Welcome back to The Big Three exploration! Today, we’re dawning some wizard robes, getting out some twenty-sided dice and… Wait, I’m talking about a card game today, right? I am? Okay. Good. I was terribly confused for a minute there. And if you get that joke, congratulations, you nerd you!
Magic the Gathering (shortened to Magic or MTG) would be given life in 1993 by Wizard of the Coast and Richard Garfield.
Now, imagine: The height of the speculative collector’s boom. And what’s this? A game? Where certain elements of it will be printed in smaller batches? Thus making them rare? And a small devoted community willing to purchase these rare products? And you can buy booster packs which might yield a greater return AND make you better at the game? Add in a healthy dose of “this will ruin your kids because I think it featured a pentagram somewhere” and you end up with a game that defines the Trading Card Game/Collectible Card Game market. Twenty one years later (this is the part where you feel old) the game continues to have a very devoted following with a huge competitive circle.
Much like Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic was also part of the background radiation of my life. As I searched high and low for the Holy Grail (aka the 1st Edition Holographic Charizard, Hollow Be Thy Name, Thy Cartridge Be Red And It’s Anger Be Swift), Magic would always be right next door looking big and imposing and intimidating, with all the older kids buying them. As they weren’t Pokemon, Digimon, Dinosaurs, or whatever it is I was into at that age, I really couldn’t care.
It’s strange, though, that when I actually picked up Magic I actually quite enjoyed it. I wasn’t confused at all, really! A huge improvement over last week! Take that, card game meant for children half my age! The gameplay is very smooth, and unlike Yu-Gi-Oh the thematic elements and mechanics both seem to work in tandem: In Magic you and your opponent are Wizards in a big-ass duel to the… Possible death, it’s not entirely clear.
You use the elements of the Lands (Mountains, Islands, Plains, Forests, and Swamps) to summon monsters and cast spells at each other to knock your opponents HP (Hit Points) from Twenty to Zero. The types of Land you choose to focus on really changes the game. Forest spells are all big and brawny and hurty, while Mountains are incredibly fast and stabby, Plains are kind of peaceful, and Swamps are creepy and evil. Each of them offer a VERY different way to play the game, making it almost strategy porn after a while!
So why can I not muster up any feelings greater than a “Well, it’s nice?”
I like Magic! I think it’s fun, I have a few decks, the art is lovely and varied, and I love how strategic it can be! But, really, that’s the downfall of Magic: It’s almost TOO strategic. At this point, there is one combination that will always make players groan and want to quit almost instantly: Swamps and Islands, or Black and Blue. This combination can be used to literally make the game unplayable for your opponent. No, not unwinnable: Unplayable. And this is a respected, much used strategy among players of Magic! This is expected!
Magic is a game that has somehow managed to strategize the fun out of it. It is a game where playing come in two flavors: “Well, that was fun” and “That was absolute CRAP.” And I have a beef with that, a very personal one, because if I’m going to lose I want it to be because they were more clever than me, not because they removed any possibility of me BEING clever!
So, do I not encourage people playing a game because of this? No, that’s hardly fair. Despite my complaining I actually do enjoy the game! And I suppose the argument could be made that there are ways around that strategy. Who cares if people find a way to make it so that the right purchases can force a game to bulldoze you?
If you’re conflicted, don’t worry. I am too.
Next week, we’re going to end our exploration of the Big Three with Pokemon the Trading Card Game! See you then!
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Price: $25.00 For a Two Person Starter Box (Duel Deck)