I’m getting older. No gray mane yet, but I’m already in the mood to reminisce over the good old days when I started playing Magic. And then I get to thinking about what’s happened in between, what’s changed over the course of the years with the addition of new roles in my life.
I first began playing Magic in 1998 when I was 14 years old. Still in school, no responsibilities, plenty of time: life was pretty good and set up perfectly to play tons of Magic. Back then we traded away our Rishadan Ports for Scaled Wurms. Back then deck size mattered and we carried around those unsleeved, 200-card monstrosities (my deck: size of a pumpkin; your deck: looks like Macaulay Culkin). Back then “sideboard” was a foreign word and Circle of Protections were part of the main decks. Back then damage went on the stack and creatures came into play, not entered the battlefield. Back then Magic really had this naïve, enchanting attraction for me which is hard to truly capture in words.
Very soon I started grinding FNMs, Nationals, and finally Grands Prix and Pro Tours. During that time, Magic lost most of the initial magic it held for me, but at the same time it also became something much bigger than just a hobby.
My everyday life changed quite a bit when I finished my studies and became an elementary school teacher. I started teaching with a rather small workload so I could still play all the Pro Tours and the nearby GPs. It was then that I probably had my peak in success and actually earned more playing Magic than teaching. I used to sing, “My Bohny lies over the ocean,” with my students when I was about to fly to a distant tournament. Soon parents as well as kids started to get very interested at this mystical card game I played but didn’t talk about much.
Some of my kids had Pokémon cards, and even though they had no clue how to play the game, they were fascinated by the big numbers and the mighty monsters. But I also had some kids collecting Magic cards. One of them brought a Ravnica Disembowel to school one day and asked me if that was the game I was playing. I denied it completely, which somehow felt like Peter denying Jesus. I always tried to separate Magic from my job teaching. I justified it by thinking my pupils were too young to get into and understand Magic anyway, not to mention certain cards with artwork that would be too unsettling for 7-10 year-olds. I also didn’t want to get labeled a nerd by the parents, so I kept my great hobby a mystery in school, at least for those unfamiliar with Google. When asked, I always talked about “a strategy card game which works like Chess, but with cards”. (An explanation I still prefer over, “You are a mighty planeswalker who casts spells and slaughters opposing wizards,” by the way.)
After a few years in elementary school, I started working in a hospital for kids where I mainly taught kids with psychosomatic problems. Since the kids there were older (14-18 years old), and I worked during school holidays, I started doing some weeklong projects during those holidays where the kids could learn to play Magic if they wanted to. Again, I had to exclude certain cards as I wasn’t too keen on them playing with cards like Sleep Paralysis, Psychotic Episode, and Suicidal Charge in a psychiatric ward. But aside from some unwanted topics brought up by some of the cards and artwork, Magic was great fun to play with teenagers, and I would continue to run my Magic projects whenever I could spare some time.
Before I was about to get married, I was still spending much of my time on Magic. A mainstay on the Pro Tour, I wrote a weekly column for PlanetMTG, a German site which was run by our beloved analyst Tobias Henke. All the travelling I had to do worked out pretty nicely since a travel companion of mine worked at a Swiss airline so I could travel standby for around 10% of the original price (but if the flight was full I had to stay at the airport and wait for the next one). As a teacher I had 12 weeks of vacation a year, and though I mostly spent those weeks traveling to tournaments, I still had plenty of time left to spend with my fiancée. Sounds like the perfect lifestyle, right?
For the wedding, our theme of “Bohny & Bride” was inspired by Tobi Henke. I had written an article about the Extended cycling deck, an article he titled “Bohny & Slide”, referring to both Astral Slide and the infamous duo Bonnie & Clyde. The week I got married, I wrote my farewell article for PlanetMTG. It was back when Avacyn Restored had just been released, so I joked about being soulbonded and hoping that I wouldn’t get flickered and unbonded by some cute Restoration Angel. I was very enthusiastic about the upcoming big life change and wrote that maybe marriage would be my way out of Magic and into something new. One of my readers commented that one day, it would be the other way around with Magic being my way out of my daily routine. So much wisdom, so much truth.
