By Kairi Izumi

Editor’s Note: Meet Kairi Izumi, our fourth contributor to the new, rotating Scrub Report! Kairi’s articles will appear over the next four Fridays, as she details the highs and lows of being new to MTG. If you’d like to write for The Scrub Report, send an email to [email protected]

Sleeping on planes has never been my forte, and alone on a 13 hour flight, you’ll do most anything to pass the time; especially when another 8 hour flight’s coming up next. This was the second stretch of my journey from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Melbourne, Australia. I wasn’t travelling for a GP; Magic was barely on my mind at all. Instead, I was on my way to live with the girl of my dreams. Her name’s Yuki, and it’d been 7 months since we’d seen been together. That was in Tokyo over New Year’s, the first and last time we saw each other in person. It’s safe to say I never anticipated so much to come from a mutual Twitter follow. Thinking back on all this with all the resultant lovesickness, Magic was a distant interest on my flight to Kuala Lumpur. But the art and flavour text helped pass the time in the air.

My first experience with a card game was the typical Pokémon story, though looking back I barely understood anything. When I was about 10, Yugioh was the craze in school (with the anime airing at the time), and my parents bought me an intro deck after some pestering. It was fun, but the hype died as quickly as it was conjured; I still wanted to play, but nobody else was up for it. About a year later I managed to get my hands on an 8th Edition ‘Core Game’, but the same problem emerged – nobody played Magic. Even the few people I knew with a handful of cards weren’t interested in learning the game itself. Northern Ireland has a couple of small game stores now, but back then it was a bit of a wasteland for these sorts of niche hobbies.


“In one instance, we ended up using a Golgari Guildgate as a single-use fetch fetchland…”

Fast forward a decade: my friend Cat brought me and another friend to a ‘board game café’. The place had a small library of duel decks, and she taught us to play with Jace vs. Vraska. There were plenty of rules blunders, with our mentor only playing casually. In one instance, we ended up using a [casthaven]Golgari Guildgate[/casthaven] as a single-use fetchland, which hung around awkwardly on the board after use. I don’t know what we were thinking. But we had fun, so when the offer came up I was keen to play again. The second time I even ended up buying some Journey into Nyx intro decks and boosters, and opened a foil [casthaven]Triton Shorestalker[/casthaven] and a [casthaven]Temple of Malady[/casthaven] in my first pack. When my mum accused me of wasting money, discovering the scryland’s value was some relief. And it’s hard not to take a foil common as a sign from the gods at that stage in one’s Magic career.

This was in the midst of a pretty stressful time in life: my A-levels (the last set of exams you sit in the UK school system) were coming up in a couple of weeks, and meanwhile I was sustaining a long-distance relationship and trying to plan my imminent move to Australia. Learning to play Magic with Yuki over Skype and Cockatrice helped me stay sane. I’d not played games much since I was 15, and it was incredibly therapeutic to find anything of the sort engaging again. There was something to look forward to outside the hours of revision, and the promise of cracking a pack became a way to motivate myself to study (and this was before I even knew what Standard was). Overall, Magic made a messy time more bearable; it was a recreational energy sink.


“Yuki and I had mostly been playing with straight-forward pre-constructed decks from the 8th Edition core set, and seeing all these new layers of complexity made Magic more than a game, it made it an exciting challenge.”

After my exams were over, life became very weird. I had no responsibilities beyond packing for the move, and saying goodbyes to pets, friends, and relatives. Being in a relationship with someone living on the opposite side of the world can lead to some strange sleeping patterns, and with this ‘freedom’ I started to embrace it, spending decadent hours reading up on Magic. One evening I found myself up all night, watching Melissa DeTora and Frank Lepore draft Vintage Masters. I had experience with none of the cards they were playing, and all their talk of ‘forcing storm’ meant nothing to me then, but all the same I was hooked. Yuki and I had mostly been playing with straight-forward pre-constructed decks from the 8th Edition core set, and seeing all these new layers of complexity made Magic more than a game, it made it an exciting challenge. Drafting was fascinating in itself, and I’m not surprised that Limited remains my favourite format almost a year later.


“As a woman, it was a huge deal to learn about Melissa and her success…”

As a woman, it was a huge deal to learn about Melissa and her success; instantly, I found myself wanting to emulate her, to reach professional-level play. It wasn’t long before I ended up telling this to Yuki, and she’s been nothing but supportive ever since. When I met up again with Cat for a last coffee, I told her my aspirations as well. It felt strange to do so, since she’s a definitionally casual player; but I can’t imagine getting as far as I have in this male-dominated game without early supporters like her and Yuki.

The game increasingly fell to the wayside as the move approached, vanishing from my radar for a day and a half of transit; but it wasn’t long after my plane landed in Australia that Yuki and I made our first steps into sanctioned Magic.

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