(Note: Magic 30 interviews provided by Corbin Hosler.)
"Magic is many different things to many different people."
That's a phrase I've worn out over the last decade but I've found that not only is it true, it's more true than ever before. Over 30 years of evolution in Magic, the tent has always expanded to welcome in more ways to play the game, more places to play the game, and more people to play the game with.
But even that doesn't do it justice. Because Magic is more than a game. It always has been. It's always been The Gathering, and over time that tent has expanded from Type 1.5 and Type 2 in 2002 all the way to Magic 30 in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, where many of the people in the room were content to play no tournaments at all – they were there to share their love of all things Magic, far beyond the limits of sixties and sideboards.
That much was evident as soon as you walked into the convention hall. Because this wasn't a Magic tournament; even though Magic World Championship XXVIII happened (and crowned Nathan Steuer its champion), Magic 30 was a celebration of all things Magic, past, present and future. The World Championship was next to a live Commander show, which was the prelude to a packed house for an interview with Richard Garfield himself, which then led into panels about the lore behind the game and the finer details of life on Dominaria.
Magic has been many things to many people over the past 30 years. But one thing has been constant: it's always been about the people, not the Magic. And today I want to recognize a few of them who made Magic 30 the spectacle it was, building on the work done by the people who have shaped Magic into the gathering it is today.
Meet Evan Braun. Perhaps better known as DarkPactCosplay, or as
Or, as they're known after Magic 30, the winner of best-in-show at Magic's first large-scale cosplay competition.
"I've been cosplaying since 2017 when my local store in Milwaukee, Open Shield Tavern, did a small cosplay competition. I was immediately hooked by the community of people I met," he recalled. "I loved it. Ever since that night, I've been going to conventions like GenCon and cosplaying."
They've created some amazing cosplays in that time. From the first character Braun worked on for an impromptu cosplay at the LGS, his theater background, ingenuity and more than anything his perseverance has led to some incredible moments.
Since I have so many new followers, I want to introduce myself! I am Dark Pact Cosplay, your local cosplay cult leader. With your devotion and worship, I forge dark and terrible costumes and props from my favorite pieces of fiction. Links to all socials are in my bio! pic.twitter.com/M83gWNzNs4— Dark Pact Cфsplay, Nightmare's Muse (he/they) (@DarkPactCosplay) October 31, 2022
When Magic 30 was announced with a cosplay competition, Braun knew he wanted to be there. But cross-country trips aren't always in the budget–especially when trying to create and travel with large pieces of cosplay apparel–and Braun was resigned to missing the opportunity.
"Then I found out about the New Perspectives Grant Program, so I applied for that and shared my experience with setting up game nights at the pub for new players," he explained. "I ended up receiving it, which was just wild–never in a million years would I have been able to go if not for that. I'm so thankful for them giving me and the other nine amazing individuals the opportunity."
And Braun made the most of it. They spent weeks planning and preparing the cosplay, and then a furious two weeks before the event making sure everything was ready to go ("con-crunch" was a new term I learned from Braun this week! I'm sure fellow cosplayers can relate).
"I've been playing since Born of the Gods, ever since I first got the intro deck with
Of course, there was plenty of Magic played at Magic 30 as well, including one format that those of us who weren't around for drafts in 1993 have never experienced: the Beta draft.
It was a fitting way to celebrate Magic's 25th anniversary (we even did a Beta draft at the Pro Tour), and as unopened Beta packs become ever rarer, it was a headline event at Magic 30 as well. Tournaments throughout the convention fed into the Top 8 draft, and large crowds gathered around to watch players crack packs that had been sealed for longer than some of them had been alive. And while I can't say much about the gameplay – it turns out Wizards has learned a lot about draft formats in the past three decades – it's undeniably cool to watch players break out the gloves and sleeves and crack some of the packs that started it all.
When the dust settled and the
"The Beta draft was just about the only reason I made the trip," he explained. "Large conventions aren't really my thing, but I planned on playing multiple qualifiers for the draft."
It only took Hinkle, a 22-year veteran of the game and former Pro Tour competitor with two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, one qualifier to get there.
"I hadn't done a serious Rochester draft since I don't know when, so that was a nice nostalgia trip and everyone's reaction to the number of basics in packs was pretty entertaining too," he said of the draft. "I was the lucky one whose pack contained a
Finally back home after a great weekend in Vegas. Here is my draft deck from the Top8 beta draft that won me the sealed pack shown. pic.twitter.com/1eL8GSnMiw— Chas Hinkle (@Ummmyeh13) November 1, 2022
Two Magic 30 stories with two very different motivations, bound together by the magic of the gathering. That's what the celebration of Magic's 30 years was, all set to the backdrop of the World Championship and the rich history of the Pro Tour. And like those who came before them, Braun and Hinkle and Steuer are adding their own chapters to Magic.
There's room enough for everyone in this gathering—and it's "the gathering" that helps us remember.
