in place of a title, imagine Ric Ocasek walking around on the surface of a pool

I guess I could just say, "Hey, I'm playing Magic on Xbox Live this weekend, so check out the details here," but it's more fun to tell a story, first.

In 1993, while killing time between appointments, I wandered into a game shop in the valley. I looked around the aisles, thumbed through the RPG books, talked myself into and then out of buying a ton of unpainted lead figures, and eventually found myself in conversation with the owner.

He picked up a deck of cards, and asked me if I'd heard about this new game called Magic. I was a serious wargamer, with numerous Chaos and Space Marine armies, as well as a folder that was bulging with maps and vehicles for Car Wars. Card games were so beneath me, I don't think I even tried to hide my geeksnort.

He had obviously spent time dealing with annoying nerds (being a game shop owner and all) and he patiently deflected my contempt as he opened the box and showed me the cards inside. Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, he showed me how this wasn't just a card game, but was actually a beautifully-illustrated representation of two powerful wizards using primal and astral energies to duel each other. By the end of his demo, I was sufficiently intrigued, and I bought two decks.

I played the game a few times, but it didn't capture my imagination like the board games and RPGs I loved. The mechanics were interesting, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around advanced concepts, like "tapping" and the mysterious "upkeep." (Perhaps I was not the high-level gamer I thought I was.) I went back to that shop a few weeks later (it must have been near a casting office) and ended up talking to the owner about playing Magic. "It's okay," I said, "but I'm just not that into it."

He reached behind the counter and pulled out a long box. "Maybe you'd like the game better if you had access to all the cards."

"That box has one of every card in the whole game?"

"Yes. It's eighty dollars."

"Sorry, dude, there is no way I'm spending eighty dollars on that."

Yes, for those of you wondering, this particular box had a Black Lotus in it, among other things. Le sigh.

Flash forward about a year. I'm on a Star Trek cruise, and there's a dealer's room on board. One of the dealers sells Magic cards. I'm looking at them, wondering if this game ever caught on, or if this was old stock he was just burning through. A fellow geek sees me looking at the cards, and tells me that he ran Magic games every week. He asks me if I would be interested in playing with him. $20, one starter deck and a couple of boosters later, we duel.

Flash forward a few hours later: It turned out that playing with someone who really knew what Magic was and how the game worked made it a lot of fun to play. It turned out that there was a lot more to the game than just dueling, too: there was deck-building and its attendant strategies! I bought everything that dealer had on the ship, and spent more time playing Magic with this guy and his wife than I did looking at the beautiful Alaskan coastline. (Don't worry, I've since been back to Alaska, and I was able to appreciate its beauty and unobstructed views of Russia.) I don't remember that guy's name, but I can thank and blame him for making me fall in love with Magic: The Gathering.

I was never especially good at the game, but for a brief time, Magic ruled my life. I bought boxes of starters and boosters from my friendly local game shop the minute they went on sale. I had black and blue decks, green and red decks, blue and white decks, and I even had a vicious black and red deck that had just 51 cards in it, thanks to abuse of Dark Ritual.

Right around the Ice Age expansion, though, I stopped having fun playing Magic in tournaments, because it had become an arms race: whoever had the most money and time to seek out the most powerful cards would usually win the game. Unless I was willing to keep buying new cards every few months, I saw a future where the decks I had now would be obsolete, and I wouldn't be able to play competitively with anyone. Because I was never very good at the game anyway, it didn't make sense to me to commit to that kind of investment, so I put my cards into storage, and didn't play again until…

Flash forward to about 2005. Nolan came home from school one day and asked me if I'd ever heard of this game called Magic that some of his friends were playing.

"Sure," I said. "I used to play the hel– er, I used to play it all the time. I still have my cards, if you'd like to see them."

I went into the garage and took my Big Box of Games off the shelf. Inside, in a plastic box with tape around the edges to seal it, were hundreds of Magic cards.

"Wow, that's a lot of cards," Nolan said.

"Yeah. I had a lot of disposable income when I was younger."

"What's that?"

"Something we don't have now."

