“Humans of Magic” interview series: Wilson Hunter

Last year, I started an interview podcast called “Humans of Magic.” The podcast focuses on deep 1:1 discussions with Magic players and personalities.

For example:

  • What makes it difficult for Gerry Thompson to stay in touch with friends?
  • How did Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa grow up playing Magic in Brazil?
  • Why is Christian Calcano pursuing a career outside of Magic?
  • What did Bob Huang learn about life, after traveling around the world?

Through these conversations, I want to give you insight as to WHO these people are — and not just what they do when they sit down to play Magic. More emphasis on their personalities, and less focus on strategy.

I am currently compiling a half-dozen of the best interviews in text format, as part of the upcoming Humans of Magic: Volume 1 book anthology. I promise that these will be the most in-depth interviews with Magic players that you will ever read.

Are you interested in learning more? If so, please subscribe to my mailing list. I will keep you updated and let you in on a number of exclusives along the way.

I am releasing previews from the book, leading up to its release. Here is my conversation with Wilson Hunter.

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Who is Wilson Hunter?

  • Co-host of the hit Magic podcast, “The Brainstorm Show”
  • Founder and CEO of CardBoard Live, a new streaming platform for card games
  • 2 Legacy Grand Prix Top 8s
  • 1 Legacy Grand Prix Top 32
  • 1 Limited Grand Prix Top 16
  • 1 Star City Games Invitational Top 4, and 2 Top 16s
  • Qualified for Pro Tour Ixalan

This interview was recorded in November 2016.

 

James:             Wilson, man. How’s it going?

 

Wilson:            Hey James. It’s going pretty good. It’s bright and early here in Tennessee. I did not get many hours of sleep last night, but that’s okay. That’s been normal for me lately. About to get on the road after this, but this is an awesome way to start the day. Being able to talk to you, and talk about Magic. Normally not able to do that, so I’m pretty excited.

 

James:             You’re someone who I’ve always admired, because of “The Brainstorm Show” podcast, and your results on the Magic circuit. It’s an impressive body of work. And I understand that you’re primarily a Legacy player, right?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. That’s been my favorite format since 2010. I’ll play mostly everything, but Legacy is a timeless format for me. If work gets heavy for a while, or family stuff, or anything, Legacy is always there. It’s definitely a changing format, but it’s not like Standard where you have to get a whole new deck every two weeks just to stay competitive on the circuit. You can really spend some time mastering a deck and then come back to it in a couple of months and it’s still pretty reasonable. But yeah, Legacy’s been my favorite format for a while and I really like the complexity of it. I personally feel that it has a high ceiling, where if you spend a ton of time trying to master it, that generally translated over into better results for you. In a way that’s true for all Magic, but it’s even more accentuated in Legacy just because of all the decisions that the format provides.

 

James:             And if I may just backtrack a little bit…it sounds like it’s hard for you to get a solid eight hours of sleep. It’s pretty early for you, and it seems like you’re pretty used to this routine-wise. Is that right?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. Last night was a little more extreme. I got four hours of sleep. Every Wednesday night I play some soccer, and that’s my physical outlet. And sometimes it’s just…I don’t know. I just lay there. I was just completely dead, but I couldn’t go to sleep for a while. I did a little bit of work, but honestly I just couldn’t go to sleep because of feeling dead from soccer. But yeah, in general, just because of the amount of work I’ve been doing lately and some family stuff, I haven’t been getting a ton of sleep. But that’s alright. It’s a kind of thing where your body starts to get used to it and you just start to get into marathon mode for a while. I don’t really notice it after a while.

 

James:             It sounds like four hours of sleep is something that you’re getting used to.

 

Wilson:            Yeah. That sounds sort of depressing, but I’m a little more used to it. And I have a two and a half year old daughter. When she was an infant, that completely changed my sleep schedule in a way that—even if it’s not like it was then—it hasn’t come back since that point. I don’t even know if I’d be able to lie down for a solid eight or nine hours. Parents out there listen to the podcast and know that there are some other Magic buddies that I have, that will listen to our podcast, that are parents too. And that’s something that they’ll get to.

 

James:             So it’s been two and a half years of not getting eight hours of sleep.

 

Wilson:            Well, yeah. But I don’t even know if that’s because of my daughter. That phase sort of ends half a year to one year into it—of having to wake up during the night for her and everything. For me at least, it did something to my internal clock where it just trained my body to not need as much sleep as before. It’s actually good because I operate at weird hours of the night and day. But I’m a morning and night person. I struggle the most from 3 to 5 PM, but because of that I get a ton of work done late night and in the morning. But hey, it is what it is.

 

James:             It sounds like you’ve got the best, or the worst, of both worlds. Depending on how you look at it. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Something like that.

 

James:             So Wilson, there’s so much I want to talk about. I’m really excited to talk to you about a whole bunch of things. It will be good to just start from the beginning. I know you online, and you have a hit Legacy podcast—we’ll get into that in a bit—but I want to know more about Wilson Hunter, the person. Can you just tell me a little bit about yourself—where you’re from, your background, your parents, anything you feel comfortable sharing?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. I spent most of my childhood in Central Virginia, in Charlottesville. I have one younger sister. My dad, he is and was a traveling sales rep, so he worked very hard and he’s always on the road. The house I grew up in for most of my life was on a farm. Pretty rural setting, maybe 20-25 minutes outside of the city of Charlottesville. I went to a really small rural school, before going to a more “normal” high school that a lot of people experience. I do think that growing up, I probably had a…there are a lot of people out there that grew up in rural America somewhere, or in whatever country they live in. But it’s a different experience, and a lot of my good buddies have had this experience. There’s just some things that go with that, that change your life a little bit. But yeah, I went to Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and now I live in Johnson City, Tennessee. I moved here for the job when I got married and everything, and I’ve been here for five years.

 

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James:             Nice. What about your mom? What did she do?

 

Wilson:            So, right now my mom designs gardens for people. When I was growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom, and she was an awesome mom. And a lot of my desire to solve puzzles and do some of these things, it really came from her fostering a lot of that. There’s a lot of really cool stories of things that she would do for me. I remember that one time—this is a very specific memory, and there’s a lot of stuff like this—she just gave me this huge blank book. It was two hundred blank pages. And she knew that I really liked the Amazon and all these Amazon creatures and stuff. So she basically started filling it out with me as a field guide for the Amazon. And I was a really young guy, maybe six years old. But it was cool because I ended up basically making this very simple book—of all these creatures I liked. Looking back on it, I took that kind of thing for granted, but that was just such a cool way of getting me creatively involved in learning.

 

James:             Right.

 

Wilson:            So I really credit my mom for fostering a strong desire to learn that carried over to my hobbies now, and what I enjoy now. It was really great for our entire family that my mom stayed home and did a lot of that stuff with me. And I credit both her and my dad for being great parents, growing up.

