I’m old enough to have played Magic the Gathering when it came out in 1993, and I was certainly nerdy enough. But somehow, between playing Nintendo and watching Star Trek the Next Generation with my best friend, I missed that this influential trading card game existed at all.
As I learned about it over the years, I decided it wasn’t something I’d ever be interested in. If you can’t afford to buy the best cards then you can’t afford to win? No thanks! It sounded like a massive money sink, in which finances gave you a clear advantage.
But in 2012, my boyfriend John started getting back into playing Magic. It seemed like a lot of people were. I guess all those junior high kids grew up, got jobs, and realized they weren’t limited by their small allowance anymore. Buying a booster pack wasn’t the huge deal it once was. When you don’t blink at spending 3 bucks for coffee, a few bucks for a pack of random Magic cards isn’t hard to pony up.
But John didn’t go crazy buying up valuable cards. Instead he went to the local game store and played a format called limited. I won’t go into the details of the different ways you can play limited, but the idea is this: You show up, pay a small fee, and get some booster packs of cards. Then you make a deck from those packs. That way everyone is on an equal playing field. Everyone put in the same amount of money, and everyone has to deal with whatever they just got in their packs.
This way of playing Magic is popular and made me want to give it a try. When John signed us up to play Magic at GenCon 2012 with fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, I figured I better learn the ropes. So I did. John and I played at home with various decks he made at the store events he went to. I found some aspects hard to remember at first, but eventually got the hang of it.
I don’t generally like games that require you to remember a ton of stuff, and I had thought that Magic was one of those games. But I learned that it’s not. There are basic, easy-to-learn rules. New mechanics often come out with each set. An experienced player may know all the cards in all the latest sets, but that’s not necessary. The information you need about any card is printed on it – even an explanation of a new mechanic you may not know. The more you play, the more familiar you become with the cards, and the less you’ll find yourself reading their text.
So I like Magic The Gathering now. I’m going to a prerelease event at a store this weekend, and I play with John and my friends at work. With different flavors of deck-building games like Dominion and Hearthstone being so popular, it’s really nice to understand where it all started.
I’d love to hear about your own experiences with Magic. Did you play when it came out? Start later? Do you play primarily in stores, at your home, or online?