To get in the spirit of the history-making largest ever Magic tournament, we’ve asked a few of our favorite Magic personalities for their origin story—how they started playing Magic, their first tournament, and their first GP. Check back all month long for their stories, and get in on the conversation yourself with #MyMagicHistory!

Jon Saso

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory began with half a booster box of Antiquities, in 1994. My dad owned Superstars of Sports, a sports card store he opened in 1993. Our distributor convinced us to try out this trading card product that you could actually play a game with: Magic: the Gathering.

We were skeptical—there was nothing like this on the market. But we gave it a shot, and after a week we had sold every pack.

As a 15-year-old kid, my “business” consisted of opening sports card boxes and selling individual cards on consignment at my dad’s store. So when Revised was released, I decided to open 18 packs and see if anyone was interested in buying single Magic cards. The first rare I opened was Volcanic Island. I thought I had been completely ripped off—the customers in the store had to explain to me why that card could possibly be good enough to be rare.  Over the next few months, my 18-pack breakdown turned into a box, then into 2 boxes, and eventually into a full case.  This product was a huge hit.

After watching how much fun our customers were having playing the game, I asked one of them to teach me how to play.  I was hooked right away.  I suddenly wanted to read and figure out ways to build decks around all of these cards I had opened to sell.

I went on a Magic teaching spree with all of my friends and family.  I’ll never forget the one game I played against my dad. He played Ivory Tower and Library of Leng, and my army of Scryb Sprites and Grizzly Bears couldn’t keep up. I was convinced he had broken the game.

Once I figured out how to beat my dad’s combo and had logged hundreds of games with friends and customers, I was ready for a bigger challenge.  A local comic store in our area, John’s Comic Connection, was hosting a tournament where 1st place prize was a set of Legends, 2nd place a Black Lotus, and 3rd-10th were the rest of the Power 9.  I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I walked into the store.  There were over 200 people there psyched to play in the biggest tournament that had ever taken place in our area. I’m sure I was a little nervous and a little excited, but the feeling of being part of this community of people that all love the same game I love is what I remember most.  I had found my people.

After a couple more years of practice, I qualified for the Pro Tour.  It was the second Pro Tour ever and the first one that took place on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  As I pulled into the parking lot for the gigantic, docked ship, I saw a huge banner that said “Welcome to the Magic Pro Tour.”  Seeing that sign gave me chills.  This felt big.

Since I was 17 years old, I played in the Junior Pro Tour. The format was 4th/4th/Homelands booster draft, and I was pretty happy with my black/green deck splashing red for Fireball.  I piloted my deck to a 9th-place finish, ultimately being knocked out of the Top 8 from some kid from New York named Jon Finkel.

I continued to play on the Pro Tour for a couple more years, but eventually fell off the train as my business started to expand. I decided to focus on the business side of Magic, since I didn’t think I could manage both at the same time. I would still play in larger local tournaments for fun, but I was not nearly as serious or competitive as I once was.  The first Grand Prix I played in was Grand Prix San Francisco (held at the San Jose Convention Center) in December, 1997.  It was the 9th Grand Prix ever and the first one featuring the brand new “Extended” format.  My new, less competitive outlook let me enjoy the time with my friends and fellow players at the event more than I had before.

Unfortunately, I played Land Tax/Scroll Rack.  The deck was amazing, but it took the entire round time to win one game, so I didn’t get to spend as much time catching up with my Magic friends as I had hoped.  I lost my win-and-in to the incredibly fast and powerful Ball Lightning, Fireblast, Fireblast Sligh deck that my good friend Steve Aldrich piloted to a Top 8 finish.  While I ended up doing a lot more playing than socializing, I loved the new Grand Prix circuit and how it gave all of the Magic players in the area a reason to get together.

As the years have passed, the enjoyment I receive from Magic is not as much from playing, but from being able to give this community a safe, welcoming environment to get together and have fun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the game.  I still get the butterflies in my stomach when the first preview cards for the next set are revealed, and love the challenge of figuring out the new draft format when it’s released online.

