Hello everyone, my name is Travis Boese and I am blind. I am not opaquely blind like Ray Charles or Helen Keller, but my nearsightedness is so severe that I cannot see my opponent's face. I cannot see cards in the play area, much less read them or distinguish cards from each other. I have to hold cards less than an inch from my face to read them. I play Magic through memorizing the game state.
My condition does not define me, though—my defiance toward the disability and people's expectations has been a factor in shaping the person and player I have become. My blindness forces me to be a meticulous player. I am naturally competitive and especially hard on myself for vision-related misplays.
“I will bloodrush my Rubblehulk onto my Drudge Beetle.” I look at my opponent expecting him to scoop.
“Okay.” He replies flatly.
“Go to damage?” I ask.
“You're dead right? I have you at 7.” I ask a little confused. Then he motions his hand to point to something on the playfield. I get closer and see a die that represents a 2/2 Knight token that was created several turns ago placed between my Drudge Beetle and my opponent's side of the table. “I am the worst magic player ever! I HATE being blind!”
This leads me to why I even play Magic—the people and the stories. I love going to events and meeting new people. I cannot drive, so I take taxis, buses, trains, and ride with friends to play any chance I get. I love car rides replete with Magic stories. Every player has them—great and small—of terrible bad beats or epic top decks. We romanticize and hyperbolize moments of games past. Every player can connect with most stories at some level, because they have had a similar experience.
My story begins during Ice Age. It was kitchen table Magic—huge free-for-all games of 8 to 16 people. There were diplomatic betrayals and endless shenanigans inside and outside of the games. I took a break after Exodus and got back into Magic around Magic 2012 and have been completely obsessed with it since. I started reading articles and listening to videos, doing everything I could to develop my game. At the same time, I had to invent ways to overcome my personal obstacles.
I never want to be a burden to my opponent and at the same time I tend to keep my disability a secret for as long as possible. Partly because it is my habit since grade school to try and fit in, and partly because I don't want an opponent to try to take advantage. I have had several opponents at PTQs attempt to use my vision against me. However, most of my opponents are very courteous and helpful.
I went to Vegas for the same reasons most people in attendance went—Modern Masters is some of the most fun Magic I have ever played. Limited is my favorite format, and there are several awesome decks and interactions in the set. The games can be incredibly involved and outrageous.
Memorable Moments of Day 1
I won't go over my pool in detail, but I was lucky enough to have a Skeletal Vampire. Not only is the card insanely powerful, but it also makes Bat tokens. It seemed perfect that the most powerful card in my deck creates blind creatures.
Round 6 was a great example of one of the reasons I love Magic. As my opponent and I shuffled it was very clear that we were both big talkers. He and I were constantly joking. Once the subject of my vision was broached, my opponent was very helpful and funny. He was brave enough to make fun of it, which I actually enjoy, because it is more fun to embrace it than ignore it. His deck contained a lot of fliers and in both games the board became very crowded, which is much more difficult for me. Fortunately, Tromp the Domains for 4 makes combat math much easier. After our games he gave me the awesome suggestion of writing jokes on my Bat tokens. I immediately wrote “blind as” on one of the tokens and “spirit animal” on another.
Getting around in huge crowds can be somewhat troublesome for me. I do my best not to be too much of a calamity. At some point before the last round I walked into the corner of a table and one of the players must have been feeling pretty salty, because he said said, “are you blind?” I just laughed and replied, “since I was born.” I don't think he believed me and I left him to his game. Maybe I should bring a cane to venues, though that seems too garish to me.
Going into round 9, I had 2 losses. I was paired against LA local Brian McAtee and I knew he was a very skilled player. He won the die roll and chose to play game 1. He played Figure of Destiny followed by Bonesplitter, and I felt my Day 2 hopes slipping away. I conveniently drew into a Bound in Silence to shut down the upstart Kithkin, and then prowled all 3 of my Latchkey Faeries. His Stir the Pride was not enough, and I overwhelmed him. In game 2 he was stuck on three lands for a few turns, but his double Rathi Trapper kept me from punishing his land situation. Over the course of the game Skeletal Vampire made several Bats, but I was in a defensive position and chump-sac'ing them.
At one point I was using several facedown cards and an LSV token to represent Bats. A judge walked by and replaced all of the facedown cards with Bat tokens. I looked up for the final token and the judge said “LSV stays.” I wish I could say that LSV won me that game, but Brian eventually played Divinity of Pride. I had Take Possession for it, though, and when he played Flickerwisp targeting his Divinity of Pride, I used Echoing Truth on my Take Possession and he scooped.
At the end of Day 1, I was sad to hear that 3 of my friends had lost their win-and-ins. They went out to enjoy Vegas, and I went to get food and go to sleep.
