It might as well be called Magic the Cat-herding given how I’ve been playing

ANOTHER Magic the Gathering themed post, because the great thing about writing this is I can talk about whatever I want. That’s where the perks end though.

Magic: The Gathering Arena has been in beta for some time now. I’ve had beta access for around a month. The NDA was lifted before I even got to start playing, so I’m free to get out there with my thoughts. I don’t know that anybody was asking for them, but since when did that stop me from being a loudmouth?

I’m loving it. Seriously. It’s a deliberate dig to cut into the casual market of which Hearthstone has taken a chunk. I don’t know how to play Hearthstone, so coupling that with an IP that I’m very into makes this tailor fit for me. To be honest, while I’ve been playing Magic for 18 years now, I’ve never been a part of any structured tournament scene. I’m a casual scrub for life and that fits me like a glove. I mean, it must’ve been at least ten years since I last put together a 60 card deck. It’s been EDH all day even before it earned the moniker “Commander”. Putting more than one of a card (outside basic lands) into a deck seems like a total novelty. You mean I can run more of the effect I want instead of trying to find analogues? Get right out of town.

What this all means, is that I’m actually getting to experience a metagame for maybe the first time. Seeing which decks are dominating, adapting to counter these strategies. It’s a hoot! Well, I’ve had more than enough of The Scarab God to last an eternity of lifetimes, but outside that it’s neat. The cool thing too is that barely any of these decks are super tuned, especially ’cause the ranking system keeps me in league with other mediocre players. So my win rate is up and down all the time. It keeps things exciting. Well, I’m saying that after a night of more wins than losses, a rarity if I’m being honest. The economy has been given a boost since I started playing, with higher rewards for wins and a set of revamped quests. It’s quite possible to earn a number of boosters each week. I’m also very much pumped for Dominaria draft this weekend, which I think is gonna cost around 5000 gold, or the price of five boosters. At this stage it’s looking like you should be able to get 2-3 drafts per week with a moderate record. Not too shabby for a free game.

Now, what kind of decks am I building? First I started with some silly GW go wide lifegain token deck. I pulled a Crested Sunmare and two Regal Caracals, so I saw a theme coming together. I coupled them with a bunch of small critters that made tokens (Martyr of Dusk, Jungleborn Pioneer, Pride Sovereign) and embalm creatures (Sacred Cat, Angel of Sanctions). I only had one Anointed Procession, but it did work. I’ve been slowly adding to the deck over time (Mouth//Feed is surprisingly great. Like a variant on Call of the Herd) and it’s fun to play. Plus white has such great removal that I can handle a Scarab God or two.

In my heart of hearts, however, I wanted to sleeve up some RG Monsters deck. When I figured out how Wildcards worked (you can get any card, not just another copy of a card you already have) I cashed in all of mine to put it together. 4x Llanowar Elves, 4x Drover of the Mighty, 4x Steel-Leaf Champion, 3x Jadelight Ranger, 4x Rekindling Phoenix and a couple of bits of removal. Sometimes it curves out something ridiculous like Llanowar into Jadelight into Phoenix and my opponent is just dead. It’s fun, but Magma Spray isn’t protecting me from Scarab God quite as much as I want it to be. Struggle//Survive has been an excellent metagame addition. It’s putting in work.

Last night on a whim I put together some absurd pile. Ramp for ramp’s sake. 4x Llanowar (the way all my decks start), 4x Drover of the Mighty, 4x Grow from the Ashes and everything one of I have that costs 5 or more. Lyra Dawnbringer, Tishana, Overflowing Insight, Zepala, Vraska, then some more card draw/countermagic. It’s downright silly, leading me to this Magical Christmasland scenario. Yes, that’s a 30/30 Tishana under the protection of Shalai. Yes, I have Anointed Procession, giving me a bunch of 3/3 lifelinking cat tokens. Unsurprisingly I won that one after River’s Rebuke-ing his board and playing Shalai with counter magic backup.

I’ve had this much fun without paying a cent. I’d practically be losing money by not playing.

Advertisements

A Time of Ice, Ice, Baby.

Magic the Gathering post. Usual disclaimer applies. If this isn’t your thing, come back tomorrow.

