Sam Black started playing Magic: The Gathering as a child, 20 years ago. Magic, as players call it, is a popular strategic card game with a fantasy flair.
“Players take on the role of powerful wizards called planeswalkers and use cards that represent spells or the lands that these planeswalkers draw their power from, in an attempt to defeat their opponent or opponents,” Black explained.
Players buy packs of cards and select the best ones to construct decks with which to compete. Cards can also be traded or sold between players at different values, depending on their properties. Amassing a large collection takes time and a financial investment.
“I have between 50,000 and 100,000, probably closer to 100,000 cards,” Black estimated.
More than an escape into a world of spells and wondrous creatures, in the past 10 years, Magic has been Black’s sole source of income. He is one of the top players in the world and travels 40 weekends a year to compete in tournaments all over the world.
“Every weekend I go to a room with one or two thousand people and all else equal, I’ll assume that any given person likely knows who I am,” Black said. “It’s really great to have the opportunity and incentive to travel to all different parts in the world. Whenever I go anywhere, I’m going with hundreds of people I know.”
While Black likes to travel and win and certainly does so often enough, he says learning is what motivates him to keep working on his strategy.
“It’s not a well you get to the bottom of. The more you engage with the game, the deeper the questions it presents become. It’s just a vast plane of intellectual space that you could explore endlessly,” Black said.
For many Magic players, the game’s best asset is the community that evolves around it.
“Existing in a single community over many, many years of playing tournaments really highlights just how valuable it can be to cooperate rather than to go for the short-term payoff,” Black said. “Being nice to everyone and cooperating with everyone and getting along with everyone just works out much better. Any amount of making the world a better place that you can do really comes back.”