Interview: Lucas Kunce, Magic Player and Missouri Senate Candidate

Josh Nelson • March 25, 2024

Magic: The Gathering draws in players from all walks of life. From college professors to star celebrities to your younger sibling, Magic has so much to offer. We recently took an opportunity to interview Lucas Kunce, a longtime Magic player and the Missouri Democratic candidate for United States Senate. In this interview, we asked Mr. Kunce about his stance on how peoples' views on Magic have changed, how Magic has changed, and how he has changed with Magic. Without further ado, here's what we learned from Lucas Kunce!

When did you start playing Magic, and how has the game shifted most notably to you since then?

I was in sixth grade when I first saw Magic cards in the winter of '93 or '94. My friend's older brother was one of those rebel teenagers. He smoked, did drugs, had a sawed-off shotgun, and left piles of rubber-banded Alpha and Beta cards floating around my friend's house. He showed them to us, but we didn't start playing until seventh grade. Revised, The Dark, and Fallen Empires were the main sets.

Obviously, a lot has changed in Magic since then! There wasn't really much if any card cohesion, we never drafted, and our decks were mostly piles of Fungusaur-/Rod of Ruin-style combos or crappy Millstone decks with the occasional Kird Ape/Taiga aggro. We used to pool our money together to get copies of Duelist or Scrye, and later InQuest magazines just to know what cards existed, and to get cards outside of our card pool in small-town mid-Missouri I remember doing a lot of very risky trading through chat forums.

I think the main one was called Third Planet Trading Post, but it's hard to remember exactly. If anyone out there remembers, I'd love to know! You would post a have/want list and agree to mail each other cards. Someone stole my Library of Alexandria and a Beta Birds of Paradise that way. But I collected a nearly full set of Revised dual lands, so it wasn't a total bust. They were my favorite mostly because of the psychedelic-looking text box, not because I realized how good they were. Guess it worked out in the end regardless!

Lucas Kunce, on Magic in Missouri

In Missouri, there are quite a few local game stores. I visited Festus, MO, recently, and while in the area I went to one in St. Louis that was massive! Do you ever visit any of the stores in your state just to play?

I do! I wish I could go more often, but I can walk to The Game Cafe in Independence, which is a great shop. We got my kids and my niece a bunch of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth cards there last summer. They run a lot of Commander, Standard, Modern, and all of the prereleases and things that you'd normally like, and they have a great community. I wish the campaign didn't keep me so busy and traveling so much or I'd be there more.

There are great shops all around the state, though, and I always try to check them out. I was really impressed by one in another small town, Bolivar, MO, the other day, called C&K, and picked up some cards. This summer I'm going to roll around with some Commander and old-school decks on the campaign trail!

Lucas Kunceplaying Commander at the Game Cafe in Independence, Missouri.
Lucas Kunce playing Commander at the Game Cafe in Independence, Missouri.

What would you say the metagame is like in your state of Missouri, compared to other states? Are there any archetypes represented more than others?

I wish I could compete enough to say!!!

What would you say are your favorite strategies to play in the game? Do you have any specific formats that you excel in, or prefer?

I really like forcing five colors in drafts, lol. For any format that has Treasures or dual lands at common, I'm forcing five colors. In constructed, I used to play an almost all-lands deck because I was obsessed with lands (see above) and thought that was cool. But really, in paper, my cards aren't good for much of anything beyond Commander and Old-School, because I don't keep up with paper cards.

I resisted downloading Arena for a long time because I knew it would ruin my life, but I eventually caved and played a lot of Constructed on there. My highest-ever season, I ended at Mythic #9, so I do get into it. I kind of rotate through the formats, though, and I try to play different strategies. Like all artifacts or off-the-wall combos or graveyard decks. I hate counterspells.

Lucas Kunce, on the tougher aspects of Magic fandom

In the 1980s and 90s, alongside games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic was beset by fears brought on by the Satanic Panic. Had you ever experienced this growing up, and how do you personally see such fears pop up today?

Yes, I definitely remember this. I actually feel like I got a decent number of other kids' cards because of that phenomenon, and when it was really aggressive, you could get cards super cheap at the card shop. When I was a kid I used to ride my bike across town and pick up cards way under InQuest prices with my lawn and snow shovel money because the game had a stigma for a little bit. I haven't seen it much lately. I think people are more proud to geek out now and just ignore haters, which really limits the reach and impact of those sorts of things.

A few ad campaigns supporting your political opponents have tried to use your Magic: The Gathering hobby as a weapon against your campaign. How do you feel about this strategy of theirs?

Bring it on! I'm proud to play Magic, and it shows how little they understand all of us normal people just trying to live our lives and occasionally have some fun with our hobbies. That's why I try to put uncut sheets behind me in my interviews. Because I'm proud to play.

Mr. Kunce on sharing the finer things in life

During televised interviews, you can be seen with a framed sheet of Beta hanging on your wall. Do you have any other rarities from Magic that you would want to share with readers?

Much like the dual lands, I got really into uncut sheets a while back. I do have the Beta common uncut sheet and some others. Antiquities, Ice Age, Revised. It's funny because the first interview I ever did with an uncut sheet behind me was an uncut sheet of Middle Earth: The Wizards, a different CCG that I loved when I was a kid.

Besides that, I really liked the card art and flavor of Wanderlust when I was younger. We didn't have much money, and the idea that someone could go out and see the world was really appealing to me. I think it's one of the reasons I joined the Marine Corps. So I collected every copy of that card in every language.

Including the Summer Magic (Edgar) version, a couple of pre-Alpha playtest cards, and all the artist proofs. Cornelius Brudi, the Wanderlust artist, is a great guy, and he painted Wanderlust-themed scenes on the backs of the artist proof cards for me.

Lucas Kunce's copy of a pre-Alpha playtest Wanderlust.
Lucas Kunce's copy of a pre-Alpha playtest Wanderlust.
With the surge in popularity that the Commander format has gotten in recent years, there has been an influx of cards and strategies geared toward multiplayer politics. During your political campaign, do you ever find yourself thinking about such strategies? Which have been the most successful for you to implement in your real-life career?

Group hug! The more friends the merrier. One of my three commanders is Phelddagrif.

What advice that you've personally gleaned from your political career would you impart to Magic players to better their next game?

Have fun with it and bring in more people. It's a great community and is stronger the bigger it is!

Lucas Kunce's old-bordered Phelddagrif Commander deck, presented in full.
Lucas Kunce's old-bordered Phelddagrif Commander deck, presented in full.
We thank Lucas Kunce for his willingness to let us talk to him about something we all love and hope that his upcoming year goes swimmingly.

Josh Nelson wears many hats. They are a music journalist when not writing gaming news. Beyond this, they're a scholar of the Sweeney Todd urban legend, a fan of monster-taming RPGs, and a filthy Aristocrats player. Josh has been playing Magic since 2001 and attributes their tenure to nostalgia, effort, and "aesthetic".