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Making <strike>Manaclash</strike> Magic
October 28, 2009 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Sixteen years ago, Dungeons and Dragons aficionado Dr. Richard Garfield had an idea for a game. He mocked up a few black and white cards and then he and a friend played the very first game of Magic: The Gathering. The first modern collectible card game, Magic was a runaway success and within five years Wizards of the Coast, a company with Magic as almost its sole product, purchased TSR Inc, the publisher of Dungeons and Dragons.

Today, Magic is still a tremendously popular game with an active community, a robust online offering and a highly competitive Pro Tour. This longevity can be attributed in no small part to the fact the Magic is one of the most heavily and meticulously designed and balanced games ever made. No new card gets added to the game without careful consideration of it's interactions with the more than 10,000 previously printed cards. In fact, the card commonly considered to be the most powerful ever printed (selling on eBay for over $500) hardly seems impressive at all until you know the game well enough to understand the way it wreaks havoc on game balance.

All of this is by way of introduction to the fact that Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater has been posting a column a week on the subject of game design since January 2, 2002. Mark's columns almost always deal to some degree with Magic, but the observations and lessons contained within them are of universal application in not only game design, but any creative endeavor. Some gems: The Space Between the Notes | Resolutions | As Good as It Gets | Timmy, Johnny and Spike | If I Had a Nicol... | and a comprehensive self-rated look at his first four hundred columns
posted by 256 (177 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
All you need is a brain, a deck, and a friend. Sadly, I'm one for three.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Will there be canitapthat.com jokes in here?
posted by bastionofsanity at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Neat. I just got back into this game after many years of absence via MTGO, so I will definitely be checking this column out.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:15 AM on October 28, 2009


This is my first attempt at an fpp, so apologies if it's a bad one. Also, apologies for the html entities in the title, it worked on preview.

A couple of things that didn't make it into the post:

Magic: The Gathering Store Locator (many stores also double as play areas, if you're looking to learn the game)
All Magic Columns (Mark Rosewater is just one of many columnists at magicthegathering.com, including members of the creative team and Pro Tour players)
An alternate card database
The MTGSalvation Wiki
posted by 256 at 10:15 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The year after MTG came out, we spent an entire week at Boy Scout summer camp sending plague rats at each other. I'll never forget you Magical Hack deck.
posted by drezdn at 10:18 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I first picked up Magic with a 3rd Edition deck. I was nine. This makes me feel old.

Get off my Land!
posted by backseatpilot at 10:18 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


(selling on eBay for over $500)

I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent... Are there any "open source" variations of this game?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009


Nice timing on the post: I used to be really into Magic, and have just started teaching some friends how to play after 5 years of not playing at all. The idea of jumping back in is a bit overwhelming though -- there are a lot of new cards and abilities to learn.
posted by crickets at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009


Timely post... I haven't played in nearly 15 years, and I stopped at the local game store and bought a few decks on a whim the other day. Great info... Thanks!
posted by brand-gnu at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009


I play RPGs in the cavernous, echoing back room of the local games store, and I'm always a little astounded at the M:tG players that will sift through fresh pack after fresh pack of cards and throw most of them away. I mean, I know why they do it, but still; makes my own still-nascent-but-growing dice fetish a little less shameful. (Obligatory Geek Hierarchy link.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94:

There are rules variants that disallow these most powerful cards. They are incredibly rare anyway.
posted by crickets at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009


I played a ton of Magic when I was about ten, and then I started high school and had all new friends and it didn't come up until my sophomore year when somehow we realized that although none of us had known each other before, we'd all played Magic, so we started playing again. When I went to college, the same thing happened -- Magic has been this great thread throughout my life where even though the friends I have now are different from my high school friends and my middle school friends, we all played when we were younger so we got a bunch of cards off of E-Bay and still play together.*

This is why, if I can figure out a good place to do it, I would really, really like to get a tattoo of the symbol from the back of the Magic cards.

*I'm from Providence and coincidentally the cards we got off of E-Bay were from a comic book store in Rhode Island. I was musing about the likelihood of my actually knowing the person who sold them to us and my husband, with his usual charm of manner, asked me "Do you really think there's a single person in Rhode Island who played Magic cards with whom you haven't had sex?"
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:22 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


EMRJKD '94: I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent... Are there any "open source" variations of this game?

Ah right, one thing I didn't mention is that the oldest and most broken (and thus most expensive) cards are only playable in one of the tournament formats (and not the most popular either).

A much more popular format is the Limited Draft, where you play with cards drawn from a common pool of freshly opened booster packs (three packs per player) from the newest sets, meaning that the total card cost is $12 per tournament.
posted by 256 at 10:24 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Understanding the 'card advantage' strategy back in the 90s in Magic was one of those moments in my life where I felt like I could see through the matrix.

Overnight, I was playing a different game than any of my friends were and just started dominating them.

I downloaded it on xbox, and enjoyed it for a few hours, but the lack of ability to customize the decks became way to frustrating for me, plus the decks were way unbalanced... i hate drawing objectively bad cards that i would never put in a deck.
posted by empath at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent... Are there any "open source" variations of this game?

Most experienced players play sealed deck and draft tournaments... plus you can build constructed decks in t2 pretty cheaply, in most cases. (is t2 still the main tourney format? I haven't played for years)
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on October 28, 2009


and not the most popular either

to say the least... the ONLY time i ever saw a t1 tourney was at the National championship,

The interesting thing to me about that convention, though, was how many magic players were playing poker -- even kids. I saw a kid who couldn't have been more than 14 or 15 playing hold 'em with a table full of adults and dropping $400 bets and winning (and smack talking alot, too). And this was before Hold 'em became a fad.
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The initial charm of the game for me ( August '93... which makes me feel old), was in its novelty. Then there was the manic hunt for new cards. Trading. Ante. Progressive Ante. Deck building. Deck tuning. Then came the weekend binging.
Years later I still occasionally backslid and went on a bender with friends, but nothing can compare with the first time obsession. I also like to tell collectors about bareback riffle shuffling a deck with an Alpha Mox and Black Lotus in it.
The canitapthat thread should have had an Icy Manipulator joke.
posted by bastionofsanity at 10:32 AM on October 28, 2009


God... The amount of money my fifth grade self sunk into this game... And yet I do not regret it.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are there any "open source" variations of this game?

Well, most formats in which dinosaurs and rarities like Black Lotus still see play will accept handwritten proxies. There is a little-changing core of abusive cards - the power nine, for example - that, once proxied, can be used as the backbone of numerous vintage decks. I'd say that MtG - like D&D, and other Wizards properties - is only prohibitively expensive if you want to keep pace with the times.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing to me about that convention, though, was how many magic players were playing poker -- even kids.

Magic is well known in the poker field as a feeder for poker pros.

http://www.totalgambler.com/advancedplay/holdem/1103/pokers_secret_school.html

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/poker/columns/story?columnist=wise_gary&id=4259905
posted by shen1138 at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2009


Richard Garfield is also the co-created of a card-game-esque turn based strategy game called Spectromancer which was released this month.
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009


I also like to tell collectors about bareback riffle shuffling a deck with an Alpha Mox and Black Lotus in it.

I never had a black lotus, but I definitely wrecked a timetwister and mox ruby that way :(
posted by empath at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009


I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent... Are there any "open source" variations of this game?

Magic Workstation and OCTGN both let you play the game for free, with all the cards and full art. There's an active community of gamers to play with on IRC. Wizards of the Coast looks the other way from these programs. I'll never buy a Magic card again but every few years I get the urge to install one of these programs, tinker with some new decks, play some games, and then delete it all (otherwise I'd never get any work done.)
posted by meadowlark lime at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Magic has been making a huge comeback in my group of friends in the last year. It's funny to see other people say the same.

Thanks for this post!
posted by lunit at 10:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My friends and I were really into MtG in about 8th grade, which was 1994 or so, while 4th edition was going strong and Ice Age was soon to be released. A few of us once went to a local tournament at the YMCA and it was a pretty intimidating affair, at least a hundred players and most of them were quite a bit older. I remember I lost more games than I won, but on one of them I happened to be sitting next to some serious players, one of whom had a Black Lotus and was showing it off before the game began.

They told us to get started, so he carefully put the Black Lotus in his deck and carefully shuffled. The thing about the Lotus is that it can give you an insurmountable head start if you draw it in your opening (7-card) hand, but if you get it late in the game, it's too late for it to help that much. I didn't see it but the player was clearly trying to shuffle the Lotus into an advantageous position. However, you always let your opponent cut the deck before dealing. The opponent, who had sharper eyes than I did, cut the deck, and then with a smirk showed the now-bottom card of the deck: the Lotus. Lotus guy smiled and said "awww, you cheated!"
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:38 AM on October 28, 2009


I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent

As others have mentioned, there are formats like Pauper (only common cards [which go for like 2 or 5 cents each]) and Peasant (which allows 5 uncommon cards per deck) that dramatically drive the cost down compared to formats like Extended (anything goes, barring banned cards). Drafts are also an excellent, excellent way to go, and the only way I would play for a long time.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:39 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Magic is well known in the poker field as a feeder for poker pros.

I'll tell you this much -- i played in a Grand Prix tournament with 500 players and drew a lucky sealed deck and managed to go 5-0, which put me up against the then current national champ and #1 ranked player in two successive matches, and it was like playing against aliens. I didn't even understand how they beat me, but they just dominated me. I always thought that cheating was common at the top levels, though. A lot of players were quick talkers and moved their hands around a lot, so it was hard to tell what they were doing with their cards all the time. Plus they were all friends with the refs/tournament promoters.
posted by empath at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I first picked up Magic with a 3rd Edition deck. I was nine. This makes me feel old.