 

James:             You said that your dad was in a traveling salesman type of role?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, he sold yearbooks to schools. And that is one of the things that I do now. But he was just driving all over the place. He worked long hours, and it’s somewhat seasonal, so we did have a decent amount of time in the summer. But yeah, he’s just a hardworking guy. That’s sort of his personality, so there’s some elements too where my dad needs to be thinking in steps. He’s actually the opposite of me in a lot of ways. He’d never do something like play Magic, so he has to…if he’s not working, he has to be…it’s almost like mowing the grass is therapeutic for him. And that’s just the opposite of anything I would ever enjoy doing.

 

James:             Some of it has rubbed off on you, though. I just have the sense that you’re a hardworking guy. Even when it comes to working around the clock—you mentioned that just now. And the discipline to play a card game. So, I imagine there’s some part of your dad’s personality that rubbed off on you.

 

Wilson:            That’s a good point. That might be the elements of the parenting culture. I don’t feel like we think the same way. But the way that my life is now, I definitely credit a lot of these values to him, for sure. Personality profile-wise, the Myers-Briggs thing, I’m an INTJ. My mom is the same. My dad is completely opposite hers. I don’t know what he is. But yeah, you’re right. I was definitely affected by both my parents in different ways.

 

James:             You mentioned that you grew up on a farm, so you must be pretty good with your hands, right?

 

Wilson:            Well, that’s sort of like a…

 

James:             Was that a stereotype that I’m conjuring up?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, we did a lot of stuff that somebody who didn’t grew up on a farm wouldn’t have done. But we didn’t have tons of cattle or anything like that. We lived on a horse farm, and some people kept their horses at our house. I have some memories of working on a chicken coop with my dad, or doing some various gardening activities. We had chickens and stuff. But the farm aspect was not a business-type of farm. I had some friends that really did work, actually live on a legitimate working farm with tons of cattle and stuff like that. So it was definitely a different experience than that. I guess when I say farm, to some people that sounds like a farm. To people who actually grew up on a farm with cows and all of these things—it wasn’t that type of experience. But I did a lot of outdoor type of things when I was a kid because of that. There’s lots of acres and lots of places to play. A decent amount of woods and all that, sort of behind our farm, where the pastures were. My sister and I would play a ton outside, so that that was a great area to foster creativity, for sure.

 

James:             What kind of stuff did you like to do when you were a kid, and throughout high school? Was it just being in the woods and hanging out? What kinds of stuff were you into?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, going back to the story of the book that my mom gave me—there’s a ton of stuff like that. I mean, both outdoors and indoors activities. As a young kid, when your mom is still very involved in some of the things that you do, that started some of the things I did on my own. But yeah, some of it was outside. I remember building this huge fort that was really poorly built, just tons of boards nailed to the tree and stuff like that. That kind of stuff was really fun. I really did enjoy doing a lot of outdoor stuff. And I absolutely loved board games. I remember at a very young age I really loved Axis and Allies. I don’t know if people out there played that or remember that. I think that’s one of the more famous board games. But yeah, that was one of my first introductions to games. Before that, there were games like Risk. But Axis and Allies was my first game that was a little more complicated. It made me think, “Wow! Some of these games are so deep and are so cool.” It was really hard to nail down my dad to get him to play that game with me, but I got some friends who did play and an uncle who was a very cerebral dude, who really loved playing that game. I mean, I had some interests across the board. I got really into sports. My dad was more of a sports guy, so I got exposed to a lot of those things from him. I really loved soccer. Like I said, I’m still playing soccer. For me, that’s the best way to exercise. It’s really hard for me to lift weights or stuff that’s super repetitive. I like having a competitive goal when I’m playing, so I really did all kinds of sports. Baseball, soccer, basketball, all that stuff.

 

Axis & Allies Spring 1942 Setup

 

James:             Very nice. So you played the board games. You played Axis and Allies, which is a classic, by the way. I also enjoy the game a great deal. At what point did you actually find Magic: The Gathering?

 

Wilson:            It was in middle school. Middle school for me was really tough. Part of the way that I grew up—with some of the things that I was doing—a lot of these things were introverted in nature. I didn’t really grow up in a neighborhood setting where I could just run down the road and be part of a gang of five kids, or something like that. So, going to middle school…and my elementary school was actually similar. A lot of rural folks out there went to my elementary school. But middle school was pretty rough. I felt like I was a little bit of a weird kid, and I’m still a weird big kid now. [Laughs]

 

James:             We all are, right? [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            [Laughs] Yeah, that’s right. But Magic, I found out about it in middle school. No one really taught me how to play the game for a while. I really just had some cards and I tried to see if I could use them in some way—with another kid in middle school who didn’t have a lot of friends. We were basically playing some game that wasn’t Magic, but we were playing with Magic cards. And that was really fun. I really liked the art and all that kind of stuff. I remember getting the Deckmasters set, the Finkel versus Garfield box set, for Christmas one year. And that was a big point in which…I got those cards, maybe I got some more cards here and there, and I really started to get more involved. And then at some point—I don’t really remember exactly when that was—but at some point I really did start to figure out the rules. And it’s weird. I don’t really know how, so I can’t really tell you. But there had to be people that I ran into, or something like that.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            But I didn’t really understand the game well until high school. All that being said, in middle school I was probably playing the game like a completely different game. Not even Magic, but it was cool because it provided an outlet for me and there are few things like that. Magic was, even at the very early phases, a really big part of my life, during one of the more difficult times of my life in middle school. I thought it was cool. It was a cool way to get out and do stuff. And I remember the guy that I was playing with. He probably had a rough middle school experience, too. We didn’t really talk to anybody else other than each other.

 

James:             Right. It’s a way for you and your friend to bond over an activity. It sounds like you played what seemed to be Magic but with different rules. We all kind of did that as we started, right? Just kind of figure things out. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            [Laughs] Right.

 

James:             You mentioned earlier that you went to college. How did Magic evolve as a game for you as you got older?

 

Wilson:            If it’s okay, I’ll bridge the gap a little bit with the high school stuff. When I was in high school, I got to know Paul Michel, who played a lot of Magic. He’s the co-host on our podcast. Paul became one of my best buddies in high school. I had a great high school experience. My high school was a good school. It had good academic opportunities, which helped me have a great outlet. And in general, too, people start to grow up in high school and embrace different groups of people. People that are different, and stuff like that. I know that’s not true everywhere, but that was my experience. High school was actually a pretty positive experience, once I got into 11th and 12th grade and stuff like that. But yeah, Paul Michel was one of my best buddies in high school and he had played Magic at a very young age. He actually knew how to play the game very well. I think he was on the…what is it called? Junior Super Series?

 

James:             I think it’s the Junior Super League, or Super Series. Something like that.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, something like that. He was competitive at the age of nine.

