Mike first learned the game from his good friend Gabe around the time of the release of Ice Age. The strong, evocative flavor of the cards (especially several from Fallen Empires, believe it or not) and the depth of strategy (and fun!) in the gameplay got him irreversibly hooked, and he’s been playing continuously ever since.
His role as the “rules guy” started very early on, developing an interest in being able to play the game as well as possible within the realm of what the rules allowed. Though he and Gabe only started with an incomplete recollection of what Gabe had learned from an older kid, a Revised-edition rulebook, and the logical prowess of a couple of 10-year olds, it turned out they weren’t all that far off. When the wonders of the internet were opened to them, Mike was able to study the Comprehensive Rules when it was still less than 50 pages long, and made sure to keep up with it as best he could. Currently, he’s an official DCI-certified Rules Advisor, and is more than happy to help people come to a better understanding of the game whenever he can. If you see someone in our forums with the handle “Rhadamanthus” giving advice and answering questions, that’s him.
Playing with and learning from other players his own age almost exclusively during those first several years had a lasting impact on Mike’s deckbuilding strategies. His choices of cards and themes are still very strongly influenced by the general philosophy (first learned from Gabe) of “not every card is good, but pretty much any card can be made good”, sometimes at the expense of using “better” cards or making a “stronger” deck. With all those kids also looking to get an edge by trying things none of the others had ever thought about before, there’s also a strong rogue streak in Mike’s thinking, especially when it comes to competitive formats. Though he definitely hasn’t won as many games over the years as he would have by building and playing in a more conventional manner, he wouldn’t trade the fun of those games for anything.