I took the box into the house and opened it. Most of the cards were organized by type, but a few decks were still intact. Nolan looked over the cards. "This kind of looks like Pokemon," he said.

"Yeah, it's sort of like that, I guess, but not lame," I said. I pulled out two decks and showed him how to play.

Nolan caught Magic fever like a stowaway on a plague ship. I was thrilled to have something to do together, so I naturally encouraged his madness. He started taking my cards with him to school, and using them to successfully wipe the floor with his peers, who apparently didn't know how to defend against the old ways.

Then, one day, he came home very upset. "These idiots at school just print out cards online – fake cards that they get from websites – and put them in sleeves to play with them!"

"That's complete bullshit," I said. Then, "don't tell your mom I said 'bullshit.'"

"I'm not playing with them any more," he said.

"I totally understand that. I'll still play with you, though, and you could always go play at the game shop."

"The game shop smells," he said. Ah, out of the mouths of 14 year-old babes.

"Okay. Well, if you ever change your mind, I'd be happy to take you there.

We played almost daily for a few weeks, but Nolan eventually got distracted by something new and different that didn't involve spending lots of time with his lame stepdad. Le sigh.

Flash forward to 2007. Nolan found interest in Magic again, though he enjoyed deck-building more than actually playing. One day he asked me to take him to the game shop to play, and he came home with a rather amusing story:

"So I went to play with this guy, and when he saw my cards, he got real upset that they weren't in sleeves because they're so old and apparently valuable. He asked me where I got them, and I told them that they were my stepdad's cards."

Nolan didn't ever put his cards into sleeves, as a matter of pride, as a way of showing his opponents that he was using actual cards, not printouts like those douchey kids at his school.

"He actually refused to keep playing with me until I put the cards in sleeves." He did his version of the Comic Book Guy's voice: "These cards are far too valuable! I will not engage in a contest with you until they are protected."

I laughed.

"So he actually gave me some sleeves! I put your cards in them so we could play."

Nolan started going to the game shop three or four times a week, spending his allowance on cards, and building up several formidable decks, including a Sliver deck and a Zombie deck that, while apparently not tournament legal, were feared and loathed by the regulars at the game shop.

Around this time, I started looking at Magic again, and I rebuilt a few of my old decks from memory. I still wasn't very good at the game, and in the arms race portion of the game, Nolan had nukes and I had boards with nails in them, but it was still a lot of fun to play.

Flash forward to about a year ago: I got my hands on a box of Timespiral tournament decks. Nolan and I began playing 2 out of 3 matches using sealed decks (or randomly-drawn decks from the box) and just like that, Magic was fun again.

Flash forward to PAX this year: I was invited to a party celebrating the release of the latest incarnation of Magic, called Zendikar. The people who run Magic at WotC gave me an extremely rare spoiler card, (which prompted someone from D&D to say, "Hey! Wheaton belongs to us! Hands off!") I hadn't looked into the story behind Magic since that cruise in the mid-90s, but I found the concepts inherent to Zendikar – traps, quests, allies, and especially landfall – really interesting and unique to the Magic universe. For the first time in over a decade, I was actually excited to play a new release.

Now, let's flash back to a couple weeks ago: I was invited to play Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers this weekend as part of Game With Fame on Xbox Live. My only memory of a Magic arcade game was something very disappointing on the PC in the 90s, so I wanted to play the Xbox version before I accepted. One download later, I settled into the couch with some green tea and began to play.

A few hours later, Anne came into the living room and wanted to know why I'd been there so long.

"I'm, uh, doing research for, um, this thing…" I trailed off while I counted life, power, toughness, to see if I could end this match – the third or fourth time I'd played this particular opponent – on this turn.

"Research? Because to the untrained eye, it would look like you'd been playing Xbox for three hours."

I finished counting. Yes, I could win this turn. I sent my minions out to do my bidding.

"Well, it's both." I told Anne about the Game with Fame event, and added, "so I need to figure out if I like this game, and if I do like it, if I have any chance of not sucking like the Dodgers when I play against people who actually know what they're doing."

