Ryan Normandin Competes at Magic: The Gathering Tournament

Photo by Jack Tumpowsky

Min Park
News Reporter

Physics teacher Ryan Normandin was able to participate in this year’s circuit of the Magic: The Gathering in Honolulu, Hawaii last month and advanced to the second round of competition.

‘Magic: The Gathering’, a trading card game originally created by Richard Garfield in 1993, has spread worldwide after being published by the “Wizards of the Coast”.

Though Normandin remains advisor of Newton South’s Magic Club, the Magic Club’s activities were not connected to the competition in Hawaii.

From Thursday, October 13 to Sunday, October 16, the tournament contained different circuits and rounds each day. Normandin, scoring at the top for the first day of competition, advanced to the second day.

“If you did well enough on the first day, you got to come back for the second day, which I did and was incredibly cool, but I wasn’t one of the top eight players, meaning I got to go home on Sunday,” Normandin said.
In order to qualify for the Hawaiian competition, otherwise known as the “pro tour”, players must qualify through a public tournament called a grand prix, or through two other tournaments called pre-pro-tour qualifiers and pro-tour qualifiers.
Normandin flew out to Honolulu specifically for the event and due to a company sponsorship that also sponsored his pre-circuit tournament, the cost of his trip was reduced.

Out of 434 players, Shota Yasooka, one of the Japanese players that have been ranked top 8 of about 20 Grand Prix, was named the winner of the tournament. Yasooka won first in 2006 at Charleston’s team Pro-Tour and also became the individual Pro-Tour Champion in Honolulu.

According to Normandin, one of the biggest appeals of the competition was its international status, therefore qualifiers from around the world came, and Normandin was able to meet different players.

Normandin explains that the game itself is a cross between chess and poker, and therefore, acquires the strategy and skill of chess, but the elements of bluffing and lying in poker.

To practice for the event, Normandin played a variety of games with diverse builds and combination of cards to see how each scenario played out.

President of the Magic Club, Oliver Dyakov, says the level of skill that one needs to acquire and the difficulty to qualify for these events remains high, thus Normandin’s hard work is visible.

“The reason why it’s so prestigious is you have to get top 4 in all those events to get invited to the pro tour. It’s very difficult,” Dyakov said.

Due to the tournament’s prestige, Dyakov says that every magic player dreams to accomplish their goal of qualifying.
Dyakov continues by stating because Normandin is not a professional Magic player, his advancement to the second round is significant, and describes how Normandin has beaten four professional players during this event.
“Norm told us that he even beat a player who was deemed player of the year and is in the hall of fame,” Dyakov said.
Dyakov explains that Normandin completed research and connected to forums to see what deck with what specific edits to the deck would be the best to play in the tournament and thus be thoroughly prepared.
Junior Izzy Autor, who had Normandin for freshman physics, says that his success in the game correlates with his equally admirable ability as a teacher.

“Mr. Normandin was the best kind of teacher. He was patient even though the level of incompetence I demonstrated in that class much of the time was essentially unfathomable, and was intelligent in both his humor and in his general knowledge of almost everything,” Autor said.

Agreeing with Autor, Dyakov also says that Normandin’s remains a good advisor to the club since he has the ability to aid the club in deck building and game mechanics.

Normandin encourages anyone interested in the game to try and place, especially because of the possibility to earn money.
“I didn’t make any money during the Hawaii competition, but there are definitely opportunities to do so, because when I qualify for the event, I think I won like 1500 dollars,” Normandin said.

Normandin concludes with stating that he would encourage more people to come talk to him about the game if they are interested, and highlights the game’s intrigue.

The Magic Club meets in Room 3203 and remains open to anyone who wants to talk about magic or recent card releases.