Everybody’s working for the weekend. Thing is, so often “The Weekend” means late nights and sleep ins. As a 31 year old, there’s very little more amazing than having daytime plans. Every time it’s like a freebie. You finish up at like 4pm and you still have the whole night ahead of you. So what did I do today? Well if you read the disclaimer right above, you should be able to guess pretty easily. I played Magic.

To clarify, I woke up at 7am like a child all excited because I had time to play MtG Arena. After several hours (and a bunch of wins for once), I got ready to go out for a friend’s birthday draft. In other words, more Magic. Dominaria is one of the best sets in years and the limited format is fantastically diverse. I’ve got another draft coming up Thursday night and I can’t wait. If you’re still hanging onto my words here, I might as well get into the draft details.

I first picked a Seal Away out of an otherwise unremarkable pack. I felt gratified being passed an On Serra’s Wings, then solidified being passed another On Serra’s Wings. A third pick D’Avenant Trapper made me think there was something to this whole white Historic archetype and I wasn’t under any pressure to grab another colour. Then fifth pick I saw an Academy Journeymage. I knew UW Historic was pretty strong and that the format was decently slow. I took it from an otherwise unremarkable pack and tried to tell myself I didn’t need to commit just yet. A sixth pick Shana made me question my decision, before finding another Trapper. I knew I was white, I didn’t know my secondary colour. I saw a pack with another Journeymage and Naban, a combo that seemed all kinds of unfair. Still, there was a Blessed Light in the pack, which I knew I’d play either way. Maybe others would fight over the two wizards. I resolved to see if they tabled before making my decision. I rounded out the pack with a bunch of strong white cards, a Blink of an Eye and Naban coming something like second to last. UW Historic for sure.

Pack two is when things got nutty. I first picked Time of Ice, got another Journeymage (dreams coming true) and Helm of the Host. Somehow I was passed another Time of Ice (with a sad pick over Raff Capashen, who I knew wouldn’t table), which made me realise there were zero other blue drafters. I got another D’Avenant Trapper, Naru Meha (copy my blinks?) and a last pick Cloudreader Sphinx. Blue was right open. My last pack gave me a Baird, a third Journeymage, a second Blessed Light and a couple of spare Deep Freezes. A late Tempest Djinn made me question just how many islands I’d need to run it. I ended up putting Aesthir Glider into my deck instead, since it triggered heroic.

Altogether the deck looked something like this:

Creatures (13):

1x Naban, Dean of Iteration
3x D’Avenant Trapper
1x Aesthir Glider
1x Academy Drake
1x Sanctum Spirit
1x Baird, Steward of Argive
1x Naru Meha, Master Wizard
3x Academy Journeymage
1x Cloudreader Sphinx

Noncreature (10):

1x Seal Away
1x Blink of an Eye
1x Deep Freeze
2x Time of Ice
2x On Serra’s Wings
1x Helm of the Host
2x Blessed Light

Land (17)
9x Island
8x Plains

It was absurd. My curve was higher than I’d normally play, but this wasn’t what I’d call a problem. The one time I faced an aggro deck I pulled out a Blessed Light and Blink of an Eye for a Gideon’s Reproach and another Deep Freeze. It routinely did silly things. Naban multiple times let me a) cast Journeymage for 3U and bounce two creatures, which was especially backbreaking against tokens. In several games I played Time of Ice with another in hand. It was mean. In one game I bounced the Time with the third trigger on the stack and got to immediately replay the saga. I once had Naban and two D’Avenant Trappers out. I played Naru Meha and discovered that Naban lets you get double triggers from any ability a wizard triggers. I got to tap down four creatures and swing for the win. Helm of the Host was predictably unreasonable too. If it wasn’t copying Journeymages to make my opponent’s life hell, it was getting Bairds to stop them from attacking or Aesthir Gliders for unblockable flying fun. For me that is, not my opponent.

I won the draft, which was a remarkable experience after punting so badly last week. Even if I was playing my least favourite colour combination, winning for once was actually pretty neat.

Teh Fire, Teh Feri

Magic the Gathering post. Usual disclaimer applies. If you’re not into the game, come back tomorrow for more relevant content. Like when I inevitably talk about poop. That’s relatable, right? If you are into the game, AutocardAnywhere is a useful Chrome extension to have.

