of what I did and found it a unique and impressive part of my persona. I’ve managed to make a living doing something I love, which is something most people only dream of.
However, over the course of this year, I fell out of love with the competitive aspects of this game. Rather than pride, I feel some combination of shame and dread when asked these questions.
The follow-up questions are always the same: “You make enough off of that?” “Are there huge prizes or something?” All of these questions have become jarring.
During the latter part of this season, they announced no planned future for competitive play and the MPL and Rivals as we know them will cease to exist. We were told directly by WotC to no longer pursue Magic professionally.
This was the nail in the coffin for my motivation. While I tried to muster up the gumption to keep my focus, I couldn’t put in anywhere near the hours I used to.
While I loved my late night Discord chats with Martin and Zach, I could no longer get myself to be competitively motivated given the news.
I didn’t feel this need to prove myself or see the point in doing so. Magic just wasn’t the same anymore. While I hope that the game turns out okay, I don’t see myself putting in 40 hours a week for multiple weeks in a row grinding match-ups, even if the Pro Tour goes back to what it was.
The pandemic and everything that’s happened during it has shifted my priorities. My family comes first. This OP announcement has put a knife into the heart of my competitive personality. As Paul Rietzl always put it, I’m a hobbyist now.
Though I didn’t qualify for Worlds, my good friends Sam Pardee and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, at the time the reigning World Champion, qualified. This was the first event since the last World Championships to play Limited. Paulo and Sam asked if I’d be around to talk about Limited and of course I obliged.
I went to the races drafting because it’s the one part of Magic I will always love. I found myself getting into it and missing it. I miss drafting with a purpose. The Arena draft open was the most fun I’ve had competing in years.
Over the course of this year, I found myself struggling to identify my relationship with Magic moving forward. I can’t see myself putting in the hours to fine tune a stock deck and change a few cards to get a 1% edge in the mirror.
I can’t and won’t do that anymore, but I’ll draft from morning to night and not blink. I still love it, and I’ll be playing as long as there’s something competitive to do with Limited.
Limited is something I love. I’m good at it, and I love to be good at it. To make sense of that last part, I love trying to improve my Limited game, whereas I find it a chore playing Constructed despite being good at it.
From here, I’m hoping to focus more on Limited, whether it’s cube, new Limited formats, or perhaps whatever random Limited events are on MTGO or Arena. I will focus most of my Magic playing in these areas in 2022 and try to fall back in love with the game that’s provided so much for me.
While there are a couple more Pro events coming up that I will participate in, my heart won’t be in them. I took a relaxed approach to this last Set Championships and will continue to do so unless Limited is added to them. If so, I’m sure I’ll fall right back into my rhythm and draft a ton in preparation.
I’m hoping we finally get Limited back at the Pro level in 2022, but either way, that’s what my relationship with Magic will be moving forward. I enjoyed cutting back on grinding Constructed for the past Set Championships.
I didn’t stress myself out, and I want my relationship with Magic to consist of doing things I want to do instead of things I have to do.
I look forward to what this next year has in store for us, and I’m cautiously optimistic that while a Magic career may not be as lucrative or fulfilling as it once was, my focus can now shift to the parts of the game I love.
Hopefully, I can rekindle that fire once again, and I hope you all have a happy and healthy New Year.