Bryan: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. With the recent internet explosion of Oathbreaker, Weirdcards is getting even more attention than before. I’d like to hit the pause button on the Oathbreaker hype, take a step back, and let our readers find out all about Weirdcards, MagiKids, and how the only known Magic: The Gathering charity club somehow led to the birth of a new Magic format. So let’s start with you. Who are you? What makes you you.
Jason: So, first thing, it's Weirdcards (one word), because Oddegg was taken on eBay in 1997. I’m Jason Egginton, and I’m a recovering misprints addict. I’m a research professor for, let’s say, a “notable” hospital in Rochester, MN. I’ve been married for over 20 years to my lovely wife Suzanne; we have two teenagers, so wish us luck on that hand.
Bryan: Ha! Good luck! And congrats on 20 years! Wow, 1997? So Weirdcards has been around for a while? Was it something else before becoming the Charity Club we know and love?
Jason: Mostly an internet handle for all things Magic. The nonprofit social club was incorporated in 2016.
Bryan: Weirdcards as a charity organization built around Magic is a relatively recent phenomenon. What’s your background with Magic? How has Magic been a part of your life? How have you seen it impact others?
Jason: I learned to play in college in the 90’s. In short, it’s how I’ve made most of my adult friends. I use “adult” loosely. The most profound thing for me is that people can create entire worlds within themselves, and with others; particularly in multiplayer formats.
Bryan: I see some foreshadowing here with the multiplayer formats, and we’ll get to that in a bit. Weirdcards Charitable Club was your idea, or at least it started because of you. What was the Genesis Wave that led to it?
Jason: Our “club” was really born at the lunch table at work, and in my basement for Friday night EDH. Travis, one of the original Weirdos, was doing a gameathon in 2016 for Extra-Life.org, and we offered to play EDH with him to raise money. After that, people immediately wanted to do it on the regular, so we kept doing fundraisers for different causes until my wife kicked us out of the basement and a hotel picked us up (thankfully!). Now, of course, we’re fortunate enough to be hosted almost anywhere MTG players are.
Bryan: In the beginning, it was a club with a purpose. When it started, did you think it would ever become a 501c? Did you think that Magikids would be born from it? Did you have any idea that the internet would go crazy over a format that came from within Weirdcards?
Jason: This is the part I hate--my mom was right. She “made” us talk to the family attorney, who by that time heard about the huge amounts of cash coming and going from the Club and urged us to set up a 501(c)(7): a nonprofit social club -- similar to a rowing club, for example. This worked for a while until we frankly outgrew it. We had over 200 members, but it was clear that the general public wanted to support our charitable mission of teaching EVERYONE Magic; most notably kids. SO, back to the attorney to spin off an independent 501(c)(3): MagiKids. We are the ONLY known officially registered charity dedicated to teaching Magic: The Gathering.
Bryan: 200 members all wanting to teach kids Magic? That’s incredible! But...why? What do you see as the draw that makes all these people want to help kids learn Magic?
Jason: I should say that each of those members have come in for totally different, individual reasons. We’ve even had people actually say, “what if I don’t really like kids or play Magic?” I mean...OK. Some just wanted access to a fun, casual, giving group and to buy unique swag.
Bryan: How has the vision of the Charitable Club changed from the initial idea into what it is now?
Jason: It’s funny. Every time we try to pivot or be all things to all people, the more God and the Fates bring us back to what makes us meaningful for people: Game night events for local causes. I mean sure, those game nights may be huge MagicFests, but they may also be at local game stores, just helping our neighbors out with causes meaningful to them.
Bryan: What sort of causes do you help out? What are some of the more meaningful and notable ones of the past?
Jason: If you named a charity now, chances are, we’ve done a fundraiser for them. Ronald McDonald? Check. Habitat? Check. Red Cross? Check. Salvation Army? Check. These are all listed on our site. We often get, “well hasn’t that charity done some things I don’t agree with?” The answer to that one is: no charity is perfect or resonates with everyone—but they are doing very real work in our communities. The notables are when reps from those organizations fully partner with us, come to our events and talk to players. We’ve done over 30 fundraisers.