Get off my Land!


Yeah? Well, I was given a starter box as a freshman in High School, and I scoffed at the game back then! And the phrase is "get off my lawn," not land. You're not a prospector, you're trying to be an old codger who spends his time tending to his lawn, when the young'ns come whipping through your lawn on the way to wherever it is kids go these days.

Plus, anime is clearly superior with subtitles and original voice actors, no matter what the geek hierarchy says.

I'm not ranting at you personally, I'm just practicing my pedantic old man act for my Halloween costume.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My first great Magic: the Gathering realization was that my friends were relying on single cards, but combinations of things like Nettling Imp with (uh, I think) Royal Assassin allowed me to stomp all over them. The right balance with enough simple combinations in the deck which would almost eventually have to come up would allow me to build specific decks to use against opponents with known strategies.

My second great Magic: the Gathering realization was that the set of cards were not static. New cards could be introduced which could render certain of my tactics almost valueless, and that each new wave of cards, or even ideas like thralls and tokens, would mean that I would have to rebuild my strategies and go on a fresh round of acquisitions to compensate for new technologies.

My third great Magic: the Gathering realization was that I could very quickly spend a great deal of money buying decks as a gamble that I might get cards that I could use to build a deck where they might come up during play. It was like having a slot machine outside of a casino to determine what cards I could get to play blackjack with, and that I'd be receiving Monopoly money as my big big reward.

I swiftly sold everything and kept a handful of cards for the art or as private jokes.
posted by adipocere at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of my life regrets is that I was at the Gen Con where they were supposedly giving out free magic decks and didn't get one.
posted by drezdn at 10:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Magic was for nerds who didn't have the balls to man up and be totally socially outcast for playing real D&D.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


The other cool Richard Garfield thing is that he also invented the criminally underrated Robo Rally. Twonky FTW.
posted by drezdn at 10:48 AM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


After not playing for a good 9 years (1999-2008), I got back into Magic again pretty much because of Mark Rosewater's articles. He has a real knack for writing, and it does extend very broadly into game design if you're not a Magic player. It helps to have a passing familiarity with the game, but many columns require so very little inside knowledge. For instance: you don't need to know why a specific card might be "bad" to read his articles on why they print "bad cards".

The great part about getting (back) into Magic is that the periodic release of sets and "rotation" eases a new player into the game. If you start with drafts and sealed deck, you are on a level playing field with only skill and experience to differentiate the new player from the experienced hands. When you draft a bit and amass a collection, over a year or two of playing, you have cards that make up the Standard (Type 2 for the old folks) format, and you feel relatively "caught up."

As those cards "rotate" out of Standard (2 years' worth of sets), they remain tournament-legal for Extended (7 years' worth of sets). Roughly 7 years after a set's been released, they rotate out of Extended (all sets from a Magic year rotate together), but remain legal for the Eternal formats of Legacy (super-crazy cards are banned) and Vintage (basically every card is legal).

For those who don't like the notion of cards rotating out of use, Legacy or Vintage is a good format. The expensive cards that cost $500 or more are commonly proxied (fake cards to take the place of the expensive real ones) in American Vintage tournaments, so as to prevent a true "rich man wins" experience. Competitive Legacy decks could cost $100-$400 in total, but the cards will always be legal for play, and compared to hobbies like golf or even video games, that isn't too much.

If tournament play isn't your thing, there's always the notion of just printing out proxies from the internet and playing with friends who don't care. Or just play with the cards you have. There's no rule stating that Magic has to be played optimally or hard-core.
posted by explosion at 10:50 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was in middle school when Magic got really huge - this was around when the Revised edition was out, and the Fallen Empires expansion was about to be released. I had loads of fun playing with friends, and continued to play long after the fad had swept through my school and it was back to being considered somewhat uncool and passe. It's really a fantastic game, even though it does have a bit of a materialist spend-money-to-get-better bent to it that is a little bothersome

I stopped playing for years, and started again when my brother got back into it. This must have been around 2002 or so. By that time tons of 'expansions' had been released, and Wizards had shifted to this schedule of releasing many expansions a year, which was much different from the early days when they were relatively few and far between. By this point playing the game had gotten a lot more complicated in my eyes - it was much less about figuring out your own special deck and more about the 'metagame'. That is, conventional wisdom quickly spread as to the types of decks that worked best with the most recent expansions, and the game was instead a quest to determine isolate the different kinds of decks and pit them against each other.

It's again been years since I played - I assume the state of play is still like this?
posted by pziemba at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009


The other cool Richard Garfield thing is that he also invented the criminally underrated Robo Rally. Twonky FTW.

Wizards also produced Netrunner, which was super fun, and definitely captured the essence of movie/Gibson-novel hacking in a card game.
posted by explosion at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


It seemed to me as a pen-and-paper RPG nerd that the three blows of pseudo-RPG video games, miniatures based battlefield games, and collectible card strategy games had much in common: they grabbed many of the people I used to game with into a new hobby that had a continuing investment nature instead of a startup cost, they required no imagination or roleplaying (strategic creativity yes, but no storytelling or character development), and they did not rely on a social commitment. If you are playing a pen and paper game, you need the same group of people for every session and the game develops out of the shared imagination and interpersonal dynamics of the committed group. There is no such need for social commitment with computer games, card games, or miniatures - someone can drop in for a round or two then disappear without messing with the flow of the game.
posted by idiopath at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


The first time I ever met robocop is bleeding was the day I went to his house and played Magic with his friends. That was a really fun time, but I'm happy to say I did not become re-addicted. But these links remind me of exactly why Magic was so much fun.
posted by Plutor at 10:56 AM on October 28, 2009


Ahh good old Magic days. Played and collected from Homelands to Apocalypse. Still have some games with the old buddies, and some of my college friends who had played, but don't buy anymore.

For those looking for a similar style game without all the overhead, check out the board game Dominion it has similar deck building mechanics and CCG-like game play, but everything comes in the box you are purchasing.

There is also an XBLA Magic game that costs 10 bucks if you are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about without diving too deep. The tutorial is good, and there is limited deck building necessary (a good thing for new players)
posted by tehdiplomat at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The other cool Richard Garfield thing is that he also invented the criminally underrated Robo Rally. Twonky FTW.

I love Robo Rally's core mechanic of setting up your entire turn before taking it- watching people fall into pits and being unable to comprehend why is oddly satisfying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


For those who are not familiar with the way the game works and want to know why the Black Lotus card was considered the most powerful ever, it was because the Black Lotus allowed you to create a deck that could defeat your opponent on the very first turn. Insta-kill games aren't very much fun unless you're the one doing the killing, so the card was removed from tournament play.

As horrendously overpowered as the Black Lotus was, my favorite story of game design abuse is the urban legend surrounding the Chaos Orb card. In theory, it was simple: When you played the Chaos Orb, you had to drop it on your opponent's cards (you had to hold it at least a foot above the cards and the Chaos Orb had to flip at least once in mid-air.) Whichever cards the Chaos Orb landed on were then considered out of play. Simple, huh? Just aim for the card you want taken out.

Until someone (and this apocryphal story takes place during a tournament game, if memory serves) tore up their Chaos Orb into tiny pieces and sprinkled them all over their opponent's cards, legally taking them all out of play.

Predictably, the Chaos Orb was banned from tournament play.


As with many recovering M:TG players, I count my game-playing time in terms of expansion packs: I played from Antiquities all the way to Ice Age, and then found other fun things on which to spend my disposable income. 4E for life, yo.

posted by Spatch at 11:03 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Whoops, guess I got my format (Extended) wrong. Outed myself as a born again n00b.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2009


My first great Magic: the Gathering realization was that my friends were relying on single cards, but combinations of things like Nettling Imp with (uh, I think) Royal Assassin allowed me to stomp all over them.

Typically, the learning progression goes as follows:

1) Big creatures
2) Combination
3) Card advantage
4) Time advantage

Combination decks (outside of broken t1 cards) are typically too fragile to depend on in a tournament setting. Though some combinations work when there multiple ways of achieving them and all the cards have multiple uses.

Pure card advantage/counter/discard decks are the next step because you basically stop your opponent from being able to play his game, and win because you can't lose.

The next step is learning how to eke out extra small advantages by putting your opponent on a clock, and setting his progress back just enough that you can eke out a win before his deck develops. Card advantage decks are fantastic, but if you can get them down in health before they get enough mana/resources cards to start dominating, it cuts back their options and gives you chances to force mistakes.

But I think what separates top level players from everyone else is that they can switch strategies when it calls for it. It can be really difficult to know when to press and take chances and when to play defensively -- for example -- when to sacrifice a creature to block and when to take the damage because you think you can stop it before it kills you -- in other words -- knowing when you're playing card advantage and when to put your opponent on a clock. Good players seem almost psychic about knowing what the right move to make is.
posted by empath at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


(though i haven't really played in years, so the game might be totally different now)
posted by empath at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2009


Meh. The only part of Stephenson's Cryptonomicon that took me out of the story was the old RPGer who had embraced Magic-style card games because they were in some way better than pen-and-paper.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2009


Heh...I have Robo Rally on the shelf above my head right now, at work :)

I collected a lot of MTG cards, and sold them at the height for much more than I originally paid.

A friend of mine has two (3?) of the original black-border Black Lotus. I keep telling him to sell while he can get $ for them, but he won't.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2009


this is a wonderful post. I'm dropping some malt liquor on the ground in memory of my many old T1Ms decks.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm happy to say I did not become re-addicted

Were I you, Plutor. Were I you.

