Nick Ingram has been playing Magic: The Gathering since he was nine years old, which means he’s been playing for about 18 years.
His years of effort with the game paid off in May when he won the Magic Mythic Championship Qualifier in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The event was a 114-person, seven-round tournament that concluded with the top eight competitors playing in a single-elimination bracket that left one player standing.
Ingram was that player.
His reward was an invitation to compete in Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, Spain.
That competition will award prizes of $500,000.
“I didn’t think there was ever going to be a time where I’d have a shot at playing on the professional circuit,” Ingram said.
Magic, as it is known, is a strategic card game usually played between two players. Each player starts with 20 life points and the game involves trying to reduce an opponent to zero life points with magical spells and mythical creatures from the cards.
“When I was younger, I played mostly with my brother Spencer and my dad and my other siblings,” Ingram said. “Since then I’ve met most of my good friends through playing and I still play with a few of the kids that I went to high school with who are some of my best friends.”
Ingram is a 2010 graduate of Denison High School.
He lives in Bentonville, Arkansas, and is a project manager at Walmart Corporate, where he works on private brands for the company’s dry grocery products.
Magic: The Gathering has been around since 1993 and has had a pro tour almost that entire time, Ingram said.
“It’s the longest living – to my knowledge – collectible, playable card game,” he said.
People play the game at game stores throughout the United States.
When he lived in Denison, Ingram would travel to Ames every few months to play at a shop called Mayhem Games and Collectibles, which is one of the biggest such shops in Iowa.
“They have tournaments called Friday Night Magic, which are casual tournaments,” he said. “You can just go and play in those events, and that’s where I started.”
He began playing competitively in Ames and continued at game stores in Kansas City when he went to college. He continues to play at several game stores near his home in Arkansas.
“This game has given me a lot and it has meant a lot to my friends in Denison and we still stay connected that way,” he said.
He will be visiting Barcelona for the first time for the championship.
“I’ll be playing against the best of the best in the world, which is pretty cool, but also a little daunting,” Ingram said.
The tournament will start with three rounds of a format called “draft,” in which players are given cards to build a deck on the spot to use to compete against other pro players.
After that, the players use a “constructed deck” of cards each has created.
“It’s a deck that I have been practicing on and tweaking and building over the last several months,” Ingram said. “You play five rounds with that deck.”
Players with a record of four and four after the first day qualify for the second day for three more rounds of draft and five rounds of constructed.
Then the tournament is cut down to the top eight players, who then play until one becomes the Mythic Champion of Barcelona.
The top 64 places receive cash prizes.
Ingram said he always thought playing at a championship level was a pipe dream.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “It would be like a Triple-A ballplayer getting called up for a game in the MLB.”