Twelve fifty-two pee em on Thursday my flight is scheduled to land at National airport in Dee Cee. That’s my arrival at the Pro Tour. I’ve been looking forward to this for a few years now.

I can’t say that playing on the Pro Tour has been a life-long goal. Back in 1994 when I was a teenager playing the sweet new game called Magic, I didn’t compete. Wth my Duelist subscription I liked to read about the nascent competitive scene but it wasn’t something I aspired to join. My brief forays back into the game in the late 90s and through the 2000s were always causal. Even when I came back for good, in 2010, the Pro Tour was not on my mind. It wasn’t until 2012 or 2013 that I started to see the Pro Tour as an interest and a reasonable goal.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I had been driven to play Magic competitively when I was younger. The biggest change I can imagine is that my social circle would be much different. Partly that’s because I’d have made friends while playing Magic, but more fundamentally it’s a simple prerequisite to competitive success in the game. Magic is a social game in such a deep way that it is often hard to recognize how much social factors drive our relationship with the game. That’s why it’s so important that we as a community welcome and accept and respect everyone who plays. That’s why we should learn how others experience life and how to avoid making people’s lives casually shittier out of inertia and ignorance. And that’s why so many professional players say the most important part of the game to them is friendship.

When I was younger, social relationships pushed me away from Magic. As a teenager in suburban Atlanta in the mid-90s, my circle of Magic-playing companions was limited geographically. And I learned that the other Magic players at my high school were not people I wanted to maintain friendships with. If I had found real friends who played, had a better local scene, then who knows how the game would have taken hold of my life. I do know that when I came to Brooklyn and found the awesome local Magic scene there, playing the game became rewarding enough to justify dedicating mental and emotional energy to it. It was something worth being good at.


As I stepped out into the competitive Magic scene in 2013, I felt at home. These were my people, or at least a meaningful subset of my people. I wanted to join the community. And I have.

My sense of competition has always been self-driven. I want to do the best I can at something, and for things I’m good at, I feel that my best can rival anyone’s. I always want to be challenged, pushed. In Magic I want to play against people better than me. I want to be punished for my small mistakes, for mis-sequencing my lands, for making one bad pick in a draft, for choosing the wrong removal spell. And I want to be able to play the game on multiple levels. I want my actions to be interpreted and analyzed. I want my bluffs to be meaningful.

The other thing that really pushed me down the path of competitive Magic was poker. I started playing poker and thinking about it seriously around 2008. If you know your recent poker history, you know I was a little late to that party. If I had started a few years prior, when there was much more edge to be gained in the online games, I might have made enough money playing poker to play at a high enough level where the psychology of the game becomes relevant and fun. No-limit poker just isn’t a meaningful game to play unless everyone in the game really cares about the stakes. But by the time I was even aware that grinding online poker was a thing you could do to make money and build a bankroll, I didn’t think the potential return was worth the effort. Timing is everything.

Magic, like poker, is a transcendent game when played at the highest levels. Both require some amount of money to develop the skill to play at a high level. Magic happens to require a bit less money, though. In Magic, you don’t have to grind your character up to level 60 or buy one already leveled by someone else before you can harness the full potential of the game. Magic is more like those mid-era Final Fantasy RPGs where you level up naturally while doing the things the game tells you to do. You still have to play for many hours, but you don’t have to do things that aren’t fun just to be able to later do things that are fun.

And so, here I am, about to arrive at my first Pro Tour. My time to play at the highest level. The first tournament to which I’ve been specifically invited. I don’t know if it will be the beginning of a new stage in my Magic life, a natural extension of my current Magic world, or a brief visit to the mountaintop. I plan to stay as long as I can, and to savor every moment, but I don’t know what that will actually mean. There’s one thing I know for sure, though: it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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