I got back into Magic in a big way after that. The only thing that keeps me from playing now is my absurdly early work schedule. It's hard to make a weeknight play session that ends around 10 when you have an hour commute home and have to be up at 5 am.

Still, when a new set comes out, I pick up one each of the Intro packs in hopes of luring past players back into the game. I bring'em with me to meetups, but we've never been so nerdy as to need to cross that line just yet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2009


i would totally play magic at a metafilter meetup, but i'm nerdy like that.
posted by empath at 11:13 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I spent so much money on Magic cards when I was in junior high. Unfortunately, I have no idea where any of them are, and I'm certain all of them are worth a ton of money. Oh well.
posted by elder18 at 11:15 AM on October 28, 2009


Back in high school, my friends and I would head over to the gaming shop, buy some booster packs and retreat to the alleyway nearby to open them. It was incredibly ritualistic. The opening, the smell, the feel, even now thirteen years later I kinda want to go and buy a deck.

Fucking addicts.
posted by khaibit at 11:17 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I played for a while when the game first came out, but haven't played in probably 20 years. I guess I never really understood the game dynamic, then, since I don't understand why the Black Lotus is so highly regarded. Anyone care to explain it to me?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:19 AM on October 28, 2009


I started playing just as "revised" came out. I think I stopped a little after the Ice Age expansion had come and gone. I really need to sell my old magic cards. Maybe I can pay down my mortgage with them.

Still, it is/was a fun game.
posted by chunking express at 11:21 AM on October 28, 2009


When I moved to New York, I made sure that I didn't play Magic or work on my decks when my roommate was around, so he wouldn't think I was such a huge dork. Then one day, I found some cards lying on the dining room table that weren't mine, and was confused until my roommate walked in, and was really embarrassed that I'd found his magic cards.

Now we have people over to draft twice a month or so. (NYC nerds are welcome to MeMail me if you want to come play - everybody's welcome)

Also, I invented what I believe to be the best play format of all time: Liquid Lotus. The rules are simple - any player can chug a beer to add 3 mana of any color to their pool. If the beer is not finished in one continuous chug, that player takes 5 damage instead. Use this ability any time you can play an instant.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:22 AM on October 28, 2009 [19 favorites]


Magic, huh. OK, here's my story.

Right as Legends was peaking, I got my First Real Job, and was making just a bit more money than I knew what to do with. I wound up buying boxes and boxes of 3rd Edition, Legend, The Dark (still an under-appreciated set in my belief) and on and on. I wound up collecting cards and poring over binders and dreaming about the game and really doing nothing but playing Magic. Finally, I broke my habit and my friends' habits without even meaning to.

If you have a friend who you'd describe as "a nice guy, unless you get him around (topic), then he becomes a button pushing asshole", well, you know exactly what I -- and all of my friends -- were like at the time. Extreme min-maxers when role-playing; rule-lawyering cock-suckers when playing magic. One of us even bought a 2nd edition pack-in rulebook (the size of a playing card and 60 pages long) from someone because it had one favorable rule that had been rescinded in 3rd.

We all got help later in life and are doing Much Better.

So here's what I did. I bought a box of Arabian Nights, and liked the art work. Phil Foglio and his wife had a lot of cards, and I have a soft spot for them from Dragon magazine. This was back when rules were still mushy and wild and chock full of unintended consequences and hilarity. Or "hilarity", even.

I made a 300 card deck that featured two relatively mundane cards, and one rather unusual one from Arabian Nights.

So we'd play a game, and I'd play a Shahrazad. We'd set aside our current game, and then start a minigame. If I were lucky, I'd play a few more in the minigames. My record was four levels deep; we'd use notepaper and boxes to keep track of everything. I would be quickly killed in the minigames out of revenge, then we'd gather up our minigame graveyards and reshuffle to resume the main game. "Thank god that bullshit is over with", they'd say, picking up their original hands and trying to recall their original strategies. And then I'd fork the Shahrazad.

I have been clean for seven years.
posted by boo_radley at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2009 [18 favorites]


Anyone care to explain it to me?

Well off the top of my head, if you drew it fairly early, It'd let you play a pretty crazy card very early in the game.
posted by chunking express at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2009


I have never played, and I've only seen the game played in the dining hall when I was in college in the mid 90's. One day I stopped by a table and asked for the name of a very desirable card. Then, as part of an escalating prank war with a friend, I placed an ad in the school newspaper offering to sell a "Lord of the Pit" card for 10 bucks. Said friend was pissed that his phone was constantly ringing for four days.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Good players seem almost psychic about knowing what the right move to make is.

It's this ability that makes it possible for top Magic players to transition to poker. I wrote a relatively extensive AskMeFi answer about Magic strategy about a year ago, but one aspect I didn't talk about was understanding when to be more aggressive and when to be controlled.

Elite Magic players and poker seem to have an almost preternatural ability to ascertain what their opponent is holding or planning. Deciding whether or not the last card in your opponents hand is a counterspell or a land is no different than sniffing out a bluff in poker. The skills required to excel in both games -- understanding when to be aggresive and when to relax, bluffing and calling bluffs -- are exactly the same.
posted by christonabike at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


i recently got back into magic by ways of a psp homebrow that also works on windows, Wagic, wich is great for casual games against the computer. Also the nice thrill of collecting without the financial catastrophe that trading card games can be.
posted by valdesm at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2009


But of course, Hasbro owns both of them now. They have what you might call a Monopoly.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:26 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there where we talk about Bakugan?

An interesting twist about Magic. In addition to the artwork being copyrighted and the brand and specific items trademarked,the mechanics of gameplay are patented.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:26 AM on October 28, 2009


I think the Black Lotus might have enabled you to cast Channel, which lets you spend life for health, and then Fireball, which does damage for every mana you spend on it. If you get a land card and a Lotus out in your first turn, you can spend the mana you get from the land to cast Channel and then the Lotus mana to cast Fireball with all but one of your health. The Lotus mana plus the 19 mana from your health should be 20 damage, which is enough to knock out your opponent before s/he can take a turn.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:27 AM on October 28, 2009


My brother made this site, which (though not terribly pretty) allows you to do a full-text search of Magic cards. It should be useful for those that played the game a while ago but don't remember the specific cards they need.

For example, if I had a hankering to make a Thallid deck, I could just search for "thallid counter" and come up with all the cards that mention thallids and counters.
posted by Jpfed at 11:28 AM on October 28, 2009


For those looking for a similar style game without all the overhead, check out the board game Dominion it has similar deck building mechanics and CCG-like game play, but everything comes in the box you are purchasing.

Someone in our game circle just got Dominion and it's the perfect Magic alternative for us. Magic always had the problem that one dude was really into Magic and had tons and tons of cards. And the rest of us just had color theme pre-packaged decks, because we just didn't care about Magic when it wasn't game night. Dominion puts us all on the same level, like every other game.
posted by smackfu at 11:29 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


For example, if I had a hankering to make a Thallid deck, I could just search for "thallid counter" and come up with all the cards that mention thallids and counters.

I loved Thallids. Nothing like rushing someone with fifteen or twenty of the things.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2009


Fun post!

Living out in the sticks, the MtG-playing community consisted of me, a farm boy I wouldn't in a million years have expected to be into it, and the kid who introduced us to the game, a somewhat ethically challenged guy who quickly taught us that playing him for ante was a horrible idea (Since there were only goddamned three of us, we couldn't very stop playing with him completely, the slimy little cheat). After about a year we stopped playing; the closest place to buy cards, a comic shop fifty kilometers away, was slaughtered in the speculator market crash, the farm boy discovered boozing, and the slimy guy got slimier. I ended up playing a solitaire version cribbed from a copy of InQuest magazine. Most of the cards we played were Beta/Unlimited/Antiquities - I know one of us had Time Walk, and I'm always tempted to look the farm boy up when I go home and ask if he still has his cards

I started playing again this year when I noticed a co-worker reading one of the novels and ended up dropping a lot of cash on new cards (That Shadowmoor/Alara crap) until it became obvious he was basically the slimy kid grown up. Now my wife and I occasionally play, but I realized I like building decks more than actually playing, in no small part because I like technically shitty decks that pay more attention to thematic consistency and narrative coherency than playability. My compulsion to find a place FOR EVERY DAMN CARD NO MATTER HOW USELESSLY CRAP IT IS doesn't help, either.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:32 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone care to explain it to me?

One of the standard rules of Magic is that you can only play one land, a resource (mana) producing card that needs to be used (tapped) to play other cards. Each other card has a set mana cost that needs to be paid in order for that card to enter play.

So a normal starting hand, sans-Lotus, would be able to play one land its first turn. It might be able to play another card that only costs 1 mana, but those cards tend to be kind of weak and not game changing.

Now throw a Lotus or two in that hand and suddenly that hand can, on the first turn, play a card that costs 4 mana (1 from land plus 3 from the Lotus). Suddenly cards that would not be available until the 4th or 5th turns of the game are in play while the opponent likely has little defense against them. The player with the Lotus takes control of the game and it is only a matter of a few unfun turns before the other player loses.

Trying to get a resource advantage is a big part of competitive play. If you have more mana that the other player in the early game, you can play bigger cards. If you have more cards in your hand than the other player, you have more options.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:34 AM on October 28, 2009


Chocolate Pickle: "Anyone care to explain it to me?"

