Champion Comeback: Terry Borer
by Kim Eikefet
Terry Philip Borer from Canada used to be one of Magic's major stars. He won 1997 Pro Tour New York, and he also won the junior division of Pro Tour Columbus. Then, after 1998 Pro Tour Los Angeles, he quit playing Magic. But before 2000 Pro Tour Chicago, Terry got an invitation, because Wizards invited the top 50 Standard players (under the old ratings) and the top 50 Constructed players. "I was 125th, but I got an invitation," Terry explains. And so he decided to attend for a one-event comeback only - in spite of the fact that he doesn't really play competitive Magic anymore.
"I only played Pro Tours even when I was good," Borer says, remembering the good, old days. Still, the invitation reached him at a good time. "Things worked out well, I didn't have any assignments and I could take some time off. So I thought it would be fun," he says, surprised at the attention he drew after his long absence.
"I've gotten a lot more compliments than I deserve," Borer thinks. But the Magic scene doesn't forget its old heroes, and the 23-year old computer programmer obviously hadn't forgotten how to play the game. In a tournament where a lot of the decks were in true retro style, Terry went 3-0 with his old school blue/white control deck before losing two in a row. That's not bad, considering that the Toronto resident had to go through five sets of Magic in two weeks.
"I know almost all the cards, and I don't think I've lost to too much play skill. But I am a little rusty," Terry says. His ability to learn fast combined with a very good memory helped him getting back into the game without any problems. But in spite of being away from the game for two years, Borer didn't feel that it had changed that much. "I think it's the same. Play is the same, but the rules are probably much better enforced," he says, adding though: "I realize why I didn't like Magic. I guess it is kind of fun, but I always feel that Magic is a little random. I prefer chess."
Borer doesn't deny the fact that there is a huge element of skill involved in Magic. "Good players rise to the top, they win more often. You have to be both lucky and good," he says. When he won the Battletech World Championship a couple of years ago, he got to design his own card. His quote on the card was 'Some are good, some are lucky, I am both.' So is Borer arrogant? "A lot of people think I'm arrogant," he confirms. "I guess I feel there is a certain level of skill that people can't get beyond, limited by talents. Practice won't get you far enough. But there are lots of better players than me. I don't consider myself exceptional."
In fact, Borer made what was once rated as the number one mistake in the history of Magic. He was in the top 8 of Pro Tour Atlanta, and his opponent was Darwin Kastle. "This was when rules were young," Borer starts. "Darwin cast a Skulking Ghost, and then during the next turn, he cast Armor of Thorns on it. [Judge] Tom Wylie said: 'Both permanents are buried.' That set the tone for the match." After that little episode where the Armor of Thorns definitely shouldn't have been cast in the first place as it can't target black creatures, Borer got the upper hand. In fact, he was about to win. The only thing he had to do was to play the creature enchantment Grave Servitude on his creature during combat. So Terry asked Darwin the infamous question 'Do you have any fast effects?' - and Tom Wylie didn't allow him to play the spell as he had passed priority. During the next turn, Darwin drew a Swamp and Drain Lifed Borer for the victory.
Terry recalls being pretty upset after the loss, but in the long run, things turned for the better for him. "I don't think I would have won PTNY if I had beat Darwin," he admits. At that time, a Top 8 performance qualified a player for three Pro Tours, while a Top 4 qualified them for four. As Borer wasn't qualified for New York, he went to Washington to play in a Grand Prix event. There he finished in the Top 8 and learnt a lot about drafting, knowledge that he brought with him to New York.
Now, Borer is qualified for 2001 Pro Tour Tokyo, but he doubts that he will attend. And he will definitely not pick up Magic again, in spite of all the money involved in the game. "Maybe I'll play in one more Pro Tour, and Paul McCabe and I will probably play some games over a few drinks," he smiles. When he played and did well, Terry considered himself to be one of the best players in the world. Now, he doesn't have the skill advantage that he had at that time. "To be good nowadays, you need a team and solid testing. I'm not interested in putting down the time," he explains. "Magic is a great game, and it was good for me both self-esteem-wise and moneywise. But I've had my time playing it. Sometimes you have to let things go and enter a new phase of life."