Happy Dominaria pre-release day everyone. I’ve been psyched for this set ever since it was accidentally leaked. I started playing the game waaaaay back in the year 2000 (or as it was commonly known, the Willenium). Invasion was my first set and couldn’t have found a better time to start. Multicolour cards, big splashy dragon legends. War on a planetary scale. Kavu being kavu. Aces all around. Ergo, the plane of Dominaria held a special place in my heart. My parents got me the Invasion novel for my birthday and I spent years reading all of the trashy fantasy novels in order to devour the flavour of the game I loved so much. Dominaria the set then felt like a homecoming. New takes on some of my old favourite characters. The concept of legacy and history, destiny coming full circle. Juicy stuff. The set looked wonderful and complex, with strong build-arounds for EDH, standard and limited alike. The removal was solid and the format seemed to promise some actual interaction. My question then, was how pre-release day would play out.

Have I done enough of that stupid food blog recipe bullshit yet? You’re all “where’s the fucking decklist” and here I am self-fellating with unnecessary preamble. Look, here’s your goddamn decklist. Cast your eyes upon it and feel disgusted:

Creatures (10):
1x Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
1x Sergeant-at-Arms
1x D’Avenant Trapper
1x Pegasus Courser
1x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1x Two-Headed Giant
1x Keldon Raider
2x Skizzik
1x Siege-Gang Commander

Non-Creature (13):
2x Shivan Fire
1x Short Sword
1x Seal Away
1x Dub
1x Forebear’s Blade
1x Wizard’s Lightning
1x On Serra’s Wings
1x Call the Cavalry
2x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1x Gilded Lotus
1x Blessed Light

Lands (17)
3x Island
6x Plains
7x Mountain
1x Mountain (foil) :p

For once, my pool was fucking ridiculous. I had a Jhoira I didn’t play, because it felt unnecessary. There was an abundance of efficient removal and some truly insane spells. It didn’t look like I had a lot to activate Valduk, but somehow he always seemed to get stacked up. Aside from Short Sword (which was just efficiently costed. Sometimes you’d cast him on turn four and immediately equip to get an elemental). Once I dropped Forebear’s Blade and Dub on him and attacked for 14. It was double-plus swell.

It turned out I had a bunch of Historic stuff and accordingly, D’Avenant Trapper did work. A lot of the time it was letting something beefy get through, but I can imagine she’d shine in a RW equip/aura shell, letting you aggro all over unprepared poindexters. On Serra’s Wings was straight up nutty every time, especially in accordance with the aforementioned D’Avenant Trapper. Whatever you drop it on is very hard to block and makes it nigh impossible for your opponent to race. God forbid you drop it on something that already has first strike. It’s basically like assembling an Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

As I mentioned, my pool was beyond reasonable and utterly stacked with bombs. Even if I wasn’t playing green, Shalai was astoundingly strong. Base stats above the curve and the hexproof ability shat on Icy Manipulator all day. The only way I could use her activated ability was with Gilded Lotus but it never came to that. Very silly card. It was also my first time getting to play Siege-Gang Commander in limited. Yeezus Christ it was a beating. Such a versatile card. Not only does it put down 5 power for 5 mana spread over four bodies, but if you untap you often have 6 direct damage sitting on the board. If you’re playing a rampy deck, 8 damage. Insane.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Teferis, right? I couldn’t believe it when I opened one. You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when the second showed up. Teferi was amazing every time. At least three times I found myself with a Teferi stranded in hand because the first one wasn’t dying. The +1 ability was insane. You’re outdrawing your opponent, and untapping the mana means that even in the absence of a blocker, you can still potentially defend him on your opponent’s turn. I happened to have a bunch of instant speed removal (Shivan Fire, Blessed Light, Seal Away) that really came in handy and took opponents by surprise. I was wary of the second ability putting him down to 1 loyalty, but honestly planting the creature third from the top gave several turns to shore up defences. It was like casting Delay on an on-board creature. I never lost a game when I had Teferi out. Then again, I never lost a game. I split with my opponent in the last round, but we played three games for fun and I won each of them.

When skill fails you, luck sure comes in handy. Dominaria totally delivered.

Maybe if they believe in the heart of the cards, we’ll all be fine.

Magic the Gathering post. As always, if you’re not into that, come back tomorrow.