There's two parts. Mana is MTG's capital, and typically, you're expected to have a slow, regular increase in your mana pool because your normal mana source, land, can increase one unit per turn. So you might plan to deal with your opponent playing a six mana creature (relatively powerful, perhaps with exotic abilities) on turn six. The Black Lotus allows you to generate three mana immediately on your first turn; if your opponent has 2 Lotuses, he's got enough to play that powerful creature before you have any defenses. You're essentially six turns behind before you've taken your first turn.

There's other's variations that the Lotus enables, like Channel/ Fireball which also allows you to kill an opponent on the first turn.
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


(selling on eBay for over $500)

Heh. In 1998 or 1999 I was at the games auction at GenCon. There were always, in those pre-eBay days, some spectacular deals to be had on obscure and out of print games. To allow buyers to get the best crack at what they were interested in, the auction had hour-long blocks devoted to specific types of games. 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm might be old-school WWII wargames (Squad Leader, Panzerblitz), 3:00 til 4:00 might be RPGs, etc.

I was there one day during the changeover from naval wargames to CCGs. After an hour of watching games like Wooden Ships and Iron Men and Jutland and Harpoon have their bids start at fifty cents or a dollar and get scooped up for eight or ten or fifteen bucks, the CCG switchover was a bit of a shock. I was never much of a Magic fan, so I do not recall what the first lot was, but it was a pair of cards and the minimum bid set by the seller was $300. The entire room burst into laughter at the absurdity of this, the auctioneer called for anyone who would meet the minimum bid, got no response, and moved on.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


boo_radley: The Dark (still an under-appreciated set in my belief)

I was a HUGE fan of Gaea's Touch. What's not to love about two lands per turn?! I had a nice four-turn kill back in the day with Gaea's Touch, Wild Growth, Craw Wurm, Dark Ritual, and Howl From Beyond.
posted by Jpfed at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2009


I loved Thallids. Nothing like rushing someone with fifteen or twenty of the things.

I hated Thallids. Some cheeseball high schooler convinced my dumb junior high self to trade some decent card like Reverse Damage for Thallid fucking Farmer and then I had to make a Thallid deck to save face and that sucked and basically Thallids ruined the 8th grade.

Now, Homarids, that's where it's at.
posted by Copronymus at 11:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I played for a while when the game first came out, but haven't played in probably 20 years. I guess I never really understood the game dynamic, then, since I don't understand why the Black Lotus is so highly regarded. Anyone care to explain it to me?

The game's only been around for 16 years, but man how time flies, eh?

Now, about that Black Lotus. One of the cores of Magic's balance is that you may only ever play a single land on your turn. This normally limits you to 1 mana on your first turn, 2 mana on your second, and so forth. The original Moxes break this rule by essentially acting as lands, but because they're artifacts, you can play them in addition to your land. Later attempts would prove to be more fair. The issue with the Black Lotus is that it provides an immediate infusion of 3 mana of any color, allowing you to play your "turn 4" spell on turn 1.

Though you have to sacrifice it, it turns out that the discard pile ("graveyard") is quite the resource in Magic. Yawgmoth's Will (nicknamed "Yawg's Win") lets you play cards from your graveyard. Auriok Salvagers make an infinite combo with the Black Lotus, as it gives you 3, and they require only 2 to bring it back, netting one mana.

The TLDR explanation is that competitive Magic often relies on incremental advantages and tempo shifts, and the Black Lotus is, though temporary, a resource advantage of such great magnitude. It was only ever printed in the very first sets, so it's also an issue of supply and demand. Dark Ritual is considered quite powerful as well, but can be obtained for a dollar due to availability.
posted by explosion at 11:44 AM on October 28, 2009


I worked at Wizards of the Coast from early 2007 through to the fall of 2008. It was a dream come true for me.

(I was laid off as part of the Gleemax debacle. That was not-so-much a dream.)
posted by andreaazure at 11:46 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You could also do something like drop a land and a lotus, pop the lotus for a timetwister, draw a new hand of 7 cards, drop a mox or two, play a timewalk, take another turn, play a wheel of fortune, draw 7 new cards, drop an ancestral recall to draw 3 more cards, drop the lotus again, drop another timewalk, etc.

Nothing like ending your first turn with a pair of stripmines on the board, blue mana to spare and a hand full of counterspells.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on October 28, 2009


I built a deck in the Ice Age era using Candelabra of Tawnos, Mishra's Factory, Power Surge, Mana Flare and one Fireball. I think it had some countermagic in it too, but not very much. It used to beat the local type2-legal stasis/millstone decks that were the top of the metagame at the time, and it could put up a decent fight against the top aggro decks as well.

Then it got stolen out of my locker, and I never really went back until I got into MTGO just after Mirrodin (i.e. Combo Winter part 2). The more things change...
posted by Fraxas at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2009


We used to do sealed deck tournaments all the time, oh, 12 years ago or so... Everyone brought one sealed starter deck and three booster packs to the party, you had 30 minutes to build a deck and trade with the other players to balance things out, and then we'd play, following the actual rules (which require that you draw cards for ante to be won at the end of the game), and would play until someone had pretty much decimated everyone else, usually a full 8-10 hour day in all. Great fun.

We also started calling M:TG "Crack On Cards" because of how it would ruin your life financially if you got addicted.
posted by hippybear at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2009


Nothing like ending your first turn with a pair of stripmines on the board, blue mana to spare and a hand full of counterspells.

That's definitely one of the darker parts of Magic. That it's not only possible to make a deck that is incapable of winning, but won't really lose, but that people do it just to annoy their "friends."

Oh, and a big recommendation (seconding) for Dominion. It really does feel sort of like Magic, but is a completely closed-box game that requires no additional purchase, unless you want to buy one of its two expansions (Intrigue is stand-alone, Seaside requires Dominion or Intrigue).
posted by explosion at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2009


I'm glad to see rares are worth some money again...I may have to finally make my wife happy and sell off my big box of cards. Nothing newer than Ice Age and multiple copies of most of the banned cards other than the Moxes. I can't wait to see what a half dozen Demonic Attorneys will go for.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2009


Holy crap. I have that card if I can find my collection. It's been years (well, 6, to be precise, since my oldest kid is 6.5 years old) since I played magic. Off to ebay I go with it!
posted by wenat at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2009


boo_radley: "One of us even bought a 2nd edition pack-in rulebook (the size of a playing card and 60 pages long) from someone because it had one favorable rule that had been rescinded in 3rd. "

If you call them 2nd edition and 3rd edition, you weren't obsessed enough. Unlimited and Revised, get it right!
posted by Plutor at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love how different groups evolve different play styles/philosophies. In high school, we kept track of our lifetime win/loss records against each other, and every deck was evolving in a constant arms race to beat other specific decks. Kids would play each other at lunch, then run out to the card shop after school to get new cards to adapt. Those of us who couldn't go after school because we had sports practice would get clobbered, until we started sneaking out during study hall. (and we were the bad kids - our town was so Leave-It-to-Beaver-ass wholesome that none of us drank or did drugs, but everybody played Magic)

In college, I lived in a hippie commune with a Magic Card co-op, where everyone pooled their cards into a central library and could take cards for deck-building at will, as long as we gave them back when we made the next deck. Here, the play style was all about building ridiculously huge Rube Goldberg-type combos, and then slugging it out with our mammouth war machines. Everybody ran Howling Mines and Mana Flares as a matter of course, and it was considered impolite to kill your opponent before his deck got "online."

Now, my roommate and his friends draft and play in tournaments, and it's all about crushing your opponent as efficiently as possible, while giving away as little as possible about your deck, so you can remain unpredictable. This sometimes will go as far as intentionally losing a less important game rather than reveal your most powerful cards too early in the tournament. It's a very New York City mindset.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's definitely one of the darker parts of Magic. That it's not only possible to make a deck that is incapable of winning, but won't really lose, but that people do it just to annoy their "friends."

If you can't lose, you will eventually win. Even if your opponent just runs out of cards.
posted by empath at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2009


it was because the Black Lotus allowed you to create a deck that could defeat your opponent on the very first turn

Yes. Black Lotus, Channel, Fireball.

Unless your opponent has a Force of Will in hand, in which case, pwnt.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2009


Same here. MTG has been making a huge comeback in my group of friends, to the point that "Friday Night Magic & Beer" at my buddies house has become more or less a ritual over the past year. I was definitely impressed by the new core set (2010), although I think some of the recent expansions have been somewhat misguided. Shout out to Star City Games to be a fantastic resource for buying and selling cards (much better than eBay) as well as for strategy and tournament information.
posted by sophist at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Haha, awesome and timely post. I played religiously in grade school, running from the Unlimted through Ice Age era, then stopped due to, for lack of a better excuse, puberty.

When I move to Atlanta a lot of new friends still played and I ended up digging out the old cards when I was home last month. I just played my first full on game in 14 years two weeks ago and now I just keep asking them when we're gonna play again.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:20 PM on October 28, 2009


MaRo is the only reason I even visit the Magic website anymore. His articles are always entertaining and informative. I keep hoping he'll do a game design book someday.
posted by Scattercat at 12:21 PM on October 28, 2009


And then I'd fork the Shahrazad.

You, sir, are a jackass. I'd like to shake your hand.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's definitely one of the darker parts of Magic. That it's not only possible to make a deck that is incapable of winning, but won't really lose, but that people do it just to annoy their "friends."

I will admit that my favorite deck was blue/white and was almost nothing but circles of protection, counterspells, unsummons, and the like.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2009


This thread is actually making me want to play again.

I have things to do, damnit!
posted by backseatpilot at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2009


If some asshole forked a Shahrazad against me I think I'd punch them in the face. Even if it was a little kid. Perhaps especially if it was a little kid.

...