Bryan: That’s impressive. And all of this is done under the banner of...well, there are two organizations. And it can get a little confusing. What’s the difference between Weirdcards and MagiKids?
Jason: Our core group has gotten used to describing it thus: Weirdcards are the PEOPLE that do the “care and feeding” of MagiKids. Weirdcards is an inward-facing social club that volunteers their time in supporting the educational mission of MagiKids which is a 501(c)(3). There are separate boards of directors and ALL people involved make $0 per tax law. Not to get too dull, but MagiKids allows us to interact with the general public by accepting donations and having a gift shop (as it were) to support our activities, as well as tax-deductible receipts.
Bryan: I’m quite interested in how you are using Magic to help kids. How does this work? Do you just go into schools and clubs and start playing?
Jason: It would be a convenient thing, if that’s the way it happened. But, I suspect the reason it’s never happened on the MagiKids scale before is because it’s incredibly expensive, time consuming, and complicated. BUT, there’s a Peace Corps effect: it’s beautiful to see kids as young as 5, or even grandparents for that matter, take in Magic where they’re at. This means that the five-year old may just enjoy the art, or “acting” like a big kid. Slightly older and now they’re picking up on the 5 “personalities” or “suits” of Magic. Older still, ways that work and do not work to eliminate opponents. We do have established curriculum, but I will say half the time is cat-herding: listening to off topic stories, fist bumps, and the “sense making” around the game--sort, build, play. I’ll explain...starter decks actually don’t do much. They often deprive kids of the crucial time to “get” what each color or card type is “going for”. What could be this card's purpose? How could it play with other cards?
Bryan: There’s a lot to unpack here. You just said that starter decks aren’t helpful. Have you made your own teaching decks? Do you have a workable methodology for teaching Magic? It seems most Magic players aren’t great at teaching Magic.
Jason: Decks are OK… We’ve had the best luck with just sitting with kids to do: Sort, Build, Play. In reality, kids end up with random piles of cards from friends, or just from opening packs. Let’s sort them by the 5 “personalities” (colors) and an “other” pile. What have you figured out about the different colors? Good. Which color speaks to you today? Awesome, I love that color. Let’s build a deck. Take 23 forests...Ok, now let’s pick about the same amount of creatures. Sweet. Now let’s round it out with about 14 spells; sound good? Great. Let’s find some friends we can play with; I’ll help. That’s it!
Bryan: What is the mission behind MagiKids? What is the goal of teaching magic to kids?
Jason: We are changing the world. Which is an audacious thing to hear ourselves say. Early on, we realized we were just dreaming way too small. Magic is for everyone. Full stop. Why isn’t this game something EVERYONE just DOES? It’s borderline criminal not to. So many teachers and mentors have actually built Magic into the school day, rather than relegate it to after-school game clubs (which, by the way are great too). The point is that it gets kids off screens for an hour, or two, or three, and educators around them notice a difference RIGHT AWAY.
Bryan: You’ve seen teachers build this into curriculum!? I’ve helped teach Magic at a Montessori type program, but this sounds like a whole different scale! What are the benefits and reasons teachers cite for Magic?
Jason: The analog, no-screens, thing is actually the biggest— come for the pragmatism, stay for the deep learning. The full benefits of Magic may not even manifest for months or even years. But then their creativity, logic, reasoning, diplomacy and “scholarly” skills explode.
Bryan: It’s so cool that we can help kids through this game we already love! If some of our readers are interested in helping do similar things, how should they go about it? Do you have tips and tricks on how to best teach Magic? On how to best help kids through Magic?
Jason: The best is to check out all of our resources on MagiKids.org , which notably includes a few powerful things. First, teachers and mentors anywhere in the US can get free, unlimited cards and supplies by simply filling out a request; and the curriculum is open source and volunteer supported. We’re ready to help anyone get started with almost any group of kids or special populations; few questions asked. Second, people can make tax-deductible donations of $20 or more to fund each of those packages--that is absolutely crucial to our survival.
