Home > Spreading Cheese, Tournament Report > Spreading Cheese Overseas – The Early Years

Spreading Cheese Overseas – The Early Years

Hello everyone. Before I begin, let me apologize for the lack of an article last week. I was swamped by work, and I slept for a total amount of 4 hours that week, and that’s usually how long it takes me to write a Spreading Cheese article, which would have meant that I wouldn’t get any sleep last week! This week, my schedule is also hectic, but I have more than 4 hours to spare, since I’m writing this on an airplane trip back to Turkey, so you guys get an article.

So what’s with the special title, you ask? Well, I’m going back to my homeland of Turkey, where I don’t think I will have the time to play Magic, but I do have some interesting tales to tell. I want to expose you all to the life of a Magic player in a semi-third world country where the game isn’t even in our language. Why should you care? Because I believe this will be enlightening to all, and it will make you appreciate what you have here in the USA. I also believe that is in line with the holiday spirit, appreciating what you have. So let’s go.

I started playing Magic when I was 6. There was this store called “Dungeon” near my school that sold school supplies, action figures, D&D books, pirated video games (piracy is huge in Turkey), football cards (you guys might call it soccer), collectible Batman stickers, and Magic cards. The store owner especially had a thing for Magic, he had a huge collection of cards, but I’ll get to that later.

When I finished my first year in school, my mother decided to get me a gift, and she asked what I wanted. I saw this interesting shiny thing, a game called Magic, and it intrigued me. It was quite expensive (more on that later too), but I had done well in my first year and my mother wanted to do something nice, so she got me that shiny thing (It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a starter set of Portal Second Age). My mom had to take me back to her office at the hospital (she’s a doctor) to finish up her work. So I opened up my Portal set and started reading the rules. I was instantly hooked by the interesting setting, the cool art and the mechanics of the game. Of course I didn’t have a complete grasp back then, but representing monsters with cards to attack opposing Planeswalkers really intrigued me. By the time I got home, I was already itching to play a game. But I had no one to play with, so I played against myself, playing both decks. Thus I discovered testing decks.

In the following weeks, before we even went to our summer home for vacation, I had already bought a 5th Edition tournament pack and a Tempest tournament pack, and made myself a black-red deck with Black Knights and Shocks, and I had also made an opposing blue-white deck with bounce cards, damage prevention (give me some slack, I was six!) and flying creatures. It was so fun! Imagine being seven years old (my birthday had already passed in that timeline, and guess what I had asked for?), your imagination running wild with all these spells and monsters. It changed my life. My other obsession was Lego, and I made Lego versions of Magic creatures to battle with each other. When we went to our summer home, I took my cards with me. Now, my parents were slightly concerned about what the hell this whole card business I was into, so I showed them the game, and we played a few games (with varying degrees of success). We had a tradition of playing card games at our summer house, and that year’s card game had become Magic.

When the summer vacation was over and school started again, I introduced the game to some of my friends. They also really liked it. But then we faced the grim reality of the situation: Magic cards were expensive. Especially in Turkey, and even more so when you’re a primary school kid with a minimal budget. I soon discovered the answer: skipping lunches and spending that money on cards. Doing this, I acquired a sizable collection, and I also helped my friends out. It was amazing. Soon thereafter, we got the attention of the owner of Dungeon. He was a man called Tarik, and in Turkey we call people who are older than us but we are familiar with as “abi”, which means “older brother,” and soon me and all of my friends became acquainted with Tarik abi. We were a closely-knit community, with around 5 of my friends sneaking out of school during lunch break to play Magic. The school soon caught on to the fad, and banned Magic cards in school. Many times our cards got confiscated, and we got scolded, but that didn’t stop us. So, basically, I had started a fad that would change the lives of many of my friends to come, and would make me many new friends in the process. My friends, if you’re reading this, I apologize to you all for getting you into this game which sucked us all dry of our money, but at least we had a hell of a ride and we enjoyed it, didn’t we?

