I Play a Game Called Magic: The Gathering... No, It's a Card Game
Sharing our Magic: the Gathering journey with each other is what makes this game more than just a game, it becomes a community. We create enjoyable moments with people who become friends and friends who become family. Here's a glimpse into someone's Magical life and how the game has been a part of it.
Today we're meeting Julie, one of the die-hard drafters at Mavericks. Julie and I have known and drafted against each other for a long time. Julie shares her Magic journey; not only as a player but as a female player in a male-dominated environment.
Help Me Welcome Our Next Contestant!
What's your name and how long have you played Magic: the Gathering?
My name is Julie Tysen and I started playing in college when Revised came out in '94. Sometime later, after I was married, my husband and I moved to Germany for 10 years and our Magic playing slowed down a lot. We played some on the Army base where my husband was stationed, but it was very infrequent.
After we got back to the states I wanted to pick it up again, but my first experience coming back was very odd. I played in a small local draft with six elementary-age children and one other adult. I then questioned how much the game had changed at that point.
Sometime in 2009, my husband suggested we go to something called GenCon. I had no idea what it was but saw Magic events, so we gave it a try. Of course, there were a ton of people playing, so I got my game on and the fire was back.
How did you first learn about Magic and who initially shared it with you?
The guy I was dating at the time had a stack of Magic cards laying around. I saw a white-bordered Forest that had rocks, moss, and trees, and it just spoke to me. I thought it was beautiful. So I told him, "You have to teach me this game!" After a little pushing, he relented and taught me how to play. I was totally hooked. I think it turned out pretty well since we ended up getting married.
Can you recall one of your first experiences playing the game?
Like many other new players, we were pretty bad starting out. We didn't have a lot of cards, but I had this obsession with a black/white deck highlighted by two cards: Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire.
At the time I was overly concerned about my creatures dying, so I was very bad at trading off my creatures to win the game. Thankfully, I've gotten better about that.
What format and type of deck did you play tonight?
I absolutely love drafting. I drafted Streets of New Capenna and played a Maestros deck which is completely out of my wheelhouse. I love playing green/white, but of course, with drafting you have to go with what comes your way. I like playing Commander occasionally, but drafting is my first love.
Any cards that were better or worse than you expected?
Nothing that stood out, but I built the deck around Maestros Diabolist. He was fine but definitely needed support from the other cards.
You mentioned drafting is your favorite format, why?
I enjoy the randomness of the deck-building process. Being able to use cards that you would never use in a constructed environment. Cards that generally aren't good, but are somewhat useful in draft. I enjoy putting those cards to use.
Do you play digital Magic and if so, how are you enjoying it?
I play Magic: Arena, but I take breaks every so often. For me, playing in person is a better overall experience. Even if I lose, I'm around others having fun, and that changes the atmosphere. When I play Arena it can be easy to get upset when you're facing an annoying deck. Arena is nice where if I want to get in on a draft, I don't have to wait until Friday, but it's still not the same. You lose something in the translation.
How did you have to adjust through the Pandemic?
Probably what you would expect. When we were able to attend in person I attended and followed the appropriate safety protocols, but when things were closed I utilized Arena quite a bit.
What's one of your favorite Magic cards?
There are a few, but the one that pops into my head is Felidar Sovereign. As I mentioned, I really enjoy green/white and trying to win through life gain. It's not the most effective strategy, but I still have fun trying.
Who do you normally play with?
I generally draft with the group of people at the store.
Do you and your husband still play Magic?
We played for a long time, but he's moved onto other hobbies. He now plays Pathfinder and really enjoys GMing.
Is there anyone else in your family that plays?
Not at the moment, but I'm looking forward to introducing Magic to my nieces. They're getting to the age where they're starting to be inquisitive. One in particular; she's 12 and I believe she would have a great time.
Is there anyone else you try to mentor or assist with the game?
I try to connect with the other women who come into the store and when we go to a convention like GenCon. The last time I was at GenCon a teenage girl expressed interest in learning the game, so we sat down, and played a few practice games. She had a great time and asked a lot of questions. It was very enjoyable. I talk with the guys as well, but I feel there are so few women that play, that I try to make an effort to welcome them.
Do you believe it's difficult for women to get involved in Magic?
I've personally never felt there was anything stopping me or other women from playing. I feel it's more of a cultural or societal issue. I work in a STEM field that has similar issues for women. While I was growing up, I definitely felt discouraged from playing these types of games. Though it wasn't as if someone said, "You can't play that.", it was a general thought that girls just didn't play them.
Do the game stores you've attended generally make you feel welcome?
Yes, they do. My experiences have been good. There have been times when I've felt uncomfortable when another player has a very suggestive playmat or sleeves. Fortunately, without me saying anything, the staff comes up and recommends that the player use something more appropriate. I truly do appreciate that. Many of the other players, by and large, treat me with the same respect that you would give anyone playing.
I remember one time when a player who was new to the store started "mansplaining" things to me. The guys around us, who knew me, started rolling their eyes at him expressing, "You don't need to explain anything to Julie." They knew that I was a competent player and sympathized accordingly. One small item I do like is when their restrooms don't just say 'MEN' on them. Overall, my experience has been very welcoming, everyone's really nice, and I feel that I'm valued for who I am.
From when you started in comparison to now, has the Magic experience improved for women?
Very slowly, but it is going in the right direction. I didn't see much change from when I started playing to when I got back into it in 2009. I would be in various events and there were maybe two or three other women attending. It has gotten better. When we go to GenCon I'm starting to see more and more women overall. There's always room for improvement, though.
Other than drafting, is there anything else that you focus on within Magic?
Magic provides me with a creative break. That's why I enjoy drafting. I get to bring a lot of creativity to my deck-building process. I know I could be more focused and dedicated to improving my play, but I use this game to relax. I like collecting cards, but I don't want to spend a lot of money. Through drafting, I'm able to do both and get the maximum enjoyment for myself.
Are there any interesting stories or moments that stand out from your years of playing?
I actually have a couple. The first one is where my opponent was able to defeat me with my own Ornithopter. They took control of it, pumped it up with a plus-X spell I don't remember, and took me down.
In the second example, I was playing in a casual tournament, and my opponent wanted to stop playing. So, to give me the win, he played a Lava Axe on himself. We both got a good laugh out of it.
To finish up, is there anything else you'd like to share?
The hope is for more girls to have the opportunity to try Magic. I believe it can be difficult, culturally, for them to get involved in a similar way to boys. I can't completely speak for how it is now, but when I started, I wasn't exposed to a lot of opportunities in this genre. The one thing I would encourage people to do is if you think one of your female relatives or friends might enjoy the game, reach out. You might be surprised.
I want to thank Julie for sharing her story and how Magic has been a part of it. I hope you enjoyed our discussion and look forward to the next installment.