Nobody cares that you saw Infinity War. We’re all too busy exhausting ourselves by watching Netflix and not socialising. Now that we’re in the grindiest part of the semester, there’s very little socialising happening. It’s difficult balancing your daily routine of sleeping in, starving, and rereading your notes for the forty-fifth fucking time. There’s not often room to discover new activities, but I’ve found something that’s better than re-watching The Office. Again.
Magic The Gathering is a fantasy themed card game designed by Richard Garfield first released in 1993. For twenty-five years it has remained the favourite social activity of the average geek. The game has some very simple aspects, and some more complicated rules, but I’ll give you a basic run down, so you don’t drown in nerd.
It revolves around five different colours of mana, and you as a player must tap into the power of these colours with the use of Lands, in order to fuel Creatures that can attack and defend, cast Sorceries, and watch your opponent shrivel in fear. If you want to learn the proper rules, then check out the website to learn, and if you literally have nothing else to do, there’s twenty-fucking-five years of lore just begging for your gentle touch.
There are multiple ways to play Magic, including local tournaments in which you bring your own meticulously crafted deck to compete against other meticulously crafted neckbeards, but the kind of game I went to was different. This game was called a draft, and it involved everyone buying three packs of randomly assorted cards, taking a card from each pack and passing it along. Once all the packs are empty, you build a deck from the cards you chose, then battle each other.
I was quite surprised by the pleasantry and patience of the community. It seems the Magic community can do what humanity collectively fails to do - share. Those of you who know me are aware of my affinity for another particular fantasy themed card game, which certainly helped with understanding the rules of Magic, but regardless, new players will be new, and I made my share of mistakes.
At 6.30pm I turned up at Cerberus Games on Dixon St in Wellington, a place which I was already very familiar with, having taken friends there on multiple occasions to play board games. Once everyone else arrived, we paid, received our packs and sat at the table. I had crammed in the rules the night before but thankfully I was repeatedly given reminders.
Opening my first pack I could instantly see what my options were. Vampires, Pirates, or Dinosaurs. Again, those of you who know me are aware of my affinity for swashbuckling and skullduggery, so I instantly tossed Twilight and Jurassic Park, scavenging as many Pirates of the Caribbean as humanly possible. I also managed to be brainy enough to only choose the cards that used Blue and Black Magic, because as members of American congress like to say, too many colours is a bad thing.
My process in choosing cards followed some simple rules that I had gained from my hard years of grinding children’s card games. If it says ‘Negate,’ ‘Draw Cards,’ or ‘Your opponent cannot…” then that’s going straight in my basket. However, I made the odd exception here and there if I came across a shiny rare.
I was offered some help in deck building by one of the staff, who looked through what I had chosen and remarked at how good of a balance of cards I had picked. He sorted them and explained why I didn’t need any of the shiny rares then explained to me how I would use my deck. Pretending I knew exactly what he was talking about, I found my first opponent and settled in for some good ol’ immortal combat.
My first opponent was playing a Vampire deck and was very patient with me as I struggled to grasp the rigging with my new plundering pals. However, I quickly took the lead in the game, and brought his Life from 20 down to 2. One more turn and I would have won, but at this point I had used up all my resources keeping his vamps at bay, so he ejaculated multiple Edward Cullens onto the board and wiped out my defenses. The annoying thing about Vampires in Magic is they drain life whenever they damage your opponent, so all my hard work washed away with the tide. I lost the second game too, but I didn’t feel too bummed out. Although this kind of game was very fair in the sense that everybody uses the same card pool, I still wasn’t expecting to win against these hardcore veterans.
Since we had an odd number of players, I was put on standby for the next round, which I took as an opportunity to get some food and relax, because I could feel a headache coming on. One drawback is that Magic commands you to use a fair amount of thinking juice, and it didn’t help that I’d skipped breakfast. And lunch. Actually, maybe it was scurvy.
In the second round my new opponent was playing a Pirate deck like me, but his was actually good, revolving around Red and Blue magic. I managed to win the first game, which was mythic, but in the second game for the first four turns I didn’t draw a single Land card, which is a crucial thing you need to do anything. Magic is also a game about gradually building resources, so not having any caused me to walk the plank in no time. The third game, the tie-breaker, was a bit of a struggle, with the upper hand sallying back and forth before settling in my opponent’s favour. He surprised me with a nasty dinosaur, and despite the historical inaccuracy, completely ruptured me.
So that was it, I didn’t win, but I received another pack of cards for participating which was nice. But the real thing that astonished me was my first opponent, who approached me and congratulated me on playing rather well, then casually gave me his entire Vampire deck.
“I don’t need these, they’ll only follow me around,” he explained, as if it was no big deal.
Magic can take a little while to learn, but it’s super fun, and the community is one of the friendliest I’ve experienced. It can get pricey to play drafts on a regular basis, but there are many other playstyles out there.
So, if you’re interested in proving to your parents that you’ll never grow up, give this game a try. Unless you study design, in which case they already know.
I rate Magic The Gathering 4/5 Confusing Dice With Too Many Numbers, therefore it’s Lit Fam.
Next Issue - “I cannot tell you, it’s confidential.”