It’s a busy convention for Ben Wheeler at MagicCon Las Vegas 2023, MtG content creator and member of Loading Ready Run; he’s on panels, playing in events, doing signings, and interviews. However, I was able to sit down with him for a quick chat about his love of Magic: The Gathering.
[Chris Wyman] You’re kind of an ambassador for Magic: The Gathering. Why should people come play magic in 2023 and beyond? What does this game have to offer that you can’t find anywhere else?
[Ben Wheeler] The game has everything to offer, which isn’t probably the most precise answer, but over the weekend, we’ve had people that have been playing for twenty years along with people that have been playing for twenty days all discovering new things. People that would have entered the game from playing Lord of the Rings, and then they discover what Commander is and then they discover what Draft is. So there’s just everything. I mean I’m a little biased. I like this game quite a bit.
[CW] I think you’re one of the most positive voices and you sing the praise of this game because it has a lot?
[BW] Yeah. It’s the best.I’ll be very blunt. It’s the best. I think it’s the best. I look at it like this, I have a show where I play a new card game every month and every time I play a new one, someone goes, “Well where does this rank? Is it one of your favorites?” There’s Magic and then there’s everything else.
[CW] That show is called, “Is This Your Card?” correct? How has this convention been? This is the last MagicCon for the year right?
[BW] Yes. It’s great to be on the west coast as a west coast boy. It’s nice to not have to switch time zones. I just forgot the date. Are we still in September? We’re still in September! The weather is nice. I’ve been to Vegas a lot, but i got to tell you what? When I’m in Vegas to play Magic. Those are the best times when I’ve been in Vegas.
[CW] Because Magic is so big and there are so many ways to play it. What do you think is the best entry point for people who just discovered the game?
[BW] If you’re playing in paper, then I think Commander is a pretty great point. It isn’t the most straightforward rule set that’ll carry over to every format of the game but it’s one where you can find what you like and really dig your claws into it.Outside of that for digital, I’m a big fan of Arena. I play arena for a living. Especially over the pandemic. It is something that so many people have gotten into the game because of Arena and I’ve seen them personally grow within my own community or the Gladiator community from someone who started off as I don’t know what a creature is to now they’re playing in tournaments every single week.
[CW] I think that Arena’s interface really helps. You can show up. You can draft. You can go as far as Gladiator. Gladiator is the singleton 100 card format right?.
[BW] 100 card singleton,no sideboard, no commanders and the only companions are the ones in your deck and the friends you make along the way.
[CW] Gladiator emulates a paper format you helped create called Canadian Highlander right?
[BW] Yeah, it kind of got birthed out of the fact that we couldn’t play Canadian Highlander in person during the pandemic. And so we started playing an equivalent version of that on Arena.
[CW] For me, that the greatest thing about the game is you can go from Draft all the way to Gladiator, a very in-depth and complicated format
[BW] You could just make up whatever you want. We created a format and that got people playing Magic through a community driven fan based format. And then they also branched out into discovering Draft or discovering Commander from that and that’s kind of wild. I can’t think of anything else that is even close to that.
[CW] I think of the support of the community that Wizards has and for all the community events here, for content creators.That’s a hallmark of the game.
[BW] Yeah, absolutely. That’s the whole The Gathering, right? Even though it is on Arena, playing Gladiator is online. And some of these people I don’t know what they look like. I don’t know where they live, don’t even know their real name. That’s fine. They’re still community members. Some of them do show up to this event, and I’ll meet them, they’ll introduce themselves and be like, I’m so and so. I’ve known you for three years now, now, that’s great.
[CW] How has The Gathering part of Las Vegas been this whole weekend? I noted when I came in on Saturday, there’s more people, more everything.
[BW] Yeah. Saturday is definitely the big day. Vegas is funny because you get people bonding over how much they like the indulgence of Vegas and you get the people bonding over that Vegas is absolutely not for me but I love the food here and so it’s got something for everyone.
[CW] What message would you want to tell people that are Magic “adjacent?” People who have friends who play? Maybe they’re thinking about picking up a starter set or trying out the game?
[BW] Magic is a game, where your relationship with it can evolve. It can grow. It can be completely different from other people in your area that play. You don’t have to feel intimidated by the people that have been playing the game for 30 years. You can enjoy the game how you want to at whatever pace you want. That’s something I tell people that are new and tell people that have been playing the game forever. You get to sculpt your experience. Magic lets you do that, there’s so much you can do. If you’ve ever been a little apprehensive about jumping in, stop that, just do it, just play, you know, boot up Arena. Ask some of your friends if they play Commander, go to your LGS and ask what is commander. There’s so much you can do, you don’t have to walk yourself into just one thing right out the gates.
[CW] What are you most excited for this next year, we are visiting new planes. We’re returning to old ones. We’re getting the cowboy set,Thunder Junction. I didn’t think we were ever going to make it to the rumored cowboy set.
[BW] I’m down, I’m here. I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.I’’m ready.
[CW] I know you like to talk about Gladiator or Canadian Highlander when possible. Would you like to tell people about those formats you helped create?
[BW] I try to be very humble when I say it. I’m one of the creators of the format Gladiator. And I’m one of the council members, moderators are curators. Along with Canadian Highlander which are both 100 card, singleton, 1v1 formats. If i could just speak the praises of those because it’s my preferred way of playing. I’m also a commander player. I’m on the Commander Advisory Group. I just like this game. My god, they sink their fangs into you just just playing them. Testing out a deck doesn’t matter, for Can Lander specifically. Certain card choices, original dual lands, even decks running Power Nine. Extremely daunting. Not necessary at all. You don’t even need those to function, you know, and you don’t need them to compete. You can build top tier decks without those. You can build bad decks without those. And it would still be fun. Those formats are my babies right there. They’re a part of what makes me so passionate about the game and the community and anytime I get to plug them, I will.
[CW] What’s an easy gladiator deck to start with? Let’s take someone who’s fairly new on Arena and looking to trade in their wild cards and they want to try gladiator.
[BW] I would recommend sticking to a mono color or a two colored deck. What Arena gives you for free for just creating an account and inputting the codes. You can build whatever you want or get pretty close, but if you want something that’ll be able to compete, red deck wins, mono white, aggressive decks, Gruul monsters, mid-range, mono black control, you have options.
[CW] Lastly, where can people find you?
[BW] So there’s going to be a lot. I’m a member of Loading Ready Run. You can find me on basically all the Magic stuff and all the other things that we do through that. I am a full-time streamer at twitch.tv/benjamin_wheeler, and I’m on Twitter @BWheelerMTG
Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a recovering MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.