At most big events, the judging staff give me a fixed seat because it is extremely difficult for me to read pairings and find the correct table number. I'm not sure if that caused a problem, but for some reason I was asked to change pods three times before the first draft.
I first-picked Path to Exile over some forgettable rare and got pushed out of white almost immediately. The draft seemed to be all over the place. The majority of my picks were green in pack 1. I also got a Drag Down and a Glacial Ray. Pack 2, I first-picked Masked Admirers over Tribal Flames and then double Search for Tomorrow. I picked up a Bound in Silence and a Blinding Beam to go with my 8th pick Kodama's Reach. Pack 3, pick 1, I snagged Greater Gargadon and pick 4 I got Maelstrom Pulse then wheeled the Skyreach Manta that was also in the Pulse pack.
Here is the deck I registered:
Round 10 was a fun match of magic, but nothing very interesting. However, my opponent did have two Oona, Queen of the Fae (twOona?). I was able to fight through his twOona and win the match.
My opponent had a very good affinity deck with multiple Arcbound Ravagers. In game 1, he emptied his hand by the 3rd turn, and on turn 4 he attacked with the team. I had mis-remembered the board state and blocked poorly, but the Ravager made my blocks irrelevant. At the end of the game he had 3 lands in play. As we were sideboarding, he complained that his deck had too many lands and he planned to go down to 14. Game 2, he mulliganed to 6 and the game ended with him only having played 1 land and 1 spell. After game 2, he complained that he needed more than 14 lands. When game 3 ended, he had 7 lands in play and had only played 4 spells. Obviously, I got very lucky, much like the blind squirrel (flightless cousin of the bat) finding a nut. He showed me his deck and it was BANANAS.
Game 1 my opponent attacked me twice with Blinkmoth Nexus, but he never drew a 3rd land and scooped, saying he wanted to make it harder for me to sideboard against him. Game 2, I understood when he cast Mind Funeral. We had a long drawn out game due to his double Horobi's Whisper and Meloku the Clouded Mirror. He was being very cautious with how many Illusions he was making, and at one point in the game I thought I had him, because he only had Meloku in play.
At the end of his turn I asked, “How many untapped lands?” and he responded “two.” On my turn I attacked with what I thought was lethal and as he summoned two Illusions he slid a third token from his group of lands into position to block my would-be lethal Durkwood Baloth. Before I could say anything he started to remind me when he made the token. I did remember, but had forgotten and obviously could not see it sitting among his lands. Tell your friends: Clouded Mirrors are extra effective when used against the blind.
The next turn, he cast his third Mind Funeral and I was finished. Sideboarding for game 3 I knew I wanted to add some playables and some lands, but I didn't have any lands in my deck box and I didn't want to call a judge and ask for lands, because that would make my opponent aware of what I was doing. Instead, I surreptitiously grabbed 2 lands sitting by our table number placard, sleeved them, and threw them into my deck along with 3 other cards.
Turn 1, I suspended Greater Gargadon. Turn 2, I drew for the turn, missing my suspend trigger. I instantly realized my mistake and cursed at myself, which lead to 3 nearby judges coming over to watch my game. I put my hands up to them apologetically and continued. We played another drawn out game. When his first Mind Funeral got me for 17 cards I became concerned. Nantuko Shaman with Moldervine Cloak was putting pressure on him and the Gargadon was down to 2 counters, but my library was getting dangerously low on cards. When my Gargadon came off suspend he used Echoing Truth to return it to my hand. I suspended it again and added a War-Spike Changeling to the field with my Shaman. I attacked him down to 4 and passed the turn. I had 3 cards left in my library. He drew and passed the turn with 3 cards in his hand. I drew Moldervine Cloak and cast it on my Changeling then sacrifice all of my lands to cast the Gargadon. I attacked and he scooped. He asked to see the remaining 2 cards in my library and they were both lands.
3-0 and I felt really good. I didn't feel like my deck was capable of 3-0'ing. On to draft 2, with dreams of a Top 16 finish.
In the second draft I first-picked Cryptic Command, second-picked Rathi Trapper, and got a 4th pick Path to Exile. Next, I saw War-Spike Changeling, and I had seen quality red cards during the first 4 picks. I decided that red looked open and I took the Changeling. I got Flickerwisp 8th pick to go with my Path, and Glacial Ray wheeled from the first pack. Here are my pack 2 picks in order: Avian Changeling, Rift Bolt, Glacial Ray, Amrou Scout, Thundering Giant, and then Lightning Helix. Sixth pick Lightning Helix—I'm feeling pumped. Pack 3 I opened Pardic Dragon and got passed Thundercloud Shaman as well as a 5th pick Bound in Silence and 2 more Glacial Rays.
