Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. I appreciate you stopping by. Today I’m going to diverge from Modern talk to bring up something a little personal that seemed to kind of converge within the last few weeks. Before I start, I do want to say that this is not a review about any movies that may have been recently released (specifically one released at the end of April this year).
Baseball is great. I love the sport, and as a kid I loved playing with the neighborhood kids (as rare as it was). I never played little league (video games, comic books, and collecting baseball cards had my soul then), but it’s always been one of those “what if?” thoughts for me.
Just like in Magic: the Gathering, the game of baseball is filled with history, individual achievements, team awards, and a Hall of Fame (and baseball’s Hall of Fame has an actual building!). As players in baseball reach individual achievements, the news starts to buzz around the player, and discussion of inclusion into the Hall of Fame starts to ramp up. Just like in Magic: the Gathering.
On Tuesday April 30th New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia achieved a pinnacle in baseball reached by very few. In his career he has struck out over 3,000 hitters; he achieved number 3,000 on that date. To put this in context, there are only 16 other pitchers to do this. Sabathia is only the third left-handed pitcher to achieve this mark. He reached this achievement against The Arizona Diamondbacks with whom the Yankees have history.
What is really great when baseball players reach an achievement of this magnitude is that the family of that player is there with them. For fans of the sport, more often than not they will think of a family member when something like this happens. For me, it triggered a memory with Magic: the Gathering that I have referenced several times, but really have not talked about in great detail.
From the kitchen table, to…DJing?
When I started playing Magic: the Gathering in 1993 with Revised, I only played at the kitchen table, and you’ll hear me reference those who do as “The Kitchen Table League”. That’s not a slight. They are the largest group of all players who play Magic: the Gathering. I may have played a few sanctioned events here and there, but prior to 2006 I never heard of a “Star City” or a “Games”. I don’t recall even going to sites for reviews, articles, or strategies. I did things on my own.
I took a break when Odyssey came out to focus on DJing at local clubs, and building up the industrial / goth scene here at home. We peaked between 2003-2005, and I had to step away from it as the club was sold, and starting over was not ideal at that time for me. Less than a year later, and unexpectedly, I was provided another focus which lead to some great memories.
Fridays, FNMs, Junk Food, and memories
Baseball, just like Magic: the Gathering, has its own “language”. Ball, Strike, Home Run, Double Play. Those are things every fan of the game knows. Upkeep, Fetch, Red Zone, and even Shuffle are all part of the Magic: the Gathering lexicon. These two came together not long after I hung up the headphones for the first time.
Baseball has been in my family’s blood as much as bowling, card games (especially Euchre), and really any other “Ohio”-themed concept imaginable. By the time my daughter was in the third grade she finally picked “her” team. Much to my chagrin, she wasn’t rooting for the Cincinnati Reds; she chose was the New York Yankees. This was all due to a book report she did on Mickey Mantle. While I joked around with her about 1976, she never wavered. She staunchly maintained that the Reds “were her second team”. By this time I had sold out of Magic cards, as my wife did not play anymore. We had been through several rules changes together, and it just wasn’t something that we did often enough to keep the cards. I didn’t think I had anything of value, but I wish I would have kept them. Through my daughter’s early years we tried playing the Pokémon trading card game, but it didn’t stick. However that may have lead to the spark where one day she asked me:
“Daddy? Where are your Magic cards? Can you teach me how to play?”
…and this scramble to collect cards again was reborn. While you all were surviving through Mirrodin block I was playing music that made people dance (I think I win in this exchange) so I dodged probably the worst Standard environment ever.
So my daughter and I went up to the local hobby store to buy back into Magic. We started with 9th Edition starter decks, and would get a few packs each week to build our decks. We didn’t get any cards from the first Ravnica expansions though, as I wasn’t wanting to put a whole lot of money into the game. As we continued exploring the game together, playing on a picnic table at her school’s Open House event, and playing at home, I soon learned about Friday Night Magic (FNM).
By then Time Spiral had been released, and some of my favorite color combinations of both White & Blue, as well as Black & Green (now known as Azorius, and Golgari respectfully) were quite good. I even mention some of the decks during this era in a previous article here.
I had no idea what we were getting into, but we both picked it up very quickly. During this period there were only two stores (that we knew of) hosting FNM within a 15 minute drive from home (now we have at least a dozen stores that sell Magic within a reasonable drive, and at least half of those have at least one event throughout the week for Magic players).
In these early days her favorites were some very large creatures such as Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Akroma, Angel of Fury, Mirri the Cursed, and Thundermare (although I thought Timbermare was better with the mono-green stompy deck that was out then).
Every Friday from then on was me picking her up after work, going to get some fast food (usually Wendy’s), and heading to the store to play some Magic. It was just the two of us against the world. For years she had the art for these from the booster pack wrappers, or other material (such as fat packs and such) hanging on her wall. She was totally invested, and it was great. I wish I could remember the contents of her Mirri the Cursed deck the night she got her first FNM win. My daughter was definitely a Rakdos player at heart…until the next set of expansions in the fall of 2007.
Columbus Ohio had an event for the Lorwyn set in the fall of 2007, and while I lost Solar Flare, and pretty much every version of a draw-go Control deck, there were a few tribes we wanted. We both took our Standard decks (with new cards) with us, played a draft where we both dropped after being paired against each other in the 4th round, and got cards signed by Steve Prescott (I still have that card to this day). After we were done with that we picked up our preconstructed decks. I took Elves, and she took Merfolk. We played a few games together before going home, cementing the Fish as her tribe. …until Zendikar (and more importantly the “Twilight” movies) enticed her to choose Vampires as her tribe.
The Lorwyn expansions were full of great creatures, and a lot of fun play. We even started giving cards nicknames (which were clean by the way) when we played them to add to our fun. One of the ones that stuck was the name we gave Chameleon Colossus.
This card quickly became known as CC, and then CC Sabathia (whose name is Chester Charles Sabatha). By 2008, when this card was released, he was in his last year with the Cleveland Indians, was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, and was (literally) HUGE for that team’s success that year. Just like this card CC stepped up in the big moments, and became bigger than the moment when needed. It quickly became one of our favorite cards, especially after he joined the Yankees in 2009.
This is where these hobbies all intersected, and I reminisced about these good memories. Sadly, dad became uncool to hang out with as she entered her teenage years; sleep-overs, after school hang-outs, and the like became more important activities. That’s not a bad thing; heck, I’m glad she enjoyed High School way better than I did.
But I would be lying to you all if I said I didn’t miss it. I miss every single second of it, and I honestly hope the game is like that for you and your child. These were not only some of the best memories in my life, but some of the best memories with my child ever. No parent should ever go without something like this, regardless of how life is unfolding.
Although we can never go backwards, and once you leave “The Kitchen Table League” for FNMs (or higher) you lose that casual pure enjoyment of the game, I would give up a lot to have one more day with her when she was this young and Magic was just “fun”. Without her asking me to teach her how to play, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article 13 years later. Now she’s in her early 20’s, out in the world kicking butt, and doing better than her old man. While I can ask for nothing more than that, perhaps one day I’ll get my wish, and we’ll be rolling to see who goes first. It’ll be the Reds vs the Yankees, just like it was during the World Series in 1976.
Next week I want to take a look at one of my favorite Shards as it is gaining popularity in Modern as well as maintaining its popularity in Standard.
TAP MORE MANA!!!
PS: I love you 3000 kiddo.
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.