Magic the Gathering: A wistful remembrance

mtgI played Magic: The Gathering (M:TG) for years.  I started at Revised/Fallen Empires era, played until Urza’s Saga, then joined back up around Ravnica and stopped again at Shard of Alara/M12.  It has been a huge influence on my gaming interests, and I’ve had a whole lot of fun with it over the years.

I haven’t played in years, and I’ll probably never play again.

The biggest reason is the amount of investment, and I’m not just talking about money (though that’s a big part too).  If you’re an avid Magic player, it’s mostly taken up your life.  Constant research into new decks, new cards, cards leaving rotation, spoilers for upcoming sets, playtesting, etc.  It’s a job in and of itself, except you probably won’t get paid.

I’ve still dabbled here and there playing limited formats, but I simply don’t have the will or desire to play constructed formats where I have to do all that research and maintain a collection.

However, it did yield some of the most fun times of my life.  The social interaction, the deep complexity of strategy, the excitement when card synergies connect into an awesome combo or deck…it was grand.  I think I’ve chased a similar experience since then.

Part of me wants to dive back in.  Even though I’ve missed years of cards, new mechanics, and design evolution (and all the catchup I would have to do), some of me wants to sling cardboard again.  I would consider myself a reasonably decent player, and maybe above-average in limited formats.  Maybe I could just make a Commander/EDH deck, or dive into Modern or Legacy (which are formats that change far less, so they have less upkeep).  Maybe I could feel the joy I used to have when debating how many Juggernauts are the right amount in my aggro deck, or what sweet sideboard tech I could use to give me the edge at the card shop.

I feel the internet ruined Magic, though.  Deckbuilding is a far less satisfying venture now, since all competent decklists are spread instantly to the playerbase that’s paying attention.  Trying to build a competitive deck is impossible unless you’re one of the best in the world at it, simply because there are only so many concepts, and they’re all cornered days after an expansion.

serra angel
ah, memories.  take 4.

Maybe the internet didn’t ruin Magic, but it ruined my favorite part of it: deckbuilding.  I feel I was a pretty competent deckbuilder back in the day, or at least I was able to wring the most out of intrinsically flawed deck concepts (which is probably what makes me good at limited).

The power creep is weird too.  Way back in the day, it didn’t get much better than Serra Angel, creature-wise.  Nowadays ol’ reliable is laughed at if seen in-game.  This will obviously occur in any game that evolves, but it still feels strange to me.

Maybe I don’t love Magic, just the idea of it as it exists in my brain, in remembrance of old fun times.  Nostalgia can be a motherfucker.

I remember the first time I won a tournament.  Was back in 1998 I think, I was playing mono-green Stompy, or a deck filled with small creatures that tried to overwhelm an opponent quickly.  It was good in its time, since the deck du jour was mono-black Necropotence, and Stompy had a few elements that gave it lots of trouble.  I got a lot of mileage out of that old Stompy deck; I last-chance-qualified for a Junior Super Series with it, after noting that most of the field was mono-black, so I added Whirling Dervish to my main deck (a card that has protection from black).

this guy.  ugh.

I remember hemming and hawwing over my own Necropotence deck along with a friend, trying to tweak it just so so it would have an edge over other Necro decks, as well as some of the other decks we knew we would see at the store on the weekend.

I remember the “worst format ever” in Urza’s Sage block, where everyone played only four decks, and the games were very boring and predictable.  It was just a rock-paper-scissors with four decks, and all four were interminably awful to play against.

I remember playing a ridiculous green/blue “Simic” deck in Ravnica that was terrible, but I still squeezed some wins out of it.  Gosh, that deck was terrible.

One last thought: I think the complexity of the game has turned me off a bit as well.  Not that I can’t handle the complexity, but I simply choose not to.  It’s yet another barrier for entry that I don’t want to overcome.  I’d have to learn years of new rules and mechanics, and then deal with the fact that so many cards are just walls of text.  If I wanted to read that much, I’m at an age now where I’d rather just write or read a book.


The money thing can’t be ignored.  I quit right around when the “mythic” rarity started, and it made new cards cost amounts of money I’m still embarrassed to acknowledge.  Normally new cards, even the best ones, would start out around $20 at the most.  Then Tarmogoyf happened, which shot up to around $40 if I remember correctly.  Then, once “mythic” rarity started, there were some cards that were $80 or more upon release.  Normally cards had to go out of print to get that high, but there they were, a brand new in-print card costing more than a good steak dinner.

Maybe I’ll get back into just limited.  Maybe I’ll try to craft standard-era decks out of commons and be that weird guy.  But I probably won’t.

I won’t say goodbye to Magic, but I’m probably not giving it a call either.

One thought on “Magic the Gathering: A wistful remembrance

  1. Me and my brother have fun playing Magic on Cockatrice since you can build whatever deck you want and it’ll cost nothing. It’s also a great place to playtest since you can have any and all decks at your fingertips as long as you have a deck list. It’s a great way to play some social magic. There are many crazy combo decks that have yet to be made. Personally, I want to see an Align the Hedrons deck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s