But I see Magic as more than a game now.  The community has added so much to my life.  Several of my closest friends were once customers, employees, or opponents. Magic has given me the opportunity to do something I love for a living my entire life.  Even better, it has allowed me to work with a group of people that share the same love and passion for this game that I do.  And with the launch of ChannelFireball, we have been able to reach a wider audience than I ever thought possible.

What gets you most excited for Grand Prix Las Vegas?

The greatest honor that I have received during my 21-year Magic History is the opportunity to organize Grand Prix events on behalf of Wizards of the Coast.  There is no bigger gathering of the Magic community than when the Grand Prix comes to town.  The stories, memories, and stars born at a GP stay with us forever.

So what am I excited about for Grand Prix Las Vegas? I am excited to create an environment for the past, present, and future generations of the Magic community to come together and celebrate this great game that we all love.  I am excited for the players that make Grand Prix Las Vegas their first Grand Prix.  I am excited for the three couples that decided to get married during Grand Prix Las Vegas.  I am excited to hear all of the stories, memories, and feelings that people generate from attending the event.

I hope every player at GP Vegas feels the same awe I felt at my very first GP, and that it inspires the same commitment to the game and community that it did for me.

I hope to see you at Grand Prix Las Vegas.

-Jon Saso

Gaudenis Vidugiris

What’s your Magic origin?

I learned about Magic in 4th grade, when my classmates started to bring decks to school in a futile attempt to defeat Tim’s unbeatable Royal Assassin/Nightmare deck.  For my next birthday I told everyone I only wanted Magic cards as gifts.  It was the best birthday ever.

My first tournament was the Legions prerelease.  I got together a car full of friends and we drove down to Chicago and spent the entire weekend battling in one of the 600-person prereleases that were common back then.  It was really impressive to see so many Magic players all in one place.  Having two weeks to show off the new cards we acquired was icing on the cake.
My first GP was in Austin. I lived in Madison, WI and won a Grand Prix Trial, so I was determined to find a way to go, but I couldn’t really afford it.  The physics lab I worked at needed to deliver a really fancy refrigerator (it used magnets to approach temperatures very close to absolute zero) to Colorado, so I convinced the professor I worked for to let Jeremy Shapiro and I drive the fridge to Colorado and in exchange they would cover our trip expenses to Colorado, Austin and back.  This made for a really long road trip that allowed us to see lots of corn and make good on the large stack of 2-for-1 Denny’s coupons we cut out of the AAA book for each state we visited (Denny’s can be really budget friendly if you have coupons and know what to order).
The GP itself was great, and though I scrubbed out very quickly despite my 3 byes, I had a great time and was hooked for life.

Matt Costa

What’s your Magic origin?

I started playing Magic on the playground in elementary school at the age of 10. The first card I remember is Diligent Farmhand from Odyssey—and trying to understand exactly what it all meant.

My first sanctioned tournament was an 8th Edition prerelease at a store 30 minutes from my house. My Sealed deck was mostly white, horribly misbuilt and I remember losing to Flame Wave

Six years later (after a couple of years on the JSS circuit and playing a handful of PTQs) I found myself playing in Grand Prix Boston (Magic 2010 Limited), which at the time was largest Grand Prix ever in the United States—1,500 players. It’s crazy to think that we consider that a small Grand Prix now. I finished 26th, just tiebreaker points away from qualifying for the Pro Tour. The sheer size of that tournament made me feel like the whole world played Magic—I was hooked.

What gets you most excited about #GPVegas?

I haven’t had a chance to play in any of the recent biggest Grand Prix ever—Vegas, Charlotte, Richmond—and I’m looking forward to an irrefutable reminder of just how many people love this game as much as I do.

Jamie Parke

What’s your Magic origin?

I was in 6th grade and my older brother Dan wanted to play this new game called Magic: The Gathering. He bought two Revised Starter Decks and asked if I wanted to play. At first I responded with, “Eh, no thanks.” However, after a few days of pestering I finally caved and agreed to learn and play a few games. I was instantly hooked. The game was definitely a ton of fun, but it also didn’t hurt that my Serra Angel was completely broken and I think I got “lucky” and got a Craw Wurm as well.