I mostly played Magic much later on though, we're talking 7e. I was a bit of a 7e draft shark on MTGO. Made a couple thousand dollars at it over a few months: I probably could have really committed and started making real money in the tournaments but I realized it would no longer be fun at that point. As someone else said, this practice really helped me at poker.

I'd still punch you in the fucking face if you forked a Shahrazad.
posted by Justinian at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you can't lose, you will eventually win. Even if your opponent just runs out of cards.

If you're recurring Timetwisters, there's no running out of cards. Your opponent could always just concede to end the game, but it's still kind of mean-spirited to make such a deck. Fortunately, they tend to balance sets these days so that draw-go stalling control decks don't work.
posted by explosion at 12:35 PM on October 28, 2009


i was a big fan of the CCG "On The Edge", but never picked up Magic besides a starter deck the weekend it was debuted. read about it in newspaper? i don't recall how we found out about it, but it was highly anticipated. had to hitch a ride to the hobby shop with a friend's mom. good times!

man, i feel old.
posted by radiosilents at 12:38 PM on October 28, 2009


Magic was for nerds who didn't have the balls to man up and be totally socially outcast for playing real D&D.

I don't know, Magic seems like much more of a nerd's game to me than D&D. At least D&D is basically generic fantasy, and it is based off of hard-bitten works of fantasy literature like Conan. (At least until dead horse 4E.)

I have several friends who used to be really into Magic. One of them has huge boxes of cards. That was the thing that always kept me away from the game, perhaps providentially so, the expense, and the need to keep your decks current to counter new cards. Basically WotC (and thus Hasbro) found a way to get themselves a huge profit by selling little pieces of cardboard. It may seem differently to us, but to them, you had better believe that is what it comes down to.

WotC I hate because of their patenting several aspects of Magic: The Gathering's rules. I do not think game rules should be patentable.

Hasbro I hate because they have been known to issue DMCA take down requests against people who write software that simulates their board games. (boardgamegeek thread) That, and whoring out their properties, buying up probably over half the U.S. board game industry, ruining dead horse a certain game, and generally being a rapacious conglomerate of the truest example of the breed.
posted by JHarris at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fascinating. I was a casual playtester. I still have the pre-release cards. It was totally clear the game would take off like crazy and I was aware of hordes of kids playing in coffeeshops on the hill, but my age and life activities at the time (late twenties, not a hardcore gamer) meant I did not ever really think about it.

I suppose I should go through the deck to see if there are any valuable cards.
posted by mwhybark at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2009


*taps two islands*
posted by sciurus at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2009


Ugh, talk about things to remind you that you're old: I got my first magic cards (a mix of alpha/beta/3e period stuff) in a trade for a spare Atari 2600 + games from a kid who realized he was addicted and needed something (anything) else to do for the summer. If only I'd known at the time that I was just trading a bad childhood addiction for a bad collegehood one...

Flash forward to around Ice Age, and all my friends were burned out on the game.* I bought up their collections on the cheap and boxed them, figuring that someday I'd get a few folks together and we could just play again draft-format with that huge stock of cards, no need to spend any more money. It hasn't happened yet, but you never know, right?

If you haven't tried it, the most fun I had with Magic was playing "colors" with five players: single color decks sitting in the same alignment as the colors, goal being to eliminate your two opposing colors across the table. Your allied color on either side of you could block on behalf of your enemy that was their ally, critter could only attack enemies, spells were fair game anywhere. Games were always long, intricate, and filled with many hilarious turns of assistance/interference. You would see combinations and card interplay that would never happen otherwise, improvised tactics were absolutely necessary, and cards that had no place in a duel (especially huge mana cost ones) became powerful. Great way to spend an hour or two!

* - I'm pretty sure some of them got sick of it because I consistently traded them rares for rare dual-lands for years, letting them think they were fleecing me... until I started fielding multi-color monstrosities on a regular basis, and they realized what I'd been building up to. I've been quoted $1000+ for my completed dual-land set, and haven't been able to stomach selling them regardless of my not playing... I just had waaay too much fun with those cards.
posted by Pufferish at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I used to know a guy who worked at the Lusty Lady in Seattle and one of the stories that went around there is that one of the guys who either helped come up with Magic or was one of the first artists used to be a janitor there. Right when they were about to launch the game he ended up quitting but before he left he offered the managers at the Lusty a bunch of sample packs which they all threw away because it seemed so stupid and unbearably geeky. Needless to say they thought it would be a big failure. Of course, by the time he got there (1997) they were kicking themselves since those first packs of cards would have been worth somewhere near a gazillion dollars.
posted by josher71 at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2009


I played enough Magic in college (~1995) that I'd have to say it contributed my dropping out. We called it "crack in a box" back then. I tought it to everyone I knew, which resulted in a fairly large community of players, some of whom still play.

I stopped playing when "Type 2" was invented, which essentially meant that you now could only play with the newer cards, the bulk of my collection being older cards, was now relatively worthless. That, and that I bought 2 boxes of Homelands, which is generally agreed to be the worst expansion ever made.

I got back into slowly around Mirrodin (4-5 years ago?), and I'm now full-scale addicted again. In fact, I'm playing in a tournament this weekend. It's been easier to not spend all my money on cards than it was then, but I could see that if I didn't have a family I could easily spend the ~$400 to get 4 of every card from each new set 3x a year.

Thankfully, I still have my old collection, although I rarely use cards from it.

The game has given me countless hours of fun, and bonded some good friendships. Nowadays we play Dominon a bit more, as it has a level playing field so that my Magic knowledge doesn't give me an advantage. Donald X. Vaccarino, the inventor of Dominion, used to run really fun and creative Magic tournaments in San Francisco. He even wrote a few articles for StarCityGames.com.
posted by Four Flavors at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2009


I am so glad I don't have a hobby in which success is largely determined by how much money I've spent...

You think a $500 card is expensive for a hobby.

Check out how much it costs to field a race car team, a polo pony stable, or a cup level sailboating team, then come back and bitch about magic.

Yeah, you can spend money, but lets be real, it isn't conspicuous consumption in the least.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2009


I was a sophomore in Seattle when Magic hit. I was early in and early out. I dropped out around Legends, if only because when kids started -stealing- each other's cards, I saw parallels to drug behavior amongst people and decided I didn't need that kind of crazy. (My sister and I would just build decks out of our cards and play and play and play.)

My favorite deck was my suicide deck - Armageddeon Clocks & Pestilence to hurt everyone, Drain Life and Living Artifacts to keep me going. It was delicious in multiplayer- no one wanted to pay the mana to keep the clocks from going up, until everyone's taking 4-5 points a round, then someone is paying -just- to stay alive. Meanwhile, I'm sipping life off the Living Artifacts and Drain Life to stay happy.
posted by yeloson at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2009


It's interesting reading that so many people picked up the hobby in high school, dropping it, and then getting back into it 5-7 years later. This happened to me and a few coworkers, it just so happened there were four of us and we decided it'd be a crime not to take advantage of the situation and have a few draft games after work.

Also, for those of you who may be interested in the fair playing field that a sealed draft provides, but want to use the awesome cards from your childhood, consider building a draft cube. In summary, a draft cube is basically a pre-selected pool of cards that you use to simulate the randomized packs of 15 that you'd get in a sealed draft. I love the feeling you get when flipping over a cube "pack" of 15 and having to choose between classics like Vesuvian Doppelganger, Necropotence, Berserk, and Balance.

I put one together and it's fantastic fun.
posted by C^3 at 1:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gabriel Nassif's Called Shot
posted by Hollow at 1:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my life regrets is that I was at the Gen Con where they were supposedly giving out free magic decks and didn't get one.

Me too, drezden. Me, too.

I don't recall free decks, but I did see a demo. I thought it was cool, but my friends didn't care for card games, and I walked away thinking, "Yeah, my friends'll never play that."

Less than a year later we had all pretty much abandoned D&D for MtG.

I still have some cards, packed away somewhere. Maybe I'll get 'em out for a few pick-up games at this weekend's Hallowe'en parties.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:25 PM on October 28, 2009


Also, if anybody remembers the first-ever MagicMUSH (started in 1994 as an extension of an IRC game channel) I was one of the wizards, Prodigal_Tim, and was the one who hid random booster packs around the public areas for folks to find. It was an interesting MUSH hybrid; all the game code and card database were softcoded (coded in-game using object-oriented MUSH code) rather than altering the MUSH source, since nobody actually had access to the server. MU*s ran tenuously back in them days.

And if anybody remembers that I will be surprised, and then a little ashamed since I probably won't remember you
posted by Spatch at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2009


I suppose I should go through the deck to see if there are any valuable cards.

I would think that having pre-release cards in and of themselves would make them valuable -- do you mean alpha? Or are you talking pre-alpha. Because pretty much every alpha card is worth a lot of money, even lands.
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2009


I was first introduced to Magic in high school, when a few of my classmates discovered the game and started playing during breaks (and classes). This ended quite soon, however, when one of them got himself a colored (mostly red, I think) deck and started pwning everyone, at which point the others sort of realized that an arms race wouldn't be a sustainable strategy in the long term and just gave up.

I picked up my first deck the first year of university, when I found out some of my new found friends were avid players. However, this was also when we discovered D&D, which I found a lot more appealing, so I never really developed a real interest in Magic. I've played a few games every now and then and bought a few more decks, but all of them are past legal by now. It's still fun to watch the others play, though.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2009


Wow, love the positive answers to East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94's question way up top, especially this one:

Well, most formats in which dinosaurs and rarities like Black Lotus still see play will accept handwritten proxies.