Years passed, and now we were in seventh grade. We were pretty much full-fledged Magic players now. It was around Invasion block (note that Magic cards didn’t get released officially in Turkey, so we had to wait for Tarik abi to import cards, which was inconsistent, slow and expensive, but it was obviously worth it), and pretty much everyone loved it. We didn’t really follow any format, all our decks were Vintage decks (of course no one had any power, probably less than 10 people had power in our country back then) without a ban/restrict list. I also got into the Magic novels around that time, and being a bookworm, I was really into them too. I used to play a black-red Mercenary deck when Masques came out, and when Invasion block came, it turned into BGR, and a short while later I dropped R in favor of stuff like Spiritmonger and Pernicious Deed. The level of the game had started to grow. Tarik had two decks, a black Necropotence/Sinkhole control deck, and a White weenie deck. A friend of mine, Tolga, had a mono red Goblin deck (he was always the Spike, even before the archetype existed), another friend called Kutay had a prevention deck, which was basically U/W counters, clerics, Meddling Mage, etc. We even had a Stasis deck. Those are the decks that I still remember with their tricks. I have to admit that none of us knew anything about deckbuilding, we only had 56k modems at our homes so we could barely look up cards, and even if we did find a deck, the cards were really hard to obtain. Also, no one got the memo about limiting your deck to 60 cards. Some of us did proxies, which was fine. Our community had grown to around 10 people by that time. Of course we were all rampant cheaters. Tarik had 6 Swords to Plowshares in his white deck, Tolga Brainstormed at will (without playing the card or even having one; obviously, he was the Mind Sculptor of our time), and I bent the rules all the time.

How did I bend the rules though? Well, here’s the thing: No one knew any proper English, and the cards were in English. I was the only person who knew proper English because I’m half American to begin with, and so I had the final say on the wordings of cards. I always used this to my advantage, but in my defense everyone else cheated too and I had to compete, and everyone knew everyone else cheated anyway. It was a completely different game. So, after a while, I realized that Tolga and I were winning pretty much all the games we played; Tolga through his extremely aggressive 4x Goblin lackey 4x Goblin Bomb deck accompanied by his cheating; me through my robust and over-powered deck. You see, I was running Spiritmongers, Pernicious Deeds, Diabolic Edicts…the whole Rock deal. I had no idea The Rock was a great deck online, I had just naturally built an awesome deck (that’s my favorite deck of all time, I still miss it). I decided to go big. I researched a little bit, and discovered that there was going to be an Extended (Tempest-Onslaught, I think) tournament at Bilkent University (which is funnily the University I ended up going to), so I sleeved my cards up and read up on the format. Now, let me remind you, Magic cards were expensive and hard to obtain back then, and netdecking was also a rare phenomenon (it was completely unknown to our metagame), and my deck, built through thousands of skipped lunches, cutthroat trades with Tarik (since he controlled the supply he sucked us dry of everything) and sheer determination, I built the best deck I could think of, and playtested it by myself during nights and with my friends during the day.

Soon it was tournament day, but there was one problem: Bilkent University is a 35-minute drive from the city center, and there was no way I could make it. So I begged my grandparents to take me there (my parents, being overprotective, thought the college Magic players would get me involved with drugs or something and had thus banned me from going), and they did. They even waited for me during the entire tournament, since we had no idea how long it would last. There I was, facing around ten older players, all of them looking much more grizzled and experienced than me, cracking jokes with each other. And I was there, all by myself, a 14 year-old kid. I still remember the fear and tension. It was really awkward when I walked in, and it was clear that they thought this was some kind of joke and that I would lose miserably and go back sulking. They were still nice to me though.

So I obtained my DCI card, and played my first round of sanctioned Magic. As the game started, I realized that I was paired with a Black-White Rotlung Reanimator Cleric Deck. The combo was scary, but vulnerable to a card that I had 4 copies of: Pernicious Deed. The matchup was a breeze for me, and I won 2-0. When the results were turned in, there was a silence in the room (which, five years later, would be my classroom for many of my college courses). The new kid had won a game against one of the players in the group. Word quickly got around that I was playing a Spiritmonger deck.

