Duelin’ wizards ’round the world

Stefanie Buhrman

Lifelong memories, world exposure, lasting friendships and many other things can come from it. Combining aspects of chess and poker, Magic: the Gathering is a game of wits and strategy that can lead to life-changing experiences.

“I didn’t start playing seriously until a couple years ago,” said Gabe Stoffa, junior in communications studies. “The first competition I remember was a part of a junior program, and they gave out scholarship money. I won that.”

Stoffa is currently tied for the No. 1 ranking in Iowa in tournament play. Matt Hansen, Ames resident, is currently ranked third.

“[My first competition] was for 16 and under,” said Hansen. “I made top eight. I lost in the top eight, and I lost because I played badly.”

Another student at Iowa State is currently ranked sixth in the state of Iowa.

“I think I was eight,” said Nick Crumpton, freshman liberal arts and sciences-open option. “My brother and I picked it up for like two days. We have only recently gotten serious. When I was around 15, my first major Pro Tour was in Des Moines. I went with my brother. I did awful. I had fun, but not really. I hated my deck.”

While Magic is a game easily played among friends, there are many opportunities to get together with other Magic fans in the Ames area.

“[In Ames], I have stopped in before,” said Stoffa. “I’ve played in some little things they’ve had going on, but they don’t pay out. The bigger things are usually in bigger cities.”

In Ames, there are two main places that offer Magic events.

“I sometimes go to Mayhem [Collectibles, 2532 Lincoln Way,] on Mondays,” said Hansen. “It’s mainly college kids and just drafting. I rarely go to 9th Zone [114 Washington Ave.] on Fridays. I am usually driving to a Pro Tour Qualifier.”

Although the game is easily available in the Ames area, many opportunities arise for Magic competitors to travel not only within the United States, but around the world.

“I have been all over the U.S., except for Alaska and Hawaii,” Stoffa said. “San Diego was fun. I went to Valencia, Spain, a couple of months ago. It was fun there, too.”

Stoffa is not the only one taking advantage of major traveling liberties.

“I’ve been to Chicago, Minnesota, Nebraska, California, St. Louis, Atlanta, South Carolina, Missouri, Baltimore and Hawaii,” Hansen said. “Outside of the U.S., I have been to Prague, Spain, and Japan twice.”

Through his record of Magic competitions attended, one can easily see Hansen has had a successful time competing.

“I have won eight PTQs, which qualify you for Pro Tours,” Hansen said. “The Pro Tour in Charleston was a team pro tour. My team got 12th place out of like 300 teams. We almost made it to top four but we lost a round. We each won $1,000. In Valencia, I got 59th out of 400-some competitors. I won $600 for that.”

As Magic is a sport without a season, competitions are almost always going on. Crumpton recounted his most recent adventure, which occurred over winter break.

“I went to St. Louis with my friend,” Crumpton said. “It was a six-hour drive. We get there and we met up with [another friend]. We got there and I was pumped. We registered our decks. Everything’s got to be legal. You can’t switch out cards in the middle of the game. I started playing. There were seven rounds.”

After five rounds, Crumpton was undefeated and had a score of 15 points. In a competition, a win is worth three points, a loss zero and a tie one.

“Because of that, I was able to draw two,” said Crumpton. “So then I was 5-0-2. I ended up in the top eight. I easily won my first match. The second was a good matchup. We both wanted to go to Hollywood really bad. My opponent offered to split.”

When opponents split a match, one opponent wins the invitation to the competition and the other takes home some of the prize money. Crumpton decided this was not the best option and continued under normal circumstances.

“So I am going to Hollywood,” Crumpton said.

With them happening year-round, they are always planning for upcoming competitions.

“I’m going to Las Vegas and New York,” Stoffa said. “Then I am going to Hollywood, too.”

Coming up soon for Hansen is a trip halfway around the world. However, he is not traveling alone.

“I am going to Malaysia on Feb. 10 with two other people from Ames, and we are staying with another kid from Minnesota,” Hansen said. “We are staying for eight days. Our flight is 22 hours, and we are getting our shots together. For this [Pro Tour], the winner gets like $40,000.”

Players like Stoffa, Crumpton and Hansen get more than just the thrill of travel out of the game, however.

“The game is okay,” Stoffa said. “I like it because it pays out money, just like online poker. Mainly, I like the travel. I love going to new places. I traveled a lot as a kid and, with Magic, you get to travel for basically free.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum of the travel and the pay, new friendships are made.

“[Competing] is fun because you can see people you rarely get to see. It’s fun to win, and you get to travel a lot,” Stoffa said.

From traveling to money to friends, memories are always a part of the adventure and perhaps even a future career.

“It’s a social event. It’s really fun and funny stuff always happens – comedy always ensues. You get to see the world with a bunch of friends for free. All you have to pay for is the hotel, and you split the costs,” Crumpton said.

“People always ridicule [Magic: the Gathering], but you can win a lot of money. There are guys that live off playing Magic. It’s awesome.”