That's freaking awesome.
It was a sad day when I approached a friend who'd been playing awhile and proposed we grab the then-new complete deck that had been released, instead of playing the one-upmanship game, and was told curtly that he had no intention of dumping his costly, costly little collection to "play for fun". Ugh. Way to play the corporate stooge card. Tap to become a bit of a shithead.

It's interesting reading that so many people picked up the hobby in high school, dropping it, and then getting back into it 5-7 years later.

Even longer for me, given my continued absence given that I discovered a little too late that decent (non-Alpha) collections could be scooped up for a song on eBay (and now they claim a prettier penny again). At this point, I look at it a little like a different kind of German board game -- like WaterWorks -- and figure for the right price it could be fun to pull out now and again. I've collected a good bit of Mythos (first attempt at Lovecraft prior to the Call of Cthulhu CCG, and far superior, in my estimation) but would love a playable MTG collection and, though I only dipped into it way back when, Jyhad.

I'll never understand it as a "replacement" for D&D, though (in the same way that no "RPG" video game would be), but perhaps these are people who never really got into pen and paper in the first place.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:43 PM on October 28, 2009


I only had magic cards for the art and the flavor text. I would shuffle through the decks and make up stories in my head during long family car trips.
posted by fuq at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gord I love MTG! Been playing since college (1997ish) where it seamed like a perfectly justifiable reason to miss a class or two. Anyone in Chicago who wants to throw down I'm always up for a game.
posted by theButterFly at 1:49 PM on October 28, 2009


Durn: I don't think I am the only one who saw their whole pencil and paper gaming circle drop RPG's for Magic: The Gathering. I swear it was like being in a band and suddenly everyone else in the band wants to play Rock Band instead.
posted by idiopath at 1:51 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mark Rosewater is the nerdiest person on earth. Check out the two-part article about his wedding. (I hope my wedding is that awesome.)

His articles on game design are really good. A lot of the things he says are insightful and translate to games in other media. But you need to grit your teeth to get through his arrogance.
posted by painquale at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2009


*shrugs*

I was into Magic for a while, but eventually the really annoying decks got really really annoying. My big problem with the game is that while it's possible to defend against a lot of things, you have to defend against all possible threats while an attacker only has to have one strategy you aren't blocking against. For example, each new source of damage renders irrelevant a Circle of Protection.

To some extent, this is good, in that it encourages action. To another...I dunno. It just made the game profoundly annoying. Bragging that the game is some master balancing act is...ridiculous. It always felt like something designed to provide corners to paint oneself into.
posted by effugas at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2009


For example, each new source of damage renders irrelevant a Circle of Protection.

That's why they have sideboards in tournaments where you're allowed to change 15 cards in your deck between games in a match.

So if you wanted to build a deck with COPs, you'd only use red ones against solid red decks, for example.

Not every card was useful in every situation. Richard Garfield actually invented the term 'Meta-game' to describe this (which has since become standard terminology). Your deck isn't played in isolation, it's played in a particular environment, and depending on the environment certain decks are stronger than others.

For example, Necropotence/discard decks absolutely dominated blue/white card control decks, but in turn they were dominated by red direct damage/small creature decks. Choosing what kind of deck to play in a tourney largely has to do with the kinds of decks you expect to play against.

That said, if you wanted to, it was VERY possible to make a deck which could defend against all possible threats, it was just a matter of choosing the right cards (Circle of Protetion was definitely not one of those cards) -- in a blue/white deck you had the following:

Wrath of God, Armageddon, Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Counterspell. Between those cards, there wasn't a single threat you couldn't eliminate.
posted by empath at 2:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The metagame, btw, tended to encourage variation in tournament play, because even if a particular deck dominated most other deck types, there was always one deck that could be built that picked it apart. Once any deck hit about the 50% mark, people started building decks to counter that one, which would walk to easy tournament wins.
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2009


I too got into Magic Way Back In The Day. And I'm still pissed at the kid that got me into it.

Not for getting me into it, but for ripping me off before I had any chance to understand the mechanics of the game and lying to me about card frequency. I started with Arabian Nights had just been released, and on the day I bought my first cards, that's all that was available. So of course the only land I had was deserts.

After convincing me that land was always rare, he traded me some land for my Ali from Cairo.

Dick.

I'm still pissed at that asshole.

I never became a very good magic player. I liked straightforward strategies of medium creatures backed by heavies too much.
posted by flaterik at 2:20 PM on October 28, 2009


Because pretty much every alpha card is worth a lot of money, even lands.

Goddammit. I was just into selling my set in 97.. and still had quite a big of alpha and beta in there. I handed it over to a sortof friend.. and then the while city flooded. Massive disaster. I moved away from town shortly afterwords, and never heard from him again.

I didn't have any lotuses, but there was a quite a bit of fairly high end pre-legends cards.

Grr.
posted by flaterik at 2:23 PM on October 28, 2009


Wrath of God, Armageddon, Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Counterspell.

Oh yeah... I am now remembering how much I loved my blue/white decks.

Okay, I'll stop responding to empath now. (what is it with electronic music djs and magic? hmmmmm)
posted by flaterik at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2009


In at Fallen Empires, out around Mirage, sold my cards at fourteen to a twenty-one year-old who could pay me in liquor. Twelve years on, I'd rather have the cards back than the Goldschlager and Franzia.

Mind you, my cousin stayed in until 2004 or so, and we still hand around those cards when I'm back in town. And discovering that my wife's sister's husband played eased the transition into annual vacations with the in-laws for sure.

Did anyone else here trade cards over the usenet or catch up on the latest way of fighting Necro decks at alt.games.trading-cards.magic.strategy or whatever it was?
posted by sy at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2009


I don't know, Magic seems like much more of a nerd's game to me than D&D.

Nope. There's zero chance of you doing the voices in Magic. Or trying to have imaginary sex instead of playing the damn game.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:53 PM on October 28, 2009


Justinian: "
I'd still punch you in the fucking face if you forked a Shahrazad.
"

The forking wasn't the really terrible part, but playing Shahrazad inside a Sharazad minigame was pretty special.
posted by boo_radley at 3:03 PM on October 28, 2009


To show why I never play these games, aside from a lack of ability:

Back in the day, I had a black lotus, which I traded for a couple of completely lame cards because I didn't know any better. I bet that guy is STILL laughing about that.
posted by maxwelton at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2009


here's a story.

way back when, probably early 3rd edition Magic, my friends and I all got into the game pretty hard. being junior high kids with money to burn we bought booster packs like nobody's business, and we eventually wound up with HUGE decks of - and I chuckle remembering this - only those cards we thought we'd need. I'm talking 300 card decks, if not significantly larger, packed with gold foil baddies that cost 27 mana to summon and enough land to make sure having that much mana wouldn't be a problem. All colors, always. It didn't even occur to us to make one or two color decks. we were the guys who simply didn't understand the economics of the game and how to win effectively with the right combo. we'd just keep playing till that one card we imagined was indomitable would show up. that was the plan, at least.

one of us (and he had as ludicrously huge a deck as the rest of us did) won way more than his share of games, because one of his legend cards was always Nebuchadnezzar, and he would constantly tap him and enough land to make sure that he would name either the legendary badass monster we were summoning, or some vital piece of land we'd need to summon it, or some instant kill, disenchant, or other type of card that is usually used to clear Nebuchadnezzar off the table or eliminate one of his other useful enchantments. in addition to this, the guy always had a disenchant on hand. always. also, that card that cancels a monster summoning. I forget what it was called. anyway, he always had them when he needed them, without fail.

the weird thing was nebuchadnezzar, out of his 300+ cards in that deck, was always out in the first couple turns, and he didn't have 100 disenchants or anything. so the chances of those cards showing up should have been as slight for him as our favorites were for us. the rest of us were always sitting there for turn after turn waiting for that 14 mana dragon of shitkicking to show up. but there'd be nebuchadnezzar, ready to foil everything like clockwork.

So one day, we're all shuffling our monstrously huge decks (no small task, considering) and I look over, and I see him looking at his cards' faces and moving them around deliberately. so I obviously ask him what he's doing, since we're about to start playing, and he matter-of-factly replies "oh, I'm putting nebuchadnezzar and some disenchants closer to the top of the deck."

...

what?

"what? I need them to play. I'm not putting them at the top. I'm just sticking them closer to the top than the bottom." he completely failed to understand why this was absolutely and without question cheating. needless to say, a huge uproar ensued. we were pissed at the lost games, the months and years of wasted effort swept aside by cheating, and he was furious that he should have to wait a whole game only to never see his favorite card. it didn't make any sense to him.

and in a sense, it shouldn't have. why should he wait all game in hopes of seeing one card?

what's amazing is that, by the time we quit playing Magic (for the first time.) it never occurred to any of us that the solution was to make smaller, more efficient decks. not until years later when one of us went and looked at that WoTC magazine they published and read an article about that killer lotus deck, and suddenly we wanted to play Magic again.

and what spoiled us on the game that time? the same thing that spoils it for everyone else. one of you goes fucking nuts and starts spending hundreds or thousands of dollars a month buying the perfect cards to fit out that deck he read about in the magazine. also alcohol and girls.
posted by shmegegge at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


I always resented Magic because its success meant that none of the other supplements the guys at Wizards were writing in the series that started with the Primal Order ever came out. Supposedly they were going to do a whole series of them on different aspects of how to run a D&D campaign and the success of Magic ate the resources they meant to dedicate to it.

That's pretty much what it did to one of my favorite comics and game stores, as well. Magic got them hooked on all sorts of collectible card games, and worse, baseball cards. I wouldn't have minded the space they spent on the other merchandise if any of it other than the Magic had sold well. The store survived, but it had a rough few years financially.

