Walking just outside the front door of this incredible venue for the 2011 Magic: the Gathering World Championships, you can let your gaze fall to the left and rest upon the soaring towers and dropping arches of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can feel a slight chill in the air, knowing full well that this is unusually cool for this time of year but not really caring. The beautiful azure waters of the San Francisco Bay spread out before you, with small white flecks dotting its surface, boats out to enjoy the morning tides.
"So what do you think?" asks a voice behind you.
When you turn around, you're greeted by the smiling face of one of the biggest names in the game today: Luis Scott-Vargas.
"It's perfect," you tell him, turning back to gaze for a minute longer before heading back into the grind.
"It's home," he responds.
For those of you that don't know, Luis Scott-Vargas is from right across the Bay, Oakland-side. In the days leading up to the event he has played unofficial host (though he will laughingly insist that it was pretty official) to a large group of Magic players, descending on his home to prepare for the tournament to come, at an event site that you can almost see from his house. He isn't the only high-profile player to hail from this area. David Ochoa lives around here, too, and Joshua Utter-Leyton live a little drive down the coast in San Jose. This cradle of cities in Santa Clara county is the epicenter of west-coast Magic, and home to one of the driving forces in the competitive Magic community: ChannelFireball. To test for this ultimate event on the Magic calendar, the core members of the team descended into the venue's backyard from all over the world, from the Midwest of the US to Brazil, from Japan to Las Vegas.
With Worlds in his backyard, Luis Scott-Vargas relishes the role of host.
Accommodating all of these people was quite a task, but one that LSV relished.
"I really liked playing the host: making sure that everything was going smoothly, corralling everyone. It was fun," he told me. In order to actually fit all of the group together, he ended up borrowing his dad's house for the week, the house he grew up in.
"It was actually pretty cool getting a chance for everyone to stay in the house that I grew up in. The best part was that I only live like five blocks away, so I was able to spend as much time preparing for Worlds as I did, but I got to see my wife, too, which never happens at these events."
With everyone collected under one roof, it was easy to get the things accomplished that they needed to.
"One of the tough things about getting ready for events is getting everyone all in the same place. We've tried having people stay with Josh and me both before an event, but it's just logistically hard. He lives just far enough away that we end up only collaborating as a full group only a couple of times. This way, with everyone under the same roof, we could wake up, talk about Magic, and start our day."
So who all has been staying with him? The list is a veritable who's who of the best players in the world. Half of the Top 8 players in the Player of the Year standings were there, which was interesting for LSV, as a member of that group, for certain.
"It's actually a lot of people. Let me think... There's Josh Utter-Leyton, Brian Kibler, Owen Turtenwald, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Brad Nelson, Conley Woods, Shuhei Nakamura, Eric Froehlich, David Ochoa... Am I forgetting anyone? That's nine...and I make ten. Yeah, that's right. It was the perfect number, too, because only Josh and I have cars. This way we could fit all ten of us in two cars perfectly. It wasn't always comfortable, though. Sometimes we had to do some... 'strategic positioning' of who sits where."
It was interesting for him to be sharing space with so many players with whom he is in direct competition for the Player of the Year title.
"I mean, obviously, I want to win. But that's not saying I don't want Owen to win. I'm really rooting for him as well—I just wish he hadn't built up such a strong lead! Honestly, I would be very happy if any of my friends won, either Juza, Owen, Ben [Stark], PV...even Shuhei and Yuuya [Watanabe], though they've already won. It's someone else's turn!"
Being a gamer myself, and seeing them in action for the better part of my life, I had to ask him what it's been like sharing the house he grew up in with a gaggle of gamers, who rank only slightly below rock stars and tornados as destructive forces when it comes to houses.
"Hah, actually, it was really nice. All of the guys were really respectful. Each day, they cleaned up what they could, though messes did still build. When it came time to pack up, everyone pitched in and we completely cleaned the house up. Even more, all of the guys pitched in to take my dad out for a nice dinner for letting us use his place for the week. It was great."
His dad getting the royal treatment wasn't the only cool mixture of the Magic and non-Magic worlds courtesy of having this tournament in LSV's hometown. He was pleased to be able to share things with even more people from his life who don't get a chance to really experience what Magic has been like for him. This time, rather than hosting gamers, he would be hosting other people from his life as he showed them around the massive stage that is Worlds.
"The best part of having Worlds in my backyard is the fact that all of my friends that don't regularly get a chance to go to these Magic events, or don't play, get a chance to come out. My college roommate is going to be here this weekend; some other friends are dropping by. My parents are even swing by at some point to see how everyone else is doing."
Maybe the coolest thing that came from this involved his friend Seth Carlin-Goldberg.
"It was funny. Seth's a stagehand. I got a call from him asking me if there was a Magic event going on at the Fort Mason Center. I told him, 'Yeah, Worlds is going on there this weekend. Why?' He just laughed and said, 'Because I'm setting it up right now.' Seth's the one who taught me how to play Magic. It was just really cool."