I recently penned a tweet explaining my retirement from streaming, which also explains why this will be my final regular article for CFB.
Re: the stream pic.twitter.com/9upeU5eU7U
— Neal Oliver (@trumpetman88) October 4, 2017
Writing for this website, attending Pro Tours, traveling around the world, and being a regular in the Magic scene went beyond cool aspects of some card game. They were a dream I once had as a kid.
I distinctly remember logging onto the mothership and seeing the lights of the Pro Tour. All these incredible deck lists that seemed to be built out of thin air. We had new cards, but we couldn’t use them to their full potential until the pros worked with them. I attended the last year of the Junior Scholarship Series (JSS)—a WotC sponsored college scholarship tournament—with a Dragonstorm deck that looked similar to this:
The deck was simple: Cast Dragonstorm as soon as possible and find 4 Bogardan Hellkites to win instantly. My little piece of technology was Word of Seizing. I was having some trouble with Dralnu control decks that ran Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, which pretty much shut down games through infinite countermagic. My plan was to draw Word of Seizing, wait until an opposing Teferi came down, then steal it and combo off on the next turn. I know what you’re thinking—that seems too cute. And I totally agree, but it was also a little dream I had that ended up winning a game for me in the event. That dream was just a blip of larger ones to come, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I placed highly but outside of any real prizes, and left with a sense of pride that maybe, just maybe, I was okay at this game.
Along came college, with a ton of classes and work, and a lot of Magic. A core group of about 10-12 Magic players got together all the time for Drafts, and I do mean all the time. We started drafting as late as 2 a.m. from time to time, and my life was essentially school, Magic, and sleep. That’s really where the Draft bug hit me and I fell in love with Limited. Eventually the group dwindled, but thankfully Magic Online was there to help scratch the Draft itch. Over the next few years I learned the ins and outs of building quality decks, the basics of the game, later building up advanced techniques that helped me compete with the best.
After getting better and better, the dream of getting to the Pro Tour became even more real. But I didn’t really have a good path to do so. There was the occasional PTQ, but traveling to GPs was mostly out of the question, because I started working full time as an SAT tutor right out of college, and often worked weekends. But 2013 was a special year. I planned a Las Vegas vacation that would end with the epic Grand Prix Las Vegas, the likes of which had never been seen before. I was even more bedazzled since that was my second Grand Prix of all time (the first was a haphazard college trip where all my buddies and I flew to Kansas, scrubbed out, and had a great time eating BBQ).
I had played an unbelievable amount of Modern Masters Draft in preparation, not because I knew I was actually practicing, but because the format was so fun. I also loved the chance to open a Tarmogoyf every pack, a quest I failed until Modern Masters 2017. After sitting down for round 1 with 0 byes, I lost, and almost dropped because there were such amazing side events, but figured I should stay in the tournament. That was a good choice. I didn’t lose again, going on a truly lucky streak that even carried into my next tournament (GP Oakland), where I got 2nd. At this point, my dream was a reality. I had never been to the Pro Tour before, and now I was locked for Silver!
Winning a bunch at once put me on a path to chase the dream of being a Magic pro. It was a crazy, wild, awesome dream that I lived from 2013 until now, in which I was able to combine Magic writing and streaming, and to embed myself into the amazing community Magic has to offer.
In my travels, I’d meet up with friends I’d made who lived thousands of miles away. I visited countries I would never have gotten the chance to see otherwise, and I even get to go back to Spain next spring for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. These opportunities are truly rare, and I am so thankful that my dream turned reality.
Now things have sped up in a totally different direction. I wanted to give back to people outside of the Magic community, and earlier this year I embarked on a career in social work. I’m still navigating that path, learning new things, and seeing new roads I didn’t even know existed before. This transition has been incredible, but it did mean having to make tough choices. One of them was discovering the slow inevitable truth that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to.
Something had to give, and that something was Magic. As anyone who has ever delved deep into the game knows, that’s easier said than done. The game becomes a part of your very fabric—the connections formed a part of your very essence. But I realized I had achieved that dream. I lived freely and fully over these past 4 years. I journeyed a path I had once only hoped I could travel down and that led me to new opportunities and adventures. I’ve met incredible people, and for all these blessings I can’t be anything but thankful.
If there’s one constant it’s change. Unfortunately, I can’t put the time in to excel at Magic, and that means it’s unfair if I tried to continue writing. As readers, you deserve the best when you visit CFB, and I’ve been fortunate enough to write for you these past 205 articles and videos since 2015 (I have a special place in my heart for the Magic New Year’s Resolutions, Sultai Madness Frog, and Thanksgiving with Ulamog articles). In place of some of my Magic time, I’m forging ahead and realizing new dreams that are worth exploring.
So I leave you now with a word of advice. Live life without regrets. Chase your dreams. Enjoy the journey itself because you’ll never know when it will end. There will be highs and lows, and at times the path you’re on can be confusing but as long as you can strive towards your hopes and dreams there won’t be true failure. What happens if you try and fail? I’ve done that too, of course. I wanted to be a platinum pro and really take Magic to the next level but I never actually got there. I’m sure I could have done things differently and given myself better chances but I did my best at the time and have no regrets. The path I took led me to where I am now, and I still have a vision for the path ahead. Never be discontent with a failed dream. Realize that trying was worth it and then take another shot at whatever it is that’s worth doing next.
Embrace change. Humans are notoriously bad at understanding where they’ll be in the future. Ten years ago I was just a kid out of high school with a dream. I never would have guessed that I’d realize that dream. Knowing what I know now, I’m excited for where I’ll be in 10 years. I can’t possibly expect to understand exactly what that will look like. What I do know is that where I end up will be as important as how I get there. Today I have a dream, tomorrow I’ll have a plan, and some time after that I’ll have a reality, for better or for worse.
As I write these final words I’m genuinely happy. I’ve given everything I’ve had into my writing and have shared my Magic experience with you as earnestly as I know how. And with that I leave you, at least for now. It’s been an absolute pleasure.