What is a Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix
Let me paint a picture: about 950 30yo nerdy men and 50 nerdy women, in a big echoing convention center. You arrive before 9am; at some point a bunch of paper sheets go up, telling you where to sit. You go there, meet your opponent, and play a game that’s as complex as chess or poker. Your opponent is probably polite but focused; this is not a time where you can “take back” a mistake. Not infrequently, you or your opponent will raise your hand and call “judge!” to have an arbiter walk over and issue a verdict on a tiny corner of the rules. After a best of 3 match, you’ll report the winner, wait for the end of the hour, and repeat 8 more times. Usually if you go 7-2 or better, you get to come back the next day and do it again! (If not, you can play smaller “side events” for lower stakes.) After about 7pm, you get some time off; eat dinner, see your friends. (Hope you scarfed down some breakfast and lunch in the 10 min you had between rounds. Yes, lunch was probably an awful $17 convention center hamburger.)
The 20 Year Grand Prix
Imagine you signed a contract to play a 20-year-long Grand Prix. Every day you have to do this same thing. Occasionally, if you can find and pay a substitute, you get to take a day off, but not often. There is no prize, but you have to do pretty well; and actually, if you ever are super careless and go 0-9, the most precious person to you in the world dies. Your evenings are your own! But you’ll probably be so sleep deprived, you won’t even care. Hope you like $17 crummy hamburgers.
“It’s Good, Actually”
Now, imagine everyone who was on the Perpetual Grand Prix told you it was incredible:
- “You can’t imagine how great it will be.”
- “Did you ever open a Pack Rat or an Umezawa’s Jitte? You’ll never know what it’s like”
- “It’s impossible to describe how amazing it is to be playing round 9 when you’re both 6-2, and you get an incredible topdeck to swing for lethal”
- “You’ll always remember the first time you qualify for Day 2; mine was when I drafted Spider Spawning in Albuquerque”
If It’s Not Obvious, This is a Metaphor for Kids
Hell, Grand Prixs don’t even exist anymore. But anyway, to me right now, raising kids seems harder than the 20 Year Grand Prix. At least I already love playing Magic. (I’m not someone who loves playing with kids, in general.)
But even for me, the 20 Year Grand Prix sounds awful. I’m pretty sure I’d be sick of it by about day 3. And yet, having kids is signing up for days 3-7000, for a thing that’s uncomfortable as hell, and just hoping that everyone who says it’s so great is correct.
I Know, I Know
Look, I know it is so great, somehow. When I have kids and I’m also telling you how great it is, you don’t get to say “I told you so.” And yet, it’s so hard to talk about: everyone is either on my side of the veil and is like “yep, uh, that sounds bad” or they’re Grand Prix veterans telling me “but when you play Jace the Mind Sculptor, it’s like nothing else.” I can’t think of anything else where I so totally don’t understand the other side and nothing they say helps.
post script to my kids reading this someday:
remember! this blog only preserves memories of your dad at various moments in time. now he’s on your side of the veil; he probably loves the heck out of parenting, and thinks this comparison is absurd! it’s pretty interesting how he’s changed, isn’t it?
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