After playing a ton with my older brother and his friends, I began to spend more and more money and time trading and acquiring cards. I got a Chaos Orb, Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, 3 Icy Manipulators, and a Black Lotus. I was finally ready to play in my first actual tournament at the local game store called Tales Twice Told in Syracuse, NY with my red/green beater deck. My deck featured “INSANE” plays such as first turn Lotus, land, double Grizzly Bear (which I recall calling the play the “Grizzly Bear club” because it came up fairly often). And of course there were more traditional plays to be excited about like Channel + Fireball. I did have a first-turn kill with Lotus, Mountain, Channel, and Fireball in my very first tournament (round 4 I believe). These are the types of things that induce a VERY high level of fever (a.k.a. super high desire to play copious amount of Magic) and keep you coming back for more and more because it just FEELS SO GOOD.

My first GP was Grand Prix Toronto—Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight Block Constructed. I lost my last two rounds to miss the Top 8 playing a Mono-Blue deck. I was quite young at the time and I remember crying after the last match because I lost twice in a row to mana screw/red-green decks with 4 Karoo Meerkat.

What gets you most excited about #GPVegas?

Vegas is a really fun place so you’re completely hedged in that if you do poorly at the Grand Prix you will clearly have other things to do that will also be fun if you’re not interested in playing side events (which are also fun). On the other side of the coin, if you happen to do well or manage to win the whole thing—well then you’re going to be on top of the world. Being able to say you won one of the biggest Magic tournaments in history is something that you’ll be able to brag about for the rest of your life.

Paul Cheon

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory began in the 7th grade when I saw some kids playing Magic on the bus to school. I remember getting my aunt to buy me some Mirage packs for my birthday only to realize that there were no basic lands in the packs. I had to beg my dad to take me back to the store so that I could buy some basic lands and actually build my decks.

My first live tournament was at a Friday Night Magic in Anaheim. My friend Alex lent me his “Spiritmonger deck” featuring Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, Spiritmonger, Call of the Herd, and Flametongue Kavu. The deck was an absolute beating and after winning the FNM I was hooked.
My first GP was GP Seattle and the format was Extended. I played the Cloud of Faeries/Sapphire Medallion/Mind’s Desire deck that I had used to win a PTQ a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately, I did not have similar results at the tournament as I was not able to win a match and it was an eye-opening experience to high-level competitive Magic.
The year Luis and I made the US Nationals team in 2006, Luis tried to cancel his flight to Nationals. He was basically at the point where he didn’t really want to commit to traveling to play competitive Magic. The airline did not let him cancel last-minute and well, here we are now.

What gets you most excited about #GPVegas?

I’m just excited to be a part of Magic history. GP Vegas is going to be the largest Grand Prix of all time and it will be the first time we’re having two GPs in the same location!

Zvi Mowshowitz

What is your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory started when I saw the game being played in the halls at school, and later at summer camp. No one could buy booster packs, so I bought 10 Mountains and 10 red spells off another camper and would split that deck to play against others until I could get home and have access to a card store.
My first tournament was an hour’s train ride away at a comic store. The format was Revised-only single elimination, and I brought a black/red deck based around Sedge Troll and Nevinyral’s Disk that I had never played a game with since I’d never heard of Revised-only before. We were all young and stupid so I had 20 lands and only two Hypnotic Specters, but everyone else was terrible too and I went home with an Ancestral Recall.
My first Grand Prix was a qualification marathon. I missed the second day, and spent the rest of the weekend playing in consecutive PTQs trying to get back on the tour. They scheduled them every eight hours, so I didn’t get any sleep. During deck registration for the third one another player had to wake me up at the table. I then lost in the last round playing for Top 8 and spent several days resetting my sleep schedule when I got home!

Tom Martell

What is your Magic origin?

I originally started playing Magic in 1994 when some friends at summer camp showed up with the game, but my origin as a competitive player came 5 years later when I rediscovered Magic during my senior year in high school. I qualified for my first PT later that year, but it wasn’t until the following year that I played in my first Grand Prix. That first GP was Grand Prix Las Vegas 2001. I finished 256th out of 462 players there—hopefully I can do a little better this time!

What has you the most excited for GP Vegas?

The coolest thing about GP Vegas for me is remembering how big everything felt at 462 players the first time I played there. I had no idea what Magic had in store for me in the future and it will be a fun trip down memory lane.

Owen Turtenwald

What is your Magic origin?

