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Jul 22 2015

Yelling at the TV

When I was growing up, we lived in an apartment upstairs from a guy who was into American football. Totally.

When he watched football, it was an event. He yelled. He screamed. He threw things. It felt like an earthquake hit the building.

I learned new words.

I talked to my dad about it because it seemed so strange. This guy knew he watching football, and not actually playing football, right? He was just watching other guys on TV play the game. Why was he so happy when they scored? Or, more often, why was he so angry when they didn’t?

His chair looked like a huge football helmet turned upside down.

As I grew up, I understood that people like sports, but sports never clicked with me. In high school, I tried. I really did. I went to football games and basketball games. Heck, I even went to track meets and cross-country events. Nothing grabbed me.

Imagine my surprise, when suddenly I found myself yelling at the TV while watching other people play a game.

What game?

Magic the Gathering, of course.

I love this game. From the first time I played, I was hooked. It was 1995. I never looked back. Magic has everything! Strategy, luck, preparation, bluffing, complication… demon teachers.

Demonic Tutor

And, like a lot of people, I ended up watching a lot of other people play Magic at tournaments or between rounds.

But, it wasn’t until I starting watching the first season of Vintage Super League, that it clicked.

I was yelling at the TV!

Watching Magic in person isn’t like watching football in person. You can’t do the wave when your favorite player makes a particularly good play. Well, that’s not entirely true. You can do the wave, but only once. Then, you don’t get to watch anymore.

They kick you out.

Solitary Confinement

Watching Magic in person is a quiet affair, but, watching Magic at home on the TV is something else entirely. Here’s how it went the first time.

No one else in my family is into Magic, so I’m alone in my family room with the live Twitch stream playing on my TV. With no one around to bother, I’m muttering under my breath about misplays. Pretty soon, I’m arguing with the commentators about a particular line of play. Out of nowhere, I’m jumping up from the couch and yelling – out loud – when a player top decks the land they need to win the turn before they get run over.

It was nuts!

My kids rushed into the room, looked at the TV, looked at me, and then walked out, shaking their heads.

It all came back to me. Being a kid again, hearing the neighbor scream at his TV during the football game.

I get it now.

The Super League Series (Vintage, Modern, and Standard) is Magic gold. Week after week, some of the best players in the world go head to head. It’s four hours of unbridled Magic action. If Magic is your game, you cannot miss the Super League. It’s that good.

As I write this, the Live Stream is up for the Vintage Super League finals on 7/21/2015. It’s the second match of the night. Tom Martell is playing Doomsday against Randy Buehler with Grixis Therapy. I’ve already yelled at the TV multiple times.

Unlike watching football, where I constantly wonder why the players – who I assume are superhuman – do not simply leap over each other to move the ball forward, I have nearly 20 years of Magic experience to draw on while watching. Keep in mind that the Super League typically has two commentators, who are themselves some of the best players in the world, rattling off lines of play as the players sling spells. And yet, there are times where I am flabbergasted at the decisions the players make.

I have a lot to learn.

The technical understanding these guys have of the game is what makes Magic a joy to watch.

In the previous Super League season, the format was Standard, but they did a special Modern week. I watched Owen Turtenwald ultimate Ugin that night. Owen is a great player. Confident. Great to watch. But ultimate Ugin? That’s just awesome.

One thing to watch out for if you decide to tune in is that these guys are doing technical gymnastics to make the match stream, double-commentator, hand cams setup work. The stream will crash. A lot. It’s almost endearing. Almost.

Expect delays.

I like to think of it as a delay of game for weather. Also, you will run into some players that take very, very long turns.

If you can’t watch the live stream, you can watch the matches after the rounds are complete on YouTube. This is nice because you can fast forward long delays. You can also go back and watch some of the great matches from previous seasons.

Deck lists are posted as the matches start on the official website, so you can make your own decisions about what you would do if you were in the driver’s seat.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

When I’m not watching other people play Magic, I play the Commander format. Read all about it on my blog over at AyeCommander.blogspot.com. Expect lots of posts about Robots, Demons, Five-Color Cromat Control, and (spoiler alert) colorless Kozilek. We’re going back to Zendikar, people. We have to be ready!

3 comments

  1. Charles Sneerbite

    I like this approach to writing about Magic. People love to speculate, its one of the things we do well by nature, and so something like this gives us a vent for our impulses. Plus, it’s fun! You have a breezy and enjoyable writing style–I can’t wait to read more.

  2. Kuchisama

    Thanks for the great read! I liked the article a lot, especially the introduction.

    Although I myself have never been the yelling type, I dig your approach here. Your article shows Magic from a rather human-centric point of view and sheds light on an aspect that doesn’t get mentioned often – how we can enjoy this game even when we’re not playing.

    I’m definitely going to take a look at that blog of yours! 😉

  3. Wally D.

    As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I can understand the emotional level of involvement. I truly believe that Magic would be my second favorite sport to watch on TV (or my PC). I definitely do not watch enough MTG matches and this article has convinced me to make a change. 🙂

    Well done Eric!

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