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Martin Shkreli is Getting Into Magic: the Gathering, and Gamers Are Conflicted

July 10, 2016, 9:10 PM UTC
Former KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli Court Appearance
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, smiles while exiting federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Shkreli, charged with securities fraud and called before a congressional panel, has replaced his legal team with Benjamin Brafman, the lawyer who helped get Sean "Diddy" Combs acquitted of gun and bribery charges in 2001. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Peter Foley — Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Friday, a user took to a Reddit forum devoted to the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, with a simple request for advice. “I am a collector of wine, art and other goods. Can someone give me some resources on collecting rare cards?”

Not a remarkable request, except for the user’s name: Martin Shkreli. Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, is notorious for what some argue were Turing’s unethical pricing practices, and a subsequent string of securities fraud charges, outrageous statements, and strange feuds.

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Members of the Magic gaming community were understandably nervous about Shkreli’s intentions. The ‘pharma bro’ is a notorious smirking troll, who has poked the eyes of not only the U.S. financial and pharmaceutical industries, but also rap fans, Bernie Sanders, and, more recently, mixed martial arts fans. Commenters on Reddit immediately began speculating that Shkreli would manipulate the market for Magic cards, the rarest of which sell for $20,000 or more.

Some players embraced Shkreli, though, inviting him to experience the game. Most interesting of all were those who welcomed his deep pockets, inviting him to buy up rare cards and inflate prices as a blow against a controversial reprint policy implemented by Magic’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast.

For more on Martin Shkreli’s collecting habits, watch our video.

But, according to an informal interview with a group of fans including prominent player Travis Woo, Shkreli didn’t have much interest in either manipulating the Magic market or toying with the community. He told Woo he was mainly motivated to explore Magic out of nostalgia, recounting time spent watching a childhood rival playing the game.

“I grew up really poor,” said Shkreli. “And I actually really wanted to play Magic, and I couldn’t, because I just knew my Dad wouldn’t buy me cards.”

And, of course, as he awaits trial on his securities charges, Shkreli is searching for hobbies.

“Now that I kind of have nothing to do, [Magic] is sort of a fun thing.”