The screen announced my victory. I pumped my fist. "Yeah, suck on that, fucker!"


"Sorry. It's, um." I said.

Anne nodded. She's sadly used to this sort of thing.

"So what's the verdict?" She asked.

"I like it enough to play it for three hours today and probably three hours every day if I'm not careful."

"Oh, isn't that wonderful for you."

"Sarcasm detected!" I set the controller down. "But don't worry, I have too much work to do to even think about playing the hell out of this until I am way into Memories volume two."

I picked up the controller again. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have unlocked a new deck and I wish to play with it."

"Well, have fun playing with your deck."

We looked at each other, playing a game of "who's going to laugh first" chicken. I lost.

I played the game some more, and even though I never did very well, I think they've managed to translate a lot of the fun of the card game into this arcade game. I'm sure I'll get my ass handed to me eleven different ways on Saturday, but I learned a long time ago that the joy I get out of gaming isn't too heavily dependent on winning (except when I'm playing Munchkin with Andrew, but that's a whole different dynamic.)

If you're in the US, and you'd like more information about the Game with Fame events, you can look here. If you'd like information about playing with me, specifically, you can check out this page at If you're outside the US, I can't tell you where to look, because I get the US links, on account of I'm in the US. I bet you could start at and go from there, though. If you can't be bothered to jump through links, just add the gamertag "AtWilW" (get it?) and I guess that'll put you into some kind of pool or queue or something. 

If you're planning to play Magic, and you want meaningful competition, you do not want to play me, but don't worry, because there are several Magic champions and Richard Freaking Garfield just waiting to drag your corpse across every plane of existence and back.

104 thoughts on “in place of a title, imagine Ric Ocasek walking around on the surface of a pool”

  1. I was more or less suckered into learning how to play Magic when I was in college. A couple guy friends told me they were part of this ‘games club’ and they met once a week with a mess of other people to play, well, games. And I thought ‘hey sure, cool!’ so I tagged along. All they played was Magic. ALL they played. I remember my brother trying to teach me once upon a million years ago–so I let them talk me through some stuff. People lent me decks. I didn’t get a lot of it at first… but it was pretty fun, and everyone was really nice and helped me out.
    But my tiny card-playing heart will ALWAYS belong to Munchkin. The friend who taught me (and a couple other people) only played with us the once. Once my best friend and I got the hang of it, and the teaching friend screwed us over in the game… we made a rather sudden, silent, and ugly pact to take him down. Which we did. With gusto. Repeatedly. The first time he laughed with the rest of us, encouraged us, and was generally good-natured about it. That stopped after the seventh or eighth time we did it though. Sadly, our alliance fell apart when she stabbed me in the back later on to prevent me from winning. But that’s half the fun of Munchkin. 😀

  2. I got big into MtG back in the day…had a beta Black Lotus at one point and even managed the Usenet FAQ for a while…but I got out shortly after whatever the expansion was after Ice Age. I got out for the same reasons as you: I couldn’t keep up with the arms race.
    I don’t need another expensive geek hobby, thankyouverymuch, so I think I will stay away. (I don’t think I miss it much. Playing with card sleeves seems too ridiculous to me.) Good luck, though.

  3. Now there’s an idea, Jules! Get your boys to learn how to play the game until they’re expert-level players and then enter them in the tourney as ringers! No one would ever see that coming lol.

  4. I’ll be rich! *mad scientist laugh*
    It would have to be a tourney where I do not know the organizers. Unfortunately, I am friends with the organizers of GottaCon and they probably wouldn’t let my spawn anywhere near the tournies as they know my mad schemes LOL

  5. Dominion is awesome but also hard. Probably one of the best games in terms of concept and replayabilty in recent years. Even without the expansions, the combinations are almost endless.

  6. Years and years ago, as a comic shop manager I loathed CCG’s!I saw my area go from having accepting and well-rounded gaming groups to cut-throat, I’m-better-then-you, stealing off of little kids bullshit. I (wrongly) blamed the game and never played a CCG.
    Then I met my now-husband, who loved Magic and CCG’s in general and listening to him I’ve given thought to playing, haven’t done it yet, but reading this is leading me more in that direction.