My second round was against a deck that contained white, and after losing to Spiritmonger the first round, my opponent asked the color of the ‘Monger while sideboarding, and I replied “Black/Green”, and he smirked and put in a few cards in his deck, which I knew to be Circles of Protection: Black. I got suddenly ecstatic when I realized what he did, because I also realized that he didn’t read the OTHER ability of Spiritmonger. Afterwards, game 2 was really easy too, and I also won that one. My official tournament record was 2-0, and I realized that everyone in the room was staring at me. It was kind of creepy.

Later matchups were with Kerem, who turned out to be the older brother of one of my classmates, turns out he knew about me, and he was playing some variant of Blue-White Control. Game one was tough, but I won, and he conceded game 2 after I dropped two Mongers on turn two with two Dark Rituals after a turn one Birds of Paradise. Things were going great for me. I faced Derya, who was playing UG Madness, and I was already familiar with that archetype from my metagame, so I easily beat that out too. At the end of the day, I had played a grueling 6 rounds, losing only once to a RG Masticore deck, and I emerged as the winner of the tournament. It was an amazing feeling. I had gone to a foreign place, faced 6 guys, all older than me, and beat all but one of them. Soon, I discovered that they had a Magic club at Bilkent University, and I became a member of their community, even going to prereleases and Standard tournaments with them. I had officially become a Magic player.

Two years later, we were in high school. Our school campus moved somewhere else, so Tarik went out of business (our school was his main source of income) and the Magic players in Bilkent had graduated. Our game was slowly dying as it got harder to obtain cards, and our new campus was also outside the city, and Magic cards were as banned as ever in the school. We met after hours, obtaining cards through whatever means we could, and kept playing. But it was clear to all of us that the best years of our Magic life were over. Then, everyone got into music (I personally started playing guitar), computer upgrades became cheaper in Turkey so everyone got into video games, and suddenly Magic was abandoned. A few of my friends still followed the game, but it was really sparse and difficult. The second and third (which is the last year of highschool in Turkey) years were dominated by the OSS, the University Entrance Exam which is a once-per-year, extremely competitive and difficult exam that everyone has to take to go to college. No one played Magic. Even my parents banned me from doing it, and I didn’t really have the time anyway. What little time I had, I snuck away to an Internet cafe with my friends to play Warcraft 3 and Counter-Strike over LAN.

By the time I got into Bilkent University, Magic was completely out of my mind. Then one day, when going to a new class for the first time, I realized that the classroom seemed familiar. It was that same exact classroom where the Magic had happened years ago. Thus I inquired about the Magic club in the school. Turns out that when all of those players graduated, there was no one to maintain the club, so it fell apart. I tried to take the initiative and revive the club, but I couldn’t get enough members, and we didn’t have the budget. The school wasn’t really interested anyway. At that point, I again came to the conclusion that my Magic life was over. There was no way to keep playing.

Of course there’s more to the story, but that’s all for this week. I hope you enjoyed this little tale, and there is more to write about, and I’ll write it in the following weeks. Until then, may you enjoy the blessings of playing Magic without having to starve yourself, and being able to play with whomever you want.

-N

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  1. Umutcan
    December 23, 2010 at 8:45 am

    i cried while reading it… 😛

    BTW: and we even had a 5 color control deck without
    any power nine cards, total worth about 100$ =)

  2. Tolga the KoB
    December 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Hey I’m half-American too!! And that goblin deck you mentioned above, it grew out to be Ankara’s most powerful legacy deck, three years ago. (Before the unreasonably overpowered Alara and Zendikar blocks existed) Btw, your BG deck is the deck i hated the most, ever.!

  3. Mc
    December 24, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Seninle Magic oynamayı isterdim. Zamanının olmaması çok kötü.

  4. Kerrydan
    December 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

    What a great and intriguing story, Noyan! I’m very much interested in hearing what came next for you. Thanks for sharing.

  5. December 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Great article. I want part 2!

  1. January 7, 2011 at 12:15 am
  2. June 30, 2011 at 12:57 am

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