 

James:             Oh, wow. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            So Paul—he knew all the rules. He had these old decks that were all tier one Standard decks.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            He had the Parallax Wave deck, the Psychatog Upheaval stuff. This green Stompy deck from Urza’s Saga with Masticores and Gaea’s Cradles and stuff.

 

James:             So, this was a new world for you, right? This guy is essentially a master—relatively speaking. And he sounds like a super smart dude.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. I remember just whipping out our cards because we found out that we both played Magic. And he had these decks that were these tuned decks meant to accomplish a very specific goal. And I remember taking out my Deckmasters tin with my motley crew of half Deckmasters cards, half cards that I just liked and jammed in there. Didn’t really know how they worked.

 

James:             Right.

 

Wilson:            But yeah, all that being said, Paul really helped me learn the game and understand the game. And in high school, we started going to FNMs. Neither of us had any disposable income as high school students, so we basically got really scrappy to get a Standard deck that we shared. We would take turns playing it at the FNM. I guess I haven’t even answered your question yet. You want me flash forward to college. I ended up at Appalachian State. I started playing FNMs there. It was a great way for me to meet a lot of people. That was something I started looking forward to every week. But yeah, I quickly started getting to a point where I wanted to be competitive and build the right decks. I wanted to win when I was at the App State FNM. I dove into that pretty quickly, and I’m pretty sure I went to FNM the first week I was there. I really liked the crowd. I started making some good friends through that. Some of my first friends Upstate were Magic players. And for me, something sort of changed in my head. I started to really enjoy building competitive decks. They weren’t net decked competitive decks. It wasn’t about trying to play the tier one deck that a pro was playing. I was trying to build my own decks that could beat those decks, and sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I wasn’t. I was often not successful in the beginning. But for me it quickly became one of my favorite things to do in college.

 

James:             It sounds like it became your number one thing, right?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. I’m not exactly sure why I went into it so heavily. I guess it’s because that was my first experience living on my own, so I didn’t really have the introvert outlet. I didn’t go back home to a lot of space, where I could go do something else that was introverted and creative. I probably just gravitated towards something that I was comfortable in and knew, and that was playing games. I really wasn’t into the heavy socializing scene, even though I did that. I went out with some of my friends and I did meet some people outside of Magic. But in general, that just wasn’t me. I was really looking for something else to do with my time in college that I really enjoyed. So I went really heavily into Magic. I remember—and a lot of people can probably relate to this—but on the non-FNM days I would be on the Internet forums, putting my cards together. Magic really became more of an everyday part of my life, and that was new. In high school, we didn’t think about it every day. There were some weeks where we would play-test at school during independent study or lunch or whatever, but it wasn’t every single day. And in college it really became…it’s on my mind every day and I’m doing something with it. And that’s a big reason why I kept getting more competitive. To the point where I wanted to start to travel to some of these events with some friends.

 

James:             I know from our past conversations, Wilson, that you mentioned that you’re hyper-competitive. More competitive than the average person. Right?

 

Wilson:            Yeah.

 

James:             Did you start honing this hyper-competitiveness at this point in time, or did it come a little bit later? Or have you always been hyper-competitive in everything you do?

 

Wilson:            That’s a personality trait I’ve always had, and there are some positives and negatives about that. I think people are competitive for different reasons. I’ve never been somebody who’s competitive at beating the human that is in front of me. I spend very little time focusing on my opponents. I’m extremely competitive about winning or beating a puzzle. And it’s got to be something…it’s a mix between the games and activities that I was exposed to as a kid, and also my personality.

 

James:             So you’re saying that even when you were playing board games—way back, before Magic—you were competitive?

 

Wilson:            Yeah. There’s jokes in my family about this kind of thing. About how even as a little kid, I would never let the people playing games with me say, “Let’s go take a break.” That made me really unhappy.

 

James:             Yeah?

 

Wilson:            We really had to sit down and play the full Axis and Allies game, or I would not be happy with the situation. With Magic…my friends will be able to tell you that I’m a strangely extreme person. Part of that is whenever I get into something—an activity—I take it to the extreme. I inevitably get really competitive in whatever it is that I’m doing. The key distinction is that people compete against different things. For example, I played soccer last night. And I’m really not focused on the people that I’m playing against. And we had some guys on the other team trash talk us last night. Those guys seemed so focused on beating you and being better than you.

 

James:             They want to get you off your game. It’s a personal thing to them.

 

Wilson:            Yeah. It’s personal to them, and that just couldn’t be more different from the way that I feel about it. In any competitive activity, I am trying to beat the game. In Magic, there happens to be a human pilot for the other deck. But the way that I’m doing it is—I’m trying to beat the other person’s deck.

 

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James:             Have you ever been competitive in a non-human scenario? For example, playing a single-player video game and trying to beat the computer? Or is there always a human or actual opponent behind the game?

 

Wilson:            I liked playing some video games in the past, as I was growing up. I didn’t get as into that as some people. The best comparison I can make is to school and academics. I was extremely competitive with myself, just trying to make good grades and take it to the next level. And that never had to do with anybody else. It really came down to, “I got 80% on this test. How can I do a ton better next time?” That really has nothing to do with what anybody else is doing. So in that way, I really liked school for a long time because of the competitive aspect of it. I liked the feeling that I could get better. And if I wasn’t doing well, I asked myself what I could do to conquer that class. Does that make sense?

 

James:             It does make sense, and it’s a wonderful quality to have. It sounds like you’re motivating yourself in the right way.

 

Wilson:            Well, I appreciate that. I mean, I think there are some positives to that. But just like anything else, there are some negatives, too. I can become obsessive with some of the things—like wanting to win. Not necessarily wanting to beat the other person, but wanting to…there might be a perfectionist aspect of it, which is not always a good trait to have. It’s the desire to think that a B-grade is definitely not enough. Even receiving an A- grade in a class, I feel like I’m missing something. And that may have taken away from my enjoyment of things.

 

James:             I’ll go ahead and ask: has there ever been a time that you thought you took things a bit too far in this realm? It could be anything where you pushed yourself…maybe not over the edge, but really darn close to it?

 

Wilson:            James, I always take it too far. That’s a pretty common element in the things that I do. I know that’s really subjective. But a lot of people would see what I do and say, “Man, that’s pretty extreme!” When it comes to Magic right now, I don’t get to play it a ton. So if I don’t have good results—if I don’t have a good result at one tournament I go to, because there’s not a large sample size—it becomes really frustrating. And there’s no immediate way for me to fix this feeling. There’s no tournament the next weekend that I can try to do better at. I really have to sit around for a couple of months to get another chance, due to my playing schedule. There’s a lot of frustration that can cause, and you miss out on a lot of other stuff. If I get super honed in on one thing, I’m definitely missing some other elements. There’s always been a social element that I’ve missed by doing some of these things. I’m not in these huge friend groups of people that are just going out to eat all the time, and socializing, hanging out, stuff like that. I’m usually focused on beating some game somewhere. In school, I was trying to make good grades. So, there are definitely downsides to all of these things, for sure.