Bryan: Noted! Everybody! Donate!! And what if our readers want to help in other ways? What would you say to them?
Jason: Biggest thing--weirdly--is be brave; make the effort to find a group of kids to teach Magic. We have infinite cards and supplies to give you. All you need is time; and the effort in getting something started and sustained--which admittedly can be challenging--BUT DOABLE for someone who’s figured out it’s vitally important in the lives of children and young adults.
Bryan: You have the three tenets of Weirdcards. Tell us about those.
Jason: The tenets of Weirdcards is in all things, be social, be generous and be inclusive. Easier said than done, and we all have bad days, or want to protect ourselves, our feelings, or our niche. Unfortunately, Magic and its players do not have a spotless record when it comes to these aspirations, so we always try to take the extra steps to not to feed the trolls or engage in being argumentative. This is particularly important to us as we’ve grown up in the public eye. We don’t always get it right, but we try like hell.
Bryan: What led you to these three tenets?
Jason: They are simply the ways to be decent humans, and for many Magic is the primary way they interact with other humans in a (hopefully) safe environment for self-expression, creativity and mentally stimulating way. At Magic’s lowest, a place many of us have been, it can devolve into the opposite of these things: cutthroat; isolated theory-crafting, trolling and flaming; a singular gamer archetype full of hubris and belittlement. Not on our Gatewatch!
Bryan: Those tenets have manifested themselves into a format that seems to be taking the Magic world by storm. Let’s dive into Oathbreaker history. Our readers have already seen the interview with Oathmaker Levi. The creation of the format was a team effort -- a Weirdcards team effort. Tell me that history from your perspective.
Jason: Levi is our mischievous little devil. He’s a brilliant scientist by day, an avid reader by night, but at sunrise and dusk, I genuinely believe he communes with the Multiverse to develop new ways of experiencing Magic together. So Weirdcards has always been a think-tank of think-tankers that wanted to maintain the beauty and complexity of Magic as almost a love language, both to the game and to each other. It’s an almost mystical experience--not to get too weird about it.
So Oathbreaker, from my perspective, was a format that made Lunch Commander possible for us. We HAD TO get back to work before 1pm, and EDH was just no bueno, time wise. And no amount of house-ruling was going to pull us out from an evolved meta. Since not all people could make all work lunches, we had this fascinating iterative process. Any playgroup that’s done anything like this before, I think can appreciate the nuance involved with making an “agreeable” situation appropriate to the circumstances and still keep the best things about MTG intact.
Bryan: I think it’s fair to say that the mission and philosophy behind Oathbreaker are that of a format that lives up to Social. Generous. Inclusive. It’s impressive that the mission of a charity created a format movement. Where do you see things going from here?
Jason: We strive to be the very best Magic organization in the Multiverse, without exception. We think this is a 100 million dollar idea for charity. Since there are an estimated 30 million Magic players, it’s not so crazy; everyone kick in $4 and we’ll make sure almost every kid learns Magic. We want Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro to say, “We see you. We love you. We trust you. Here. Make it happen.” I know CEOs maybe shouldn’t say these ridiculous things. But since all of our ridiculous dreams have already come true, why not? Why not.
Bryan: “Why Not?” indeed. We know that readers of internet articles are notorious for skimming or not reading. What would you say the TLDR of this interview is?
Jason: Since people quote the Maria Bartholdi documentary about us all the time, why not recycle it: “It’s not about Magic, it’s about the Gathering.” Love is an action word—it’s not enough to simply love this game; act. Do this by going to MagiKids.org, the world’s only officially registered 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to teaching Magic: The Gathering.
Bryan: Love is an action word. Love people. Love the game. Help the kids. Donate your time and cards and money. Speaking of the documentary:
Level 3 Magic Judge, Keeper of Bad Jokes.