My first Grand Prix was Minneapolis 2005, Kamigawa Block Constructed. I had no idea what a PTQ, Grand Prix, or Pro Tour even were, but some guys from the local shop were making the drive so I decided to tag along. I finished 23rd for $250 and I an extra $400 in amateur prize. I was 16 years old and it was the most money I had ever earned at anything.

From then on I spent all my waking hours preparing for future Grand Prix and all my money traveling to any I could, and I’ve basically been doing that exact same thing for 10 years. My first Grand Prix was local (somewhat) and Grand Prix Vegas will be local as well, I look forward to being a part of Magic history.

Marshall Sutcliffe

What is your Magic origin?

When I first started playing I loved artifacts and lands. I played Wasteland in every deck, because I thought it was sweet, even though none of my friends had any nonbasic lands. I loved to think up new deck ideas, even though I wasn’t acquainted with tournament Magic at all yet.
My first tournament wouldn’t come until over ten years later. I had drifted from the game, but when my friend Ryan Spain introduced me to Limited, I was hooked all over again. After a few drafts with him, and a few on MTGO, I ventured out to the local store for FNM. I remember feeling a bit intimidated, the players all knew the cards much better than I did and used slang I wasn’t familiar with. I eventually found my place, and now I love tournament Magic in all of its forms.

What has you the most excited for GP Vegas?

As a commentator, it’s always a double-edged sword when big important tournaments come up. I’d love to play in more of them, but my job as commentator means being in the booth and covering the tournaments instead of playing in them. But with GP Vegas, it’s not close for me: I am truly honored to be on the coverage team for the biggest Magic tournament ever. I’m looking forward to it not just as a highlight of my year, but of my career as well.

What’s your Magic origin, and how will you make history? Let us know with #MyMagicHistory on Twitter!

Read more #MyMagicHistory stories below.

Sam Pardee

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory began when I was 4 and I taught myself to read so that I could play Magic with my dad. I didn’t play competitively at all after that until I was in college, some friends of mine got out their old cards and started playing again which hooked me right in. My first GP was GP LA 2009, where I went 5-3-1, picking up what I believe is the only unintentional draw I’ve ever gotten at a GP or PT.

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

The thing I’m most excited for at #GPVegas is playing with another (hopefully) fantastic Limited-focused set in Modern Masters 2015.

Paul Rietzl

What’s your Magic origin?

I got started playing because my babysitter would crush me over and over playing for ante and I was determined to get better.
My first sanctioned tournament was GP Boston 1998. I couldn’t afford all the cards for my deck, but I was able to beat the first Pro Tour Champion, Michael Loconto.
The GP circuit was also responsible for me coming back to the game in 2009. I’d been off the Pro Tour for years at that point, but there was a random GP in Los Angeles where I lived. I made Top 16 and haven’t missed a PT since.

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

I am most excited about the Meet & Greet at GP Vegas on Friday night. I can’t wait to have fun with a bunch of people enthusiastic about competitive Magic.

Neal Oliver

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory started with classic kitchen table Magic with friends whom I learned from when I was 8 years old. We’d even shuffle most of our owned cards together in giant 200-plus-card “decks” which made for really varied game play, and we just didn’t know better strategically.

I remember going to my first prerelease which used to be like a small GP with 300-400 participants. The energy at those events was palpable, with each player excited at all the new cards and the exciting possibilities soon to be explored. Years went by, and while I still enjoyed playing casually, I eventually stepped up my game by attending FNMs somewhat regularly and playing lots of Magic Online.

My real Magic advancement started in college when I went to UC Berkeley and met an avid group of gamers, including Lucas Siow, a very strong player who greatly advanced my game.
After a year or two, our college playgroup decided to go to GP Kansas 2008, and I decided to attend too since we’d have a fun trip no matter how I ended up doing in the actual games.
I’ve since become far more competitive, but Magic as a game and as a network of friends has never changed for me.

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

I’m super excited for #GPVegas because I know it’s going to capture this one-of-a-kind energy that comes from special Magic tournaments, and being there with my friends will be a priceless experience.

