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 ScrubReport@gmail.com

By the end of 2014, it was clear I wasn’t making friends through Magic. I won enough drafts to be recognised as a capable player, but it translated into little. Then out of the blue, a playtesting group at my store invited me to join them. It felt like a great opportunity to find momentum in the local competitive scene, and I was thrilled at breaking into the ‘boys club’. When it came to my first real experience with them through a draft over Skype, I found myself too petrified to give opinions. This carried through to practice in paper, though my own introversion was part of the problem. Still, finding a voice in a community so prone to cliques is difficult, and sexism just adds another layer to it.

My initial excitement didn’t last. The admin who invited me turned out to be an MRA and a fan of Ayn Rand. He can be friendly, but his notions of “free speech”, and his active disbelief in the concept of privilege, ruled out any form of meaningful moderation on our Facebook group, making for a very uncomfortable environment. Private complaints were made without result, and I ended up secluding myself from the group, despite knowing that many of its members were lovely. Dealing with the worms in the apple was too much for me. I was worn out, and disillusioned; the quiet of Magic Online became my defence against jerks.

Simic Worm

“Dealing with the worms in the apple was too much for me. I was worn out, and disillusioned; the quiet of Magic Online became my defence against jerks.”

Fast forward a couple of months to April: I find myself filling in a decklist at a PPTQ for the first time. It was a shot in the dark, given I hadn’t played Standard for months, but the Pro Tour inspired me to get out of the house and play in an event that mattered. I wanted to move forward in my Magic career, even if I didn’t have the same support as others. Plenty from the group were at the tournament, though most passed by without a word. Luckily I had a pair of friends there to touch base with through the tournament, so I wasn’t quite alone. My list was identical to Adrian Sullivan’s UB Control deck from Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir; I considered Esper Dragons instead, but Dragonlord Ojutai was impossible to find here in Australia (not to mention his price), and I’d previously played UB control enough to feel comfortable with the deck. Winning more than a couple of rounds was beyond my expectations; I was playing with the knowledge that I had to start somewhere, and that it was okay if I scrubbed out.

However, Ugin quickly made his power-level clear. I don’t think I lost a single game after casting him, and reached 4-0 after facing Jeskai, GW Aggro, Sidisi Whip, and UB Dragons. But it turns out tournament endurance is a weakness of mine, and exhaustion started to kick in after rounds 3 and 4 both went to time. Growing fatigue gave me my first real experience of competitive REL, when I received a game loss for failing to de-sideboard correctly (I pulled out a Dismal Backwater instead of a Thoughtseize). I was pretty demoralised at my error, and readily lost the round. The round that followed was thrown away to tired distraction. I needed a break, and rushed out for lunch. When I came back, I found myself sitting at 9th place before the final round of swiss.

Ugin

“However, Ugin quickly made his power-level clear. I don’t think I lost a single game after casting him…”

I was clueless as to whether winning would put me into the Top 8 or not, but my opponent was excited for us both. He was playing Jeskai Tokens, and games 1 and 2 were lopsided, first in his favour, then mine. In game 3, he managed to get out an early pair of Jeskai Ascendancy, followed up with a Monastery Mentor. Luckily, my hand was loaded with action, and it was hard to say which way things would fall. After grinding through my hand of removal spells, my opponent took a dive, turning a Monk token into a 10/10, but I had Ætherspouts (an unexpected star) to answer it, and quickly took over with Ugin. It was the most exciting round of the tournament; and turning around afterwards and seeing my girlfriend, Yuki, watching me with a big smile on her face was easily my happiest moment in Magic. Finding out that I made Top 8 was all the more special for her presence, maybe even overshadowed by it.

Spoiler: I lost the quarterfinals. The atmosphere was so relaxed without a clock ticking, and the judge watching us had a lighthearted personality. Combined with my exhaustion, it felt more kitchen table Magic than a PPTQ. I was just happy to collect my packs and head out for dinner with Yuki. I’d achieved a lot more than anticipated, and was happy to call it a day.

Standard hasn’t been on my radar since, and most of my Magic games are still online; but things are slowly improving. My playtesting group’s problematic admin resigned, coincidentally on the same day that I shared an article about the word ‘rape’ and the Zach Jesse affair to a positive community response. While the competitive drive is still there, the more important thing to me right now is Yuki’s growing interest in drafting again come Magic Origins. On top of that, we’ll be headed to our first GP in Sydney in October, and I’ll be spamming her with anything related to Battle for Zendikar until then. My journey in Magic so far has been bumpy and expensive, but I can’t see myself spending as much time and effort on any other game.

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