They say the universe will end not with a bang, but with a whimper. I say it will end with someone yelling “I was mana screwed!” and throwing their playmat into the air.
Why do I say this? Because every day, more and more Magic: The Gathering players are being born, and every day, more and more of those new players are quickly becoming addicted to the game.
Hello! I am one of those new players. My name is Maria, and I was born last October.
TIME FOR A MOVIE-STYLE FLASHBACK!! (sound effects: doodoodoodoodoodoo)
We zoom in on INT. BEN’s bachelor pad. MEGHAN and MARIA are seated around a kitchen table with a bag of PUFFY CHEETOS.
MARIA (voice over)
It was a game day like any other game day; my friends and I met to play board games around a kitchen table. But this time, we weren’t playing Catan, or cribbage, or even Bananagrams. No, this time . . . this time we were going to play something completely different.
BEN Pulls a box of cards down from the top of his refrigerator.
You guys want to learn how to play Magic?
MEGHAN and MARIA look at each other questioningly.
Stuffing a puffy cheeto into her mouth.
Magic? Isn’t that a game from the 90s?
Don’t I need to be wearing a flannel shirt to play?
Looking wistfully into the distance.
It’s the best game known to modern man.
END OF FLASHBACK.
* * *
Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly how it went down, but pretty close. I didn’t even make up the part about the Puffy Cheetos.
I mean, I didn’t immediately hear violins playing the second I picked up a deck, but I did immediately realize this was something special. When I tapped my first mountain for mana, it was as if a sleeping Ember Beast inside of me had lifted his head, sniffed the air, and said “I need to get me some of that shit.”
For me (and probably a lot of players like me), the game represents a perfect storm. There are three main things about it that hooked me, and that keep me hooked.
3.) Cool Ranch Doritos
Just kidding. The third one isn’t Cool Ranch Doritos. I just wanted three things that started with “C.”
The actual third thing:
My first reason is community! No, not the cult hit show on NBC. Come on.
I’m talking about the Magic community as a whole.
After only a few months of playing, I feel ready to shout it from the rooftops, “Magic has the best gaming community around!” That’s right. I said it, and I mean it. Now I want to buy it dinner.
Truth be told, it was daunting walking into my local game store for my first draft. After all, I had learned about drafting mere days before. The store walls were decorated with posters of planeswalkers I had yet to meet. People inside were opening trade binders full of cards I had never seen. Someone was handing me a card with a DCI number on it. “WHAT THE HECK IS A DCI NUMBER?” I thought to myself as I smiled and signed the card.
But soon enough, I merged seamlessly into the group, like Odo connecting with the Great Link on Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
After all, it’s a pretty cool thing to walk into a game store and know you’ll be welcomed in by name. It’s a pretty cool thing to know that almost everyone you’ll meet inside is a good person. It’s a pretty cool thing that, when you’re hungry during a tournament, the store manager will order everybody sandwiches. Mmm. Sandwiches. Most importantly for me, though, it’s a pretty cool thing to know that without a doubt, when you walk in, you won’t be judged.
That’s pretty awesome.
Worst case scenario, you’re judged on your merits as a player. I can accept that.
All of this comes on top of the fantastic MtG online community, which is this huge, living being stretching out across all of time, space, and Twitter and filled with an incredible amount of material helpful for new players and anyone who is bored at their job.
I think the community is especially important for players who have learned the game within the last couple of years, simply because the game has been around for awhile. I can’t tell you the number of times, after I tell someone about my love for Magic, they say, “Wait…is that game still a thing?” While sad, it’s true – not everyone has climbed aboard the Magic train just yet. Having help and support from fellow players, virtually and in real life, is important. That way, I can respond like this: “Yes, it’s still a thing. In fact, it’s bigger than ever.”
Then someone usually says, “That’s what she said.”
It’s time for Reason Number 2! Change! Usually, change is something we resist, but in Magic, change is something that makes us jump (for joy). Just like Van Halen sang about.
I started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and once I got the basics under my belt, the Gatecrash release was right around the corner. This only threw premium gasoline all over the blazing fire that was already my love for Magic.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Wizards of the Coast (the company that makes Magic: The Gathering) releases new sets of cards every few months. These new cards have new names, new art, new mechanics, new strategy – they’re basically covered in new. It’s exciting to see the new card spoilers come out and to speculate about the synergy between cards, how the new mechanics might work, and which card will end up being the cutest (in Gatecrash, it was obviously Adaptive Snapjaw).
I find the nearly constant state of change and discovery within the game absolutely fantastic. Plus, the internet makes that change and discovery all the more exciting by quickly disseminating information on new cards to players. I wonder what life must have been like for players who started early on, with no internet spoilers to scour for hours on end, no podcasts to turn to when things got rough, and no anatomically correct robots to make their beds. Ugh, what a hard life.
Maybe I’ve made my point, but I’m going to go ahead and keep making it. I love Texas Hold ‘Em, but the cards in the deck aren’t ever going to change. A 7-2 hand is always going to be a 7-2 hand and it’s always going to suck unless you bluff your way to victory. In Magic, however, I’ve seen plenty of people start off with “sucky” hands only to end up winning the game, fair and square. Plus, adding new cards to the mix every couple of months keeps things fresh. The constantly shifting interactions during gameplay make for an experience that never gets old and remains surprising and unpredictable.
I guess what I’m saying is, “Hey Magic. Don’t ever change. But, you know, do.”
Finally, my third reason. Reason Number 3. Gameplay. Dang it all, Magic is just a good game. To skeptics, I say it’s like Poker and Chess went on a blind date, things went well, and ten months later Magic was born.
Wait, ten months? Why not nine? I’ll tell you why. It’s because games germinate in the womb one month longer than human babies. Look it up, idiot.
Magic is competitive and thought-provoking and ever-changing. It’s everything you could ever want in a game and probably also in a man.
So what am I saying? It’s this: if you’ve shied away from Magic because of the stigma or because you think you won’t be able to catch on or for some other bullshit reason, (heh, just kidding. . . . but really), give it a try. If you’re the kind of person who’s even remotely interested in games, competition, or hanging out with friends, this is the game for you. And, for all you veterans out there: if you ever see a n00b at her first draft, looking a little scared, give her a high-five and a smile. One day she’s going to beat you.