 

James:             Yeah. I just have to say, though, that you’re not alone. For the longest time I was pretty much in the same camp. I would be the kind of person who, when you played Magic with me, I wasn’t even making small talk with you. I was so focused on the game itself, rather than the pleasantries or the community. It took me a very long time to shift away from that. I’m not even sure if shifting away is the right thing. I’m just saying that I can definitely relate to that.

 

Wilson:            Very cool.

 

James:             How do you handle losing?

 

Wilson:            I’m a not a super emotional person, so I tend to look at losses on a logical level. But if anything, I am frustrated that I can’t fix something immediately. I don’t know if this makes any sense. But when I lose a game, I’m not frustrated at variance. Instead, I feel a general frustration that I didn’t possess a large enough sample size to do variance justice. Especially if I have conviction that what I’m doing is a good approach. My number one frustration is—if I feel at the end of a tournament that I didn’t do well at, that I made some decent deck building decisions—that I didn’t have more tries to prove I was right. I don’t have an opportunity to get out and really prove it using a larger sample size. There’s an element of stubbornness to it—I think that I’m right, and I’m still losing. I’m sure that sometimes I’m wrong and just being very stubborn. But that’s the biggest thing for me. I never get emotional or mad at my opponent. It’s more of a frustration that I wasn’t proven right. It feels incomplete—if that makes any sense.

 

James:             It’s the feeling that I have the optimal build. And if I could run it back a hundred more times, I can be proven right. But in this particular sample size of one, it didn’t work out. That’s what it sounds like to me.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, definitely. The important thing to harp on is that it really doesn’t have to do with proving it to anybody else. It really has to do with the process. The pinnacle of the process is whether I’m successful, and that’s my goal. If that happens, I feel something internal. I can take a deep breath and feel like I’ve accomplished something. And if it doesn’t happen, there’s this piece that’s missing that drives me more. But sometimes it’s frustrating that I can’t go out there and prove it to myself, immediately.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            And it’s hard. I don’t believe I’m better than anybody else. It really is just my personality of internalizing things, and being more introverted. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never really cared a ton about the people aspect of things. And I can tell you where some of this came from.

 

James:             Okay.

 

Wilson:            Sorry, this is going off on a tangent here…

 

James:             No, go ahead, man. [Laughs] This is your time.

 

Wilson:            I think that having difficult childhood social situations shaped who I am. Growing up, I spent a significant amount of time not having good friends and having a difficult middle school experience. And it was the same with elementary school, to some degree. My parents were always telling me not to care about what people thought—all that stuff. Things that other parents will tell their kids in those situations. But it was really extreme for me. I internalized it every day and I really had to convince myself of that to survive at a young age. And it became part of my core being, in a way that I didn’t even really think about. It’s not like I’m actively doing it, but it became instilled in me. To this day, if I wanted to change that I probably couldn’t. And there’s a lot of negatives that goes with that. You don’t think about this all the time. But if you do care what people think about you, you’ll do some things that are net positive or nice things for others. And I’m not saying that I don’t have empathy. But I do think that, for whatever reason, the thought of “don’t worry about what people think” really drives me in a lot of aspects of life. Especially when I sit down to play Magic.

 

James:             Right.

 

Wilson:            At a very extreme level. Sort of hard to explain.

 

James:             You created a protection mechanism for yourself. And that also affects how you view others, and how you treat others.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, that’s fair. Some of it is learned. I’m trying to go back and sort of point out to myself where that came from. And some of it is also just personality that was inherent in the general traits that I have. It’s a mix of both of those things. I’m not shut off from the world or anything like that. Friends who know me can attest to that. And I really do care a lot about people. I care a ton about a small group of people.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            But sometimes I have a hard time with large groups of people, and having lots of empathy towards them. I’m extremely loyal to the people that I really like. Loyalty is an extremely important trait for me, when it comes to the relationships that I have.

 

James:             Right. It is about quality over quantity. I don’t think you’re alone in that aspect. But to me, it seems that you’re being very hard on yourself. The fact is that you’ve been doing quite well in terms of the tournaments that you’ve played in. You top-eighted two Legacy GPs. You also had some other things going on, with solid finishes at SCG events. All that stuff. You’re not doing half bad. Whatever it is, it seems to be working for you. You have a lot of things going on. But the tournaments that you do play in—you seem to do pretty well.

 

Wilson:            Well, I appreciate that. I don’t think my results sound remotely impressive compared to some of these other guests on your show—people like PV or Gerry Thompson. Compared to them, this is almost a joke. But for me, the few tournament results I do have in Legacy have been the pinnacle of my competitive drive. For me, it felt really good to reach some of those high points. I haven’t taken down any of these events. That’s really my goal is to win a Legacy GP. Also, I talk to some of these other Legacy guys, like Jarvis Yu, and we have a friendly competition. Jarvis has top-eighted a couple of Legacy GPs. We have one coming up. He doesn’t even know if he can go to the next one, but we’re challenging each other. We say things like, “No one’s ever top-eighted three Legacy GPs. Who’s going to be the first to do that?” It’s become an ongoing thing between us.

 

James:             Friendly competition.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, exactly. But it’s fun because that kind of thing drives both of us. As for the SCG Invitationals, I had a blast playing in those. I don’t do that anymore because of some of the format changes. But yeah, I was able to top-four one of them and top-sixteen a couple of others. I really enjoyed playing in those events. My absolute favorite Magic events are the Legacy GPs and the Star City Games Invitationals, when they were half-Legacy.

 

James:             You’re saying the Invitational formats have changed.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, now they’re half Modern, half Standard. And next year I think they’re going to completely change. It sounds like it might be a cool change. I really don’t know, but regardless of what it is, I just don’t like playing a Modern-Standard event. I have no problem with these formats. I like the game of Magic, but what really drove me before was being able to play Legacy. And because there’s one format I already know and not two, I did spend some time trying to come up with a good Standard deck for the event. But man…I really don’t like the Modern format personally. So I haven’t gone over to those since they’ve changed them.

 

James:             Right. As you said, Legacy has a lot of interesting decisions and possibilities. So I believe you’re sticking with the right format. Of course, I’m extremely biased here, but I think you’re doing something right. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            Yeah, Legacy’s a blast. And the friends that I’ve made in Legacy—that’s been really cool. It’s a subculture within Magic—people who are extremely passionate about one specific thing. I think Legacy players are more likely to produce really cool content. Maybe that sounds elitist, I don’t know. The Source has all these active people. There are people I talk to that are just playing Legacy day in and day out, wherever they are, around the world. And I feel it’s a really cool community to be involved with—to talk to those people and learn what they’re doing. I really like it, more so than your general Magic talk or content.

