It has been over a decade since I was first introduced to the strange cards and odd language that made up the Magic the Gathering gaming universe. It has been a good half of that time since I have taken up arms and set out to out duel a fellow planeswalker — you know, the powerful wizard role that one assumes once your decks have been drawn.
I spent hours playing the game with a select few friends, whittling away hours in the cafeteria at community college. I would spend good chunks of time selecting my cards and building my deck. You have to be careful to balance low and high cost cards while trying to get the right mix of land cards. If you have never played, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. No matter. Magic is one of those games that is pretty easy to learn but incredibly difficult to master. With the recent release of the tenth edition, everyone has a new opportunity to discover (or rediscover as the case may be) why the Magic world is, well, magic.
Back in the day, my friends and I would head off to the hobby shop and get a starter deck or two and a couple of boosters. The more cards we could get, the better the chance of getting something new and cool. It is a little different these days, especially when it comes to the starter decks. I am getting ahead of myself. If you are a new player, you will probably not want to start with a starter desk. For one thing, they are no longer called starter decks, they are "core decks." You will initially bypass those and grab a two-player starter game.
The starter game was a godsend. Removing the package contents and laying them out before me brought back some memories, but it also showed me how I wish I had been introduced. No disrespect to my geek friends who showed me the ropes, but this would have given me something more substantial to go on when they were not around. The package contains two 15-card booster packs, another pack of 20 assorted land cards, and a quick start guide.
First, unfold the quick start and figure out what you have. This guide is a big poster that guides the first-time players through the early steps, easily laying out the steps you need to take to get a game going while defining some new terms. Of course, I bypassed this initially to rip open the boosters to see what I had. Anyway, after a spending a few minutes reading the guide, you will be ready to start sending creatures forth, tapping land for mana, and casting debilitating spells on your opponent.
The early games go pretty quick. Playing with a couple of boosters will do that. Once getting the hang of that, you will step up to the core sets. This is where things start to turn fun. There are five colors (represented by the different lands) in the game. When you build a deck you will focus on one or two of those colors, never all five. If you try to play three or more colors the deck will get too big and play too slow to get in the needed early damage. Back to the core decks. The tenth edition's decks come pre-themed, one for each color. This is cool because I'm able to pick the color I like best, which going back to my playing days was black. I used to play an all black and a black/white deck; I believe I also had a blue/red deck and a green/white deck. As soon as you crack the deck open, take the stack of fresh cards in your hands and read them. Study what the cards do, and what impact they have on the way you play. Some will elicit an evil grin, others will make you giddy at the prospect of placing them on the table in front of you as your opponent's face sags under the weight of realization.
The core deck that I have is a black deck, and it is a theme called "Evincar's Tyranny." The deck plays well and is rather mean-spirited. It is filled with cards that will make your opponent discard theirs, not to mention burying their creatures while yours attack and regenerate. Just take a read of the flavor text on some of the black cards (or any color for that matter) and you will quickly get the gist of what playing a black deck is all about. For example, from the Consume Spirit card: "Your blood, your marrow, your spirit – all are mine," attributed to Mayvar, minion of Geth.
That brings me to another aspect of the cards. Forget about what they do, forget about how they play, forget even the strength numbers. Pause and take a look at the cards — there is a lot more to them than just their ability. The art is very nice, gorgeous in some cases. I look through the black core deck and I love the designs of cards like "Severed Legion," "Diabolic Tutor," "Unholy Strength," and "Mass of Ghouls." Looking through the boosters of the starter game, there is really nice art on "Firebreathing," "Spirit Link," and "Steadfast Guard." After you take in the art, check out the flavor text. Not all cards have these quotes and such, but they add a little spice. They remind you that this is a universe, not just a game. You can take these bits and fill in the stories of the battles you are in the middle of, create relations, and just have a little bit more fun with the game.
I know, I am sounding a little geeky. I definitely have my moments. Anyway, Magic the Gathering Tenth Edition offers up a nice set of cards. New artwork and flavor text rub elbows with artwork of a more classic vintage. I am itching to get into a few more games and dig up my old decks now!
I marvel at how long-lasting this game has proven to be. While countless others appear and disappear in a flash, Magic has stayed strong. It has outlasted the fad and proven to be a gaming force. What else can I say other than this: Get out there, get a deck and start playing!
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