(Note: Kazuyuki Takimura remembrance provided by Wizards of the Coast.)
With the return of the Pro Tour at MagicCon Philadelphia, gatherings grow once more with the best tabletop Magic players in the world meeting—and battling—to become the next champion. From across the world, connections form that reach beyond the tournaments as friendships are forged.
Recently, one of Japan's greatest players passed. Kazuyuki Takimura may be renowned for winning Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in 2015 but his accomplishments extend far deeper into the Japanese Magic community.
In addition to his five Grand Prix Top 8, including at win at Grand Prix Kyoto 2016 with teammates Yuki Matsumoto and Yuuki Ichikawa, Takimura shared his skill and helped build Team Kusemono for the Pro Tour Team series—packed with some of Japan's greats. That team continued on into online play and ushered to the stage more strong players, such as Riku Kumagai, that continue the excellence Takimura exemplified.
Our hearts and condolences are with Takimura's family and the Japanese Magic community after his passing.
(Note: Remembering Mort provided by Brian David-Marshall.)
The Magic coverage family lost someone very dear to us recently. The name John "Mort" Mortensen might not be well known to even the most die-hard follower of Pro Tour coverage over the years, but if you followed any cable from any camera, microphone or steady-cam to the backstage area they would all lead to Mort's chair. He was the person—along with his hand-picked, amazingly talented Think-a-Tron team—that made it all work. And to be clear: Mort was at the vanguard of streaming game play long before the term "esports" was ever coined.
When I arrived on the coverage scene Mort was already there. An irascible curmudgeon who made it possible to watch some of the greatest moments in the history of Magic and not just read about them. And he continually pushed the envelope on what was possible. What started out as downloadable video files on the Wizards website grew up to become embedded YouTube links. Text articles about how a deck worked became an on camera discussion with the deck's designers from the floor of the event. And eventually those short videos and Top 8 coverage became live streams with multiple studios that ran from before Round One until the winner's interview.
Someone who worked closely with Mort and his team throughout a lot of that evolution was Wizards of the Coast Play Studio member Mike Rosenberg.
"Mort was more than a technical director for Magic coverage in all of its iterations from era to era of tournament systems. He was instrumental in the development of the news desk as we moved to the live broadcasting medium back in 2012, and over the years continued to find ways to evolve the approach to covering Swiss-style tournaments with multiple rounds each day over each iteration of the Magic Pro Tour's coverage," Rosenberg shared. "One such innovation was with equipment to detail clearer, legible board states and to allow for zoom to see and even read Magic cards present on a table from the overhead. This technical concept was put into full effect during Pro Tour 25th Anniversary when broadcasting the Magic: The Gathering Beta Rochester Draft live and, later, in various feature matches and events beyond that, zooming in on complex board states to break down the sheer number of creatures and other cards present and active in a game."
In addition to being at the cutting edge with his technical direction, Mort had an entire other side of him touring the world as a musician with his band The Mono Men, a hugely influential act that grew out of the Pacific Northwest punk and grunge scenes. He was often flying off from Pro Tours in one far-flung location to some other corner of the globe to tour with his band for throngs of adoring fans. He was a rock star in all senses of the word—but he never acted like one.
Magic: The Gathering Hall of Famer Randy Buehler was someone who, as a commentator in the booth, worked with Mort throughout his career in coverage.
"His secret history as a grunge musician was not something he ever brought up, but totally made sense to me when I learned about it. I still can't believe he's gone," Buehler said.
Mort was punk in the absolute best sense of that word. He did not suffer fools gladly, he would always figure out how to cut through the bullshit (I am owed one curse word from my time on coverage and I will cash it in here) and get stuff done, and ultimately his gruff exterior contained a deep well of friendship, loyalty, and creativity. And if you were a member of the coverage team putting yourself out there you could have no better champion on your side, even if behind the scenes you strained his patience just a little bit.
Pro Tour commentator, and host of the Limited Resources podcast, Marshall Sutcliffe recounted one of his first times working with Mort.
"I remember doing one of my first shows with him, and he was so nice and encouraging and made sure I was comfortable on air," Marshall explained. "But then he forgot to switch his mic off and cursed about me moving or looking at the wrong camera or something, but he didn't know I could hear it. Then he came back on with me and was super nice and encouraging. It was so funny because it gave me a glimpse of all the crap he was dealing with me being new and not really getting it yet, but he never let me know, at least not on purpose. I told him that I had heard what he said and we both laughed about it after. I'll miss him."
Someone else Mort worked closely with was Deb Slater. Deb was his right hand on the Pro Tour and a dear friend to him away from it. She has organized a GoFundMe for Mort's daughters and her words about Mort's crowning achievement in a storied career are a perfect note to end this memorial with.
"John will be remembered as an esteemed trailblazer in his professional field of video production, a rock star in the music world and an amazing friend," Slater shared. "But the most important role to him was as a loving father of his two daughters, Madeline and Annabelle."