Magic isn't for me because I don't particularly enjoy competitive games, but now that I'm over it messing with the game I wanted and my FLGS, I'm glad it survived.
posted by immlass at 3:51 PM on October 28, 2009


I don't think I am the only one who saw their whole pencil and paper gaming circle drop RPG's for Magic: The Gathering. I swear it was like being in a band and suddenly everyone else in the band wants to play Rock Band instead.

That doesn't seem particularly sad so long as it's temporary. But I guess that's where I classify it (hopefully) as a distraction and not a replacement.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:16 PM on October 28, 2009


I played Magic heavily between 1992 and 1996, I am happy I got out of it, but I still miss is sometimes.

Here is the story of my favourite deck:
I used to play at a cafe in Montreal, and the preferred format was huge mutli-player games (4+ players) and we always tried to come up with some sort of themed deck. Well, one time I devised a truly fun deck revolving around these three cards:
Tempest Efreet
Animate Dead
Mind Warp

The strategy was to use Mind Twist to make my opponent discard down to one card, then use the Efreet to steal it, then reanimate the Efreet to do it again. I had a Skull of Orm in the deck to recycle the Anmate Dead. The deck was loaded with dual lands and it had very little offense, the point was to use my opponent's deck against him. It was tons of fun. Of course all change in ownership resulting from this was just for the game.
posted by Vindaloo at 4:45 PM on October 28, 2009


I don't get all this D&D vs Magic talk. Back in my day, we did what any red-blooded American man would do and just played both.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:51 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never played the game, but it would seem to me that it is ripe for forgery of cards. Just scan a good card and print it on card stock... right?
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:58 PM on October 28, 2009


The fanciest cards eventually got the holographic card treatment like baseball cards and Pokemon cards.
posted by GuyZero at 5:27 PM on October 28, 2009


what is it with electronic music djs and magic?

Weirdly enough, one lead directly to the other for me. One of my Magic friends showed up to our weekly D&D game with 10 pills one night that his brother gave him. We all rolled for the first time and went to a rave, totally spur of the moment. I started going to raves every weekend instead of playing D&D. Like, immediately. I don't think I ever played D&D again.

I gradually stopped buying magic cards and started buying records, instead. Building a card collection and a record collection are the same thing, and building a DJ set is similar to building a magic deck. You have to practice a lot, you develop strategies, you have favorite combos, you talk about technique with friends, etc. It scratched all the same obsessive compulsive itches for me, with the advantage of it also helping me to get laid instead of actively working against it...

Within 3 years, I went from being one of the to 20 ranked sealed-deck players in the DC area to regularly playing gigs at the biggest night club in the region. And I don't think I ever decided that I was going to stop being a magic player and start being a DJ, it just happened.

I'm not DJing much anymore, so now I'm starting to think about getting back into magic.
posted by empath at 5:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've never played the game, but it would seem to me that it is ripe for forgery of cards. Just scan a good card and print it on card stock... right?

If it was a good forgery, most people wouldn't really care. (See the discussion of proxies above)
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on October 28, 2009


My Magic: The Gathering claim to fame: I pulled a "Summer Magic" Serendib Efreet from a Revised booster pack in late 1994.

I sold it to an American dealer at EuroGenCon in 1996 for £50.

Prompted by this thread, I just googled to see what it was valued at these days and probably should not have done.
posted by anagrama at 5:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Takes me back. Started playing Magic in fall of 93. At one time I had seven of the power nine, three of them in beta black. I didn't really start collecting until later, and never collected a complete set of any printing.

I remember being shocked how quick Arabian Nights sold out. That was our first clue that this thing was getting big. Before that you could wander into the shop and buy a few more packs over the span of weeks if not months.

Eventually I stopped playing (around ten years ago). Sold the most valuable cards when we purchased our first house to help with the down payment. Overall I made more than I spent on the game and still have a few thousand "less valuable" cards should I ever want to play again.
posted by meinvt at 5:57 PM on October 28, 2009


> I don't get all this D&D vs Magic talk. Back in my day, we did what any red-blooded American man would do and just played both.

They grow up so soon...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2009


I'll read this thread later, but i'd just like to say that Black Lotus is the most expensive card, but certainly not the most "powerful." That would, unequivocally, be Ancestral Recall.
posted by absalom at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2009


I was a magic junkie for... years. From Limited through Urza's Saga. My town had a surprisingly active magic scene, despite being a shithole. Atlanta usually stole our decks and made big. Still, from the group I used to play with, there's one PT champion, a slew of PT players and judges, and one current magic bigwig. It was like being part of the nerd summer of 69. I finally got out, only to get back into it hard for awhile with MTGO. At-will draft and league play? Destructive. I was actually relieved when MTGO 3.0 ended up being awful - saved me a lot of money. I'd love to get back into regular occasional friendly drafts - nothing beats draft play, especially for the Friday Night (beer and?) Magic.

Also: Any post-Mirage Channel-Fireball deck was a Channel-Kavek's Torch deck, precisely as a counter to FoW
posted by absalom at 6:48 PM on October 28, 2009


Whenever I see that bucket full of Magic cards sitting in my closet I'm tempted to tally up the going prices for the each (I have many of the valuable cards mentioned in this thread)... Each time, however, I tell myself, "But what if I want to start playing again?"
posted by clorox at 7:15 PM on October 28, 2009


Any post-Mirage Channel-Fireball deck was a Channel-Kavek's Torch deck, precisely as a counter to FoW

Nice, didn't even know about that Torch. You can tell how serious of a player I am.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:34 PM on October 28, 2009


Ah magic. I own a very small store in rural Ontario and we play every Friday (FNM) and every second Saturday. Magic allows me to buy steak. But seriously we have been playing magic for many years (my whole family). My best Magic story is closing a bankrupt chain of hobby stores in my last year of University and literally compacting boxes upon boxes of alpha which at the time sold for $.75. I love watching people cringe when I tell that story... also: Winter Orb + elf deck = very frustrated opponent.
posted by mrgroweler at 8:13 PM on October 28, 2009


You fuckers killed roleplaying. I hope you're happy.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:19 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never played the game, but it would seem to me that it is ripe for forgery of cards

From another Wizards Magic blog, Buyer Beware, how to identify fake magic cards.
posted by smackfu at 8:27 PM on October 28, 2009


We got into this right after we graduated high school. My buddy got really into it, and though we lost touch, I heard through the grapevine that he was a professional player. And then I saw this entry and followed a link to his wikipedia entry. HFS. My best friend was the Rowdy Roddy Piper of the pro Magic circuit!! AWESOME!
posted by thomsplace at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2009


josher71: "I used to know a guy who worked at the Lusty Lady in Seattle and one of the stories that went around there is that one of the guys who either helped come up with Magic or was one of the first artists used to be a janitor there."

Entirely plausible. There were great illustration gigs flowing out of WoC for the first couple of years, my understanding at the time being that the artist's contracts included royalties (!) at first.
posted by mwhybark at 8:56 PM on October 28, 2009


empath: "I would think that having pre-release cards in and of themselves would make them valuable -- do you mean alpha? Or are you talking pre-alpha. Because pretty much every alpha card is worth a lot of money, even lands."

Hell, I haven't the faintest idead what the terms alpha, beta, and 3e mean in this context. It seems to me they are being used to indicate first commercial release, second commercial release, and third commercial release. Happy to stand corrected.

My understanding of the deck I have is that it was one of a reasonably large number of decks for the last round of prerelease testing, something like what I would call a beta software release. The cards are commercially printed and to my eye not clearly distinguishable from the decks I saw after the actual release of the decks. My recollection is that my friend Barb, who was a launch employee of WoC and responsible for introducing the game into my circle indicated that there were indeed changes made to the actual commercial release of the game.

The cards are certainly not the interesting photocopied demo cards shown in the linked articles.
posted by mwhybark at 9:05 PM on October 28, 2009


Oh, and here's another one for Seattle people: didn't WoC actually rehab and pimp out to the fantasy-nerd max a giant retail space on the Ave in the U-District? I only have vague memories of this and wonder if I imagined it.

WoC was like a distant-early-warning system for the dot-com era.
posted by mwhybark at 9:10 PM on October 28, 2009


mwhybark: "didn't WoC actually rehab and pimp out to the fantasy-nerd max a giant retail space on the Ave in the U-District?"

Yes. Gonna have to see what else this fella has lying about the yard.
posted by mwhybark at 9:12 PM on October 28, 2009


Never played MtG, but I have an Xbox. Is the XBLA version worth a try? Do I need a gold membership to play?
posted by Ritchie at 10:14 PM on October 28, 2009


Magic was for nerds who didn't have the balls to man up and be totally socially outcast for playing real D&D.
>You fuckers killed roleplaying. I hope you're happy.


Get off my case, you meanies.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:26 PM on October 28, 2009


My best friend was the Rowdy Roddy Piper of the pro Magic circuit!! AWESOME!

That was a pretty interesting article. And I'd much rather watch that than poker.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:07 AM on October 29, 2009


Long was infamous on the pro circuit for being a grade-a dickbag. I thought that all the stories had to have been hyperbole. Then I sat down across from him in a midnight event at PTNY. He was an even bigger dickbag than the stories led me to believe.
posted by absalom at 7:51 AM on October 29, 2009


I used to play very casually with a couple of friends rounds about Urza's Saga. Then I discovered there was a thriving Magic club here in Oxford a couple of years ago, got back into it and now I play pretty competitively. Monday nights is Constructed (FNM), Wednesday is Casual and Thursday is Draft. Better than staying in and watching television.
posted by salmacis at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2009


obiwanwasabi: "You fuckers killed roleplaying. I hope you're happy."

oh hey, you're in the wrong place. you want the thread on LARPing.
posted by shmegegge at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2009


This is a great FPP. It warms my heart to hear so many stories about M:TG. I have been playing continuously since '98, and I continue to do so, but mainly as a mentor these days to the kids at my local comic shop instead of competitively.

