“Come on, it’ll be fun. I mean, you’re gonna lose, but it’ll be fun. These guys are serious pros, they do this every weekend,” says my buddy Chase.
He is inviting me to play in a Magic: The Gathering booster draft, an activity that I haven’t participated in since I was a little boy.
I have always loved strategy games. Apart from music, games are my greatest obsession. Playing a strategy game like “Settlers of Catan” and executing a winning strategy brings me immense joy. I am the type of person who will watch an entire documentary about Magnus Carlsen, the current world chess champion, and then go online to research the game he played against the former world champ to try and understand how he won or what it is he even thinks about when he’s playing chess. I’m not very good at chess, so matches between high level pros feel very mysterious and incomprehensible to me.
I feel like there are two parts of my brain which are the most important for my daily life - there’s the subconscious, musical part that takes over when I’m writing a song or improvising, and there’s the analytical part which takes over when I’m playing a game. The analytical part helps with music as well, but in the moment when I’m creating something or singing I would prefer to just be lost in the moment without analyzing anything. Both of these parts of my brain sometimes feel like they are at odds with each other, and when I’m on tour playing a show night after night I try and let the subconscious, “flow-y” part of my brain take over. Meditation helps put me in this mind state. Once I’m back home, however, I can’t help but get obsessed with games and my more analytical hobbies. I enjoy both of these ways of thinking, and I have to let both of them exist in order to be a happy person.
So anyway, I’m stoked to go check out this Magic tournament with Chase. We head to Game Empire in Pasadena and to my surprise I end up winning the tournament. I draft a blue/green deck with a good curve and nice mana ramping cards like Gyre Engineer that help me play very fat green creatures early in the game. I discover that I really like drafting blue/green because it offers me big creatures, mana ramping, card drawing AND counter-spells to disrupt my opponent. There isn’t as much removal as red or black, but I’m okay with that.
I am elated after having won my first draft and immediately become fully addicted to Magic. If I find a game that I am good at, I literally become obsessed. I soon discover there are tons of online resources for Magic players, and there are Twitch streamers who make a living just streaming themselves drafting and playing Magic online. Ben Stark becomes a favorite Twitch streamer of mine due to his thorough strategy explanations and the cameos that his cats make on his stream. At one point, his cat tries to escape through the window and Ben asks his cat “Why would you try and escape? There is so much love in this house.” It’s an extremely valid question.
So how does any of this relate to music and creativity? After all, this is a blog about music and creativity and I am a full-time musician, not a pro magic player. I have spent about five years living in LA, and a lot of that time was spent writing, practicing, and grinding on music with my band. I definitely wouldn’t be as good at my craft or have written as many songs without that daily grind, but there have been many times in the past where the grind left me feeling isolated and depressed. Back in the day I didn’t have many friends outside of music and I used to never leave my house.
These days I feel like a much more balanced and happy person because I’m not obsessing about music all the time. I’m obsessing about Magic. It’s an amazing way to stretch my brain and gives me a new outlet to be creative and feed my analytical side. You give up a lot when you decide to be a musician because in order to be good at music you have to be singularly focused on it at the expense of other interests (at least that’s how I approached it in the beginning). I’ve found that this single-minded focus on perfecting your craft is like a double-edged sword. It’s great because it makes you good at whatever you’re trying to do, but it can also suck the fun out of it and even stifle your natural creativity if you’re not careful.
If you look around, you will soon realize that most adults have exotic hobbies, especially in Los Angeles. I bet there is a person out there who draws cartoons for Adult Swim by day and hand-forges and sells medieval weapons at occult-themed craft fairs by night. In fact, I know there is this person. His name is David and I met him at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire last weekend.
My point is simply this: as an adult, having a hobby which you are passionate about is extremely fulfilling and can really enhance your life. This advice feels relevant for creative types whose job is to leverage their flow state in order to create things. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re not creating anything you think is good or you’re not achieving the flow state that you desire so much. If things aren’t flowing on the creative front, that’s when it’s time to switch gears and enjoy your hobby.
I wish my younger self from five years ago had known about Magic and the built-in community that comes with it. Now on a Friday night, you can find me at Alternate Universe on Sunset playing a game of Magic with my new friend Abram, an eleven year old genius who wins prizes in professional Magic tournaments.
If you have any questions or you’d like to discuss Magic: The Gathering, you can call the band’s landline telephone at 657-444-7579.
Chris Beachy, Sure Sure
About Chris Beachy, Sure Sure
Chris Beachy writes songs, plays keys, and sings in the band Sure Sure. Sure Sure has been releasing home-made pop tunes since 2014 . When they are not touring, the boys of Sure Sure are busy recording in their home studio on the east side of Los Angeles. Chris is also busy playing Magic: the Gathering.