Matt Sperling

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory began in a sports cards store in 1994. I was just 11 years old and I lived walking distance from what we called “The Shop” and got to know the owner and the guys that worked there. I didn’t have much of an allowance, but the guys let me do random chores like sorting cards to earn store credit. I spent my store credit on sports cards, hoping to pull a Lakers or Dodgers player I could show to my dad.

One day The Shop got a shipment of these Magic: The Gathering cards. A game that let me play with my cards? Awesome. My friend and I both picked up a Revised Edition (well, we had no idea what it was called at the time—it was just “Magic cards”) Starter Deck and tried to learn the rules.

Over the next couple weeks, we knew what must have been around 50% of the rules, which was enough to play if you could improvise the rest. We had a copy of the card Fireball, and the only thing I remember about it was not having any idea what it did, but agreeing that it got to stay in play and be used every turn. My favorite card was Unholy Strength, and I knew what that card did.

I eventually learned some more rules and then taught my older brother, my younger brother, and my dad to play. I’d like to say I taught them because I wanted to share the experience with those closest to me, but in reality I just needed opponents. I was hooked!

My first tournament was at a comic book store. I didn’t win a game and an adult at the store traded me commons for my best rares since I didn’t know any better, and I cried later when I learned that I had been ripped off. But I didn’t quit. The first time I won prizes at a tournament I felt like I could fly. The first time I lost to Kai Budde in a Pro Tour feature match (in 2002), I felt like I was just learning to play again, unsure of how the cards even worked.  That was kind of where my Pro Tour story began. The rest of that story is still being written.

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

What gets me most excited about #GPVegas is witnessing first-hand a collection of Magic players larger than I ever thought would be assembled, had you asked me 10 or 15 years ago. I hoped with all my being that other people would start to love this game as much as I do. I didn’t want tournaments to go away!

I feel safer these days about that.

Pat Cox

What’s your Magic origin?

Technically, #MyMagicHistory began when I bought a Revised Starter Deck from my cousin’s comic shop.  I played with made-up rules for a few months, but then didn’t pick up the game again until college.

My first real tournament was a Scourge FNM draft.  For some reason, my opponents were very annoyed that I kept casting turn 4 Dawn Elemental in my evenly split two-color deck.

Eventually, I got less bad at drafting and playing, and decided to venture to GP Charlotte with some friends.  It was the now-defunct Extended format, and I inexplicably played the rather complicated CAL combo deck with little-to-no practice. I scrubbed out, then won a side event booster draft where the prize was Italian Legends packs.  I had no idea of the value of these, so foolishly opened them and was rewarded with a Karakas!

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

Since then, I’ve played in dozens of GPs.  I’ve even been to a few that were the largest ever at the time.  But never to one so big that it had to split into two tournaments.  Though, to me, the most exciting thing is that I can open a card more valuable than Karakas without scrubbing out of the tournament.

Eric Froehlich

What’s your Magic origin?

#MyMagicHistory began with a starter kit of Revised in 1994, which was essentially a kit with two 60-card starter decks. The rulebook was far too complicated for me, and even more so for my younger 7-year-old brother, so my dad read it and explained the game to us. My first tournaments were small, local tournaments on the weekends long before there was a competitive scene. My first taste of real competition came in what I believe was the second Grand Prix in the history of Magic, which just so happened to be about 20 minutes from my home. Grand Prix D.C. was in 1997, I was 13 years old, and I managed to navigate my 0 byes into a Day 2 appearance in Mirage/Visions Sealed Deck. I got my first taste of Rochester draft there, advancing to the Top 8, where I would be eliminated in the first round. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What gets you excited about how #GPVegas will make Magic history?

I don’t know where to begin with what I’m most excited about for #GPVegas. Modern Masters is one of the best sets ever released and I expect a similar experience with Modern Masters 2015. ChannelFireball GPs have always been my favorite, with awesome promotions and side events like the Bounty Events, which I have always participated in and had a fantastic time. Even if the main event isn’t successful for me, there are a number of things I’m excited about trying on Sunday, and thrilled for many of my friends to come out to one of their first GPs. This is going to be the biggest GP in history and I can’t wait to be a part of it! #GPVegas can’t come soon enough for me.

What’s your Magic origin, and how will you make history? Let us know with #MyMagicHistory on Twitter!

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