The next game in my analog game series is the famous (infamous?) Magic: the Gathering (MTG). It is possible to play Magic in a multitude of ways and although the basic rules of the game are fairly easy to grasp, the devil is in the details. It is a game of sufficient complexity that there are various levels of certification for judges of tournaments so I do not by any means claim to be an expert. Despite this, I’m an avid casual player of the game and I have done fairly well at a variety of game events at card shops over the years. The question becomes, then, what to discuss for a session report when Magic is so diverse in how it can be played.
To begin, MTG in the library. MTG can be an extremely costly endeavour and the community of play around it is sometimes very toxic. As such, I see an opportunity for the library to provide a safe place for getting to know the game. In order to facilitate programming, the library could purchase a few starter decks and perhaps put together an inexpensive cube (see link below for what this entails). This would allow repeat play at minimal cost to the library and help give people a chance to learn the game and see if it is something they enjoy. In addition to this, the library could host regular friendly Magic tournaments where players are able to use library space to compete but bring their own cards.
For an excellent model of creating a friendly and inclusive environment, see the link below. Particular emphasis on welcoming women and LGBTQ+ individuals who are interested in learning the game would distinguish the library and help to create an environment of inclusivity. Furthermore, many individuals who are interested in the game but who are tired of the toxic environment of local game shops may choose the library as an alternative. This would help bring people into the library and foster community space.
For the purpose of reporting on actual game play of MTG, I decided I would discuss the creation of a new deck. Although this may seem out of place in a discussion of playing games, a big part of participating in MTG is the creation of decks. Actual gameplay is just one facet of many in the game. The deck uses the colours of mana blue and green and focuses on mechanics from a particular thematic area of the Magic multiverse known as Ravnica. Ravnica is a plane covered in a city overseen by a multitude of guilds that are based around different combinations of mana colours. Blue and green is the guild known as the Simic Combine and they are eccentric biologists, combining different creatures together in the pursuit of more powerful life forms.
I like the thematic aspects of the deck and this is generally important for me to begin constructing a deck. Furthermore, my good friend and roommate also collects cards and was disinterested in this sort of deck so he passed me a number of good cards to build my deck from. This helped me to keep the cost of deckbuilding down. I went through both my collection and his to find powerful cards for the deck and then gathered a pile of potential cards to include. Then I had to wheedle the list down to about 36 cards, leaving space for 24 land cards (which act as the currency of the game). I wanted the deck to be pretty creature heavy so I distributed those 36 cards as about 26 creatures and 10 other spells. This means the deck tends to create things that attack the opponent rather than casting spells for onetime effects.
I wasn’t able to decide what cards to cut once I had the deck down to 64 cards so rather than try to cut things down blindly I played against my roommate in order to test it out. It was my hope that a number of cards would stand out in playing that were superfluous or unhelpful in the deck. Although it is technically legal to have more than 60 cards in a deck, it is generally not advised because the fewer cards you have the more likely you are to draw the cards that you need. Magic is a game that already experiences a lot of variability based on what you draw so minimizing that is important.
After a number of games, I had won more than I lost and determined a few cards I felt weren’t distinguishing themselves. This let me know I was on the right track with the deck and helped to inform me on how to make some cuts. As you can tell, Magic is a thing of great complexity that can also yield great fun, ambition, and passion.
For an a guide to learning to play MTG, refer to the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GadqHggATe8
For an explanation of what a cube is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNDBTRG6keM
For an excellent example of a friendly and inclusive Magic community, see the following: http://ladyplaneswalkers.weebly.com/