Every once in a while I’ll buy large piles of Magic cards from people. I used to use Trademe back in New Zealand. Half the fun was rifling through in search of hidden gems. It was great. Bunz Trading Zone in Toronto has opened up these avenues once more. Occasionally users will post collections for trade. Once I put my feelers out to see if someone had a specific card. It took all of five minutes to get a response. Within hours I was at his place, looking through his old cards and finding all kinds of gold. The other day a guy posted about a collection of 7000+ bulk commons/uncommons and tokens he was looking to clear off his floor. I got in quickly and offered him a couple of tallcans. He accepted and I picked them up. Nice dude. I went home and spent 4+ hours pulling out everything of value. The value well exceeded the $10 I spent on beer for the dude. There were so many handy staples I’d given up when I left New Zealand (and dropped a large box of commons/uncommons at my local game store for new players to pick over). I sorted it all into colours, leaving the rest of the sorting for another night.

Having taken everything worthwhile, I wondered what to do with the box. There were still thousands of cards that were surplus to my needs. I realised I could put it back on Bunz to blow the mind of a new player. There were tons of great resources in that big ol’ box. A friend of mine chimed in saying her kid loved the game. I said he was welcome to them and all was good. Then I realised I had an opportunity to do something nice. Her kid is six and frankly, the whole box would overwhelm him pretty easily. Not saying he’s dumb, just saying it’d be way too much for him to mentally absorb. He’s a kid, but the game is recommended for 13+. It’s pretty complicated for a six year old. I resolved to go through the leftovers and make some simple decks he could play with his friends. I’d try to balance them, showcase different playstyles and allow them to discover what exactly they enjoyed about the game. I tried doing clean, basic concepts. I thought about what sort of effects would be awe inspiring for kids. What sort of creatures would seem super cool? Stuff like dragons and angels, right? I also tried to put myself into the mind frame of a six year old to think of how I could encourage simple maths, but edge in with some ever more challenging gameplay too. I was also hamstrung on some numbers, which is why there are two and three ofs. The decks I put together were Red/Green Landfall, Black/White Tokens/Lifegain and Blue White Control/Prowess. Here they are.

Red/Green Landfall:

Creatures:
4x Scythe Leopard
3x Snapping Gnarlid
4x Makindi Sliderunner
4x Valakut Predator
3x Khenra Charioteer
2x Grove Rumbler
3x Territorial Baloth
1x Shockmaw Dragon

Noncreature Spells:
3x Prey Upon
2x Magmatic Chasm
4x Lightning Strike
3x Hunt the Weak

Lands
10x Forest
10x Mountain
4x Evolving Wilds

Great, right? The gameplan is simple: Play creatures, pump them with lands, use removal to clear blockers and/or trample over. Evolving Wilds could be a cool level up moment for the kid, realising that he could get a double landfall trigger. Plus there’s a sweet dragon to rain fire down on one toughness creatures. Awesome.

Black/White Tokens/Lifegain:

Creatures:
4x Typhoid Rats
4x Mardu Hordechief
3x Ampryn Tactician
1x Healer of the Pride
3x Kalastria Nightwatch

Noncreature Spells:
3x Bone Splinters
3x Moment of Triumph
4x Raise the Alarm
3x Moment of Craving
3x Painful Lesson
3x Recover
2x Campaign of Vengeance

Lands:
10x Plains
10x Swamp
4x Scoured Barrens

Home run! Play lots of little critters, pump the team, gain life, removal spells. A nice well rounded deck that should be easy to play. I figured kids would get a kick out of taking down a huge hulking beast with some teensy rats. Plus new players always love lifegain. I was pretty stoked with this one.

Blue/White Control/Prowess:

Creatures:
4x Fan Bearer
4x Niblis of Dusk
3x Student of Ojutai
3x Ringwarden Owl
1x Serra Angel

Noncreature Spells:
4x Disperse
4x Turn to Frog
4x Accumulated Knowledge
4x Luminous Bonds
4x Cancel
1x Sleep

Lands:
9x Plains
10x Islands
1x Azorious Chancery
4x Tranquil Cove

Tapping, countering, card draw, lifegain, turning stuff into frogs. I feel like this one is likely to be a hard sell (do new players enjoy control decks? I never did) but teaches valuable game skills. It’s probably the hardest one to play right, but maybe also the most powerful deck? Not sure.