  7. As die-hard BattleTech players we would quietly snicker at the silly card-gamers during the monthly game nights at the mall…then they came out with the BT card game. Leave it to Cruel Fate to expose our hypocrisy! We bought into it hook, line and sinker, though we did develop a version that used a map to assuage our guilt.

  8. I remember buying then shelving a bunch of cards like you did.
    Then a guy at the comic store was interested in my cards. “They’re pretty old, mostly were from an expansion called “Legends.. but there are a bunch of antiquities”.
    After he shat himself, I walked away with enough cash to buy my first PC (since my C-64). I maybe spent 100 bucks, got damn near a thousand.
    Nolan’s right.. sleeves are for pussies.

  9. Maybe the store owner wanted to sell you a box of the Collector’s Edition, which was released in Dec 1993 and included one of every card from Beta edition, plus some basic lands. The cards were square cut and they’ve never been tournament legal. Because of the square corners you can’t hide them in a deck with regular Magic cards, even if you use opaque sleeves (the corners mark the sleeves). Maybe you can make yourself feel better by thinking this is what you turned down? :)

  10. Hahaha, awesome!
    There once was a ship called the Jenkins
    Whose Cap’n didn’t care much for thinkin’
    When told, “Land ahoy!”
    He screamed out, “Leeeeeeroooy!”
    And now he’s just sittin’ there sinkin’

  11. Hi Wil, great post, LOL’d a great deal :)
    Your experience of Magic is actually remarkably similar to mine, Geeksnort followed by Spending all my Money and what’s more I also SUCK at it but dammit if you don’t just set the fires burning…now where are my cards?

  12. I got into Magic in the early 90s but only in a casual way, mainly because we didn’t have a local game store and I wasn’t into the tournament scene though some of my mates were. For some reason I kept getting sucked into the card games that nobody else seemed to play – Changeling, X-files, Star Trek etc…
    “If you’re planning to play Magic, and you want meaningful competition, you do not want to play me” well then I hope to meet you in equally meaningless opposition on saturday Sir! (gt: BilboBagshot)

  13. LOL, Wil. You seriously underestimate the number of game industry folks who read your blog. You are sort of our face to the rest of the world, our ambassador to the non-geeks, so to speak. And I remember the squee-fest from a few years ago when you were all like “OMG OMG OMG! I just got an email from Monte Cook!” and Monte was all like “OMG OMG OMG! I just got an email from Wil Wheaton!” It was freaking hilarious to read on both your blogs your mutual squee (or rather, your Mutual Admiration Society not-so-secret handshake). I got (and still get) a good chuckle out of that.
    And yeah, I also failed to buy the entire M:TG set back in 1993, because $80 is a shitload of money when you’re 18. Fast-forward 10 years, and epic facepalm.

  14. Ok, this post has finally prompted me to make an account so i could comment. Its all your fault for my various CCG’s i have played since the mid 90’s… See, back in 1994(i think) i went to this small Star Trek convention in Sioux City Iowa(Maybe Sioux Falls SD). You were the guest i was there to see since you were my favorite character (was 15 or 16 at the time). I think Mark Lenard and Robin Curtis were there also…but it might have been John DeLancey… Anyway… Someone asked you about your hobbies and you talked D&D/RPGs and about this cool card game you were playing called magic, and ya said it was hard to explain but if you liked D&D ya might like the card game. When i got your autograph, i mentioned i played D&D and asked you more about Magic.. and got 30 sec explanation from you on it before i got the “glare” from the dude behind you because i was holding up the rather long line. So i shook your hand and moved on and headed straight for the comic book store after the Con. So, im happy and upset with ya about that. I have had lots of fun with magic, ST:CCG, SW:CCG, Pirates, and now WoW… but also spent more money than i should have on those games.
    Also would like to thank you for actually “talking” with me. That first real impression of you made me a lifelong fan of yours and totally made my day/year. I mean Wesley TALKED to me and would have kept talking if “the man” hadn’t moved me along. Hopefully someday i will get to meet you in person again, and have a conversation without a 30sec time restraint.