 

James:             Yeah, absolutely. And if you could look back at some of those Top 8’s, what’s your preparation process? How do you mentally approach those events, either preparation-wise or—

 

Wilson:            It was a lot different when I was in college than it is now. But I can talk about both of these things.

 

James:             Sure.

 

Wilson:            I top-eighted Legacy Grand Prix Providence in 2011. That was the first event that we decided—me and my small friends’ group—we’re going to drive to Providence, Rhode Island. And it was an insane slog of the East Coast. It ended up being a 20-hour drive. Before that, I had only ever gone to closer regional Star City events. That was my first Grand Prix. I’ve played in eight total, but that was the first one. For me then, it was a big experience. It’s a little bit different from the Star City Opens. But the preparation towards it—even if it was my first Grand Prix—we were really prepared. And I don’t know how this happened, but I was super fortunate to be at a school with some other really good Legacy players, at Appalachian State in North Carolina. You would never think that.

 

James:             It’s a hot bed, man. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            Yeah, it’s really crazy. And part of it is that we all sort of came out of the woodwork due to each other. For any one of us, if we were the only player around, we probably wouldn’t be Legacy players. But we were similar people with similar interests. We came together and everybody became a lot better at Legacy because of each other. The collaboration was huge for me. Phillip Braverman, Mike Braverman. My friend Dylan Squire, who doesn’t play a ton of competitive Magic anymore, but he was really good. And everybody knows players like that. Dylan—nobody will know who he is, outside of our friend group because he really just played in a couple of events—he’s so good. You know, that’s the thing about Magic is that there are some really good players out there that you’ve never heard of. We harp on the big names in the community and stuff, and they are still extremely good at the game, but there are lots of unsung heroes like Dylan. So I felt really lucky to have been able to meet him. And the Bravermans. We would go to somebody’s house and just jam tons of Legacy. The four of us, we’d build tons of decks. And we were honing our skills more and more, and we were really taking it to higher levels of competitiveness. Phil is really competitive. Even in testing, he is really competitive. Not in a negative way, but everybody wants to win. That’s fun for us to want to win, even when we’re testing.

 

James:             Right. There’s no off switch. It’s just being competitive all the time.

 

Wilson:            Absolutely. And because of that, we analyzed things really well even in testing. Not just jamming a bunch of games and not analyzing. We kept taking it to the next level, so by the time I went to GP Providence…you know, there are a lot of good Magic players out there. But I was actually surprised that it seemed like people didn’t do the same things we did. I never really realized that, if that makes any sense.

 

James:             Yeah. It felt normal for your group to put in the work. But not everyone did.

 

Wilson:            Yeah. It was my first Grand Prix and I thought everybody out there was going to be—

 

James:             Everybody was going to be a ringer, or grinder, or something. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            Yeah. And even people that were grinders—they don’t necessarily play a Legacy deck in the same way that we played our Legacy decks. Looking back on it, I felt like we had a big advantage in almost every round, in the way we prepared for it. But we didn’t go into it knowing that. Flash forward to now, because of family and other obligations, it’s no longer about jamming tons of games with my college buddies. The biggest preparation is thinking about the decks and planning things in my mind as I’m driving on the road. That’s been huge for me. I think the active thought that is actually getting you somewhere in your analysis, or taking you to a new opinion or next step, is really huge in preparation. You can just think about something all day and never change your opinion on it, and never get to the next level. But if you’re spending a lot of time actually making changes—realizing why you want to make those changes, even when you’re not playing games—your brain is building it to the next level. You’re honing this thing over and over again in your mind, even without having to test it out and play games.

 

James:             It’s great you mentioned Jarvis just now, because it feels related. When I talked to him, he had the same kind of process, really. He does not play Legacy for forty hours a week. But because he had built a wide range of experience within Magic, he could think about situations and work out optimal builds in his head. You guys seem to share similar approaches.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, and I have just recently gotten to know Jarvis a little bit. I still don’t know him super well, except online. We’re in this Legacy chat together, and of all the people in there, we seem to consistently agree on so many things. I think that’s interesting. He and I are always like, “Yeah, it seems like we’re on the same page again.” There’s a lot of great players in that chat, that are really fun to talk to. You know—Miracles players.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            That’s cool to hear, because I’ve never talked to him about anything outside of Magic, really. But I can tell he does think similarly, in some ways.

 

James:             Are you able to prepare and think about things, while you’re in the car, because you’ve played so much Legacy in the past? Or do you think that this skill can exist independently from your past experience?

 

Wilson:            That’s a great point, James. There’s got to be both. You have to have a foundation of feeling out how things will play out. But there is also an element of problem solving where you don’t have to play infinite games to get to that point. But you absolutely have to have some sort of background in trying a lot of different things in Magic, before you can independently start thinking about that stuff. At least, that’s the case for me. There are probably some geniuses out there who don’t have to do that. But for me, the foundation was absolutely crucial.

 

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James:             Are there lessons that you’ve learned, from playing Magic over so many years, that you could generalize for us? Perhaps even applied to things outside of Magic?

 

Wilson:            Specifics, or general lessons?

 

James:             Specific would be good.

 

Wilson:            Okay. I’m working on a few work-related things now, where the Magic type of problem-solving has been really good for me. That’s definitely a specific one. The business world, tech, all this stuff—there’s a ton of things that revolve around the problem-solving process. You can find a lot of interesting ways to be successful just by solving a problem that somebody else hasn’t solved. For me, a big part of Magic is saying: “I can play this deck of 75 cards, and I can learn how to play it.” But I feel I’m missing a bit of the potential there, because I’m not asking the question, “What can I do differently to make this deck the best? Is there something completely unique out there that’s the best approach?” And once you explore all of those questions in life and business—if you find something that nobody else has found—there are a lot of opportunities to be successful. So for me, honing those skills in Magic, I absolutely go through the exact same thought processes in my work.

 

James:             In terms of your problem-solving process, is there a framework that you always go back to? I’m thinking about problem-solving in Magic in terms of, “How do I create the best build? What’s the optimal play this situation?” Has that framework helped you in other aspects of life?

