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Dating and Magic


After the recent Jon Finkel/Gizmodo girl hubbub, I realized not only that are there a lot of issues about Magic players dating, but also that we’re quite passionate about those issues. If you’re a guy who plays Magic, how/what do you tell girls about it? Is it okay to hit on female Magic players, and if so, how do you do it?

Obviously, the issues faced by female Magic players are quite different than those faced by male players. If they’re single, being Magic players can be a lot of fun for them. The guy : girl ratio is obviously slanted heavily toward guys. These are often relatively smart men with the same passions as the women. I’ve met several women who considered one of the best parts of playing Magic to be receiving so much male attention and having such a large selection of men interested in dating them. I’ve known some women who went around dating one alpha Magic player after another. In some cases, it has even led to successful marriages.

Of course, some women just want to play Magic and consider the copious amount of male attention to be a drawback. My suggestion to them would be to treat Magic just like any other co-ed activity that isn’t female-dominated. Men are going to hit on you. While this may be frustrating, being able to handle it is an important life skill for you to have. The debate of whether it’s cool aside, it’s reality, it’s going to happen, and the question is: How are you going to handle it?

There has been much written on the female Magic-playing experience lately, and I’m obviously more of an expert on the male experience, so I’m going to focus primarily on that perspective:

1. How do I best interact with women who play Magic?

2. How do I balance Magic and dating?

3. How do I best approach the subject of being a Magic player with women who don’t play?

The first question you need to ask yourself is: How big a part of your life and your identity are playing Magic and being a Magic player? When I started playing Magic, I was engaged to be married. I quickly became obsessed with competitive Magic. At first, Linda played, too. We started by inviting people over to our house for Magic night. We taught our friends to play, gave them cards to play with, and lit candles and played eerie music by Loreena McKennitt. Soon, however, this wasn’t enough to satisfy my competitive urges. I started playing in tournaments, and I made powerful decks for Linda to play in them, too. She did well, but couldn’t handle the frustration of usually finishing second or third, but never winning. After she quit, things started to go downhill quickly.

I have two vivid Magic-related memories from the late stages of our relationship. The first one was when I took her for a walk to break the news that I’d spent eighty of my precious dollars to buy a used Black Lotus for my deck. “Honey, it’ll help me win money, and besides, it’s a great investment!” The second one was when I got home from a daylong tournament on a Sunday to find her crying on the sofa. Hoping and expecting me to have been home earlier, she’d made dinner reservations at an expensive restaurant in order to surprise me (this was before cell phones were ubiquitous), and she was devastated when I came home too late for us to make it to the restaurant. In the end, I broke off the relationship for bigger reasons than its Magic-related tension, but that tension definitely had been a symptom of our problems and was among the issues that hurt our closeness.

After breaking up with Linda, I became completely consumed with competitive Magic. Being good at Magic became a central part of my identity and a crucial pillar of my ego. My first girlfriend after Linda didn’t play Magic—I met her through my roommate, and that relationship was inevitably brief. My next major relationship was with a Magic player, and that also seemed inevitable.

When Magic becomes your whole world, it affects how you should approach dating non-Magic-players and whether you should try to date only other Magic players. The problem with limiting yourself to dating just female Magic players is that not only are there relatively few of them, but that most other male Magic players will be pursuing them also. You have two easy outs: Either don’t have a girlfriend, or date any woman who’ll take you the way you are. Otherwise, you’ll need to work hard either to convince a desirable Magic player to date you, or to convince a desirable non-Magic-player to date you.

While I was going to one Pro Tour after another, dating a non-Magic-player wasn’t really an option for me. I was playing Magic for hours every single day and traveling to Magic tournaments every month. Playing Magic was a primary way for me to spend time with my girlfriend. It was also one of my only opportunities to meet women, as absurd as that sounds. It’s much like any other hobby—if your life revolves around it, so does your social life. It wasn’t just with women—soon, one hundred percent of my male friends were Magic players. My non-Magic-playing friends either became Magic players or drifted apart from me. While this may seem sad and/or pathetic, it’s pretty natural when you have a passion around which your life is centered.

While it’s not easy to attract desirable female Magic players to be your girlfriend, it is possible. The most obvious thing that you can do is be really good at Magic. All women appreciate excellence. Magic-playing women especially appreciate excellence at Magic. This dovetails nicely with a life focused around Magic. If you’re spending hours per day playing Magic, you either should be really good at it . . . or should soon get really good at it—otherwise, perhaps you’re spending too much time playing Magic.

Desirable, single female Magic players have a lot of men interested in dating them, and they can afford to be picky about whom they date. In addition, if they’re attractive, you’ll be competing against non-Magic-playing men as well. While some non-Magic-playing women may think that a guy being into Magic is a deal-breaker (See Finkel, Jon), most non-Magic-playing men won’t care very much as long as they find the woman otherwise attractive.

Many of the same principles that apply to pursuing non-Magic-playing women apply to pursuing Magic-playing women.

