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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
May 14 2018 12:00pm
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Preacher

My real life name is Rev. David Wright. I'm a Presbyterian minister by profession. And though I dabble in the world of MTG, comparatively speaking, it is much more of a hobby than anything close to my real life responsibilities of being a parent, a pastor and a husband.

But though Magic has played out much more in my life as an activity than a professional occupation or a source of income, what I have witnessed and participated in as a Magic player has profoundly convinced me that Magic can be powerful social force for good.

False Prophet

Professional ministry is a funny life. And I have learned to accept that professionally, I play a powerful roles in many peoples lives.

Sign In Blood

On the one hand, it makes me a writer.  Every week I prepare a sermon as both an exposition on the Bible and also as a way to touch on the lives of the people in the church and our responsibility to care for our neighborhood. 

Ivory Cup

I am a celebrant for sacramental rites like Baptisms, Communions, Anointing of the Sick and Weddings.

Alms

We oversee a vast charity based food pantry that feeds more than 500 families a month.

Feast of Blood

We rotate to host weekly dinners for all of the local homeless and low-income families with the other churches in our neighborhood.

Urza's Miter

Fortunately, I don't have to wear one of these...

But what I also have also found is that the same attitudes that I call ministry can also manifest around the comradery that forms in the community of Magic players. Though tournament magic can be spikey, local game stores and their Magic players have an amazing social opportunity in the ways their lives intersect with each other. In my time as a Magic player I have witnessed:

* Players buying another player dinner since they didn't have the pocket money to eat.

* Players offering each other rides, sometimes home and sometimes to other places when home isn't safe.

* Players using table chat as a way to counsel each other when someone is having a rough week.

* Players donating their cards for charitable causes or spending their money to support charitable causes.

* Players speaking out against hate speech, sexism, racism, or for inclusion of LGBT individuals.

* Active intergenerational mentoring of newer and younger players.

When I used to play in a local game store of Stroudsburg, PA, I witnessed an incredible examples of a community gathering around a specific family. 

One Sunday afternoon, two parents of a pair of 10 and 13 year old boys brought them to the game store to celebrate their birthdays. Though the guests themselves were uninvited, the parents bought pizza and intro decks for the various storegoers to enjoy as they played magic with their sons. Though the average age of store participants were older high school youth through 20s, the players flocked around the family and two boys, even though neither the 10 year old, nor his older brother, a teen with ASD, represented the highest level of competition. Everyone did their best to support the family, showering the boys with mythic rares and booster packs and taking a break from their usual fare to celebrate the occasion as a magic community.

(pic=Catharic Reunion)

But the best example I have ever witnessed of compassion through magic was around the tragedy of a 22 year old magic player named Bryan Veil. 

Bryan was an exuberant, friendly kid. Kind of a restless soul who dove headlong into whatever captured his interests. In many ways, he was not unlike many young men who get into magic. Since I was more in the category of "Casual, Gainfully Employed (Future Magic Dad)", I would sometimes buy Bryan lunch when I was at the game store since he was known to show up at times without a lot of pocket money. 

His skills as magic player developed very quickly. The first time I can remember playing against Bryan was a special store promotional event our new local game store was hosting for Magic 2014. The premise of the event was that each player purchased an M14 intro pack, added in the included boosters to make a 40 card deck, and we'd battle with these kind of budget sealed decks. Bryan and I had wisely chosen Red as our intro pack since the cards within contained both the killer sealed rare Shivan Dragon and also fantastic removal in the form of Flames of the Firebrand. We met each other in the finals. Bryan, a new Magic player at the time, remarked that I was the first opponent he played that had the skill of holding cards when one might have the opportunity to play them since strategically it is not always correct to play every creature when you first can, especially when you know your opponent is holding removal. After the finals, we split a tray of Singapore Rice Noodles for lunch and began three years of friendship.

Bryan's dedication to Magic quickly surpassed my own. He was a frequent tag-along to anyone offering rides to SCG Opens or local Grand Prix. He would trade winnings for future game entries and occasionally lunch since he was short on pocket money. He made friends with many of our local players and even a few of the pro players who concentrated their circuit in the northeast.

