Hello… I Play Magic

MtG: Hypnotic Specter As I was putting together the 2007 round up I was surprised to note how little modeling I got done towards the end of last year. I listed a number of reasons for my lack of modeling, bar one which I’ll confess to now: September last year I started playing Magic the Gathering, the original collectible card game.

Prior to starting a Magic collection I was strongly opposed to collectible games of any sort, simply because they create a totally artificial economy based on the false ‘rarity’ of mass produced cards or figures. However an old war gaming buddy of mine Griff (who’s featured here before) decided to take the plunge and at the same time managed to convince me to spend $20nz on an older Planar Chaos deck: Unraveling Mind.

That was a mere four months ago and in that time I’ve spent over $300nz building up a moderate collection of Magic cards. I’ve found it a surprisingly enjoyable game, with a reasonable amount of depth to it. I guess there’s a reason Magic is still in print after fifteen years. Magic is also ridiculously cheap compared to anything else I play regularly, despite the fact it’s collectible. Even my modest collection allows me to build decks in combinations of all five colors and have enjoyable games against my friends with smaller or larger (Griff, how much have you spent again?) collections. Although no doubt I’d get stomped on in any games store tourney.

Here’s my view of the Pros and Cons of Magic the Gathering:

Pros

  • It’s portable. I can carry two to three decks around on my person without anybody suspecting I’m a Magic player. Plus all you need to play is a reasonably small amount of table space and some privacy.
  • It’s quick to play. I can get in at least a couple of games with Aaron during a work lunch hour.
  • It’s widely played. Even in little old New Zealand there’s a sizable number of Magic players and regular events in games stores in Auckland city.
  • There are a lot of strategic and tactical options. Strategic play involves planning and building your decks. Tactical play involves playing card from your deck against your opponent. There are a lot of subtle rules interactions involved but fortunately they’re usually well documented due to the widely played official tournaments.
  • It’s a relatively cheap war game. Yes I know it’s not fair comparing printed glossy cards to a cast metal or plastic figures but as I treat Magic as just another war game in my collection I’m doing so!
  • It’s multi-player. Mind you I’ve only played against one opponent so far, but the game is designed to support multiple players and some cards are explicitly geared towards multi-player games.
  • It’s a Fantasy game. The good old Swords and Sorcery setting gets trotted out again but it’s an instantly recognisable milieu to any gamer.

Cons

  • It’s collectible. This was the main reason I’d never bothered to investigate Magic before Griff got into it. However having playing Magic for several months now I believe the onerous collectible nature of the game can be somewhat avoided by purchasing individual cards online and from stores like King of Cards. While I do enjoy opening Booster Packs, I’ve come to the conclusion that buying them is a mug’s game. Having said that however there will always be players with a larger and/or more expensive collection than yours and of course it’s the size of your collection that basically dictates how powerful any individual deck you create will be. However Magic has a lot of subtleties and rules interactions that can make the best deck in the world poor in the hands of an inexperienced or inattentive player (and vice versa).
  • It suffers from the ‘Games Workshop’ aka ‘latest is greatest’ effect. I admit I’ve only seen one block release since I started collecting (Lorwyn) but it seems clear even from this single block that the latest cards will typically be more powerful than those in older blocks.
  • Tournament play requires recent cards. Not that I care because I doubt I’ll ever be a tournament level player, but if you’re building your own decks for tournament play, you will have to constantly spend money to upgrade them. Each time a new block of cards are released, an older block is expired for tournament play. But of course there’s nothing stopping you playing any card you fancy amongst friends.

We now resume our normal programming: my next post will be a Hirst Arts Cathedral update because I’ve made some progress on this beast recently!

13 thoughts on “Hello… I Play Magic”

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