Saturday, July 9, 2011

My first foray into Magic: The Gathering

Last night, I went to a pre-release party at a local comic & gaming shop. From midnight til about 5am.

I had a blast.

I suspect that some of the geekier readers of this blog will be familiar with Magic: The Gathering, but for those who are not, here is a quote from Wikipedia.

Magic: The Gathering
(colloquially Magic or MTG) is a collectible card game created by mathematics professor Richard Garfield and introduced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. Magic is the first example of the modern collectible card game genre and still thrives today, with an estimated six million players in over seventy countries.[1] Magic can be played by two or more players each using a deck of printed cards or a deck of virtual cards through the Internet-based Magic: The Gathering Online or third-party programs.
Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards, known as "planeswalkers", who use the magical spells, items, and fantastic creatures depicted on individual Magic cards to defeat their opponents. Although the original concept of the game drew heavily from the motifs of traditional fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the gameplay of Magic bears little resemblance to pencil-and-paper adventure games, while having substantially more cards and more complex rules than many other card games.

MTG will be the first hobby I've had in years that didn't center around some form of debauchery or sitting in front of a computer or television.

Here's the thing about being an (unpublished) author, and blogging. You're supposed to keep a blog to build up your public profile - BUT - you're not supposed to write about writing, which, frankly, is most of what I think about. So, by way of adding content that might be interesting to people who might also read the book I'm writing/revising, this seems a good fit. 

How and why?

You might have heard that Sony and the PS3 Network got hacked recently, and was offline for several weeks as they repaired network security issues. When they returned, the PS3 Network offered a "Welcome Back" package, which included a trial membership to their elite PSPlus program.

Part of that PS+ membership allows you to download discounted games, or free trials. During that time, my roommate downloaded a trial version of MTG: Duels of the Planeswalkers. He reminisced about how he played the card game in the 90's, and well, I'd heard of it... but, eh.

In the 70's & 80's, I played tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, sure.  In the 90's, though, I switched to computer desktop games and even ventured into online MUDs and MMORPG's when I realized they existed. But mostly, I was DJ'ing and working and partying, and most of the 90's are a blur to me.

But! This was the sort of thing I could do, and I'm always looking for new games to play with my friends. So, I gave it a try last month.

What you can't see is the gorgeous artwork on each of these cards. It's stunning. And moreso, inspiring for me.

What I learned last night was that playing in person was a bit more complicated and clunky than it is to play on the computer. Which was fine, really. It was really a matter of logistics, since I already know the basic rules and am learning the nuances.

There's a bit more to this. This game, like any others, has to progress, grow, develop. "Collectible" card game. Some cards are worth more than others by their intrinsic properties. Other cards are worth more because there are less of them in circulation - the ultimate find in opening up a pack of cards is to find a coveted "mythic rare". Every year, there's a core set released (the event I went to last night), then there's expansions (the next expansion set of cards will release in September of this year).

After two decades, that's a helluva lot of cards! For me, the primary appeal was in the trading of cards. Yes, last night I learned how to play "for real" and that was fun (I lost, often). But it's nice/fun/exciting to know that I can drop $4 on a "booster pack" of 16 cards and - as in the case of my roommate- find a card that's worth about $30.00 to another player. Like this one on the right, that my roommate found (and traded last night).

My roommate has this knack for trading cards. He's the kind of guy that will pick up a pack of Upper Deck basketball cards "with one (spiffy) Michael Jordan" and find FIVE MJ cards. Etc.

And me? In playing on the PS3, I found myself liking the green mana decks (Elves and forests and growth and stampeding beasts - are any of you surprised?), but of course, what do I find when I spend a few bucks?

Now I can't really complain since these are valuable cards, but darn it, it was like a tease, and I indulged myself. And the more packs I bought, the more cards that I found that were not the colors I wanted or to add insult to injury, were really cool black mana cards that my roommate wanted to trade with me so he could build his (pretty badass) vampire deck.

My luck is changing, though. Last night, one of the players handed me a big stack of common and uncommon cards from the 2012 deck. One of those intense players that doesn't even NEED such simple cards! Me, I was focusing on not letting my voice crack. "Really? Thanks!" (My mind was screaming, WOOHOO MORE CARDS, SO PRETTY, SO PRECIOUSSS!)

Though I didn't win last night in my first event/tournament, I did get to open a bunch of packs before they go on sale next week. And amongst a few other decent finds, this bad boy...

No, it's not a "mythic rare" and it's not a $30 card (closer to $2). But, in my failure to find awesome green mana cards, I've collected a decent amount of red Dragon and Goblin cards. And, apparently, there's a lot of good red cards to be played now.

All told, I picked up around 400 cards last night, most of them before they are even out to the general public (although, notably, the M12 collection contains cards that are reprints of cards from previous collections).

I learned that it's nice to get away from the computer and to have something new to babble on about. It's fun having a new hobby, and it's inspiring material for fantasy and conflict and such.

I promise to keep future posts much less lengthy, but what can I say, I write epic high fantasy fiction, and I felt the need to give you some backstory here.

The adventure continues. In coming days, while the world around me is still busy and buzzing with some forthcoming domestic changes and such, I'm still very likely to find some time to put together a few decks and trade some cards with the roommate.

My new goal is to forge a deck and take it to another tournament, see if I can't scrape out a win or two.

I have become my youthful, naive protagonist.


  1. This is like a foreign language to me..
    Dang it.... I'm just learning about elves... and dwarves!!! Anyway.. I am so glad it was fun and you had a great time!!! Whenever you come in at 5 am, you know it's been a good night!! :-)

  2. It's the most fun I've had without drinking or the removal of my clothing! Though I'm not sure that's saying much. Ha. I'm sure you'll see my pretty little cards soon enough, Songbird. ;-)


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