I used to be way into Magic: The Gathering. I didn’t have a whole lot of cards; I didn’t have the money to buy them, but I used to play as much as I could. More than that, I sorted and shuffled and thought about Magic, and that’s where most of my love for it comes from.
I spent hours and hours putting together decks back then (some of which barely got played). The theming of decks was always more fun to me than the strategizing. As a result, most of my decks were designed less around winning and more around sticking to a theme: the bird-drake-dragon deck, the goblins-and-fiery-destruction deck, the zombie-and-rat-apocalypse deck. And even if I always lost, I had fun doing it.
The last time I played was in the eighth grade. So, yeah, it’s been a while.
For anyone wondering, I stopped playing around the time the look of the cards started to change. Rarity had started being displayed by a color-coding system. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but looking back, I think it felt like the fun mystery of wondering which cards were rare and which weren’t was lost. The last couple decks and expansions I picked up had some text simplified, too. “Summon Knight” or any other summon card, for instance, became “Creature — Knight”. I don’t know why, but I was always bugged by that. Or the new land cards with a giant mana symbol instead of the text that read “Tap: Add X to your mana pool”.
It wasn’t more than a few years afterward that all the borders and text boxes and whatnot were updated to the new format that anyone who plays now is familiar with. Even though I wasn’t playing anymore, I did see the new cards from time to time, and again I just didn’t like them as much as the old versions. Chalk it up to nostalgia, I guess.
So I did quit around the time things were changing, but it wasn’t because they were changing. Or, rather — I quit because of other things changing. Namely, because I fell out with the friends who played and because my brothers, who had introduced me to the game in the first place, moved out of the house.
Cut to December, 2012. One of my brothers came home from Alaska for the holidays, and I’m not even sure who thought of it, but we somehow ended up playing sitting down and Magic a bunch of times while he was here. I broke out my decks, dusted off cards I hadn’t touched in a decade, and we went to town.
It was a blast. An even blastier blast than I remember. It might have something to do with my adult brain actually being able to formulate strategy rather than just flailing wildly, but who knows. All I know is it was great fun to play again.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of my downfall. A perfect storm of events came together shortly afterward.
We played our first game of the season, and that night I returned to my computer, mulling over old ideas for my deck that I’d never been able to take to fruition.
When I’d settled in, I noticed two friends in an IRC channel I frequent talking about Magic. Something called CardShark came up, and I checked it out. Turns out it’s a site specifically for buying collectible cards, so… if I ever wanted to finish that dream deck…
Nah, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Though it didn’t stop me from looking up all sorts of cards just for fun.
A couple days later, I was talking to another friend about getting back into Magic, and this one pointed me to Wizards of the Coast’s own Gatherer search engine, which allows you to look up cards by just about any criteria you can imagine. By ability, casting cost, creature type —
Oh dear. Suddenly, not only could I satisfy my interior-designer-esque need to get all thematic and feng shui with my deck, but with this search function, I could probably make a deck that would actually survive a few games.
My fate was sealed.
You see, youngins — back in my day, you bought magazines to look up your Magic cards, figure out which were worth how much, and maybe cobble together a deck by stopping by the local hobby shop and buying your cards in person. Now, you can search for exactly what you need, look at a scanned image of the actual card, and then have everything you need shipped straight to your house.
Kids these days; they got it easy.
So I’ve officially spent hours searching for just the right cards for my deck. I’ve had two of these marathons that last all night and right through sunrise, searching, planning, searching, replanning. There’s a white board right behind my computer, so I’ve just been turning around to write down names of cards as I find them. The deck keeps growing to ridiculous size with all the cool cards I find, so then I need to trim it down — erase a bunch of the stuff I just wrote in — and then repeat with the next batch of awesome cards I can’t live without.
My sleep schedule is completely wrecked.
The theoretical deck is more or less done, though. I’ve worked it like dough over several long nights until it’s not only thematically consistent, but the mechanics all work together. It’s a satisfying feeling now that it’s “done”, and I can’t wait to… you know, have the money to actually order these cards.
So, what’s the problem? I had my fun and now I have a great deck to eventually try out, right?
Sure, but I have ideas for a dozen more.
…somebody just turn off my internet before this gets out of hand.