The Evolution of a Casual Planeswalker (part 1 of 3)

Do you remember your first kiss?

How about, getting your first job? Graduating college? Flying on an airplane for the first time?

What about the first game of magic you ever played?

If you’ve been playing magic as long as I have, then the answer to the last one is probably a little hazy. However, crystal clear or not, I’ll bet you smiled a little inside thinking back on it. For me, the things I remember the most vividly are the visuals. Little snapshots of nostalgia that illustrate the story I remember so fondly.

I was 7 years old, and the newest expansion, Fallen Empires, had just been released. My older brother, who was 17 at the time was trying to explain the basics to me in the minutes between homework time and family dinner. Having armed me with a stack of Llanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves, Kurd ApesKurd Apes and FireballsFireballs that had come from the dregs of his collection, he continued to destroy me one game after another.

In my hand was a Craw WurmCraw Wurm, and with it I was determined to win my first game. He passed the turn to me having played nothing of his own, and before un-tapping, drawing a card or even taking a breath, I windmill-slammed the Craw Wurm on the table grinning like an idiot!

It was at that moment that I saw Mana DrainMana Drain for the first time.

Have you ever seen a real live Mana Drain before? It’s picture is some sort of red electric jellyfish creature sucking energy from what I presume is the ocean floor. Though, to add some even weirder wrinkles, this jellyfish looks armored and like it’s filled with blood. It’s a much more complex and frightening image than a Craw Wurm, which is essentially just a big green dragonesque worm. Add to this, the fact that Mana Drain was printed in that early period of time when magic sets all had black borders and used significantly darker ink. Craw Wurm on the other hand, was white bordered and looked washed out in comparison, being from the recently released revised edition, which used lighter ink and white borders. Next to each other, they looked like Oscar Mayer roast beef and perfectly cooked, medium rare filet mignon.

I grabbed it from him to read it and see what this “counter” business he was talking about meant, and was totally shocked something that trumped my wurm even existed. It seemed impossible that there could be something better than 6 power worth of writhing green wurmy goodness. I was pretty convinced he was cheating, so I demanded an explanation. However, before I could be satisfied, my mother called to us for dinner. Though I ate dinner with the family that night, my mind was never really there. I was too focused on trying to figure out what the hell “countering a spell” meant. My imagination was totally captivated by the endless possibilities magic presented, and I was dead set on getting back to it.

Flash forward 16 years. I’m sitting in the waiting room of a major casting office in Beverly Hills, preparing to audition for the lead role in a new JJ Abrams TV show. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time preparing the lines, and I’ve even been made to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding the show’s content. These kind of opportunities don’t come around often, and can change your life instantly. What am I doing while I wait?

I’m using my smartphone’s magic database to decide on a blue 2 drop to play in my modern Grand Architect/Mishra, Artificer Prodigy deck, and I’m totally stoked to be doing it. In fact, I’m probably the only person in the room who isn’t squirming in their chair and/or sizing each other up, due to the fact that I’m 100% mentally invested in something else. Much like the kitchen table that night so many years ago, this is a pretty accurate snapshot for much of my life regarding magic; for better or for worse.

Whether it’s at the kitchen table trying to win games with Dovescape combo decks, or in a room with 1,500 other people from all over the world trying to win the Counterspell war, magic has always been an endlessly engaging and totally rewarding hobby that I’m proud to play casually or competitively.

I hope you enjoyed reading this story, and that it made you get a little sentimental about your own experiences. I’ll be writing part 2 of this article series next week, so check back to hear a story or two about the transition from Craw Wurms, to PTQ’s and grand prix’s.

Until then, take care and play magic.

– Ben Bateman

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