Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Games, Magic

“Help us turn Ardent Recruits into Civilized Scholars!”

That’s what it says in the fine print on the Gamers Helping Gamers webpage. Also on that page are the names of more than a half dozen veteran Magic players — Hall of Famers, Grand Prix, Pro Tour and World Champions with a smattering of Player of the Year — who formed the non-profit organization to award need-based scholarships to a new generation of Magic players. Timothy McKenna (President), Eric Berger (Secretary), Jon Finkel (Treasurer), Chris Pikula, Robert Maher, Jr., Matthew Wang, and Daniel O’Mahoney-Schwartz make up the board that reviews the submissions each year and decides upon the recipients.

For the past several years I have had the pleasure to introduce the recipients and this year is no exception. This year’s recipients include two four-year scholarships of $5,000 annually and one one-year scholarship for $5,000. They have been waiting all week to share the good news with others so without further ado let me introduce you to this year’s crop of gamers.

Faolan Sugarman-Lash
Age: 18
Hometown: Richmond, Massachusetts
Destination: Santa Clara University
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Faolan Sugarman-Lash

Faolan is an avid consumer of Magic content and actually discovered the existence of the scholarship by watching Jon Finkel’s stream one night and last year, his best friend Dylan Quinn (photobombing above) also won a scholarship award from Gamers Helping Gamers. The Massachusetts-based player, who will be heading to Santa Clara after this summer, describes himself as a competitive player who does not get to play nearly enough.

His Magic playing career began when handed a large box of cards from a family friend. It was not long before he was getting booster packs and questing to get better and better at the game. In addition to Jon Finkel he lists LSV, Kenji Egashira, Alex Hayne, Shahar Shenhar, Reid Duke, HAUMPH, and Jacob Wilson as players who inspire him to be both “a better Magic player and a better person.”

“This scholarship is really important to me,” said Faolan who was looking forward to celebrating his good news with an Eternal Masters draft. “It’s a physical manifestation of the idea that following one’s passions can benefit them! It makes me really appreciate the game that I’ve played for more than half of my life — almost 11 years!! — and the people who make this happen. It’s humbling as well as inspiring to me to be a recipient of this award.”

Jacob Schliesman
Age: 22
Hometown: Kenosha, WI
Destination: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (Majoring in Media Arts and Game Development)
Scholarship: 1 year/$5,000 per year

Jacob Schliesman

Jacob is already attending the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater and has been applying for the scholarship for the past four years since reading about the first class or recipients. Interestingly that was not too long after picking up Magic roughly a half decade ago when his local homeschooling organization handed out Mirrodin Besieged Intro Packs to all the kids. He was instantly hooked — and hooked beyond just the game play. The story was just as important and engaging to him which worked out well for him while filling out the application for the past handful of years.

“It’s certainly the most enjoyable application process I’ve ever encountered; writing about Magic is something I love to do, and it really makes you think a lot more about the game itself. And it never ceases to amuse me that there is a place for your DCI number right next to your SAT score,” laughed Jacob. His essay for the application included a discussion about how Magic spurred him to study game design and journalism.

“I worked as a writer for my campus’s student-run gaming website, GameZombie.tv, and actually ran the writing team for about a year. During this time, I had the opportunity to interview a few Magic pros for the website; namely Patrick Chapin, Jon Finkel, and LSV. My goal is to eventually work on the story team in R&D itself, a dream which I’m happy to say I have taken some steps towards since my initial application. I now have a freelance position writing creative text for Magic, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jacob also wrote about Narset, Transcendent in his essay. Early on in his education Jacob was labeled as “intellectually gifted” and struggled to fit in with his peers as some things came easily to him while others were more elusive.

“This all changed when I read the story accompanying the preview of Narset Transcendent, The Great Teacher’s Student by Kimberly Krienes. Never before had I seen a character whose mind so closely resembled mine. Narset quickly became one of my favorite characters of any medium, as I finally had a character I could relate to. This also taught me the importance of diversity and inclusion in pop culture, because everyone deserves to have a character, be it Alesha, Ashiok, or whoever, that they can point to and say “that one is like me.””

Community is a recurring theme for Jacob and this scholarship was very meaningful for him in multiple ways.

“Not only have I been working towards it for a few years, but I have been trying to be more involved in the Magic community for many years. Currently, those efforts include a semi-collaborative parody Twitter project with A.E. Marling and a portrait of the Magic community through signed Unyielding Krumars. I’ve always wanted to make or write or do things that other Magic fans would enjoy, and to me this scholarship means that I can do that. I can get there.

Not shockingly the world of Innistrad is one of Jacob’s very favorites and he plans to celebrate his scholarship beneath the Eldritch Moon.

Oliver Tiu
Age: 18
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Destination: Boston College
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Oliver Tiu
If you follow competitive Magic you have probably heard Oliver’s name mentioned often, and with increasing frequency, over the course of this season. He currently leads the Rookie of the Year race, has crossed the threshold to become Platinum through the remainder of this year and next, and could very well be competing at the World Championship if he can maintain his pace in the Constructed Master category at the last Pro Tour this season.

Oliver has been playing the game since the 5th Grade when he saw some fellow campers playing the game. He was drawn into Magic by the artwork rather than the gameplay itself which is somewhat unexpected for someone who describes himself as “extremely competitive”.

I had the opportunity to interview Oliver after the second Pro Tour of the season when he finished in the Top 16 in Spain. It was obvious that the young New England player had attracted the attention of the best and the brightest from the Northeast as both William Jensen and Mike Sigrist went out of their way to make sure I knew that Oliver was the real deal. During that interview he stated that Owen Turtenwald was the player he attempted to template himself after.

“He is simply the most consistent and flawless player I’ve had the pleasure of watching in the current Magic era,” said Oliver who voraciously consumes Magic content (which is how he found out about the scholarship in the first place). “I also admire Luis Scott-Vargas for his mastery of creating Magic content, he has the most entertaining articles and videos out of any player. In addition to that, he is a great player across every format and always is able to see weird plays that would not be seen by a vast majority of players.”

One of the amazing things about the success Oliver has had on the Pro Tour has been his ability to succeed without working with one of the major playtesting teams (which changes for the upcoming Pro Tour when he joins Team Face to Face Games) and that was one of the topics he wrote about his Magic essays.

“I found the questions very thought-provoking, especially the question about what I would change in the Magic community,” said Oliver. “I discussed my favorite Magic card: Deathmist Raptor, my least favorite: Monastery Swiftspear, and what I would change about the Magic scene: decreasing the necessity of teams in order to be successful on the Pro Tour.”

Oliver has a lot on his plate for the coming year between his freshman year of college and following up on a Platinum Pro Tour season.

“This scholarship means so much to me, especially in regards to continuing to play competitive Magic while pursuing a college education,” said Oliver who will be playing at Grand Prix Pittsburgh this weekend. “This scholarship will be a big help in making college affordable for me, and using what I’ve learned in Magic to aid my education. The scholarship is a great idea to reward those who have a skillset that isn’t typically rewarded by the college application process. I hope I’ll be able to contribute to the scholarship when I graduate.”

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