This Magic Moment

Burninating the deck?

Poorly rendered, but still made me laugh.

At the beginning of 2013, I made a kinda-sorta game resolution to get into some different styles of game beyond what I’ve always done. To that end, I have tried to branch out a little in the games I’ve learned. I already reviewed Last King of Scotland, a light hex-and-counter wargame from VPG, and their Moonbase Alpha is in the hopper for the next couple of weeks as well. I intend to try my hand at roleplaying at some point this year, though when is still pretty fuzzy. Then of course there’s the Star Wars LCG, which has proven to be a reliable customizable game experience for me. But what kind of game player would I be if I never bothered to check out the granddaddy of all collectible games, the venerable Magic: The Gathering? Believe it our not, I’ve gone six years in this hobby without ever playing one of the most influential games ever designed.

What can I say? The arrival of Magic completely passed me by. It has a not-unfair reputation for being an enormous money-sink, and you really need some of your friends to buy in to make it worth your trouble. But a very generous reader offered to loan me a box of his cards, along with some extensive advice on how best to play Magic with my wife, who is in a sense the ultimate skeptic for this kind of game. This involved sending me enough cards to approximate some “Limited” gameplay. We’ve played a few times, using some very basic deckbuilding stuff. We did something of a sealed format, which for the uninitiated is breaking open six booster packs and building a deck with what you have. I think this is clearly the way to play for those who don’t want to hassle with buying single cards and paying insane prices for rares.

What do I think of it? I’ll probably write a full-on column at some point on the experience, but my very limited initial impressions are pretty positive. I don’t have much patience for deck-building on a card-by-card basis, so limiting the pool of possible cards is a good way to make that aspect of it more enjoyable. My wife, however, doesn’t really have much use for that part. A lot of people get a charge out of tinkering endlessly with decks. I think we both find it a little exhausting, though I don’t mind in the setting we tried.

But I was very impressed at how straightforward the actual gameplay was. It’s just not very complicated, easily the easiest CCG I’ve ever even touched on. This was definitely the most pleasant surprise. I didn’t feel boggled whenever I looked at my hand, which surprised me. If I were independently wealthy, I could totally see doing some sealed tourneys and drafts now and then. I’ll actually have the chance to try out some cube drafts later this year, which should be fun. So it’s another game experience marked off the list, but definitely a positive one.

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