 

Wilson:            Yeah. To get into specifics like deck building—and this can be a long conversation—we conduct an activity called sideboard mapping. We want to optimize all of our cards across a metagame. And in my head I’m naturally starting to weigh a lot of these factors, but you can do it on a spreadsheet and come up with equations. Once you start playing the game enough, your brain creates these equations that are able to problem-solve. If you get a good idea of how popular some decks are, you’re able to create a list of decks in your head. Tier one, tier two, all that stuff. You’re weighing those factors. If you have your 75 cards, you’re assigning values to those cards in every single matchup. My goal for deck-building is, post-sideboard, to always have high value cards against basically everything. The emphasis will be on the highly-played decks in the format. The biggest problem in deck building is that people cling to their emotions too much, and they throw together a lot of cards that are there for some emotional reason. It could be due to something they lost to, or something they should just have because someone told them that. Maybe they read it in some article. But then they play an event and they’ve never even thought about their side-boarding before. They end up leaving in a Terminus against a Show and Tell deck. And then you look at your decklist and you think, “Why did I put myself in this position?” For me, deck building to optimize something is a formula. And it’s not a complicated formula. It’s something that you can do in your head. But because the format is so complex, and there are so many different decks, it gives you a ton to think about. To sit down from any opponent at any event—even if they’re playing an unusual deck—you can still put that deck into a category. You want to say to yourself, “I feel really good about my approach to this. Even if I haven’t thought about their specific deck, I have thought about decks similar to theirs.” For me, that’s the specific process I follow.

 

James:             People often underestimate how tuning that last card, or understanding how things go in and out of your deck, really gives you those edges. Especially in a complex format like Legacy, that goes a long way.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely.

 

James:             Switching gears now—you’re a family man. You’re a responsible adult with a wife and kid. How does that change your relationship with Magic? Magic must mean something different to you now, than it used to, a few years ago. How would you describe that?

 

Wilson:            Well, there’s a lot to talk about here. But I value Magic a lot more than I used to.

 

James:             Interesting.

 

Wilson:            Some of that is because of the limited time I have. But—being a parent is awesome. It’s the best thing in my life, for sure. But it’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Lately, with how much I’m working, and trying to be the best dad and husband I can be, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Because of that, I really appreciate having an outlet like Magic when I get the chance. And Magic has become more meaningful in my life. I look back on college, and Magic was a blast then. But I took it for granted because I could play the game whenever I wanted. If I’m bored, I could go down to the shop and sleeve up a deck. I could text a friend who’s as bored as I am, and we can play Magic.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            Now it’s not like that anymore. We haven’t put together an episode of our podcast [“The Brainstorm Show”] in a long time just because it’s hard to get everybody together. Everybody’s got their lives and jobs and stuff. But we’re coming back soon. It’s been a while.

 

James:             I’m happy to hear it.

 

Wilson:            Thank you. For me, Magic has been a bit of a battle. I’ve been tough on myself. I’ve asked myself, “Am I being selfish by playing this game?” I’m trying to be a good dad. My daughter is two and a half years old. I don’t want to be missing anything in her life to go do something that’s just a hobby for me. I don’t want to be traveling too much to go play card games when my daughter is growing up. So it’s definitely these deeper feelings I have, and I need to find the balance. I told myself that if I could balance these things, I can be a better dad. If I have some outlet for myself. But it’s definitely a balance, and it’s easy for me to do too much of it. A part of that is me being selfish. And I’m not saying that people are being selfish when they play Magic. But it just feels like, with my parental responsibilities right now, it’s my personal struggle. Thinking about where to draw the line, and how much gaming is too much.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            I know that you wrote a book on this. It’s part of your book.

 

James:             You’re talking to someone who continuously feels guilt about this type of thing. The only thing I would say here is that it’s very human to feel that way. It’s good to feel guilt or question your actions, because it shows self-awareness. For the most part, it’s the good guys with a conscience who feel that way. That’s all I can say about that. I also want to know, however, if you’ve ever talked to other parents who may have felt the same way? Maybe not even with Magic, but in general. How do they spend their free time, away from their kids?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, definitely. And I don’t want to put words in their mouths, but the “Magic dads” I know have similar experiences. I’ve received some messages from people who listen to The Brainstorm Show. They’ve said things like, “Hey, man—I’m also a dad. Love listening to your show.” I get a strangely high number of those.

 

James:             Nice.

 

Wilson:            And it tells me that other dads are consuming podcast content. It makes sense to me. If we can’t always be playing the game, a podcast becomes perfect to our schedules. Through podcasting, I’m able to connect with those types of people. A podcast is something that a dad or mom is more likely to do. That’s what I’ve gathered over the last year or so—of running into people who listen to the show. It’s just one of the demographics.

 

James:             That’s amazing.

 

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Wilson:            Outside of Magic, I think it’s something that any parent will struggle with, especially people that enjoy social activities. I know a lot of parents who are just purely social people, and they have friends around who will do lots of social things—and their kid is involved in all of these activities. But for people who are more focused on these cerebral games, or outlets for introverts, it’s harder for your two-and-a-half-year-old child to be enjoying these things with you. It’s always…I don’t use the word “struggle,” but it’s always a balance of trying to figure out how to do that.

 

James:             Yeah. That’s how it is with life. You always look at what’s going on with other people. Sometimes you think that they’ve got it all figured out. But I’m sure even the social ones have their own struggles, too. As we all do.

 

Wilson:            That’s absolutely true. They are probably 180 degrees on something else. And it’s just my perception. Another big one is career choices. That’s a balance when you have kids. I’ve always pondered about these two extremes. For example, I could have the perfect job to support my family, which I might hate. I could probably find something that makes a decent amount of money, and I could spend more time at home. But I might hate the job. Or I could do something that is totally awesome but makes no money. Travel the world but never see my family. Those are the extremes.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            And I obviously don’t want either of those extremes. It’s about finding the middle ground and then having your outlet. Growing up, I always wanted to be a marine biologist. That’s the ultimate dream. I probably can’t follow my dreams to an extreme, based on having a family. But what can I do, somewhere in-between? To have the outlet and also be there for my daughter as she grows up? That’s the question.

 

James:             Do you think you’ve found that balance?

 

Wilson:            It’s definitely in flux. I’m starting to get a better understanding. When I graduated college, I almost had this idea that I had to do something that I didn’t like doing, to overcompensate for this feeling. I felt that in order to be a good husband and eventual dad, I had to do a job that I hated. I’m not saying that I hate my job, but I’m saying that the question of “am I going to like my job?” never crossed my mind. I just assumed people worked really hard and didn’t get tons of enjoyment out of what they did. I’m sure a lot of that is absorbing certain cultural values as I grew up. For me, the process is learning that I can be a good dad. That I can be there for my family and also doing things that energize me, and are life-giving to me.

 

James:             It sounds like you are headed in that direction now.

 

Wilson:            Yeah. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I can say I’ve solved it, and I don’t know if I ever will. But at least I’m asking the questions now and it’s really making me look at things differently. Introspection has changed my life trajectory. We’ll see where it takes me. It’s just been a huge year—all sorts of different changes, and just thinking about the future.

 

James:             Has this been one of the most challenging years for you, in your life?

 

Wilson:            Last year was.

 

James:             Oh, really?