  15. My husband is probably the only person on the planet to have owned one – and only one – deck of Magic cards. They were a gift from a friend trying to get him hooked, but neither he nor I cared much for the game. I didn’t even finish playing one full game, I was so bored by it. Guess I’m just not that much of a math geek. :j
    Hubby eventually sold the cards, or at least the ones that were worth anything. I think he got about $30 for them.

  16. +1. I highly recommend Dominion. Amazing replayability. The expansion I’m not sure on yet but the base set is mad gold, so to speak.
    And I used to have a full set of Unlimited MtG cards… with some of the cards being from the Alpha or Beta release. I sold them for farrrr too little. And it the game’s younger days (Arabian Nights) our local group had a deck called the Funky Trapezoid: Lotus, Moxen, Birds of Paradise, Manabarbs, Power Leak, etc. Take damage if you play land, tap land, or don’t tap land. It was evil. And would be worth mad bank today.

  17. I lived in my Island Sanctuary. Behind my Moat, if at all possible. I loved those cards. I combined that with: Tetravus (flying artifact 1/1 with 3 1/1 counters that could become flying creatures), Castle (all untapped +0/2), Life Chisel (sacrifice creature during upkeep to gain life = toughness) and Argivian Archaeologist (recover artifact from your graveyard to your hand). My favorite game was when I got to 230 life before my opponent gave up.
    When it failed it was a quick death, but when it worked it was so much fun.

  18. I like Dominion too, but it looks like they’ll be releasing two ~$45 expansions every year (in the same huge original box size?!), so it’s not exactly a “buy it once” solution, unless you’re OK with owning a limited number of the available cards. I say this because it seems that is what turns a lot of people off Magic — they don’t like knowing there are other cards out there they could buy and play with.
    If you can have fun with a limited card set then it’s possible to play Magic that way without burning out on the cards, with drafting you have a new deck every session. Look up information on “The Cube” (build your own draft set, it can be all commons) or build your own 15 card boosters from the cards already in your collection. Invite friends over for a draft and draft from the cube or the homemade boosters. You can look up rules for a Winston draft if you only have two players. This is seriously fun and a lot of people play Magic this way because they don’t want to play tournament Magic or buy new cards every 3 months.
    There’s a really good post about playing Magic this way on BGG:
    Sorry I’m geeking out here, it just kinda bugs me when people say Magic requires you buy new cards all the time. It’s only that way if you let the cards be the boss of you. 😀

  19. Flash forward to PAX this year: I was invited to a party celebrating the release of the latest incarnation of Magic, called Zendikar. The people who run Magic at WotC gave me an extremely rare spoiler card, (which prompted someone from D&D to say, “Hey! Wheaton belongs to us! Hands off!”)
    I never thanked you properly for being kind enough to come to our Zendikar party AND being part of our D&D Online succubus hunt at PAX. I’d say you were an equal-opportunity belong-ee.

  20. Wil, back when I played, I used to be big into the arms race of it all. I started in ’95 or ’96 in the third grade. The first “deck” I had was actually a 4th edition starter pack, or the like, with something like 60-75 cards. Of course, back then, I didn’t have much money but what money I did spend, I spent on M:tG. I never had gone to a pre-release, but my joy was always looking at a set of cards and building amazingly powerful deck design ideas, partially because I was able to pretty well memorize the contents of the encyclopedia that were released with photos of each card. Flash forward a few years to Tempest, where Slivers were THE cool mechanic. I blew a lot of money when Coat of Arms came out so that I could nearly have a complete Sliver deck, no matter how horribly it would play in testing. So, imagine my glee when they made a return in Legions, all with new and cool abilities. So I hungered for them, but having been attracted to a bunch of hobbies, I didn’t spend all of my savings on them until about 2004. And I had finally grabbed 4 Sliver Queens, 4 Coat of Arms and enough Dual Lands to make the deck a bit more playable. Sadly, they all were thrown away by me in a fit of anger. I blew a lot of money on amassing the deck. I really felt regret about throwing them away when the Time Spiral block brought them back, again with new and interesting abilities. Its been 3 years since Time Spiral came around and I STILL haven’t gathered 4 Coat of Arms, 4 Sliver Queens, 4 Sliver Overlords and 4 Sliver Legions, but one day, I will. I know that the deck will not be playable as a deck of sliver playsets, but I do want to be able to create decks for all of the 5 colors of slivers to show my friends how radically involved Magic can get… One day, maybe I’ll find myself a way to make my own sliver card, but seeing as how I don’t play pro or at all really anymore, it’s a longshot. (Plus, yes, I do want my kids to be able to learn strategy from Magic)

