Magic: Back on the Wagon

This is a great writeup by one of our most recently hired employees. I throughly enjoyed the read.

Enjoy!

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Hi, my name is Jeremy, and I’m a recovering nerd. Well, I suppose “recovering” isn’t entirely accurate. To be honest, just remove it from that first sentence and it’ll read more truthfully. I am a great big nerd. On July 10th, though, I revved it up into an arena of nerdiness I had sworn off for over ten years; I played in a sealed deck tournament of Magic: The Gathering, 2011 edition.

I was just out of elementary school when I bought my first Magic cards, and every dollar I obtained from ages ten to seventeen went into my cherished collection. Eventually, though, I gave all my cards to a friend and walked away. And now I’m back, sitting at Uncle’s Games in Bellevue, and signed up for the noon prerelease event that will kick off the brand new Magic edition.

1994 Magic the Gathering Revised Edition #62 - Demonic Tutor U :K: - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com In the processing department of Check Out My Cards I see a pretty wide variety of collectibles come through. I was surprised, though, how nostalgic I became the first time a seller sent us some of his old Revised-editions. “I used to have one of these,” I informed my coworkers, gesturing to a stern looking Demonic Tutor. They smiled politely, not understanding the deep significance. I decided then that it would henceforth be my mission to get more Magic cards up on the site.

This was my first time opening a booster pack in a decade, and as the clock slowly inched towards twelve, I found myself feeling nervous. A broad array of players were slowly filling the cozy shop, and I recognized all the old demographics: young kids accompanied by their parents, teens with their card collections in binders under their arms, a good number of men about my age, and a few older stalwarts in their forties and fifties. How many expansion sets of Magic have been released since I stopped playing? Twenty? I wonder to myself if I will even recognize the terminology. Two boys behind me are excitedly discussing the preview cards that Magic’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, have displayed on their website. One is thrilled that his favorite is back for another round. “He’s not very good,” he concedes about the card, “Well… he’s pretty good. But he’s cool!” That’s the Magic I remember loving. It’s not just a deck; it’s a stack of cardboard heroes.

At 12:03 my name is called, and I’m handed six booster packs by the well-organized guys behind the counter. In my absence from the game I’ve occasionally peeked in, and it has seemed to me that every set of cards they release is stronger than the last. As I settle in at one of the sturdy wooden tables, I wonder to myself what overpowered monsters I’ll get to unleash. I open my first pack.

1993 Magic the Gathering Alpha #287 - White Knight U :W: - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com Every booster pack of Magic contains one rare card, and I quickly flip through to see what the first component of my arsenal will be. “Sealed Deck” tournaments are a different format than regular games of Magic. Each player receives a half a dozen boosters for a total of ninety cards, with which they make a deck of no less than forty. The number forty is misleading though, since almost half of a well-built deck will be different colored “land” cards to power the various spells. The staff at Uncle’s is well-stocked with each of the five lands, and as players finish their tinkering, they approach the register and are supplied with their land cards for free. Selecting which color of land to focus on is crucial for a tournament of this format. My first rare card is red, so as I open my second pack I cross my fingers for a run of good luck and another red rare. It’s a rare land card! I smile, since it is a combination of two colors, red and black. Sadly, my fortune turns. My third rare is white. I make my way through the rest. Green, another white, and then I find it: a third rare white called “Vengeful Archon”. My eyes boggle as I look at how powerful it is. White looks like my color today.

It takes me almost the entire time allotted to deck construction just to browse through my cards and learn their abilities, so as the clock runs out I simply grab my white and green cards and shuffle them together. The minimum deck size is forty cards, but mine weighs in at sixty, obese by sealed deck standards. My name is called out, and for my first game of Magic in a very long time I’m paired up with a teen named Michael. He was born the same year that Magic came out. I feel old.

Michael snagged three green powerhouse cards, and our best-two-out-of-three contest begins with my deck being staggeringly crushed. Back on my heels, I rally my forces and come back to snag a win in game two. Game three comes down to the wire, and on the last turn Michael plays a card that will be just enough to grant him victory — if he wins a required coin flip. He calls heads and I toss it up. Tails. I let out a sigh of relief and shake his hand. These are the moments that make Magic great.

I went on to win about half my games on Saturday. My cards were decent, but so were everyone else’s. Ryan, my final opponent, played a merciless white and black deck that was tuned to perfection, and it was honestly a pleasure to lose to him. Everyone I met at the tournament was incredibly nice, and the sense of overall sportsmanship was tremendous. In the end, my white card that I thought would win me every match wasn’t so overpowered after all. As big and scary as he looked, he didn’t exist in a vacuum, and my opponents were all inventive and impressive in dealing with him. Omar cast a spell that returned him to the top of my deck, and then forced me to discard him. John, a smiling father accompanied by his son and “life coach” Cole, exiled my card to another dimension. It was nice to be proven wrong about my assumptions, and it was even better to see the strong and diverse following that Magic still enjoys.

When I finally had to leave for the day, I drove away feeling that the Magic brand is being well taken care of by Wizards of the Coast. The feel of the game has changed a bit since my younger days, but listening to the energized chatter surrounding me on Saturday I know that the soul is still the same. The crowd surrounding my old hobby is just as enthusiastic and diverse as ever, and they felt like old friends. I don’t intend to dive back into the hobby – I have responsibilities, and a lot less free time now that I’m out of school. All my new cards from Saturday will be posted up for sale on COMC in my Jester account. At the same time, though, I think I would quite enjoy another sealed deck tournament. Since Saturday, my brain has been hard at work coming up with new strategies and card combinations that will surely grant me victory in the future. Hi, my name is Jeremy, and I am still a nerd.

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