Every so often, people ask me an obvious question: what makes you love Magic? I recently touched on what makes me love the game today—high-level tournaments, this website, and the friends I’ve made along the way. It wasn’t always that simple, and my reasons for continuing to play have changed over time.

The first major Magic tournament I ever played in was GP Minneapolis 2005, and the format was Kamigawa Block Constructed. Some local players from my shop were going and asked if I wanted to drive along with them. I instantly said yes. I didn’t know about the prize structure or even what format it was. I had no idea what a Grand Prix would be like. They just lent me the cards for a deck, and I played Gifts Rock with the [card]Hana Kami[/card]/[card]Soulless Revival[/card] loop.

[draft]hana kami
soulless revival[/draft]

I started on Friday in a Grand Prix Trial, and if you’re a newer player, you may not know that instead of running 15 trials in a day that are all five rounds as they do now, they ran one trial, and it was usually 8-9 rounds. If you made the cut to Top 8, you had to play an additional round, and only then if you won that round did you get the three byes.

I played in that trial. I made Top 8, won my round, and earned the three byes. I was up until 1 a.m. playing in this stupid tournament, and all the people whom I shared a room with had to wait for me. They weren’t pleased to be awake that late before the big tournament, though they were happy for me that I did well.

In round four of the tournament, I was paired against Josh Ravitz. Some people from my shop had heard his name before—I think he’s a pro and am intimidated. We played the match, and I don’t remember every detail, but I think I made a mistake with my [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], and eventually lost because he was able to tap down my Kokusho with a [card]Waxmane Baku[/card].

[draft]waxmane baku[/draft]

After the match I tell him he played some excellent games and that I thought he would do really well with his version of white weenie running Waxmane Baku, I think I even said, “oh you’ve got the Waxmane Bakus? You’ll go far with those.”

He finished 11th, and we still joke about it to this day. I played out the rest of the tournament and finished 23rd, good for $250 in prize money and an additional $400 in amateur money. You may not recognize this term either—they used to have a standard prize structure, then an additional prize structure on top of that for all the highest ranking players in the tournament who hadn’t played in a pro tour.

My first big Magic tournament ever, and I made $650. I immediately called my dad, and he couldn’t believe it either. I look at the standings today, and Gerry Thompson made Top 8—Paul Reitzl took 16th place. Crazy that this was my first ever Grand Prix and they still play in all the same tournaments I do today, all these years later.

When they announced the Top 8, the loud speaker boomed, “and in second place… winning the top amateur prize of $1,500…” I was stunned. I thought it was incredible that someone could win so much money before even getting their normal prize for the tournament, just for being an amateur. I was definitely jealous, and knew I wanted to win that prize someday.

Two weeks ago, at GP San Diego, William Jensen and I went out to lunch before our flights home that day from the tournament. I managed to make Top 32 despite losing my last two rounds—wasting a great opportunity to Top 8 another Grand Prix. In reality, it’s a good result overall and sometimes things just don’t work out. As we wait for food, we are looking at a Sealed deck Huey had built for a side event, and just messing around with the cards. We were not taking it very seriously.

At the end of the meal, we waited for a Taxi to take us to the airport, just leaving the stack of worthless commons and uncommons on the table. The manager sees a stack of cards at the table, and quickly grabs them and runs outside to return them as if we had forgotten some valuables. We honestly probably would have just turned around and thrown them in the trash, except he felt like he was helping us out so we thanked him. He asked if we were in town for the tournament, then he mentioned that he had just gotten back into the game and had been enjoying it.

We asked him if he wanted to just have the stack of cards, and he honestly didn’t believe us. We explained that they had very little financial value and that we had no need for them—he could just take them. He rifled through the stack of cards excitedly and started to tell us about his Izzet deck and his Golgari deck and how he plays with his girlfriend sometimes. He went on to tell us how happy he was and that this completely made his day.

I know that at one point in my life if something like that had happened to me, I would have had the exact same reaction. It sucks that Magic can lose some of its excitement when you have played so long, but I still think it’s amazing that the game still makes new players happy like that.

I remember a story that’s almost too insane to be true, and I had almost forgotten it even happened. If it hadn’t happened, I may not be playing Magic today.

The time is Gen Con in Milwaukee in (I think) 2002, so I was 13 years old at the time. My dad drove me downtown to the convention center, and I just played Magic the whole time. Back then, I didn’t have to grind tournaments or win prize, I just wanted to play games and be around other people who loved Magic like I did. During the second day, I slipped my Ultra-Pro bag containing all of my cards under my seat, and basically forgot about it.

About a half hour later, I went to look under my seat and it had been stolen. 13 year-old Owen Turtenwald wasn’t exactly the most cautious person in the world, and this definitely taught me a valuable lesson about keeping track of your cards at a Magic tournament. As a young boy who had just had his collection stolen, I didn’t tell any of my friends or any adults at the time because I was embarrassed that I had let myself be taken advantage of—instead I just walked away and started crying. Little Owen, walking around aimlessly, sobbing.

Eventually a tournament official stopped me and asked what was wrong, and I explained what had happened, he consoled me and told me not to be upset about it and how there are tons of scumbags in Magic that steal cards and that I need to be more careful.

I had no concept of how much my cards were worth or what I was going to do, I was just a kid. He asked me what was in my collection, and I tell him about my RG Standard deck that had [card]Wild Mongrel[/card], [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card], [card]Fiery Temper[/card], [card]Anger[/card], and four copies of [card]Call of the Herd[/card].

[draft]call of the herd[/draft]

At the time, Call of the Herd was the best and most expensive card in the set, and having four was easily the highlight of my collection. After I explained all this to him, he took a walk with me over to the dealer hall, walks over to Troll and Toad, and asks them if they have [card]Call of the Herd[/card]. They say yes, he says, “put four on my tab.” They hand him four Call of the Herd which he just gives to me and tells me not to quit Magic because people can be scummy. I think at the time the card was worth $25-$30.

I was too naïve in my youth to understand what an awesome gesture this was, and I just felt a little better, said thanks, and moved on with my Gen Con experience. I never got the man’s name, don’t know if he was a judge or if he worked for the people running the tournaments at the convention. I don’t even know if he plays Magic today. I know one thing though, there is almost no way he knows that the little boy he just handed $100 in cards out of the kindness of his heart would grow up to make it the central part of his life.

I don’t know if this story was entertaining, but I know that writing means there is a small chance he finds out about it and I can thank him. I think it would be incredible if I could find this person. It was such a long time ago and I was so young at the time that I had just forgotten that it had even happened to me, and I moved on with life. It’s so easy for people to look at their close friends they have made though Magic and say that the game is great because of the people, but it isn’t just the people you know, it’s the entire community.

If that random Good Samaritan hadn’t been there to find me, who knows what would have happened. I may have quit the game on the spot and never met any of my closest friends, or have ever come close to winning Player of the Year or making Top 8 of a Pro Tour. I don’t know exactly what inspired me to write this article but I think each story is pretty interesting on its own, and are each solid reasons why I play Magic. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter