Magic the Gathering

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI first encountered Magic the Gathering sometime in the early 1990s. I was at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, and I noticed some folks playing a cool looking card game in their camp one evening. I think they had come down from Washington state, and they brought this nifty little game with them. The cards were probably from the second (beta) edition.

The game was fascinating. I watched as the beautifully designed cards were twisted to their sides and grouped in odd formations. The game is a duel between two wizards, commanding the elements to fuel their magics and summon creatures. Each player creates a deck containing lands that act as magical resources, or mana, and spell cards or creature cards that are used to force your opponent into submission. I was hooked immediately, but when I got home and tried to find some cards, I was sorely disappointed. Magic the Gathering was nowhere to be found in the Central Valley of California.

Eventually, a new edition that featured a white border instead of the original black border was released and made its way into my eager hands, or it may have been the Arabian Nights set that I was able to get at first. Either way, my friends and I played the game every chance we got. We picked up the Antiquities set, and later the Dark, Fallen Empires, and Legends sets. We spent a stupid amount of cash on boxes and boxes of cards, but we just loved the game.

The game was rough, and new cards created new problems, especially when timing of an event was called into question. The rules arguments between myself and my friend Thom became legendary. We created our own rules for multi-player games and team games. One of the more crafty members of our group, Julie, created deck bags adorned with mana symbols that matched our playing style. Magic provided us with a couple of years of really good times.

A few years later, I sold about a dozen of my cards and made back most of what I had spent on all those boxes. The rest were stolen soon after, and I was left with a single copy of a Scheherezade card from Arabian Nights that I had used as a bookmark. The Magic the Gathering train had left the station.

Years later, when I was teaching high school, I noticed some students playing Magic during lunch. Within a couple of weeks, I was back playing Magic with students during my lunch hour. The game was now on its eighth edition, and many of the issues that had been the source of so many arguements years ago, had been solved. It was great to play again. I even arranged a few tournaments for the students.

I’m out of the classroom now, but I still play occasionally with friends. It’s a great game as long as you don’t get caught up in the collectible aspect of it.

If you haven’t tried Magic the Gathering, here’s my advice.

Buy a set of pre-made theme decks. These decks will be based on the color of the mana, red for fire, white for protection, etc. Get a buddy and play a few games with each of the decks until you get a feel for the game. Once you’re comfortable with the game mechanics and the stack sequence, then choose two of the theme decks and use them to create your own deck. Rinse and repeat. Whatever you do, don’t go all crazy and start collecting booster packs. I’ve been down that road, and it’s rough on your wallet. Just buy some cards, used ones are good too, and play the game with your friends.

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