 

Wilson:            This year’s been challenging, time-wise. But I’m starting to get over the hump of realizing how to get things to come together, in a way that I can enjoy. Last year was really tough because it got to a point where I needed to look at things differently and didn’t realize it yet. So many frustrations were building up, but I didn’t really know why. Once I figured out why, I still wasn’t able to solve all of those things yet. But it felt a lot better to have a game plan moving forward, and understanding myself better. I know that’s completely ambiguous, but last year I started getting really frustrated without realizing why. It was something within myself. I also felt trapped in certain things—daily routines. I felt like I had to do certain things. I just took a step back and asked, “Why am I operating like this?” And after realizing that I had more power over my life, it changed how I looked at things. I know that’s vague and sounds weird, but it was an introspective journey for me.

 

James:             No, it’s good. There’s no need to get too specific here. We all feel those struggles at different times. Sometimes, we go through the motions and wonder—what does it all mean? The bottom line is that Magic feels more like a privilege to you now than before. Is that fair?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, absolutely. I value every tournament that I can go to. I try to make it more of a scheduled thing now. I try to attend a tournament every three months or so. It still feels like a lot, as far as my family and stuff goes, but it is really good for me. It also gives me something to look forward to. When I’m doing things that are tough in my work, or the daily grind of driving on the road, I can say things to myself. “Okay. On January 6, I’m going to Grand Prix Louisville.” Having that in the back of my mind allows me to relax a little bit more, and gives me a personal goal I can reach. It’s pretty big for me to have those things planned.

 

James:             Is that the main thing that keeps you going, as far as the game of Magic is concerned—the goals and the competition? Or are there other things as well? What are the things that keep you going, as a Magic practitioner or player?

 

Wilson:            Yeah, I always love top-eighting an event. I’d love to win an event, which I haven’t done yet on a large scale. I hope at some point I can hold a trophy. But as much as those types of things drive me, I enjoy coming up with a new deck and being the person to come up with a new strategy. It’s like solving a puzzle that hasn’t been solved. For me, every set that’s printed and every shift in the metagame, it’s an opportunity to do something different. It’s really exciting and just as much of a competitive outlet for me as playing in events. It’s not because I want to be recognized for coming up with a particular deck, but because I want to solve puzzles. If I can look around and realize that nobody else has solved it the way I did, then I’ve accomplished something really cool. And that’s a good feeling for me.

 

James:             Right.

 

Wilson:            There are other elements, too. Phil and Paul are some of my best friends, and I talk to Phil daily about life stuff. I drive on the road all the time, and we’ll talk on the phone. We’re both really strangely introverted guys, so it’s cool to have found each other to connect with. My buddies are on the same page. We’re a group of people who don’t waste time talking about meaningless things. We all fall into the INTJ personality profile, where we just can’t handle small talk.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            So we just dive into all of these cool things to talk about. That’s been a good experience, building relationships based on similar values. And through the online communities, I met a lot of really cool people all over the world that play the game. That can be extremely fun. It’s just fun interacting with them.

 

James:             That’s awesome. This takes me to my next question. I had not realized before our conversation today that you had known Paul and Phil for such a long time. You said you’ve known Paul since high school?

 

Wilson:            Yeah.

 

James:             And the three of you work on the podcast together. I don’t know if you guys ever recorded an origin story on how “The Brainstorm Show” got started. But what led you guys to record a podcast? It’s not easy to create valuable content, or quality Legacy content. That’s a super deep field, and you guys have done it exceptionally well. How did you guys put the show together, and what motivated you guys?

 

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Wilson:            Well, I appreciate that. The podcast was all Paul’s idea to begin with. He’s the kind of guy that really likes the art of content. He likes consuming content, as do I. And we talk about decks together. He started getting back into the game. He actually stopped playing after high school. And his story is completely different from mine. But for whatever reason, he got drawn back into Magic. And we all know people like that—you may be someone like that. Paul got back into it and realized Legacy was cool. Some of that was me selling him on it. He got really into watching Legacy stuff and started talking about it a ton. One day, he just said, “Hey, let’s do a podcast.” And Paul’s sort of a techie dude. He is able to sit down and edit a bunch of audio. He’d actually smack me if I told you that he enjoys audio production, because it’s gotten to the point where his work load has gotten heavier. But Paul was able to do that very quickly in the beginning, without having to go and learn how to do it. He just had a sense for how those things worked.

 

James:             Yeah.

 

Wilson:            So it started with Paul and I, and there’s a natural chemistry that we have. Paul’s a really good mediator of conversation. Just an easy guy to talk to, very well-spoken. He plays a big role in guiding all of the conversations. Similar to you, James. I mean, you’re really great at that. For us, we’ve always had chemistry when we did things together. Paul and I had this garage band in high school. Actually, it was me, Paul, and one of my neighbors. The neighbor was a little kid, a few years younger than we were.

 

James:             Nice.

 

Wilson:            But we had a blast. And my neighbor, this kid, had a recording studio in his basement because his dad was in a band. [Laughs] It sounds like we used him. Maybe we did a little bit, but we loved Joey. Joey, if you’re somehow listening to this, we like you, okay? So that’s how we got started, and it was really cool. Paul’s a talented musician. I just had no idea what I was doing, but it was really fun. I definitely felt like we had chemistry together, even in the garage band days.

 

James:             I’ve definitely picked up on the chemistry aspect. It’s made its way into the podcast. Your podcast flows well, because you guys know each other so well.

 

Wilson:            The next part was my suggestion. I realized that there was an opportunity. There was a gap in some of the things we talked about. There was a big opportunity to have a third person come on the show and provide another perspective. Before Phil, it felt too linear. Paul would ask questions, and I would answer them. He might bring in additional points, but then he would move on the next question. We brought in Phil, who completed the critical piece of the puzzle. Phil’s able to talk about things from a separate perspective, and argue with me. There’s a lot of important things that he brings up during the show. The way it usually works is: Paul brings stuff up and introduces topics. It then flows through me. Then Phil comes up with something, either based off of what I said, or something that I missed. And he might argue with me or re-iterate what I said, before going back to Paul. And that really creates a more dynamic conversation. Phil’s the critical third piece of the puzzle.

 

James:             You’ve described it perfectly. There’s this ebb and flow to the dialogue. Before you mentioned the framework, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It always felt like there was something really good going on when I listened to your episodes. And I can understand that now. Three distinct personalities, all riffing off of each other. That’s the key, right?

 

Wilson             Yeah, absolutely. And we all bring something unique to the table and the conversation—that’s really important. You could have three people that are all just sitting there saying one thing that they all agree on. That wouldn’t sound like it’s meaningful. But because we are all viewing things differently, we all have different perspectives to share. We agree on a lot of stuff, but not everything. That’s really important. And we’ve received a lot of feedback from people. Usually, everybody relates to a different co-host on the show. That’s really important if we’re going to have a podcast with three co-hosts. It can’t get too homogenous. Everybody out there listening relates to a different personality. And when you can relate to one person, you can plug yourself into the conversation. At least, that’s what I feel. Some of this is guessing, because I’m not listening to my own podcast.

