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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Magic of ... 'Magic The Gathering'

Today in The Cube:

I love Magic The Gathering.
For the uninitiated, this collectible card game (called simply 'Magic' or 'MTG' by its fans) is essentially a wizards' duel: two (or more players), each with a 60-card deck representing their spell 'library' face off and attempt to pare down their opponents' 20 life points. Each player can cast various spells, from summoning fearsome creatures to lightning to outright magical effects designed to tick your opponent(s) off.
The spells run on 'mana,' which you can think of as a kind of magical power generated by different kinds of land cards in the came: red mana from mountains, black from swamps, white from plains, blue from islands, and green from forests. Each spell has its mana cost - to cast a spell, you have to pay the right amount of mana. You might call it "magical ecology": you draw your magical power from the lands you possess, and can only draw (or 'tap' as the game terminology says) so much at a time.
Each mana, and the spells associated with them, have their own powers. Red mana, for instance, is largely associated with power and destruction; black with darkness and death; white with holy might; blue with fluidity and wisdom; green with life and growth.
Though it may sound complex, once the rudiments of the game are learned, you tend to pick it up fast. And there's a surprising depth to it the further you go and the more you play.
I admittedly came late to the Magic craze - I tried to play in junior high but didn't get it. Now, I'm totally into it. I've taught a bunch of people to play and am consistently surprised at how much I learn about the game by taking them on. I'm generally a board game or Dungeons & Dragons guy, but the strategy involved in putting a deck together and battling it out with your opponent is, quite honestly, sublime.
I had an opportunity to play in my first tournament early this year at BashCon, held in February at the University of Toledo, and was taken by the enthusiasm of the community of players. I was trounced, of course, but I still had a good time (and got to keep the deck of cards I put together from packs provided at the tournament).
If my words have made you interested in the game, and you'd like to learn how to play, I recommend checking out the Deckbuilder's Toolkit, an introductory set of nearly 300 cards that comes with a handy-dandy 'How-To' booklet and a guide for how to build a deck. I got one of these (they are updated each year) when I first started playing and found it super helpful.
Wizards of the Coast (now owned by Hasbro), the creators of Magic, have produced a 6-part video series on how to play, which can be found on YouTube. You might want to check it out. I've embedded the first part below.
Any other Magic afficianados out there? Let me hear from you!

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