Here is the list from my second draft:
After losing game one, my opponent mulliganed to 6, and when he saw his 6 he said he hoped I didn't have Stalactite into Kithkin. Turn 1, I played Runed Stalactite and on turn 2 Kithkin Greatheart. Turn 3, I equipped and attacked for 4 and suspended Rift Bolt. During my next turn, when the Rift Bolt was cast, there was some confusion about which guy I had targeted. I said very clearly that I wanted to target Mad Auntie, but he said I pointed the card at his War-Spike Changeling. I explained that I may have pointed at the wrong card, but very clearly said which card I wanted to target—the one that would actually die and not just be regenerated.
This kind of thing happens to me a lot and as a result I tend to just hold cards over my play space and say a target rather than pointing at them. However, sometimes I do point. My opponent decided to bin his Mad Auntie without needing to call a judge. I played Amrou Seekers and attacked with my 4/3 first strike Kithkin. The following turn brought Thundering Giant to close out the game.
Before the matches a friend asked me if anyone famous was in my pod. I said I didn't see anyone and we both laughed. Then my opponent showed up and sat down. He offered his hand and introduced himself, “Hi, I'm Alex.” I looked up and offered him my hand and introduced myself, but could not see who he was. I checked the match slip to make sure it was correct. When I read the names it hit me—Pro Tour Champion Alexander Hayne.
He was very nice and once I explained my vision to him in the middle of game 1, he made sure to communicate clearly. Game 1 became a clogged board and I couldn't really swing through profitably. He had Bound in Silences on my Thundering Giant and my Pardic Dragon, and I had my own Bound in Silence on his 5/5 Skyreach Manta. He had 2 Tidehollow Scullers in play exiling Path to Exile and Flickerwisp.
The game was stalled for a few turns and I started to worry that he would eventually draw an Arcbound Ravager. I drew Thundering Giant, but he was at 12 and had plenty of blockers, including Myr Enforcer that could trade with or kill the majority of my guys. However, I recognized that if I played the Giant and attacked him this turn I could get 4 damage through assuming he didn't block with his Tidehollow Scullers. Next turn, assuming he plays a creature, I can attack him again forcing him to block with at least 1 Tidehollow Sculler.
I became very concerned about my vision and the board state. There were quite a few permanents in play, but if I confirm specific things about the board state I risk giving away information. I took a minute and confirmed with Alex every permanent he controlled. It appeared my memory of the game state was accurate so I attacked and combat went as expected. We both lost some guys, and he went to 8.
On his next turn he did not play a creature and passed. I attack and he was forced to block with his Scullers. I got my Flickerwisp back, cast it and targeted my Dragon to remove the Bound in Silence. He had seen enough and scooped. Game 2, we were both stuck on 3 mana for several turns. However, he had Aether Vial on 2 and emptied his hand.
Eventually, I drew my 4th and 5th land, but I was behind because of his Vial. The board was complicated again and he had Myr Retriever equipped with Bonesplitter and I was at 6 life. He attacked with the Retriever and I had to decide if I wanted to block it and give him back a Pyrite Spellbomb or Aether Spellbomb or use Path to Exile and give him a 4th land. I decided to use my Path. I ripped Bound in Silence the following turn removing one of his necessary blockers and that was it. He told me to win for him next round and I said I would try! After the game I looked up and realized there were about 40 people watching the game, and I received a few congratulations.
As the crowd cleared away a few people stayed behind and politely asked about my vision. Questions don't bother me and I'm always happy to explain. One man asked why I didn't wear glasses, which is usually one of the first questions I get. Physically, my eyes are perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, the problem is in my optic nerve and is inoperable. One of the guys asking questions looked up my standing and told me there were 7 people at my record with better tie breakers than me.
The games were not outstanding. However, my opponent was from South America and most of our communication was done through pointing instead of talking. Games where players can't talk much and one of us can't see where the other is pointing can become frustrating. Because of the communication barrier, I had to play more deliberately and pick up his cards to read what they were more often than usual. I had removal at the right times and I was able to close out game 1. Game 2 he was short on lands, so it was not much of a game.
No game losses in the 2nd draft, and I finished 13-2.
I ended up in 11th place behind 3 other 13-2s. It is my highest finish at a GP and I earned a PT Dublin invite. Securing a Pro Tour invite has sparked a fire in me to play in every event I can from now until then. I want to work on my game. I know I can improve before the Pro Tour and I will take every opportunity I can to learn more and prepare for something I have thought about since I was 16—playing at the Magic Pro Tour. I want to share my experiences from now until the Pro Tour with the Magic community. The next Grand Prix I plan on attending is Calgary. Maybe I'll see you there. If you see me, please stop and say hello, because I won't see you.
Thanks for reading!
Made blind for balance,
P.S. I know that bats are not actually blind. The bat is a skilled hunter and noble creature of the night.