 

James:             I think you’re absolutely right. I just had a conversation with a friend this week about another podcast. I won’t mention specifics, but my friend says he doesn’t listen to that podcast anymore because one of the personalities on the show changed. The personality is still on the show, but he’s not interesting anymore. He’s become less of a presence on that show. In this sense, you’re absolutely right that people follow a particular personality on the air. That’s why they listen to Howard Stern, or Joe Rogan. And if the three of you guys have distinct and likeable personalities, then the chances of someone liking at least one of you is pretty high. That means they are going to tune in.

 

Wilson:            Yeah, it’s funny. I remember when you came on our show. That was by far the hardest episode for me to do. I felt like I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know how to explain it. It was just way out of my comfort zone. Not because of you, James. You’re awesome. But the nature of talking about something…I don’t really know how to describe it. We discussed things outside of strategy, which is obviously what we’re doing today. But it was more about having to ask the questions and being a facilitator. Paul was awesome in that episode, and that’s what he does.

 

James:             Yeah, I noticed that about Paul. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            Wait! Did you just say you noticed that I sucked in that episode?

 

James:             [Laughs] No! I would never dare say that.

 

Wilson:            [Laughs]

 

James:             [Laughs] No, I would never dare say that. The thing I remember about the episode is that Paul was great at guiding the conversation. Also, you guys took every opportunity to bash Phil for being absent and not on the show. [Laughs] I loved all of it. Nothing against you personally. I’m just saying that you guys have this nice balance going on. When I was on the show, the dynamic changed because I’m not a regular. There’s a level of unfamiliarity, which made it harder.

 

Wilson:            Well, it was eye-opening. I had just started thinking about “The Brainstorm Show” and how we could podcast super well. But after that last episode, I started to think that I was actually really bad at podcasting. Maybe I’m only good at talking about Magic. [Laughs] But it was a cool experience and I really enjoyed it. I was just surprised. “This part is actually really hard!” It’s what you and Paul do well, which is being a facilitator of discussion. Asking all sorts of interesting questions outside of the game—all that stuff.

 

James:             It’s also the craziness of group chemistry. In any group situation, adding or removing one person can totally change the dynamic. A team can go from good to bad, or bad to good, through a difference of one person. It’s the magic of groups.

 

Wilson:            One thing that I’ll go back to is the friendly banter that Phil and I have with each other. I really need that sort of thing. When I get really comfortable with friends, I can get abrasive. [Laughs] Not in like an obscene way or anything.

 

James:             Yeah. [Laughs]

 

Wilson:            That’s entertaining for me, and Phil really likes that, too. We’re always jabbing at each other. And some people take that more personally, and I completely understand that. In general, I end up getting along better with people who can be abrasive and be abrasive back to me. We can just joke around in Magic group chats, and I’m entertained by that.

 

James:             Ideally, you want to be friends with people who can “take” as well as they can “give.”

 

Wilson:            Yeah, for sure.

 

James:             You guys have done the podcast for a while. What’s been the biggest learning for you?

 

Wilson:            The podcast itself has made me think about some interesting topics in Magic, which is pretty cool.

 

James:             Yeah, absolutely.

 

Wilson:            That’s a hard question, though. “What have I learned the most?” I’ve learned a lot of different things. It’s been hard for everyone to get together and do it. I’ve learned how busy my friends are, but the show is definitely coming back.

 

James:             Awesome.

 

Wilson:            And we ran into this last year too, where we were down for a few months and then we came back and produced nine months of solid content in a row. Recently, we’ve been down for the past couple of months due to GP Louisville. But we’ll be able to get everything going again. In general, it’s been interesting to realize the way that I look at things versus the way that my friends look at things are unique. Everybody thinks differently about the game and solving puzzles. Being in my own head, I always assumed that everyone was thinking in the same ways. But once we started podcasting and talking about Magic, I realized that we all thought about things differently. It goes back and forth. I learned a lot from other people’s feedback and what they think. It’s really opened my eyes about a lot of things. The things that people think are cool, I’ll sometimes tell myself, “I never thought that was cool. I took that for granted.” It’s both a learning and a process of appreciating things. I realized that I needed to get better with my analysis. To summarize, the biggest thing is realizing the diversity of people and how people learn and think differently.

 

James:             Sounds like you guys are having a great time. Just to close things, do you have any shout-outs you want to give?

 

Wilson:            Oh, man. I didn’t even think about doing a shout-out. Had I known, I would have prepared something really trollish—

 

James:             [Laughs] I just put you on the spot here.

 

Wilson:            It’s good that you put me on the spot, because had I prepared, I would have come up with some really strange trolls for a bunch of people. In general, I’d say Paul and Phil have been my reason for enjoying the game as much as I have, especially in the past couple of years. It’s been a great experience to record the podcast with them. The biggest shout-out is to my wife for just allowing me to do this hobby…well, not “allow”—that’s the wrong word. But just being very supportive of it, because she is so different from me, personality-wise. She doesn’t have something as extreme as this that she has to be doing. She’s got a lot of hobbies, but she’s been very selfless and putting herself in my shoes and just being extremely supportive of it. She’s definitely the biggest shout-out for me. Very specifically, I also want to give a shout-out to the Miracles chat. It’s been incredibly entertaining for me. There’s a lot of players in there, but it’s not entertaining just because it’s Magic. It’s entertaining because some weird things have come out of it. It’s just a very entertaining group of people. And I really enjoyed meeting a bunch of Europeans in the chat.

 

James:             Okay.

 

Wilson:            I don’t get to talk to people from all over the world all the time. This morning was different, of course. But there are cultural differences, and I get energized by that. I’ve been asking them questions about how they perceive certain things, and it’s been really fun. There are some witty people in the chat, and we’ve been going back-and-forth on some stuff. So yeah, a big shout-out to those dudes over there.

 

James:             Yeah, that’s great. Miracles players are probably a highly articulate and smart bunch, if I may say so.

 

Wilson:            Hmm. You might need to meet some of these guys. Then you might change your mind…no, I’m just kidding!

 

James:             Well, I’m definitely talking to someone right now who is smart and articulate. Wilson, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a blast. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

 

Wilson:            Thanks a ton, James. I love your podcast. I really appreciate the opportunity. I feel like I’ve been pretty out of place. You’ve got these Hall of Famers like Gerry T on your show. I feel honored that I am a guest on your podcast, and it’s been a really cool experience. I love listening to your podcast, so I appreciate it James.

 

James:             Let’s talk again soon.

 

Wilson:            Alright, sounds good. Thanks, James.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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