I was walking back to my seat in the airport restaurant when I saw something awesome: a young man having dinner in a booth wearing a Face to Face Games snapback. As I passed him I casually dropped “Nice hat,” to which he quickly replied “Thanks, nice tournament!” I stopped and gave a “What?” He then told me he was in playing the FaceToFaceGames.com Toronto Modern Open and was killing time before his flight back to Regina, Saskatchewan.

This shocked me. “In town for the Open?” I asked. The man explained that he visited his family as well, but he picked this weekend to visit because of the $3000.00 Open. It was a major piece of the trip.

His name is Simon Tubello and he is now an active member of Toronto’s Magic community. Simon grew up in Regina and moved to Toronto in December of 2016, partly to be closer to family, but mostly to be closer to Magic. A week ago, I interviewed him.

“There was no judge in Regina, so that meant getting in a car and driving for hours to play competitive Magic. Sometimes two and a half hours to Saskatoon, but other times eight hours to Calgary or Edmonton, or even Winnipeg for events.” Simon explains the road trip mentality of people on the prairies well. As someone who grew up Winnipeg myself, the idea of driving eight hours to get somewhere is totally normal to me, but I realize that is unusual for some here in the GTA.

Simon talked about how important Magic was for him in his decision to move across the country. “Magic is huge for me,” says Simon, as he reflects. “Sure, I had family here in Toronto I was excited about being closer to, but Magic was a big pull.” Event weekends used to be bookended with hours of driving. Getting to and from the event could take longer than the events themselves. “It’s an enormous commitment to go all that way and maybe go 0-2 drop.” Simon is speaking about trips from Regina to other provinces nearby: big events in Manitoba or Alberta that would be a whole day of travel each way. Now, Simon is able to play Magic all the time. “There are tournaments every day! Being in that hub is so important.” The like-minded people are a big part of that for him. “You can connect with people with a common interest – with Magic you can go to any comic book store and make friends there”.

I asked Simon how his first three months have been. “Having a competitive Magic community in my life is so important.” He says he has been loving the transition and being able to be so emerged in Magic. “Being in a city like Toronto that has exciting, big Magic happening all the time is so important to getting the practice I need to improve.”

Simon reflected on what advice he would give to other people thinking of taking the leap and moving somewhere new to help make their Magic dreams happen. “Just do it. If things don’t run smooth, you can always head back.” What do you really have to lose?

Simon now plays several times a week at Face to Face Games Toronto and just this past weekend made the elimination rounds of the Sealed Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier and won the Frontier Double Sunday Showdown. This means he is not only qualified for the Ultimate Showdown, but he is in the running for those elusive byes that the top 10 points leaders can learn.

When I asked Simon what he was going to do with all the store credit he’s earned from winning Showdowns, he said, “I’m going to use this to finance my hobby. Keeping the ball rolling, so to speak.” he said with a chuckle. Then, I asked him what winning $2000 cash for taking down the Ultimate Showdown would mean to him, and he choked up a little. “Winning the Ultimate Showdown would completely validate what I do. It would make this real and help show people in my life that this is all worth it.” He then elaborated about his success already since starting to rise to the top of the Sunday Showdown series: “Being able to turn a profit at my hobby has been huge. Doing well in Showdowns has given me the means to build new decks and try new brews!”

I asked Simon about what advice he would give to other people across the country who are thinking of taking steps, big or small to make Magic a more serious part of their life. “Just do it! What’s the worst that can happen? Magic is a ton of fun, you will meet amazing people and just have a great time. Play Magic.”

Simon will be battling for $5000 in prizes, with a first place prize of $2000 cash at the Ultimate Showdown. He, and the other qualified players, will be jamming on June 25th, 2017 at Face to Face Games Toronto. Make sure you’re one of them by earning 50 Showdown points at one of our Sunday Showdowns every Sunday at noon. This weekend’s Showdown is Frontier on Mar 12th followed by Modern Masters 2017 Sealed on Mar 19th! Register online, in advance, at facetofacegames.com.