“You’re very happy to be representing Canada here, I think. Do you want to give any shout-outs to your team, Team Mana Deprived?” – Marshall Sutcliffe
“Yes, KYT, Captain Canada.” – Alexander Hayne
It was probably one of the most surreal moments of my life: staying up until the early morning watching one of my best friends win a Magic the Gathering Pro Tour. Of course, Alex decided to make the whole thing nail-biting by winning every one of his top-eight matches three games to two. And who can forget Alex calling a judge on himself for presenting Finkel with a deck of more than 60 cards in game five of the quarterfinals? It was gut-wrenching to think that his miraculous run was just going to end like that.
Alex and I had always talked about making Canadian Magic a presence on the Pro Tour again, but I don’t think either of us could have scripted Pro Tour Avacyn Restored any better.
The second surreal moment was Grand Prix Toronto last December. In between rounds, I took a step back and looked around the room. I had never seen so many people wear clothing with my website’s name on it. I was especially moved to meet kids that got their dad to buy Mana Deprived hoodies for them.
In the beginning, KYT was synonymous with Mana Deprived. Today, the brand has outgrown me, and it couldn’t be made more clear to me than being asked the following question more than once by an opponent:
“Are you part of Alexander Hayne’s team?”
This article is a chance for me to re-introduce myself and to let people know how it all began.
Growing up, I was one of those chess addicts. I went to tournaments and even did reasonably well, getting myself ranked as one of the top 10 players in the province for my age.
As time went by, however, the number of people who went to tournaments with me dwindled. You had to work to improve your game, and this concept was not very appealing to my friends who took chess more casually.
Eventually, I was the only one going to these tourneys. I would have stopped earlier if it weren’t for the friends that I made over the chessboard, but seeing as how I only saw these people once a month, I wasn’t exactly making strong friendships with anyone. Ultimately, I retired from competitive chess.
I was introduced to Magic when Urza’s Destiny came out in 1999, 14 years ago. I was 14 years old, and my high school friends showed me how to play this unbelievable game. Around the same time, my great aunt taught me my first card trick. Since then, I can’t explain how strongly attracted I am to anything cardboard-related.
Like most players, I did take a few breaks from Magic. My most recent comeback set was Zendikar. I think the main reason Magic was so easy for me to come back to was the existence of FNMs. During any Friday, I could just go to the card store and meet some of my old friends again. It never took that long for them to coax me into drafting a new set and having the Magic bug bite me again.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
At some point, I realized that the community was the biggest draw for me, so I set a goal for myself: to grow the game as much as I possibly could. I wasn’t doing this only for others; I was also doing this for myself. I wasn’t thinking about Canadian Magic at the time. My main focus was to get as many people as possible playing at my local store.
When FNM was first introduced to my local card store, I think we barely got eight people to fire a decent tournament. I decided to spread the word and called up friends to let them know that they should come down and sling some spells on Fridays. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone.
My friend Jeff Casselman used to bring a box of boosters to FNM with him and would give a booster pack to every opponent he played against. He’d be happy if you opened a chase rare in front of him. I guess, unless you decided to then slowly rip it in front of his face.
The biggest hero of all is Pierre, the tournament organizer who will never let you forget how old he is. The store has not had a laptop for years, and self-sacrificing PIerre brings it upon himself to do pairings by hand every Friday and every prerelease. He keeps everyone’s DCI number in a binder and submits the results when he gets home.
Not only does he give himself extra work, he is insanely generous when it comes to prize support. Everyone is a winner. If you did not get an official FNM prize, you got to pick a number. Pierre had a stack of cards and he would deal off cards until he hit your number. He would then give you the card. A lot of cards in his stack were bulk rares, but I have seen people win big money rares often enough. If you have the time, I might say that it’s borderline stupid to not play at Pierre’s FNMs.
It’s because of these people that the local store went from barely having eight people every Friday to regularly having 40. With the store packed with players on a regular basis, I set my sights on a bigger goal.
Birth of Mana Deprived
One of the things I most looked forward to as a chess player was the monthly magazine that Chess and Maths did. They would spotlight players and provide top-10 rating lists for every province in the country. This information made me aware of who the best Canadian players were.