  21. It’s so funny, each time read something you write on here, I am brought back in time with you. I was in that same game shop in 1993 and I was sucked into the void of Magic The Gathering at about the same time. I was also offered the 300 card set at the time, the difference is, I bought one of those huge sets and did HAVE a Black Lotus in it. My Black Lotus is lost in time someplace, but I do have some of those Mox Stones that are pretty valuable. I also had some disposable money back in the day and like you, don’t anymore. I however have kept all my cards in cases since then. I have probably around 1000 cards total.
    I had to laugh my ass off when you talked about newer players who had to cover their cards with sleeves. That’s pretty damn funny. Since back in the day, when I had my cards just starting out, we played with them like they were playing cards and not collectors items. It’s a shame really. I admit most of my cards are in very good shape, but my friends really hashed on theirs. I have also recently taken some of my cards to some tournaments at my LCS. I got plenty of wide eyes and people complaining to me my cards should be in cases, but I just laughed and slaughtered them with my older more powerful cards. It was fun.
    I have a deck that is completely illegal as far as tournaments, but it’s a lot of fun to play. Lots of Plague Rats, Sengir Vampires and Nightmares, throw in a few terrors and some other nasty black cards and you have a devastating deck.
    Your post made me smile about the olden days and also on how similar and small the world is, no matter where you live. Good luck and Happy Veterans Day. My father was in Vietnam and my Grandfather was in World War Two, so today means a lot to me.

  22. I was introduced to Magic in Tokyo by my roommate, who had been a tournament judge in Australia. We started to be the two foreigners frequenting Japanese game shops (which also have the exact same smell as US game shops — eau d’ teenage sweat). We would pick through their shop discard boxes, where all the cards were in Japanese, and we could get fantastic cards very cheap because we were probably the only people in Tokyo who wanted the English versions.
    I do remember my roommate buying a card from behind the counter that cost about 700 dollars. I can’t recall what it was, but apparently it was super-powerful, super-rare, and banned from all competitions as using it was a guaranteed win.
    I started to get really into the art on the white cards, and I built up a pretty impressive collection of green and whites. I got pretty into the game, and built up some nice decks with those.
    When I left Japan, I ran out of room in my suitcases. I asked my roommate to mail me my card collection and a few other items. They never came. If they had, I would probably still be playing today.

  23. “Crack:the Addiction” is what my friends and I called it back in the ’90s. And no joke. My (now ex-)husband and I spent rent money, bills money sometimes even food money on cards. By the time Ice Age came out we were pre-ordering the booster sets by the wax pack from our local comic shops. Now you gotta understand, no one in my family has ANY addictions, but I was fair and square caught up in this gambling-like addiction (but I’m not a gambler in the real world). It actually took getting divorced to break me of the addiction. I let him have all the cards. Even all the rare cards we had. For years I couldn’t even look at a Magic card without my palms itching.
    Will, reading about your deck building makes me remember some of my favorite decks. Like my “Rat” deck with Plague Rats and Bog Rats. Or my “Plinker” deck filled with cards like Prodigal Sorcerer or Thallids that “plink” at your opponent one point at time slowly annoying them into fits of screaming madness. Deck building was a full time hobby for when we weren’t actually playing.
    We had 6 fat 3-ring binders full of cards in card-collecting pocket pages. One binder for each magic color and one for the artifacts. Then we had five boxes, one for each color, of mana cards. And we allowed each of us to have 4 duplicates of each card so we would never have to tear apart a beloved deck to make a new one.
    As I type this, my boyfriend is playing the demo of the Magic game you, Will, shall be playing this weekend. He’s only ever played the old PS1 game. Never actually played the cards, only ever lurked around the table when friends were playing. I’m having difficulty keeping my mind on typing. And now he’s turned it off because he says he’s being sucked in and we can’t afford to by the full version yet. Star Trek 11 comes out on Tues. Assassins Creed 2 after that. But after that…hmmm
    Anyway, thank you for stirring up some wonderful memories. And damn you for making me miss my Magic decks. I wish you luck, tho. Have fun.

