I make no secret that I consider myself a nerd. I have a “nerd” job being an IT consultant. I can program software, build websites, repair PCs, and don’t have a tan. I watch anime, play Dungeons & Dragons, like comic books, and play video games. All this while being in my mid-40s. It’s just who I am and that’s nothing for me to be ashamed or embarrassed by.
But in addition to all of those things, one my main and long-standing passions is playing the card game Magic the Gathering. Magic, or MtG, was first released in the mid-90’s and I was introduced to it in 1996 by my friend Mark who also introduced me to D&D.
I fell in love with the complex card game almost from the first time I played. There was an abundance of cards and rules that needed to be combined for players to create “decks” that were played against other players to see who had the best deck. For the most part, I got schooled pretty regularly by my friends who played simply because I only had a few cards compared to them and I didn’t have an excess of cash to buy individual cards to refine my decks to be more competitive.
I played mostly green colored decks, players of the game will understand what that means. Green decks gave me lots of creatures and big creatures that I hoped to use for offense and defense but it rarely worked that way. Only when I played against my other friend John-Mark, who was also new to the game like me, did my beginner quality decks really stand a chance to win.
I didn’t really have an identity of what type of player I was back then. I was still learning the cards, the game, the strategies, etc., but it was stifled by my lack of money and lack of variety. There was only 1 or 2 places in town that sold Magic cards back then and the amount of cards produced were much smaller given the game’s newness.
That all changed when another co-worker, Coleman, was “persuaded” by his new wife to get rid of his Magic cards shortly after their wedding. He knew I liked to play. Hell, he and I would play at work sometimes when we were bored. Coleman was exceedingly nice and decided to just give me his cards. He couldn’t play any more but he knew I would enjoy and use them so he just gave them to me for no money.
It was a great and humbling gift.
Well, among the collection I was gifted in that noble act was a special reprinting of the cards used in the 1999 World Championship for Magic the Gathering. Yes, there is a world championship competition for this card game and players compete for national and worldwide rankings. The deck among the collection I had been given was actually a reprinting of the deck that won that year. In essence, I had a copy of the same deck as the 1999 World Champion.
The deck was unlike anything I had ever played before. It only used red colored cards which was a very different style of play than I was using with my green and white decks. The more I played the deck though the more I enjoyed it. It was a deck that could devastate other players in a 1-v-1 setting but could also annoy an entire group of opponents in group melee games.
My friends all quickly learned to hate that deck with a passion. The special printing of the cards meant that they had an identifiable look to them compared to standard cards. This special look meant that my friends were able to quickly know when I opted to use that deck. On those occasions it was common for them to gang up on me, knock me out of the game as quickly as they could, and then worry about beating each other. They felt my deck was a threat because not only could it kill them but it could just in general make it much harder for them to play anything.
For those not in the know, this deck had two key features that it’s opponents hated. Firstly, it had a card called Wildfire that destroyed a lot things they used like lands for mana (used to cast spells) and creatures (used for offense and defense). And I could use that spell multiple times in a game. Secondly, there were multiple cards that could deal damage directly to a player or a creature. Again, that was something that I could do multiple times a game, often multiple times each round.
The two effects combined for a terrifying effect to those playing against them. I had a bad habit of beating my opponents down to almost death and then stopping. I would drag out the game until I got bored, just using my spells to keep their creatures dead or my opponents unable to play any cards. Then, when I felt I couldn’t stop them any more or that they were on the verge of something that might upset my dominance, I would immediately kill them for the win.
That deck helped me to determine that I was definitely a destruction player who enjoyed keeping the board state (the entire play area where each player placed their cards) in constant danger. I loved blowing things up en mass. Why damage or impact one opponent when I can hit them all at the same time?
These days my collection has grown from 2-3 decks worth of cards to a collection of over 30,000 Magic the Gathering cards and roughly 50 decks to choose from when I play. Among those decks there are a wide variety of concepts and themes but one thing is certain, almost all of them have at least 1 method to disrupt the entire board state. Most of them include multiple though and my favorite decks are still decks that feature that theme above all else.
At one point, me playing Wildfire was so common that we called it “having a party”. I would simply pay, “it’s a party,” and everyone around the table knew what was being played. They’d start scooping cards because they knew Wildfire was about to wreck the board and destroy stuff.
These days I have a deck now called “It’s a Fiesta” because a Fiesta is bigger than a party and it has cards that are similar to Wildfire’s destruction but on a bigger scale. Where Wildfire says each player sacrifices 4 lands and deals 4 damage to each creature, I have one called Worldfire that destroys everything and reduces each player’s life to 1. And there are other cards in the deck that do mass destruction as well. The entire deck is built just to constantly wipe the board and keep my opponents scrambling for resources and creatures.
And just like back in the day, when my friends realize which deck I have, they gang up on me. My son Brandon has become an excellent deck builder and has some truly dominating decks as does my friend Mike. Both Brandon and Mike spend hours researching cards and meticulously planning decks and then there’s me, “just make it all go boom.” My decks can totally disrupt theirs because if I keep blowing everything up then they can’t get the themes of their decks going. The only way they can play their decks is if they keep me from playing mine and that means they have to kill me.
I don’t play competitive Magic. I don’t participate in tournaments. Most of my decks aren’t legal for competitions given their restrictions on which cards can be used in each competition. I play for fun which means that if we own the card then we can use it. I have a high number of cards that are considered “banned” for official tournaments and I like to use those cards in my decks.
I play for fun, just like my friends, but it seems they don’t think my decks are fun…
Magic continues to put out new cards and I plan on buying them as long as I continue to play. What cards will I use in my decks next year? Who knows but I can safely bet that they are cards that will annoy my friends. They may not win me games but they will allow me to be “a bit of a dick” to all of my opponents at once until they kill me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to win more games than I do but there is some satisfaction in knowing that my decks are so widely hated that my opponents will band together to kill me first. That level of aggression means that my decks are a threat to them, a bigger threat to them than anybody else at the table regardless of which decks everyone else is using. There is something go be respected by earning that level of hatred and fear of my decks.