So, it’s been a long time since I played Magic: The Gathering. As an undergraduate, my buddies and I used to play Magic at pretty much every waking moment. Magic was still pretty new (3rd edition, I think), and cards were still hard to come by. We’d rush to the card store to see if new boxes had arrived, and we were all broke enough that we could only afford a pack or two here or there. We’d play after class until the wee hours of the morning. With Fallen Empires, we pooled our money and ordered an entire box of booster packs, and we wound up with a ton of cards–many of which were kind of lame. And for a couple more months, we kept on–planning decks (to win or to be witty). And then, suddenly, the thrill was gone. I don’t remember that we made a conscious decision to stop playing, but games tapered off, and we found other things to occupy our time.
Since then, my tastes in games have changed. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts about DBA, I am no longer much of a fan of the “game before the game” that takes place with games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles or, I now realize, Magic. (Although maybe I’ve always felt this way. As much as I used to like deck-building for Magic, I enjoyed even more playing starter + three boosters games where we didn’t get to draw on our whole collections.) In any case, I like for my thinking to be focused on the play of the game itself, not the prepping for the game.
So, in our latest foray into CCGs, my buddies and I bought some Magic cards and threw together some decks. We bought some box sets that gave us a ton of land, four boosters, and about 100 semi-randomized cards–all from the 2011 sets. One of the first things my buddy Billy noticed was how many cards that used to be banned in tournament play had been renamed and made legal. (Given that I never played the game on the tournament scene, my knowledge of the game is more limited.) So, we played a few games, and overall it was pretty fun. But Magic is one of those games where your emotions can change pretty quickly–often because the game ends more suddenly than you expected, or because a certain card combination keeps winning, or because you just aren’t drawing the cards that can make your deck competitive. All three happened to me in the last game, so, by the end, tensions were high, and I left playing with a sour taste in my mouth.
So, I’ll definitely play some more Magic next week, but it’s not my favorite CCG (On the Edge takes those honors), and I’m more and more inclined to like “deck-building” games like Dominion, where the preparation of the deck is not external to the playing of the game.