So I put all these decks together and felt pretty chuffed with myself. I was excited to be able to teach this kid how to play and looking forward to him and his friends discovering the magic (pun kinda intended) of the game. Then I realised that all the decks were still way too complicated. How many concepts would I be introducing to them? Trample? Instants? Activated abilities? I should’ve started with vanilla creatures, possibly some flying and a couple of sorceries. I feel like this is gonna be way too much for a six year old. Am I underestimating a child’s resilience? I sure hope so. I put so much work into trying to balance them and now I’m worried it’ll all blow up in my face. I haven’t even taught someone to play for years. Aww geez. All I wanted to do was a nice thing for some kids. Will it all be wasted effort?

I sure hope not.

Hur hur hur. Token play at that game.

Magic the Gathering themed post. My usual disclaimer: If you’re not into it, come back tomorrow. Until then, I’ll be here talking about turning cards sideways.

I had an idea for an EDH deck. At the moment, it’s pretty loose. I know the kind of cards I’m interested in throwing together, but I have no concept of how they’ll mesh. It seems goofy and altogether quite fun. So often token decks tend to go wide. With this one, I wanna go weird.

Temur Tokens.

It all started when I saw Reef Worm spoiled for Masters 25. I’ve long been curious about strange cards like Reef Worm. It reminds me a lot of Mitotic Slime, which feels like a pet card I’ve never used. I look at the two of them and think about stuff like Warstorm Surge or Pandemonium. I like the notion of having them backed by a sac outlet like Goblin Bombardment or Greater Gargadon. Think about it, Warstorm Surge + Goblin Bombardment + Reef Worm? That’s 21 damage right there. If you used Mitotic Slime in place of Reef Worm you’d have 19. God forbid you had an Ogre Battledriver or Into the Web of War on the board, right? That seems all kinds of sweet.

Temur Tokens.

There are a heap of temur cards that make weird or unconventional token types and that fascinates me. Straight up Selesnya Tokens is such an overdone concept. Plus the only thing better than amassing wacky tokens, is doubling the amount of wacky tokens you have. Parallel Evolution? Parallel Lives? Second Harvest? Just think of all the camarids!

Why this colour combination? Well green obviously has the support cards, red gives you reach/sac outlets. Blue? Blue has your quirky generators. Cackling Counterpart, Supplant Form, Clone Legion, Stolen Identity, Spitting Image, Faerie Artisans, Rite of Replication, Mirror Match, Mirror Mockery, Mirrorpool, Aether Mutation? Artifact Mutation? Hell, why not chuck Soul Foundry in there too?

While we’re thinking on how to get more tokens, what kind of tokens would we want? Dragonmaster Outcast makes dragons. So does the rarely used Sarkhan Unbroken. I could finally find a slot for Arlinn Kord. I’ve had a fondness for Chronozoa over the years. Has its time come? Are there any great Embalm cards that’d fit in? Glyph Keeper? Vizier of Many Faces? I’ve always wanted to see if Goblin Rabblemaster can still tick up the damage in a multi-player format. I could even throw in Hanweir Garrison and Hanweir Battlements. When else am I gonna get that chance? Feldon of the Third Path is such a sweet card dripping with flavour. MY deck could ooze flavour (and be flavoured with oozes too. Tons of neat ooze token critters in this format). Dragonlair Spider and Dragon Broodmother are both big and fun. Tendershoot Dryad is no doubt gonna become a format staple, and with all these tokens I’m sure to be #blessed instantly. I’ve always thought of Emrakul’s Evangel as being pretty junky, but is it the right type of junky to upgrade our baby tokens and trigger Warstorm Surge a bunch? Is Descent of the Dragons another viable option? Bloodforged Battle-Axe isn’t a creature, but it makes a bunch of tokens. Oooh, is there some way that Brooding Saurian

I guess rounding out the deck would be ramp and the usual assortment of ways to protect my board. Heroic Intervention, Eldrazi Monument, Akroma’s Memorial, Asceticism, etc. We want these buddies sticking around.

Also, I think I’ve wanted an excuse to have a deck where I can play a stack of silly, splashy counterspells. I’m thinking Plasm Capture, Spelljack, Overwhelming Intellect, Gather Specimens, Commandeer. Nothing particularly good, but super janky fun that could swing games. That’s the kind of out of control controlling I’m into.

