Friday, January 15, 2016

The First Time...

Date: April 26, 2014
Event: Journey into Nyx Pre-Release
Location: Jackvonsille Game Center

     Rather than finding myself dressed in tattered clothing with pumpkin and mice at my feet, at midnight I found myself on an unknown plane surrounded by strangers speaking in tongues. I had been to Magic the Gathering events before; Ulric (one of my best friends) and I used to attend our small, local game store's Friday Night Magic events. When I say small... I mean SMALL! Looking back at my DCI history, we had attended the Born of the Gods pre-release...

... 7th out of a nine player event is quite disheartening when you only see the numbers. I wasn't the best or most competitive, but I loved that store. It was typical for there only to be 6 - 10 planeswalkers slinging spells. Ulric and I started going there earlier in 2013 for the occasional draft when we wanted to shake things up. Prior, I only had experience with a tabletop cube he and our buddy Matt had made from their extensive collection. Tabletop Magic with our small group of friends was the only thing I knew, especially since I am the baby planeswalker. I started playing in 2013. Matt and Ulric, on the other hand, have been playing for years. Matt is from Ossining, NY. On multiple occasions Matt's mentioned the competitive play group he had been a part of. Ulric has been playing since the start; we used to joke he's been playing Magic for almost as long as I have been alive! 

     As we continued to pop into Urban Anthropology, our trio grew to include Virgil, his brother Tristan, and Alex. The more frequently we played in sanctioned events, the more the guys wanted to up their competitive edge, the damn Spikes. Our motley bunch lived closer to Saint Augustine, where the Magic scene was and continues to be dying. Jacksonville, the metropolis that it is, has multiple game stores with better prize support and competition. We had heard through the grapevine that the Jacksonville Game Center offered a deal on FNM/Pre-release: do both and the next 10 FNM are free! Not only that but our entry fee includes pizza, soda, and product! Feed me. Please. Will work for food. (not joking - I have!) With the need for -at least in my case- food, competition, and prizes, we agreed to start carpooling to Jax Game Center events. 
So there I was. Scared. Nervous. New. Still oblivious to the competitive Magic community. I went from maybe 10 people competing to BAM! SIXTY!

Let's play a game... Where's EM?

*hyperventilating intensifies*

     Let's take a moment for some real talk, just so you can better understand the emotional, anxious wreck I had been for my first "large" competitive Magic event of a budding career. I had just turned 22. Instead of being self-confident with a sense of control and purpose in life, I was depressed, lost. discouraged.I had just withdrawn from college due to my IBS and depression. Aside from my Magic peeps, which I viewed more as Ulric's friends than mine, I was a recluse. In the past I have been taken advantage of, resulting in my propensity to avoid men and large, social gatherings. Don't get me wrong - I'm a social butterfly at heart, but I was still scared of people and the possibility of being hurt. Lo and behold I found myself in a "small" space with over 60 strangers. Mostly men. I was terrified of Ulric not being at my side. I didn't want to make friends or turn someone's flirtations into heartbreak. I just wanted to open packs, build a deck, and kick planeswalker ass!

Oh look... I DID!

     Now, remember I had only ever been to small events - never a midnight pre-release. I was only expecting a couple of rounds and heading home by 3am... Boy oh boy did I have a rude awakening! We were there until about 10am! Each round took a little over an hour. The group I had carpooled with had members that got into top 8... which at Jax Game Center it's common for those players to "play it out." I think around 4am I was ready to leave. The only thing that kept me going was my winning. The adrenaline! The exhilaration! The stupefied looks I'd get when I beat a stranger who thought I was a scrub! 

     Felt good. Real good. So my addiction to cardboard crack began. Since then our group has gone to every midnight pre-release. The small group that would carpool up from Saint Augustine became a "team." We called ourselves the "Auggie Bombers" since we'd show up and win. DROP THAT BOMB OHHHHHHHHHHH! Slowly but surely I came to know and love the other regulars. The Spikes I used to be afraid of? I'd approach them and ask for advice on home brews. Joke with everyone about Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Comics. All things nerd. I started to feel part of a community again. No matter what was troubling me in the real world, I could always turn to Magic.

     This weekend will be the first where I'm not with my fellow Auggie Bombers. Once again, I'll, find myself on a new plane having to interact with strangers. I won't be scared of them or in my abilities. I'll be reading up on strategy the night before to see if once again I can just show up and wreck decks. *cracks knuckles* I won't be hiding in the corner. The internet is a beautiful thing. Before I even arrive I know there'll be familiar faces. Once again, I will feel a part of a community.

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