I found a nice little apartment with my wife, and my Magic activities faded into the background. But even with this new setup, I never truly abandoned Magic. What I did abandon was tournament Magic and my Pro Tour status. That is until some months later when I won a PTQ and top 25ed the Pro Tour, making made me team captain of Switzerland for the upcoming year. There I was, pretty much qualified for everything I wanted to play all over again. It was Enlisted Wurm into Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf. I felt like I was playing Jumanji (the original one with Robin Williams), trying to break up with a game that wouldn’t let me.
My wife always accepted her fate of having a huge nerd at her side, even though she never really liked the enormous amount of time Magic occupied during some phases of my life. But she wasn’t nearly as tolerant of Magic Online. Back then, before leagues, the draft queues were the source of many an argument.
Her: Time for dinner!
Me: Just one more minute, need to finish my round.
Me, having lost the round to the MTGO shuffler: GRRRRRRRRR!!!
As you can imagine, I was not always the perfect spouse, but I’m working on it, and I think I’ve found some good ways to restore lost loyalty counters.
Sadly, I have no pictures of my kids tearing some Power 9 into tiny little pieces for you. I sold most of my paper collection in order to prevent that scenario (as well as most what was left on my Magic Online account) since I initially thought there would be no time left for Magic once I had kids. Turned out I was wrong once more. Babies tend to sleep a lot, and a draft queue fits perfectly with an afternoon nap. The only problem was that because of the lack of sleep that often accompanies newborns, I was unable to really concentrate and played most of my leagues on autopilot. My autopilot wasn’t that bad after all those years of Magic, but I ended up grumpy and frustrated rather than relaxed and happy. To be fair, I was grumpy most of the time when I was unable to sleep at night, so I can’t really blame Magic for it. Still, it turned out my win percentage correlated much with how much I enjoyed Magic.
My kids came across my small Magic collection (mostly draft decks) when they started rummaging through my shelves. Mostly they were satisfied with building some mana bases (i.e. distributing my basic lands all over the floor and under the rug), but of course they also had to taste the delicious-looking Aeromunculus. They only tried once, so I guess they quickly learned how tasty it wasn’t.
Will my kids be playing Magic one day? I definitely hope so! My son loves dinosaurs and pirates, so motivating him to learn the game will be quite easy as soon as Return to Ixalan hits the stores (he’s 2-and-a-half years old now, so Wizards can take their time to print that set). In order to inspire my 4-year-old daughter, Wizards should focus more on releasing Return to Lorwyn, maybe adding a Unicorn tribal component as well as princesses. Then again, even just Elves and Faeries might do the trick, and changelings are technically Unicorn princesses.
So what’s left of the mighty archmage I once was? Wearing all those different hats definitely changed how I approach and experience the game. I still play paper Magic with a kitchen table draft group once a week. It’s always lots of fun playing with good guys I would also enjoy hanging out with outside of Magic. And there’s the one or two MagicFests a year I attend, even though it feels a lot less competitive without the awarded byes I once had. Believe me, having a weekend off to play a tournament is indeed a ticket out of my everyday grind.
Most of my Magic activities are on Magic Online. Magic Online helps me relax after a long day of work or activities with the kids, and I like the calm surrounding it (I switched off the annoying MTGO sounds). I haven’t really connected with Magic Arena, but I might once Magic Online dies entirely. I love playing Vintage—usually the Format Challenge on Saturdays—and I recently started streaming (twitch.tv/busterbohny), something I’ve been enjoying even without a ton of viewers. Feel free to say hi if you see me drafting or playing Vintage. My twitch name, “BusterBohny,” was one of the names I jokingly suggested we name my second kid. The name Buster Bohny would have ensured him the speed of light and most likely ADHD as well. My other suggestion was Barack O’Bohny, which sadly prompted my wife’s veto yet again.
I hope I will be back playing high level Magic one day. Maybe I’ll get back there once my kids grow a bit older and I gain back my freedom to do some more travelling. Or maybe I’ll team up with my kids once my little monks grow into Monastery Mentors themselves. We’ll just have to wait and see.