Magic: The Gathering

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DJ / 12 Years Ago

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game where you build customized decks out of various sets of cards and then pit that deck against other players and their decks. You win by either reducing your opponent's life to 0 or by running him or her out of cards. It is rather easy to learn, but incredibly hard to master. The links on the right will help you if you desire to learn more about the game.

I first learned about Magic back in the fall of 1994 when I was working at Software Etc. and that store started carrying Magic cards. I would see people come in and buy cards and I was curious about what the deal was. I talked about it with my coworkers and no one had any real idea either. So, one slow evening we asked the next guy coming in to buy cards what it was about. He offered to teach me if I bought a deck of cards. My curiosity got the better of me, so I plunked down my eight bucks and bought a deck of cars. This random guy then explained the game and cards to me right there in Software Etc., while I was still on the clock. I thought the game was pretty cool, but little did I know ensnared I was. Before long, I was buying decks and packs of cards all the time to build more decks and better decks.

I started the year playing euchre with friends at lunch, but then we shifted to playing Magic. Soon, my friend, Joel, was curious about it so I taught him the game. He thought it was cool as well, but did not seem to share my zeal for the game. As with me, however, it was only a matter of time. In the meantime I had discovered a cool store to hang out and buy and play Magic cards. One day, while I was there hanging out, Joel showed up with the five decks he had purchased. Talk about jumping in with both feet!

From then on we both found ourselves spending most of our free time and most of our money with Magic cards. The store, Top of the Ninth, had tournaments every Sunday and it was not too long before Joel and I were winning or coming fairly close every week. People hated to play us because they knew they would probably lose. During this time I tried a few other card games, like Doomtrooper, Illuminati: New World Order, and Star of the Guardians, but none had that spark like Magic did. I had started playing after the set, The Dark, was released, and I quit playing not long after Homelands was released in the fall of 1995/spring 1996?.

I ended up selling all of my cards because I needed the money. It wasn't until the spring of 2000 that I started playing again. I am unsure what sparked the renewed interest, but it did not take much to get back into playing. At first I was playing solely online using a software package called The Magic Interactive Encyclopedia. It let you use any card ever made and play with other people online. That was nice, but I wanted some human interaction, so I searched out people who played in the Dayton area. Through a local store that sold Magic cards, I found a group that met at a club every Sunday night.

Suddenly, I was once again totally immersed in Magic. I found myself participating in 2 to 3 8-man draft tournaments every Sunday night. By the second or third week, I was already doing well and occasionally winning drafts. This was met with surprise, since most people new to drafting take quite a while to do well. I am sure that my extensive prior experience helped me out a great deal. Within a few short months, I had shown enough skill that a couple of other local players, Dave and Matt, requested that I join their team for an upcoming Grand Prix tournament. I accepted, and off we were to Columbus for my first sanctioned event.

On day 1 of GP Columbus 2001, my team had a great run, losing only one round to established pro team. I won my match, but my teammates lost both of theirs. My team finished with a 5-1-1 record, and my personal record on the day was 6-0-1. Only the top 20 teams got to advance to day 2, so as the standings were announced, we were very anxious. We knew it would be close. And close it was - we finished day 1 in 17th place, just squeaking into day 2. It was late, however, and we had to back bright and early, so we drove home, got our 5 hours of sleep, and returned to Columbus for day 2. If we did well enough that day, we knew would qualify for the Pro Tour.

Unfortunately, we lost all three of our matches that day and finished, strangely, in 17th place. We figured 18th, 19th and 20th place at the end of day 1 must have lost all three of their rounds as well. Fast forward a few weeks and I received a letter in the mail containing an invitation to Pro Tour New York 2001. So we rented a car, booked a hotel, and took off for Madison Square Garden in New York City. The day before the Pro Tour, we checked out the sights of Manhattan, including the Empire State Building. I remember seeing the World Trade Center towers from the top of the Empire State Building, not having any idea they would be gone in a few short days.

Pro Tours are generally run over three days. The first day will cut the field to more manageable total. The second day will cut to a top 8, or top 4 for team competitions like this one. Entering day 1, we had high hopes and dreams, or perhaps delusions, of grandeur. The format was team sealed, meaning we got 2 starter decks of Invasion, 2 booster packs of Planeshift, and 2 booster packs of Apocalypse, and we had to make a deck for each of us out of those cards. We knew our card pool was not great, but we thought it was respectable, and we thought we could go 2-1 over the first 3 rounds with it.

We narrowly lost our first round, which was a huge disappointment, but we knew we could rebound, so our spirits were not too dampened. We played a Japanese team in the second round. That was interesting because they could not speak English. We worked that out (it happens on the Pro Tour all the time), and managed to eek out a win. That event caused our confidence to soar, if only temporarily. The next round we got to play against one of the best teams at the event, and I personally got to play against the greatest legend ever to play the game up to that point, Jon Finkel. My teammates split their matches, so it was up to me, and I lost a very close match in 3 games.

After that third round, we got new decks, and suffice to say, they sucked. We knew at that point we had no chance to make day 2, but we were going to try our darndest. It is too bad that our darndest wasn't nearly good enough. We lost each of our last four rounds to finish the day 1-6, something like 7th to last place. A crushing blow to all of our egos, to be certain. After that experience I played in many tournaments and usually did very well, but nothing ever came close to Pro Tour New York.

I continued to play paper Magic until I moved to Iceland in June of 2003. At that time I sold most of my cards and continued playing Magic solely online. I still play online from time to time, entering a tournament once in a while and playing casual games here and there. I still enjoy it, but I cannot spend enough time on it to be truly competitive like I used to be, and that is ok. That season has passed. That, in a nutshell, is my experience with Magic. Like I said above, it is an awesome game, full of strategy and skill. It is expertly designed and quite fun. It is also too expensive and can absorb too much of one's time, however. Just like anything, it must be enjoyed in moderation to keep from being a problem.


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