Hey folks, this week my brother, Eric Massak, will be filling in for me on Ensnaring Cambridge duty. This article is a response to an article I wrote called “The Myth of Balance” but can be read as a standalone treatise on Magic fatigue. I’ll be back next week to discuss Modern. Enjoy!

Perhaps “The Puppy Who Lost His Way” is an inauspicious title for Magic-oriented article. It is, after all, derived from a scene in a twenty-year old Adam Sandler film;  a film about a penguin-hallucinating man-child redoing K-12 in order to inherit his father’s multi-million dollar hotel empire. And while my brothers and I can quote Billy Madison from start to finish, I feel like my situation is drastically different than Billy’s. My “big days” aren’t filled with “Nintendos and jack off magazines,” I don’t hang by the pool and “drink five daiquiris,” and I don’t have time for a dodgeball montage where I pelt seven-year olds to the tune of “Beat on the Brat.” Instead, I am in a similar predicament as a lot of recent college graduates: realizing my narrow skill set is not particularly relevant while working on a contractual basis in an office to almost make ends meet, all the while watching interest rates make my loans impossible to pay off before sea level rise sweeps away Boston.

I should count my blessings though: I have an apartment, I am “employed,” I have friends and family, and in the game of life I have a pretty high life total. What’s been nagging at me recently is a funk—a bad funk that’s been giving me Magic burnout. While this could probably be categorized as something Shawn defines as a “first world problem,” I feel myself losing interest in something that I have enjoyed pretty consistently for twelve years. This hurts because Magic is startlingly prevalent in my life. I’ve made numerous friends playing Magic. I’ve coped with rejection, breakups, family problems, and boredom through Magic. When I talk to my brothers or my roommates the subject inevitably turns to a discussion of the latest set or the modern metagame or the best limited formats or cube changes. My vernacular is inundated with Magic lingo from “durdle” to “topdeck” to overusing the word “value.” I know what Magic websites aren’t blocked on my work computer (Hipsters!) and I take full advantage. There’s so much Magic in my life, but yet I’m stuck in a [casthaven]mudhole[/casthaven]. I feel like I’ve lost the magic (not capitalized).

I’m not tilted (more of the MTG vernacular) by some particular bad play, or a slow-roll, or an old EDH game decided by politics. The frustration lies in lacking the patience to play for an extended period of time and lacking the positivity to shrug off losses. Because of this I don’t want to take the time to practice a deck, therefore I have no hope of getting there at big tournaments. I understand how good players operate and I’m not there.

dash hopes

Sometimes I think it would be cool if I had a “Cats in the Cradle” epiphany where I realize that Magic was taking away precious time with my growing son. It’d be so convenient to have a logical reason to be on hiatus. But I don’t have a son. And I don’t really want to stop playing, I just want the eagerness to play that I had in college and high school. When my roommate suggests a trip to play standard in Milford or Boxborough or Lowell or Fall River, I want big plans to get in the way rather than my own incompetence. Right now scooping is so much easier than sleeving and shuffling.

As we say (the collective “we” used when doing a deck tech or streaming MTGO), what’s the win condition? What’s the end-game here? It’s not like I’m Conley and fell off the pro circuit, I only fell off the kitchen table and perhaps the middle-of-the-pack PTQ tables. But I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost my way. So how can I get it back? To go back to Billy Madison, he says that the part of the The Puppy Who Lost Its Way that he doesn’t like is that, “the little boy gave up looking for Happy after an hour. He didn’t put posters up or anything, he just sat on the porch like a goon and waited. That little boy’s gotta think ‘You got a pet. You got a responsibility.’ If your dog gets lost you don’t look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find that fucking dog.”


With all due respect to Billy, in my case it might be for the best to sit on the porch like a goon for a bit. There are other ways to ignite my Planeswalker Spark. Shawn made a great observation about balancing real life and Magic life in his article “The Myth of Balance.” Shawn writes, “While I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into this game, time and effort I could have invested elsewhere, I feel good about it for the most part. Through Magic, I’ve met a lot of great people, spent time with my friends, and had some pretty amazing experiences. I want to keep working on balance, especially when it comes to Magic, but at the end of the day it is what it is. I spend time doing what I want to be doing and need to learn to be okay with that.” The question I ask is, what happens when you’re not okay with doing what you want to do? Do something else, right? If there’s a thesis here other than “Billy Madison is like Magic cards” it would be something like, “Do what you want to do, but stop when you don’t want to do it, and then maybe you’ll want to do it again, but also focus on doing other stuff.” Or more simply, “You do you.” For now the plan is to work on some writing. There are some short story ideas that I’ve been sitting on but haven’t had the [casthaven]force of will[/casthaven] to commit to. I am also slowly slogging through Codecademy so that I don’t end up an “obsolete man” like in that episode of the Twilight Zone. That’s card advantage of sorts.

In addition to Shawn’s article I’ve been trying to read more articles by Magic players talking about Magic but not necessarily about how many [casthaven]Blood Moon[/casthaven]s I should be running in my sideboard or what morphs will trade up in Khans draft. There are articles about things in life we experience in and around Magic. Articles like Hunter’s, Conley’s, and Jackie’s. Hell, last week I even read Darwin Kastle’s unfortunate article about dating and Magic. It wasn’t ironic hip so-bad-it’s-good a la The Room, it was like a Uwe Boll film, gratuitously and ineptly bad.

To quote Volrath the Fallen, “I stepped out. I did not step down.” I’m not done playing cards by a long shot, but now it is time to do something else productive. As a young Magic player, I had always hoped that one day I would buy booster boxes regularly, and that I would build a legacy deck, and all those things would be all I needed to be content. Maybe it will be later. Somehow I’m still figuring out my life, and right now I really don’t care how the [casthaven]Temur Ascendancy[/casthaven] combo works. Once I de-stress, I might try to grind out those GP byes. But I’m not there. In the words of Billy Madison, “O’Doyle, I got a feeling your whole family is going down, but for now I gotta study.”

Eric Massak (AKA Erik Massak) started playing Magic 12 years ago after being shown a [casthaven]Hunted Wumpus[/casthaven]. Now he’s in his mid-20s, living in Boston, and trying to figure out his life while casting as many [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven]s as he can. He is a member of The Pantheon… for Team Wolfpack.

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