  • Be excellent.
  • Present yourself well.
  • Flirt.
  • Be different.
  • Have a plan.
  • Know your competition.
  • Know her.

As discussed, be excellent. In this case, winning Magic tournaments is one of the best ways to demonstrate this. Having the coolest decks and the coolest Magic collection can help, but when it comes to Magic, nothing is sexier than winning, especially winning a lot of money. If you do win an event, invite a girl out to celebrate with you. This is good for several reasons. First, you’ll get her caught up in the euphoria of your win—she’ll get a bit of a contact high from you (if you’re like most people, winning a Magic tournament gives you a high). Second, it’s a good chance for her to see you while you’re feeling smug and cocky. Despite what many say, this is like catnip for most women. After winning a tournament, you’ll be feeling confident and good about yourself—the perfect time for you to be interacting with someone you want to date. Finally, if the woman associates you winning a Magic tournament with you buying her dinner, she’ll become your cheerleader. If a woman finds herself caring about whether you win or lose, she’s now caring about you, too.

Present yourself well. This one’s pretty obvious. Many Magic players don’t seem to care about their appearance at tournaments, and that’s great for you. If you dress and groom yourself well, this will be a good way to set you apart from the competition.

If you’re good at Magic, you’re probably good at strategy. Attracting female Magic players is a competition also. Use strategy here, too. Take a moment to watch your competition in order to get good tips on what not to do:

  • Don’t come to the event unshowered and wearing a sloppy tee-shirt and jeans.
  • Don’t just walk up to a girl and start treating her like a noob.
  • Don’t insult her intelligence.
  • Don’t be a braggart.
  • Don’t get lost in the crowd of men hovering around her.
  • Don’t use talking loudly and forcefully about your Magic opinions as a way to get her attention.

Flirt. This isn’t something special to Magic tournaments. You should use flirting as a tool with any woman who interests you. Make her laugh. Being funny is a crucial flirting tool. Make brief eye contact with her from across the room, perhaps with a knowing smile to go with it.

Be different. Dressing nicely is a good start. If you’re the guy in a dress shirt and a sport coat, girls will notice you at a Magic tournament. With so much competition, you need to stand out. Obviously, you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons: being loud, being obnoxious, being a bad winner, or being a bad loser. You want to come across as smart, talented, classy, and clever. When I see a woman surrounded by admirers at a Magic tournament, I avoid joining them. I wait for her to come to me. While this won’t usually work if she doesn’t know you at all, you should at least wait until she’s unoccupied to approach her.

Have a plan. Remember: Use strategy. If you’re good at Magic and she knows it, perhaps she’ll play Two-Headed Giant with you. Doing this will give you something to bond over and help her see your talent more. Find out places where you can “accidentally” run into her in the future and “accidentally” look your best. Show interest in things that interest her. Listen to her talk about herself, and listen sympathetically to her bad-beats stories.

Know your competition. This is closely tied in with being different. If you understand what the other men in your Magic circle have to offer, you can better figure out what you should do to be impressive.

Another fact of Magic dating life is that most desirable female Magic players have boyfriends. There are two reasons. First, many desirable women who play Magic learned Magic and became interested in it through a boyfriend. Second, if a desirable female Magic player wants a boyfriend, she’s got so many men from whom to choose that she’ll typically have one. Often, the only way to find a desirable Magic-playing woman to date is to flirt with the ones who are taken. Then, you wait for one of them to become available, or perhaps even get one to choose you over her current boyfriend. Obviously, this can be a moral gray area, but I’m not advocating directly stealing someone’s girlfriend. I’m suggesting you should make yourself desirable enough to her that she might choose to pursue you instead of her boyfriend—or at least to choose you if she breaks up with him. Still, I don’t recommend this if you care about having a friendship with her current boyfriend.

Know her. This is another principle that applies whether or not she plays Magic. If you know a woman well, you’re better equipped to woo her. Why does she play Magic? Is it because she wants to win a Pro Tour? Is she into Magic alters and art? Does she just like hanging out with gamers? Gathering information is an important part of winning a woman over. If she’s still learning and wants to get better at Magic, helping her get better can be good if you do it right. The landmines to avoid here are insulting her intelligence and coming across as condescending. If you have demonstrated enough to her that you’re really good at Magic, you should be able to tell; ideally, she’ll even approach you with a Magic question. Perhaps offer to help her test and prepare for a PTQ. Be careful to avoid being pushy. If a woman rebuffs an advance, back off immediately. Not only do you lose any shot with her if you’re pushy, you might end up looking bad to other people as well.

I hope this gives you a better idea about how to approach dating Magic players. While it’s similar to dating women in general, there are other factors to take into account. Next week, I’ll be focusing more on dating non-Magic-players and on balancing Magic with a relationship. I’ll also use more of my personal experiences to help illustrate it. For now, focus on presenting yourself well and on winning at Magic. Good things will follow.

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