That's right, after 4 years and 71 days, I am once again qualified for the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour.
Well, to be fair, 3 years and 304 days, because I was officially qualified for Pro Tour Houston in November 2002 but didn't realize it and thus didn't attend.
And I guess if we're getting technically specific, it's only 2 years and 262 days because I did play in Pro Tour Boston in September 2003, but that's a team event and everyone knows that team events don't really count.
Either way, it's been a really long time.
Prior to that, except for a brief incident in 1998, I was continuously qualified from approximately July, 1996 through to September 2002. Again, this has to be qualified (pun unintended) by saying I wasn't invited to the World Championships in most of those years, but it was really difficult to get the nod back in the day so I ignore it. And the first Team PT didn't include me because I was horribly betrayed by Gary Krakower (and he paid the price by losing a round when his alternate teammate was in the bathroom and thus late). But as mentioned, team events don't really count.
So six years on, and now four years off. And they've been a really painful four years.
Granted, I've met a lot more women since I stopped attending Magic events. Not that Magic events aren't conducive to meeting women (though they aren't), the causal relationship actually goes the other way - once I figured out how to get in nice with the ladies, my Magic game really started to suffer.
And I didn't really enjoy a couple of the sets. I thought I would. I tried really hard with a few of them. But in the end, most were a disappointment. They just weren't for me.
That's why I was so excited with Ravnica, the current block. I had been warned that it would be more my style and that is definitely true. I've been really having fun with the set and early in the season I was owning the draft tables and winning lots of packs.
And I almost quit the game last weekend.
See...in the past few weeks I've played in two separate tournaments and gone 0-1 drop in each one. In the entire twelve years of my Magic career prior to that, I have never gone 0-1 drop. I've gone 5-0-1 drop (unfortunately the article is no longer on the web, which is why I don't write or read Brainburst anymore). I've gone 2-0 drop. I've even gone 0-4 at the Pro Tour after practicing my butt off for six months, and I still had to be kicked out of the tournament at 3-4.
I don't like to drop.
Needless to say, 0-1 drop in my last two tournaments was indicative of how things were going. Grand Prix Toronto in June was much anticipated, and I managed nothing (though my temporary boarder managed to make the top 4). Grand Prix Richmond earlier this year had me so excited I actually flew down to play in it - the first time I'd flown to a Magic tournament since 2002. Result: I, uh, sucked ass.
Even if I opened good decks I still managed to mess it up. And I couldn't win online either!
So last weekend, when Richard Hoaen, currently one of the top Limited players in the world (if I may quote an over-used quote), asked if I wanted to play with him in a local team event, what did I say?
"Sorry Rich, I'm thinking of giving up the game"
(I may be translating the sub-text a bit, the actual conversation involved a lot of foul epithets and is unsuitable for the occasional virgin ear that may stray this way)
I just wasn't winning like I used to. I was beginning to realize just how long it had been since I'd truthfully been able to call myself "good" at the game. I wasn't routinely making top 8s like I used to. I wasn't beating reasonably skilled opponents with consistency. Good opponents were totally destroying me. I couldn't even qualify for Canadian Nationals for the second time running and everyone qualified for Canadian Nationals.
I was mediocre and living off of past glories. And I was the last one to realize it.
So I was done. At least temporarily. No one ever seems to leave the game for good, and I've certainly considered giving it all up before (in a remarkably prescient article several years ago, I actually predicted the path of my own failure, unfortunately it is no longer on the web - I'm not sure we should trust our histories to this Internet thingie if it's always so unreliable), but I certainly wasn't happy. I have my new house, my always wonderful Armoire keeping me company in it, perhaps it was time to try a different hobby like chores or baby-making.
Okay, I'm never giving up baby-making for Magic, but the point is that I was down in the dumps and contemplating re-assessing priorities so I don't miss so many camping trips into the wilderness so I can attend a PTQ with a bunch of young and often obnoxious men.
And that's why I did well.
I didn't even think about the tournament in the days leading up to it. There was no panic. There was no trying to "visualize the win". There was no worries about "if you don't at least go 5-0 then you won't qualify for Nats again". I quite literally nearly forgot there was a PTQ at all (except that I was partially missing a cottage trip for it). And when I arrived, I didn't really concern myself about winning or opening good cards, because it just didn't matter anymore. I didn't get excited until I was in the finals (and even then, I was pretty easygoing with the thought of losing).
And then I won.
AND IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL FEELING IN THE WORLD!!!
And THAT is why I play Magic. That feeling right there. It's worth the years of disappointment and painful defeats. And now they've got me hooked again.
(Note: As part of winning, I get a free flight to Kobe, Japan for October 22nd and 23rd, which is really cool. Especially since, quite frankly, I don't really find Japan all that interesting and would be disinclined to pay to go there again. But that's a topic for another post.)