Does that sound like fun to anyone else?

Wandering aloud.

Yesterday’s Magic post made me a little nostalgic. Looking at origin stories is some high quality navel gazing. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I don’t know if I’m entirely done with the topic. Instead of rehashing my experiences playing the game, I’d like to pull back the curtains and take a greater look at the environment in which I flourished. I’m sure you think you know where this is going, right? I’m gonna veer into either a) a wonderfully supportive group of youngsters who bolstered one another into good sportsmanship or b) overcoming adversity and discovering my own self worth through rising above it.

How about c) I played in a hovel surrounded by constant weirdness and barely legal business activity?

Vagabond Takapuna. Neither of those words should mean much of anything to most people. For my teenage years, they were the entirety of my Sundays. Vagabond Takapuna was a small hobby shop located in the bustling heart of the Takapuna Village. When I say bustling I mean a cluster of dilapidated foreclosed storefronts. I think back in the 80s it was well regarded as a boutique shopping experience. I’d say it was our safe haven, but I hesitate to use the word “safe” anywhere near to Vagabonds. The area was filthy and spottily maintained. There was rubbish everywhere. The homeless dudes were entirely harmless, though you’d often find an empty bottle or two of methylated spirits lying on the ground. For us, however, it was paradise.

The store owner was a character unto himself. Dodgy Dave, we called him. An entrepreneur through and through. He bought the place in his first year out of high school on what I think was a small loan. He was all of 18 years old. For some time he couldn’t afford a phone line, so he’d siphon one from the hairdresser upstairs for outgoing calls. He didn’t play any of the games, but Dave had a knack for sniffing out a trend. He was a dealer by any other word. He was one of the few small stores around that not only sold Warhammer, D&D and Magic products, but provided play space. Best of all, there was a ne’er used courtyard with tables and chairs that doubled as an outdoor play zone in the summer. If it rained we’d just play on the dirty old village floors upstairs. At least they were covered. We made do.

Dave did alright for himself, especially as a young small business owner. The game that put him on the map, however, was Pokémon. He sunk everything he had into the Pokémon TCG and it made him a household name in the surrounding areas. A vibrant playground arose from the phenomenon and the Vagabond family grew. I don’t know why parents felt safe leaving their kids there. Hell, I’m not sure why my parents thought it was a positive environment for an 11 year old, but things worked out. Despite how dire everything looked, I never heard of anything happening to a single child. We took care of our own. With a bit more money coming in, Dave hired a couple of guys to run the store while he pursued a business degree. Oh, and bought a Porsche. I think he was still in his early 20s. Vagabond bubbled along happily, with its constant crowd of misfits and weirdos.

As the years passed, Dave would rarely come into the store. If he did, it’d usually be to brag about some kind of business venture he’d discovered. I still remember clear as day this one time he walked in with an ear to ear grin. “Hey guys” he said “you’re looking at a soon-to-be millionaire.” We figured it was Dave just talking shit, but we listened anyway. “There’s this new show in Japan, it’s massive. Nobody here knows about it yet. It’s about this card game, like Magic, but here’s the thing: You can buy the cards in real life. I’m already set to become Auckland’s prime distributor. I feel like getting a boat!”

As always, Dave was right. Turns out Yu-Gi-Oh was a smash hit.

With all the cash, Vagabond moved away from the Takapuna Village and into a high end strip shopping area. It was bigger. Cleaner. It had a dedicated phone line. The atmosphere was brighter too. Things were great. Dave bought his boat. He opened a downtown location. We saw less of Dave as the years went by, but he’d pop in periodically. He kept the stores, but began investing in property. I think at some stage he was sourcing medical supplies for in demand nations. Interesting guy.

So that’s the backdrop for my formative years as a burgeoning geek. Nothing fancy, but a lot of substance. You know what? I’m glad for all the grit. Despite how it sounds, there really was something special about the place. The community was as patchwork as the environs, but you know what? It was ours.

Now the players? Well there are some stories there…

Did I just cast Ancestral Recall?

