My readers know that I’m on the geeky side, but I’ve never shared exactly how I ended up that way. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my geek origin story: aka how I got into anime, video games, Magic: The Gathering, etc. Today, I’m starting with Magic.
The first time I ever saw a Magic card was when I was in fifth grade. At recess, one of my friends said he had something really cool to show me. It was a card in a plastic baggy — I guess he hadn’t heard of deck protectors yet — Black Lotus.
I wasn’t much impressed. To me it was just a thin piece of cardboard. (And honestly, it’s taken me a while to grasp just how valuable these cards can be. I remember how surprised I was to find a high school friend getting mad at me after I played 52-pickup with his elf deck.) I forgot about cards for the rest of the school year.
That summer, my then best friend, Sharon, told me that she had heard about a fun game from her dad called Magic. It hadn’t seemed that cool to me, despite my classmate’s zeal, but I wasn’t one to question my assertive friend. So we rode our bikes to the dollar store and each picked out a pack. At that time, M:TG was in its fifth edition and I had the choice of buying a beginner pack, a regular pack, or an expert pack. I chose beginner. If I had gotten expert, I can only imagine how valuable those cards would be now.
Sharon’s dad was something of a mythical figure at that point. Sharon told me that his occupation was “Wizard” and she wrote as much on her standardized tests. Technically, he was a computer programmer. But his brooding demeanor and his sudden, mercurial passions made me almost afraid of him. This time, his caprice had turned to Magic, and he was going to teach Sharon and I how to play.
I was awful. I couldn’t get past basic enchantments and creature spells. I sat helplessly as Sharon’s father played her older sister in what seemed to me to be exceedingly complex plays. Sharon seemed to pick it up much more quickly than me, and I felt like I was disappointing them. I was eleven, and I guess this is why they put 12+ on the side of the box. However, eventually Sharon’s father moved on to another project (helping us build a koi pond in the backyard) and we all moved on. I haven’t seen her in years, but I’d love to ask her if she still plays.
In high school, I dug out my old cards and a new friend helped me make a “bruise” deck, which was what we called a black and blue mana deck. I never liked using it and to this day, I’m far more likely to use red, white, and green decks. In high school, I learned to love Magic. I played with single color decks and rainbow decks, one-on-one and in groups. The group I played with most in high school breaks all of today’s Magic norms: we were mostly female with some gay and lesbian members. I especially adored an Arcbound Crusher deck my friend made, but also a green and white healing deck. I rarely made my own decks, but admired my friends who did. I think Memnarch was the most powerful card I’d played against at this point.
In college and beyond, I played off and on, forgetting the game and then remembering it when my workload is light, especially in summer, when I’d go back to visit my high school friends and play with them (as I still do). I started playing casually (which is one step up from kitchen-table Magic which I played in high school) with my boyfriend John, first at our local college card shop, and then at Ri-Ra bar in Bethesda with our meetup group, which if you’re local, you should consider joining. Everyone is extremely accepting even if you’re just starting out or, in my case, ultra casual. I learned how to draft and to identify the difference between common and uncommon cards. Today, I make all my own decks.
What does the future hold? Well, I plan to learn to play Elder Dragon Highlander this summer. I don’t see myself playing competitively anytime soon (I’ll leave that to folks like the talented Lauren Lee), but I definitely plan to keep playing in my meetup group. Craig, one of the most talented members of the group and a PTQ finalist, told me that “you’re only as good as the best player in your group.” For me that means that if I keep playing opponents who are better than I, I will keep learning and stay interested in the game.
Readers, do you have a Magic: The Gathering origin story?