Okay, so the title maybe gives it away. But! I promise that there will be a bit of a twist ending. Fine fine, not really a twist ending at all. Anyway, I’ll get to that in a bit.
I’ll admit, I was quite nervous. Worried about how I’d be perceived. About all of the prior negative experiences and if, yet again, I’d be proved right.
I showed up at the heavily populated house where the game night was to take place. I had brought over two small loaves of sourdough that needed to be baked so prepped the oven while I made butterscotch stuffed dark chocolate covered strawberries in the shape of companion cubes.1 A couple of the residents helped me get stuff all sorted out on the food department while people began showing up.
There were six piles of three booster packs a piece. Shiny and red. We all sat down, me, another woman, and 4 men. We opened a package. Oh how I remembered these cards. The basic layout was that “new” unfamiliar design.2 I knew we’d have to make two colour decks but my memory was fuzzy. There was a neat looking green and blue card. Some kind of flying shark creature with an evolve mechanic. I picked it and passed my deck to the left.
Then the next package. Then the one after that. Soon I had 42 cards, mostly greens and blues. I had found Prime Speaker Zegana, though I’d mostly grabbed that because it looked neat. Not that I knew how useful that would be in a 40 card deck.
We then built our decks. I used 14 lands, this would turn out to be a mistake, but I was sticking with the old 30% rule. I was trying not to ask questions. Partially because I didn’t want to look silly, but also because we weren’t trying to reveal what we were playing with so I couldn’t ask about what choices to make. I was picking near blind, hoping I could remember how to build strong combinations.
Oh my did I remember more than I thought I did. I won my first game against this young, slight fellow playing white/red. He then promptly won the next two rounds, beating me and putting me into the losers’ bracket. But he was patient as I asked questions. As I tried to remember how the mulligan rules worked and asked for clarification. He was a good sport about it. I felt fine. Sure, I’d lost the first bracket, but this was fun!
Another player came to play me, having also been put in the loser’s bracket from the first round. He was also playing blue/green but I won fairly handily. He was clearly annoyed by my victory, though he didn’t really say much more than complain that I’d just had better luck in the draft due to where I was sitting. I didn’t engage him on that front. I was too excited to have won and didn’t want to deal with the negativity.
Third round, I played one of the hosts, whom I knew from before. We were, by this time, eating the strawberry cube chocolates and laughing. He was playing black/white. I won against him as well, though it was a closer game. We laughed about it and he pointed out that next round I’d be playing against the other person he lost against, so he was happy. Fourth round, I played the woman and her green/red deck. Another victory. She was quiet, and a good sport. But she was quiet in both victory and defeat, so we smiled at each other and continued on.
I was stunned by this point. I didn’t know how I was doing so well. It had been so long since I’d played and yet here I was. A guaranteed third place.
Now I was getting really nervous. I wasn’t sure why my deck was working so well against all these other players, but here I was, playing for second place. This player was competitive. And I mean, loud, brash, mocked your failings and praised his own luck. The kind of player who really grates against you. The kind of player that makes you want to remind them that this is just a damn game.
I lost the first round. Then I won the second. Then, right to the wire, I won the third game. It was crazy. I didn’t want to lose, but I didn’t think I could win. I was tired, I’d be playing all evening and it was draining to play against a player like that.
Then I had the final game. Against the slight fellow from the first match.
Since the game worked on the principle that you had to lose twice in order to be disqualified, we actually had to play the first best of three, and if I won that, then play another best of three.
We went to the ace round. I had played nine total games against this guy and lost because, as I’d noticed throughout the whole tournament, I really should have put more lands in my deck. But also, he was an amazing player.
So here I was, nervous about coming back into a hobby that other players had chased me out of years ago, shaking hands with the most pleasant and kind competitor I’d had all night. He’d even been helpful during those final games!
We talked afterwards. He was excited to get me back into the game. Offered suggestions on how to build a good deck for cheap without having to buy a million boosters and pre-mades. He was excited that I was there and I could play.
I was excited that I was there and I could play.
But there were still issues
I was still somewhat uncomfortable around some of the players. Later, as I tried to build a deck for general play with these fellows, there were a few jokes about me trying to distract players by being a woman. They didn’t mean to actually be insulting, nor were they trying to be serious, but they still made those jokes. I let them know that it was making me uncomfortable later and they were apologetic. But it still happened.
There were a few moments where, I’m sure mostly unintentionally, a player called out something gendered that rankled.
But most of the players were great. They wanted me to get excited about the game again. They wanted me to relearn the rules and build better and more competitive decks.
So, overall, the experience was great.
I missed playing Magic: the Gathering.