Magic Magic Magic. It’s all coming up Magic right now. I swear I spent most of the weekend absorbed in this game. I collectively streamed around eight or nine hours of GP Indianapolis, then went off this afternoon to draft. I’m a 31 year old man, where did this all come from? How has my hobby percolated for the past 17+ years to reach its current fever pitch? Let’s Time Walk back to the year 2000, fresh from surviving a silly bout of worldwide hysteria.

Come to think of it, let’s jump back a year or two from that. In intermediate school I was obsessed with Pokémon. How obsessed? Well I knew the alt code to do the é thing without looking (alt+130). I played all of the games and made sure to read up on “Pikablu” and the rest of the rumoured pokémon from the upcoming Gold and Silver games. I was the prime demographic for the Pokémon TCG. I loved it and dived in deep. My friends all played and we had a vibrant kitchen table scene. A casual gamer at heart, I had no interest in entering tournaments. I just wanted to play with my mates. Skip forward that year or two I mentioned and their enthusiasm had waned. Most of my buds had outgrown the game. I needed a new hobby and fortunately, one of my old Pokémon TCG mates was happy to oblige.

I’m sure I didn’t bury the lede. It was Magic the Gathering. The cards looked strange and old. The art was interesting and evocative. The rules were complex and dynamic. I spent lunchtimes watching my friend play in the library with a couple of other guys. He had a green deck that accelerated out big creatures that his opponents had trouble taking care of. Llanowar Elves and Blastoderm. Seal of Strength and Saproling Burst. It looked awesome. I tried to pick up the rules by watching, but it was slow going. The metagame shifted. My friend put together some deck called Thunder Puppy with huge under-costed creatures like Mungha Wurm and Bog Elemental. I saw how powerful black removal was, destroying these huge creatures out of nowhere. Notorious Assassin seemed an impossible threat. Someone brought in an Enchantress deck that was crazy good. It pumped out small creatures that got enormous when lingering enchantments pumped them up. Then they’d refuel, drawing cards for each enchantment they played. I wanted in, but I also didn’t have much in the way of money. They taught me the rules more then lent me their decks to join them. It was great.

My friend bought a box of Mercadian Masques and we made decks out of the commons to battle each other. I made an aggressive green one, unable to forget my friend’s initial deck. After we’d played a bunch of matches, he let me keep my deck. I kept thinking of that Enchantress deck I saw and collected all the enchant creatures (now named auras) I could. My friend convinced me to shift into green/white to take advantage of flying and other forms of evasion. The deck got better. I started winning sometimes. On weekends I’d go back to Vagabonds, our old Pokémon TCG stomping ground. There I spent most of my teenage Sundays. It was basically my church. I played more and more, making a ton of decks. I met a bunch of eccentric characters (including my first girlfriend). Some of those friendships are still in place. When I left Auckland back in 2013 (yup I fast forwarded 13 years), I brought all of my decks with me. I figured I could widen my social circle in Toronto by meeting other players.

It took a while. At work I saw someone messing around with a card game they were working on and said hi. They told me that there was a small circle of Magic players in the building and said they’d be happy to introduce me. I had my in. The Magic playing group were great. All older guys, relaxed and played for fun. Nobody was cutthroat and the environment was super friendly. We played drafts, had EDH nights and started hanging out for non-Magic reasons. Over time I assembled a larger group of friends who were into the game and sorted out a Facebook group for us to organise games. It’s become one of my central friend groups and a cornerstone of my life here.

The game has expanded beyond a hobby into a real passion. I love it. I’m always excited to get time to play. I love seeing how the wider game has evolved over time. When I do go to card stores to play, I adore to see kids being excited out of their minds like I used to be. If I play them, I’m encouraging. I don’t talk down and try to help them out when I can. It’s so fulfilling to see how their eyes light up when I hand them a stack of my draft chaff for their collections. I remember being flabbergasted when adults gave me tons of cards for free. The cards aren’t worth anything to me now, but they’re worth the world to them. I’m happy to have become the kind of adult player I looked up to as a teenager.

I flat out love this game. I read endless articles on different formats and decks. I spend hours watching streamers follow strategies I’d never consider. My interest in tournament Magic has evolved to the point where I’m happy to watch as others would consume Football matches. Magic is a huge part of my life now. I’ve got an abundance of memories from my years spent playing and have no intention of slowing down.

I guess you could say I’m under its spell…