Trying to resurrect an old thread.
I'm not at all surprised to see that most of you guys have been playing for ~20 years. I'm from the other end of the spectrum.
Five years ago, my son and I took up Magic after yet another game that we had been playing went belly-up. I said at the time that I really did not want to get into competitive Magic "because it's a real money-sink." Little did I know!
Anyway, we bought some cards, including a couple of bulk 1,000 card boxes at GenCon in 2012. After some dinking around, we went to the RTR prerelease a couple of months later and then tried to make some progress in Standard. After a while we started not doing too horribly. We also started to branch out into other formats like Modern and EDH/Commander. The following year in Standard, we quickly got tired of playing against nothing but Mono-Black Devotion and moved on to playing Commander almost exclusively.
My son tends to prefer playing a control style, so Modern, with its emphasis on fast games minimizing interaction, holds nearly zero attraction for him and frankly, although I like to try to mix up my deck styles, I agree that I'm playing a game -- for fun -- and for me, interaction is one of the essential ingredients in a game. I'll still play Modern occasionally, generally with a budget deck since I don't really like Modern tournaments either.
About 6 months ago, one of the local game stores we have been known to frequent decided to start holding monthly proxy vintage events. We had never tried Vintage because it seemed completely unaffordable, but if we could use 100% proxies, we thought we could try the format without committing our entire lives to buying cards. We started reading online articles. IslandSwamp on mtggoldfish.com turned into a regular read from having been just a columnist that we were vaguely aware of but whom we didn't really read because it seemed silly. We started downloading decklists. We printed up a number of "decks" using mtgpress.net/ and sleeving up the printed "cards" with a real, bulk common, card behind it.
In the meantime, we have learned about how many events allow a limited number (mostly 15) of "playtest cards" and have prepared ourselves with compliant decks using 15 or fewer "playtest" cards and even unpowered budget decks using only real cards that we think are at least playable and fun even if not necessarily totally competitive with full-powered vintage decks. (James' is undoubtedly closer than mine.)
If any of you are coming to GenCon and happen to be wandering past the casual Commander tables in the vicinity of the competitive Magic areas, ask about "Paul and James". We're pretty much fixtures there. And we're likely to be up for a friendly game of Vintage too!
I see I've been my usual wordy self here, but I have enjoyed others' stories in the thread and wanted to put in my own 2 cents' worth as a different perspective.