The main angle of this FPP seems to be game design, and I have to agree that Rosewater's articles helped inspire me down that road. There is a robust independent/amateur Magic card design community online, and it's a lot of fun to collaborate with people to help make the game you love. Years of doing this has given me the opportunity to share concepts with Mark Rosewater and the people who make Magic directly, and has given me enough confidence to branch out and create my own games. I encourage anyone who has an interest in game design to check out what he has to say (he has been doing it for years), but more importantly, to follow his inspirations.

There is a great book on unlocking creativity by Roger von Oech called A Whack on the Side of the Head that Rosewater introduced me to (and he swears by it), which is a good place to start for fledging game designers. Keep the fresh ideas coming. The next Gygax or Garfield could be you.
posted by aftermarketradio at 8:56 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh hey, you're in the wrong place. you want the thread on LARPing.

LARPing didn't kill pen&paper RPGs. For heaven's sake. LARPing may have cut into drama club enrollment. Magic was definitely a direct dollar competitor to old-school D&D as was obvious to anyone who walked into a comic/gaming store after Magic arrived. RPG books just disappeared.
posted by GuyZero at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2009


RPG books just disappeared.

They did? Course I only end up looking for RPG books in comic stores if there's some other reason for me being there. Board game stores are where I check out RPGs, and they certainly haven't disappeared from the shelves. I might have to shoulder past a table of CCG players to get a look at them, sure.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:21 AM on October 29, 2009


Well, thankfully they came back. But for a while it was pretty hard to find anything. It wasn't solely the fault of stores I suppose as the 90's were a pretty tough time for RPG companies. Things have really turned around a lot.
posted by GuyZero at 11:25 AM on October 29, 2009


Ok, that makes sense, and may have coincided with a period where I wasn't going into hobby/game or comic stores at all. At the same time, people I knew picking up MTG decks were going to a model shop, a pool table outlet, and a comic store to pick them up. The first two never sold RPGs and I'd never bothered to look for RPG material in the third.

Still seems a bit strange. Like, no, let's forget Waterdeep tonight. I'm on a canasta binge!
(ok, ok, not a fair comparison, but I don't get how it scratches the same itch at all)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2009


RPG books just disappeared.

I cannot picture in my mind a time when there was not at least one shelf, if not more, devoted to RPG books at Barnes & Noble. Maybe you were just shopping in the wrong place?
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2009


I lived in a different country from the one where Barnes & Noble operates until recently. Also, I have never seen anything from a non-TSR company at B&N - did they stock SJG products? Maybe they stocked WW stuff which I'm going to continue to pretend doesn't exist although it was pretty much the entire RPG industry in the 90's.
posted by GuyZero at 12:16 PM on October 29, 2009


I have never seen anything from a non-TSR company at B&N - did they stock SJG products?

I'm fairly certain my copies of TOON and GURPS were purchased at B&N stores.
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2009


I've been playing since 94, got in when The Dark had just been released. Had my cards stolen in college, and the game lost it's luster for me. Then a friend sucked me back in around 2002. For those who haven't played the game in a long time, it's changed a lot, and for the better. Creatures don't suck anymore, and you don't have to pay $500 to have a decent deck (though it doesn't hurt). The idea of rotating formats, where only the more recent cards can be played (such as Standard, aka Type 2) seemed like a cheap cash-grab to me initially. In practice, it keeps the game affordable for newer players and keeps the game fresh for the old ones.

As the post indicates, the folks who make Magic put a ton of effort (and money) into developing a robust, balanced, and fun game and they get a little better at their job each year. They've managed to maintain and progress a game that is fun for casual players who just want to play with all of their good cards as well as the high-level cutthroat tournament players.

It's a great, great game. It ain't cheap, but boy is it fun.
posted by macmac at 1:51 PM on October 29, 2009


Oh summer of 1996. 14 hour days of deck testing. 5 tournaments a week. A (very brief) top 200 ranking in Type 2. How I miss thee.

I still carry my membership card to this day. I have a number just over 100k, which makes me an old timer.
posted by UseyurBrain at 4:15 PM on October 29, 2009


Creatures don't suck anymore

Nice! I played from about 3rd edition until Homelands, and I always wondered why, in a game which was ostensibly about (and had so many rules devoted to) creatures, they were generally such a sucker's bet.

Must.. not.. resume.. playing..
posted by blenderfish at 4:39 PM on October 29, 2009


If you're looking for something to blame the downfall of tabletop gaming on, it's WoW. No question about it in my mind.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:11 PM on October 29, 2009


I never played Magic when it first came out. Didn't have much disposable income to throw around, the theme didn't really appeal to me at the time, and I could very soon see what it did to people's wallets. Me and some friends got into the CCG version of Illuminati instead. We very quickly evolved this tacit agreement that no matter how much of a bastard you were in the game (and INWO sure encouraged that), nothing ever carried out of it - no friendships were ruined by a well-played I Lied, only Illuminated plans.

This summer, I decided I wanted to try Magic. We've been playing a lot of games that have clear histories going back to it, especially the superlative Race for the Galaxy, and I wanted to see the source. So I picked up a couple of starter packs and took them home. I found the whole thing to be off-putting, and could feel the hands of the market all over it - I didn't even get a box I could use to keep my embryonic deck in, much less a freaking manual. Just this fold-out poster. And a whole mish-mash of card mechanics that just felt, well, really messy.

I could vaguely see where the appeal of it lies, in an intellectual fashion, but I really wasn't left with any desire to buy a booster pack. I like constructing systems, sure, but this just didn't appeal as a system to construct within - if I'm going to put forth that sort of procedural effort I'd rather just sit down and program, I guess. After the fourth or fifth game I tried - and the first one I tried playing while kinda drunk - the cards went on the shelf, where they've stayed untouched.

(On the other hand, we also recently got ahold of a big pile of INWO cards from a friend, and while I initially loved the idea of playing it, I looked at the pile and quailed at the thought of swapping enough rules and cards back into my head to build anything worth playing!)
posted by egypturnash at 6:05 PM on October 29, 2009


After the fourth or fifth game I tried - and the first one I tried playing while kinda drunk - the cards went on the shelf, where they've stayed untouched.

You didn't play enough. It takes a lot of games before it clicks.
posted by empath at 8:17 AM on October 30, 2009


If you're looking for something to blame the downfall of tabletop gaming on, it's WoW

Everquest killed it first.
posted by empath at 8:18 AM on October 30, 2009


Decided to get some cards today after a 12-yesr hiatus.

Is Core 2010 in short supply everywhere or just in the Charleston area?
posted by concrete at 4:17 PM on October 30, 2009


i wish the xbox version didn't suck so bad.. i'd happily pay money for cards/expansions/etc, but they won't let you design your own deck, which is fucking criminal, IMO
posted by empath at 5:12 PM on October 30, 2009


Also, what expansions should I look at in addition to the core set?
posted by concrete at 6:02 PM on October 30, 2009


Everquest killed it first.

EQ had an impact, but peaked at a couple of hundred thousand subscribers compared to WoW's... what is it now, 11 million?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:08 PM on October 30, 2009


EQ had an impact, but peaked at a couple of hundred thousand subscribers compared to WoW's... what is it now, 11 million?

Yeah, but there weren't anyting close to 11 million D&D players left when WoW started. And D&D players were heavily represented in the early adopters, I think.

Everquest was the end of my D&D/magic group, for sure. I stopped hanging out with them for a few months, and went back and they were all holed up in my friends basement playing Everquest together on the same LAN. It was like an opium den.

Actual conversation that happened while I was there:

My friend Pete's girlfriend: Hey pete, what are you doing.
My friend Pete: Playing Everquest.
Pete's gf: Still? If you don't quit playing that, I'm going to break up with you.
Pete: Fine. hey empath, do we have any mountain dew left?

And she dumped him, just like that, after they had been going out for like 9 months. I don't think I went over to visit again after that, it was just too depressing.
posted by empath at 8:23 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was in the hopelessly addicted set until my set of '4 of each dual land', beta Lotus, and plenty of other goodies my friends and I had collected and pooled together was stolen by a local slimeball in high school.

I must not click on any of those links to free online variants.
posted by ejoey at 10:06 AM on November 2, 2009


So after saying how bad the xbox version of magic was above, i found out that they added a new expansion, and started futzing around with the black deck and I hit a nice winning streak that has me ranked around #1000 in the world... now i'm hooked again...
posted by empath at 9:15 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


i wish the xbox version didn't suck so bad.. i'd happily pay money for cards/expansions/etc

The Xbox version is aimed at extremely casual play. If you want to buy cards, etc., there is MTGO.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:45 PM on November 6, 2009


Whil Wheaton just posted a neat story about his on-again, off-again love affair with M:TG.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:33 PM on November 10, 2009


WHEATON!!!!!
posted by drezdn at 10:11 AM on November 11, 2009


I can't believe I missed this thread.
posted by cortex at 12:46 PM on November 11, 2009


Hey, start wandering the country at random, eatin' giant donuts, and the next thing you know someone done took all yer mana.
posted by mwhybark at 7:14 PM on November 13, 2009


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