I always felt that there wasn’t enough of this type of information when it came to Canadian Magic players. There was no central hub for your Canadian Magic fix, and I sought to change that. I do want to quickly credit Pascal Maynard who founded IntOblivion, a now-defunct website that featured French articles and coverage of local events. He was only 16 years old at the time.
I definitely could not have started Mana Deprived on my own. In my first tournament since my return to the game, I met Vincent Thibeault during the players’ meeting. We were very friendly and somehow convinced each other to share our decklists to one another. We were both skilled at the art of flirtation.
Less than a month later, we would meet again. This time, at a PTQ where Vincent managed to emerge victorious. After the tournament, I told Vincent that I was starting a website whose goal was to feature the best of Canadian Magic. I didn’t have anything but a vision, so when I gave him the link to the site, he replied accordingly.
“There’s nothing here…” – Vincent Thibeault
“You’re the first article.” – KYT
Vincent had his doubts as to what his article could accomplish, but my strong belief in the concept inspired him to submit something to me. It didn’t take long before Alex took notice, and I gladly invited him to join me as well. One of the coolest facts is that Alex and I met ages ago at a chess tournament when we were both really young. We reunited at a Zendikar prerelease.
In an interview I did for Men of Magic, I mentioned how luck played a big part of my success. Doug Potter and Adam Yurchick were people that I met on Magic-League and MTGO many years ago. When I needed help with Mana Deprived, they were more than willing to help me jump start it. I don’t think Western Canada would know who I was if it wasn’t for Doug.
At the PTQ that Vincent Thibeault won, I actually managed to make top eight for the first time in my career. I did it with Raka Walkers, a deck designed by none other than Michael J Flores. I declared myself his latest padawan, and he, in turn, promoted me to the masses. He’s definitely someone that I credit for putting me on the map. All in all, I received a lot of support to get my project off the ground.
The Eh Team
One of main things that surged Mana Deprived’s popularity was the Eh Team podcast. The Eh Team was an idea I had that was inspired by listening to Top 8 Magic and poker podcasts, namely Cash Plays. Magic pros were writing articles, but I always felt that there was a disconnect between the pro and their audience. I wanted the Eh Team to be something that players felt was much more accessible to them.
I called out for podcasters using Twitter and just went with people who replied. I could have never predicted the chemistry that we would have together. I have nothing but amazing words for Scott MacCallum, Jay Tuharsky, Jonathan Medina, and Jesse Smith. They are the reasons the Eh Team became and is still one of the most popular Magic the Gathering podcasts around.
Face to Face Games
Mana Deprived was not the only thing growing in the Canadian Magic community at the time. Face to Face Games was changing the local tournament scene. They were constantly willing to host tournaments at a loss and even today, they are pushing the envelope by having $17 prereleases. That’s completely unheard of. The Montreal Magic scene only stands to gain from their presence.
Salvatore Reda, Mathew Schmaltz, and Peter Sachlas have been extremely supportive of my efforts and with their help, I have been able to turn a blog into a site filled with awesome MTG content. Our efforts have been rewarded with Wizards handing us a spoiler for the past few sets. How crazy is that!
Today is actually my birthday, and this article ended up being a perfect opportunity for me to reflect on what I have accomplished in the last three years. I have sacrificed many hours editing and publishing content, but I don’t regret a second of it.
Starting with this year, I do hope to take a step away from the editing booth and re-focus on one of the goals I had when I first started playing this game: making the Pro Tour. That doesn’t mean that I will cease in my mission to grow the game; I will keep recording the Eh Team, and with this new weekly column of mine, I hope to connect with you readers on a much more personal level.
In the next year, I’ll be looking to bring more tournaments around the country with the Mana Deprived Super Series. I constantly receive e-mails from players who live in places that do not host significant Magic tournaments. It’s going to be a slow process, but with the help of Face to Face Games, I am confident that we will be heading to a town near you someday.
People have told me how my story has inspired them. Months ago, Spencer Howland told me that I pushed him to start his Utah Magic Open, which I think is pretty awesome. If this article motivates you to grow the game, then I couldn’t be any happier.