Last weekend, I played in the James Beeton Memorial Weekend Chaos Draft at RIW Hobbies and it was one of the most touching MTG Community experiences I’ve been a part of in almost 30 years of playing.
James Beeton, you were a friend and great teammate. We lost you way too young to substance abuse 10 years ago in April. The purpose of the memorial weekend wasn’t so much to commiserate loss as celebrate the times we had because you were such an irreplaceable part of our gaming community.
When I think about you there are two stories that come to mind.
The first one was when we traveled together with the team to Grand Prix Ravnica. It was the first GP I ever traveled to and I ended up playing a big match against Frank Karsten in Sealed. I played well and somehow won a razor thin match despite my inexperience and after the match you patted me on the back and said: “DeMars, you’re going to be the next Heezy.”
Of all the compliments and encouragement I’ve been lucky to receive playing Magic over the years, this is the one that meant and lifted me up the most. We were lucky to learn the game from the best players in Michigan, perhaps the world, at RIW and saying I had that kind of potential made me believe I belonged. When I encourage new players or give advice to competitive players I always think about how that moment made me feel when I was new and try to be a better teammate. You were the kind of friend who always lifted the people around you up.
While my favorite compliment in Magic was you saying I had ‘Herberholz-level potential,’ the GOAT of Michigan Competitive MTG had a lot of nice memories to recount about you when I asked him:
“I miss James. I first met him at a local type 2 tournament (that’s what we called standard back then). I wasn’t on the tour yet but was running the tables at the local scene and I got paired against James who was maybe 12 at the time. Almost immediately this kid started talking trash and I just remember thinking, “who is this little punk to talk trash to me?”
I liked him.
I don’t know if protege is the right word, but that’s what he became to me. When I started driving more to Grand Prix and Pro Tours I would always save a spot in my car for James. He was your typical broke-kid gamer so I’d give him a free spot in my hotel room with the stipulation that he had to sleep in the tub or a free meal but I get to pick what he eats on the menu. He humored my ridiculous stipulations. We had a lot of long car rides and discussed plays, decks, how to improve at Magic and what to do if you hit your ceiling which then turned into talks about life’s happiness.
He was funny, intelligent and driven and I liked that. His siblings were much older than him and I always got the impression that he didn’t have the most enjoyable high school experience so I invited him up to Michigan State a few times the night before PTQs. He sure seemed to enjoy being part of the gang. I don’t game much anymore but I sure wish he was still around to talk about life with.” –Mark Herberholz
My other story that encapsulates the time we spent together took place out front of some convention center at a Grand Prix but really it could have happened in between rounds anywhere. You were amazing with the hacky sack and street dance moves and would always amaze us with your coordination in between rounds. There were street performers busking and you busted out your moves in front of a crowd of Magic players who had gathered outside to smoke, got a standing ovation, and then beckoned the crowd to drop money in the street artist’s hat. You had an exuberance, kindness, and sense of generosity that are rare to find.
You’d be pleased to know the 1st annual James Beeton Memorial Weekend was a huge success. It felt like the entire Michigan Magic community came out to participate including a ton of the old-timers we used to game with. I saw so many familiar faces I haven’t seen in years. RIW raised $2262 and your family matched the amount as a charitable donation in your name to Drug Free All Stars.
I played in the 52 player Chaos Draft main event. Pam picked limited to be the marquee event because we all know it was your favorite way to play Magic. RIW also ran a 25 player Pioneer and 18 player Pauper and your friends from around the Metro Detroit Area donated all sorts of sweet prizes to help raise money in your name.
Pam even shuffled up to play Pauper in the event!
With a very generous Art donation from Todd and Sara Maddock, RIW will exceed its $2500 goal and is planning to auction the pieces off.
The chaos draft was so much fun. Pam and the staff came up with a really cool way to run the event and kicked in all the products. They did one “old-pack” (spanning all the way back to Ice Age and Alliances), one “stacked-pack” (Collectors or Masters), and one “current draft booster” and bagged the trios up so everybody got that same distribution of packs which was an incredible way to run Chaos draft.
Pam teared up when she spoke about you during the player meeting. In fact, everybody who spoke about how much they miss you during the player meeting got choked up.
