Today’s article, the last one I write for ChannelFireball, begins with the first Magic: the Gathering article I wrote 17 years ago for SCG. It was a primer about playing my favorite deck of all time, Control Slaver way back in 2005:
My experience writing about Magic: the Gathering began with the sentence “A brief introduction to playing Control Slaver…” followed up by a 5000-word behemoth primer featuring everything I could think to share about playing my version of my favorite tournament deck.
I love to write…. and write…. and write… and before I get a word deeper into my last article (which will certainly blow with reckless abandon past the industry standard 1000-word format), I must acknowledge and thank all of the editors who have allowed me to develop my own content, writing style and voice in Magic over the years.
To the editors I’ve worked with here at CFB, specifically Andy Cooperfaus and James Keating, I am so appreciative of the work you’ve put into the arduous task of formatting my sprawling Danger Room deck lists and allowing me to develop my own outside the box content here at CFB. I’m proud to have been a member of the ChannelFireball content team for the past eight years and have nothing but appreciation for the opportunity.
An article trying to list all of the people I’m thankful to have met over the years and who have helped me grow into the man I am today would dwarf my 5000-word CS primer (and honestly the editors at CFB have suffered enough). I am so appreciative to everyone I’ve met on my journey and for the support of family, friends, players, fans and readers without whose support I would never have had this incredible experience. Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart: thank you all.
When I reread my first article this morning it reminded me of so many things. It reminded me of the excitement of being a 22-year old English undergraduate and having my first real opportunity to write something other than homework. It wasn’t just a chance to write, but an opportunity to write about something I enjoyed and was passionate about and to share that piece of myself with not only my friends but with players from all around the country.
It’s also crazy an article from 17 years ago could take me back to the week I wrote it and evoke feelings long forgotten from the season of my youth. The irony is that time transforms How To Play Control Slaver NOW into How I Played Control Slaver BACK THEN.
I was never the strongest tournament player on any of the teams I worked with and despite qualifying for many Pro Tours, I always fell short of my ultimate goal of playing on Sunday at the PT. I did get to play with and against many of the most talented players to ever shuffle up and looking back at it all, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had with my friends for the glory of spiking one on my own. If I had it all to do over again, I would. The thing I would change is I would appreciate every second of it more and beat myself up about falling short of reaching against all odds goals.
Especially at the end of my competitive career, as I stressed and stressed to make the most of each opportunity only to watch one after another slip through my fingers, I wish I had savored each of those moments a little bit more instead of viewing them all as pass or fail auditions for the next tournament. I always felt a lot of pressure to win because I loved writing about Magic so much and I did feel like the perception of my value as a content creator was so deeply informed by my tournament results.
I may not have been a particularly effective MTG “pro player” in terms of racking up stats, but I did try to learn to be a more professional content creator and be honest about my experiences, how they made me feel and ultimately to reflect and share my successes and failures with other players I knew were struggling with how challenging it is to play Magic on the competitive circuit. At a time when opportunities to write were so closely derivative of pro status, it was likely to my detriment to draw attention to and share my failures, frustrations and shortcomings in Magic with the entire multiverse, but I felt like it helped people who were struggling with similar anxieties and insecurities.
It was also a lot of fun to be the guy on a laptop writing an article on the Sunday night drive home about whatever event just wrapped up so that the fans at home could read about it first thing Monday morning. It was a lot of work but I loved doing it and being able to share that stuff with the folks at home.
I also tried to use my voice and platform to carve out space in Magic content for casual and fan-created formats. It may seem trivial in the wake of Commander’s surging popularity, but it has not always been the case that casual and fan-created formats have had great representation relative to competition.
After I fell a little short of reaching gold pro status the last season I grinded the competitive circuit, I had a realization that my rodeo days had drawn to an end. It just wasn’t going to be feasible for me to commit myself to the goal of Top 8ing a PT. I considered walking away from the game and moving on completely.
I decided to try something else entirely. Instead of trying to align my content with what was popular or what WOTC was promoting, I decided I’d completely ignore trends and focus on playing what I actually wanted to play, regardless of if it had much of an audience or not. As my play changed, so did my content.
I’m going out on my own terms writing about what I enjoy playing. Nothing lasts forever and everything always changes but I finally had the courage to follow my heart (and own advice) and play the game I’ve loved playing so much on my own terms and truly let go of results oriented thinking.
The advice I would give to 22-year old Brian would be to enjoy the ride a little bit more and not look past the finish line. It goes fast and what remains are a lifetime of fond memories and the friends we’ve made along the way to recall them with.
To all of my friends, my family, my coworkers, my fellow content creators and player peers, and especially the readers who have come along with me on this journey – it has meant so much to me to go on this journey with you all the past 17 years.
1209 words to say: thank you all.