Eventually Bryan was able to get a job as a delivery driver for a local supermarket, delivering groceries to homebound seniors. Though it involved long hours, it gave Bryan not only a little bit of money, but also the opportunity to encounter a slice of life that doesn't usually hang around game stores. My favorite story of this era was once when Bryan was delivering food to a woman, she asked him what she could tip him. He answered, "Can I have a hug?"

Sadly, Bryan was taken from us too early. He died in a single car accident, shortly after midnight, while driving his car home from another local game store. He was 22.

The Magic community around the Lehigh Valley poured out their love for Bryan and his family. Local pro player Gerard Fabiano donated a case of Modern Masters 2015 to furnish as prize for a massive charity magic tournament in Bryan's memory. And the store hosted an auction to benefit Bryan's family, both of cards and playmats from his own personal MTG collection and also of cards donated by friends.

At Bryan's funeral, I met his family: his parents, his younger sister, his cousins, as well as a whole network of people whom had known him as a young man. He had a caring church who knew him as a boy and who had now worried about him and his new Magic hobby.

His family also revealed that Bryan had suffered tremendously from depression.

But what stuck with me most from the grief of that day was a remark his father shared with those of us who had come from the game store:

"I don't know much about this game, or what it is you guys do, but the one time I knew Bryan was happy was when he was there playing with you."

You have a tremendous opportunity to use your Magic friendships for good. Don't squander that opportunity. Use the game you love to change lives for the better. Advocate for those folks who obviously need someone to stick up for them. By someone lunch. Remember that there is more than winning.

Knighthood

Finally, I have a special announcement to make: This will be my last article for PureMTGO.com. I have been hired as the newly weekly Pauper Columnist for GatheringMagic.com, where you can see more great Pauper discussion every Friday, starting May 18th.

Special thanks to Josh, our editor, who invited me to write as a complete unknown, just 12 months ago. Thanks to Andy Cooperfauss, Blake Rasmussen, and Deluxicoff for helping share my writing with a wider audience. And most of all I want to thank all of you, my readers.

Keep Having Fun Out There,

Rev. David Wright  aka "SteveJeltz"

 

 

 

3 Comments

Thank you for this reminder by Procrastination at Mon, 05/14/2018 - 20:51
Procrastination's picture
5

Thank you for this reminder that the MTG community has so much positive potential. In the last few months, I feel like I've seen more glimpses of the lousy side than I care to deal with, but it's important to remember the best and brightest parts. There are a lot of great people in this mix, and using the MTG community to make a better community in the rest of our lives is an opportunity we often overlook.

Best of luck to you in the new gig!

I've been dealing with a lot by JXClaytor at Mon, 05/14/2018 - 22:34
JXClaytor's picture

I've been dealing with a lot of stuff recently, which would explain why I missed the Cathartic Reunion picture, but I am incredibly happy to have asked you to write for us. You added a lot of quality discussion to the site, have an incredibly unique voice and a passion for what you do, not just in magic writing, but other things as well.

Thank you for taking me up on the offer, and I can't wait to see what else is in store for you!

I haven't often commented on by Paul Leicht at Tue, 05/15/2018 - 00:40
Paul Leicht's picture
5

I haven't often commented on your articles because Pauper and I usually don't see eye to eye, that said I have enjoyed more than a few. I am sorry to hear that you are leaving the pure milieu (but not the fam), and wish you a lot of luck in your new writing gig. Maybe from time to time you can come back and show the younger writers how it is done again.

My Uncle was a Presbyterian minister who had little time for games as I got older (he disliked losing and frankly said so with gusto), but I think despite the fantastical (sometimes superficially antithetical to Christianity) themes of M:TG (he demanded I not play D&D for religious reasons, and that's one reason I never really clicked with religion) I think he would get behind your statement about the gaming community and M:TG in particular. There are a lot of caring souls out there who just need people around them to make them complete.

Thanks for writing.