I’ve never seen Jon Wilkerson get teary before, but even he couldn’t keep it together when he talked about how much he misses hanging out with you. Jon was the TO for your memorial weekend and ran an incredible event in your honor; he also had some beautiful things to say about your times together:
“James, this event was the single most terrifying event I’ve helped plan. Nobody deserves to be honored in our store more than you.
As you know, charity events in Magic are often ignored for other events with cash prizes or flashy card giveaways. Just like we wanted, everybody came out to have fun and show how much they love you.
I sit here to write this and can’t help but be flooded with emotions and memories. I spent my formative Magic years learning to navigate the game and life with you. I can’t count the number of PTQs we shared a car to, trying to grind our way on the tour, or the number of places we traveled to play in Grand Prixs as we got older.
You taught me more than just about how to be patient when playing combo and how to do tournament math to determine draws, which your system hasn’t failed me to this day and I’ll never share. <3
You taught me how important it is to be yourself and to always stand up to protect the little guy. I’ve seen you give away your prizes to a little kid more times than any other player and I try to continue that at every event I run. You always made sure people were having fun even if it was at your expense and it made you stand out in a crowd like no other. Nothing I write here can convey how much you mean to me and to the Magic community we have built here. Thank you for sharing a brief part of what should have been a long life with us.” –Jon Wilkerson
My eyes welled watching everybody struggle to get through their happy memories of you.
Judge Dave gave a nice speech about how much the Magic community means to us all, especially here in Michigan, and how missed you are. Dave Rappaport called the draft like it was day two of a GP and even with 7 pods and 52 Chaos drafters there were zero misdrafts. Everybody brought out their A game to play for you, buddy.
I was definitely playing for you (no rare drafts!) and ended up with a sweet RB Aggro deck. I cracked a Mycosynth Lattice ($50 card) from my Darksteel pack and shipped it. In fact, it got passed multiple times and Allison (who finally selected it) donated it to the community prizes which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the event.
I think we both know that when I saw the Darksteel pack in my bag I was hoping for a Skullclamp, but the Aether Vial was definitely great in here! It now resides in my favorite Commander deck, so I’ll remember this weekend every time I flash out a creature.
Kyle Boggemes also went undefeated in the Chaos Draft and won the Pioneer Event!
“I met James when I was thirteen years old, twenty years ago, at the Michigan State Championship. He beat me in the event and it was clear he was a formidable competitor even at fourteen. There have been numerous Michigan players I’ve met over the years that helped me crush my plateaus and James was one of them.
James was also one of the first RIW players I met. He helped contribute to the idea RIW was an elite team in Michigan and I wanted to be a part of that group. Great times were had by all when we traveled to PTQs during our teen years.
There’s a long list of great talents taken from us too early from addiction, I’m grateful to have known him.” –Kyle Boggemes
Pam had Lorna cater a full taco bar for the event, so everybody had full stomachs and was in a great mood for a long day of Limited and Pioneer play. On Sunday, your family came, grilled and fed all the tournament players!
It was a unique mix of friendly casual and aspiring high level play that I can’t remember ever seeing at a Magic event before. Everybody was deeply committed to drafting the best Chaos decks possible just for the sake of the experience, but the matches and games played were super relaxed and chill, just like you.
While your friends from our generation were well-represented in the field, there were also a ton of new players who came out to support the cause and enjoy a fun day of Magic. It makes me happy to know that even though they never got the pleasure of getting to know you, like I did, they’ll associate your name with a fantastic day of community gaming for a good cause.
I hope it also pleases you to know that RIW is planning to make the James Beeton Memorial Weekend an annual event coinciding with your birthday weekend. Next year it will be Saturday & Sunday, January 6th & 7th.
Joe Melville donated a box of Khans of Tarkir we plan to draft. RIW decided to draft on the first Saturday of every month with all proceeds going to next year’s event. The first draft will be Saturday, Feb 4th. I’ll be there.
“I’m looking forward to the good we can do as we continue to grow the James Beeton event weekend in the years to come. We’re committed to growing the event and supporting this cause in James’ memory for years to come.” –Pam Willoughby, Owner RIW Hobbies & Games