I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Magic since becoming an MTGDad a few weeks ago. That might seem counter-intuitive but consider that a) I don’t have a normal sleep schedule anymore and b) the Vintage Cube is too much fun to stay away from. I put away my competitive sleeves five years ago, just before the release of Dragon’s Maze, but now more than ever since then I’ve felt compelled to at least give some kind of significant thought to returning to competitive play.

A lot has changed in five years not only for me but for competitive Magic. PTQs are gone and replaced with the new PPTQ system. Nationals left and came back in a slightly different version. There are more Grand Prix events but they cost twice as much to enter now. Friday Night Magic is still around, but now there’s also Game Days. The SCG circuit is still around but doesn’t look quite the same.

Most importantly though, I don’t have the resources to commit to Magic that I used to, namely time and money, and to be honest I’m still not all that interested in devoting a large amount of either one. For me, as a Spike, this is really about proving that I can still be a successful competitive Magic player as well as a successful parent and spouse. It’s a whole new challenge, but where would I even begin?

Paper vs. Online

My desire to collect Magic cards is virtually non-existent. I still enjoy collecting, as evidenced by the dumb video games I play on my phone (more on that topic in other columns) but I don’t enjoy collecting physical objects anymore. The only physical collection I’ve held on to is my Ghost Rider comic books. Everything else has been sold off or donated. Music, books, comics, and board games all got purged in the name of de-cluttering my life.

So this creates a conundrum, because while I don’t want to collect paper Magic cards, I’m not all that interested in competing exclusively online. I want to play paper Magic. After all, my local game store is only a quarter-mile walk away from my apartment. How could I possibly not attend events there? On the other hand, I don’t have the time to test for larger events that I used to, so I’m going to have to rely on Magic Online to do so (or MTG Arena).

Where does that leave me? Most likely focusing solely on a digital collection since it’s much cheaper than paper and I’ll probably spend more time playing online. Then, when I do play constructed events in stores, I’ll have to borrow or purchase cards for that event and then return them or sell them at a loss. This will make it a bit difficult to play too many constructed events in-store so I’d probably avoid that.

Goal Setting

I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence and imply that I can casually play some Magic while balancing my home life and somehow qualify for the Pro Tour. I never managed that when I was playing competitively five days a week, I’m certainly not going to do so now. That said, I’m also not interested in grinding weekly Friday Night Magic events, so what’s a good in-between goal?

Entry-Level Events: Magic Open House, Prereleases, Friday Night Magic, Draft Weekend, and Magic League

I think that these are all beneath where I want to be competing. There’s nothing wrong with any of these events, however I don’t feel I have much to prove at this level. I spent many years grinding these events for promo cards and to build up my ELO rating. There’s nothing left for me to prove here. I might drop into the occasional prerelease or draft weekend if my schedule permits, but otherwise this isn’t where my goals lie.

Local Competitive Events: Standard Showdown, Store Championship, Preliminary PTQs

I think this is the right level to set my current goals, especially since I’ve been out of the game for five years. PPTQ events are an especially enticing place to set some goals since there are so many of them and the new season starts at the end of this month. One of the benefits of living in New York City is that there are, theoretically, eight different PPTQ events within short (30 min or less) driving distance.

Now, I doubt that I’ll make it to all eight of these events, but it isn’t unreasonable to try to pick one on the schedule, especially one that’s easy to travel for, and see if I can put up a modest result. For me that means a winning record, and doesn’t have to be a top eight finish. After all, if I win my first PPTQ after five years of retirement, I’m going to have to start setting some stretch goals.

One event that intrigues me somewhat is the Standard Showdown. These are held every Monday at my local shop and while they’re interesting I don’t think I’ll be attending them. My days of collecting shiny promos are long behind me, and my time after work is almost always spent with my family. Giving up a few weekend days for a couple PPTQ’s and maybe a store championship is much more feasible than dedicating every Monday night to Magic.

When my kid is older maybe this will change, but right now while I’m the only one competing, this is how it’s going to be.

Regional Competitive Events: Regional PTQs, Grand Prix, SCG Opens, SCG Regionals

Let’s call this level a stretch goal. I don’t really have the time or energy to devote to fully preparing for these events, but they happen so rarely that if a golden opportunity presented itself I might latch onto it. If I qualify for a regional PTQ for example, I’ll probably see if I can fit it into my schedule. Or, if there’s a Grand Prix or SCG open right in town, in an easily accessible format, and I don’t have any other familial commitments, I might give it a shot. But, I’m not going to come out of retirement with the goal of making day two of a GP or the top eight of an SCG open.

Elite Competitive Events: National Championships, Pro Tours, SCG Invitationals

While it would be a childhood dream come true to qualify for one of these events and perform well, I don’t think it’s a realistic goal to set at this time. My ability to allocate time to preparing for such an event while holding onto my day job, managing this site, and most importantly spending time with my family is pretty much non-existent.

Best of the Best: World Magic Cup, World Championship

Yeah, no thanks.

What’s Next?

I have the schedule of PPTQ events for this season written down on a whiteboard and the next step is to figure out which one’s I’m interested in, how frequently I plan on going, and how I’m going to prepare for them. Right now I’m tentatively circling a February 10th event in my neighborhood on my calendar, but as any of you MTGDad’s out there already know, plans can change pretty quickly. Still, if the stars align nicely then we’ll see about coming out of retirement this season. Stay tuned to this space to follow along on this journey with me.

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