  24. Wil, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I just had to comment on this post as a mom. Back in the late 90’s I was the mom of a young boy who was, shall we say, “looking for his place in this world”. Well he found Magic, The Gathering. I cannot tell you how many nights I spent driving him to and from the game shop to play. Picking him up on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight. All when he was 12, 13, 14 years old. I can only say this. I knew where he was, who he was with and what he was doing. He is now a very well adjusted 20 something with a good head and a loving heart and I don’t regret any of those late nights in Phoenix in a car with no air conditioning. This really took me back, in a very good way. Thanks.

  25. Also notable is how cool Anne reacted to Wil playing 3 hours of Magic, and continuing to play a bit more after she left him be. I’m sure that she knew that she knew what she was getting into when she married Wil, but not always does that mean she had to be understanding of it.

  26. Wil, This took post took me back to the late 90’s when I spent much of my weekend nights shuffling my son and his friends to and from the game store to play, you guessed it, Magic, the Gathering. As a single mom, we didn’t have much extra money, but a lot of it went to buy cards for my sons decks, which I think he still has. I have to say that I don’t regret those nights of driving in the Arizona heat with no air conditioning at all because I knew where he was, who he was with and what he was doing. How many parents of teenagers can actually say that? Besides he turned out just great!. Thanks for bringing back the memories to me.

  27. Even though I am not at all familiar with the Magic game or any of that sort of game, I was able to follow the story and laugh at the humor because it was well written. I can relate however to the XBOX issue, as I am married to a man who is a huge fan of the First-Person-Shooter games (another term I should not know). My kids and I spent the very crowded Veteran’s Day holiday at Disneyland so my husband could have the day to himself to play Modern Warfare 2. Anyway thanks for the laugh, the conversations with your wife are always funny – sarcasm is my humor of choice also.

  28. Oh it’s on Wheaton! I’m calling you out. We shall do battle amongst the planes! For the winner the adoration of the masses! For the loser nothing but the bitter bitter taste of agonizing defeat at the hands of their superior! EXCLAMATION POINT!
    Your invisibility spells and water nymphs will not save you this time!

  29. I had one of those hooked from the get-go experiences. In my first “real” (Pro Tour Qualifier) tournament… I won. It was a Mirage Block sealed and I got some pleasantly broken cards. It was clearly Lady Luck that was my mistress that day, not… er Mr. Skill.
    Thereafter, I found myself, like you Wil, on a cruise ship – the Queen Mary (permanently docked at Long Beach) – at the Pro Tour with several of the guys from my gaming store of choice (Mishra’s Factory) and a few hundred of the best the M:tG Pro Tour had to offer. My opening table included one of the best players of that time: Mark Justice.
    I never did play him as I lost my first round, while he won his (bracketed play being what it is). And I went on to lose the rest of my five rounds… so 0-6 – but I had the time of my life, and it made sure I’d be a Magic player for many years thereafter.
    I expect it must be like getting your first ever manuscript published. I only later came to realize how hard it was to qualify, as I attended many qualifiers after that and never qualified again (though I made several final tables) – even though I was much more skillful.
    It consumed me. I knew almost every rule – and there were a lot of them – because I felt knowledge was power, and at my “career’s” zenith I knew almost every card by heart (so much so we played a game called “Mind Magic” where we played a game of Magic without any cards).
    But that’s why I quit. It consumed me, and I wasn’t making a living at it, so I let it go. Though I still have my cards which at last count was almost 20,000. I’ve sold some over the years but I have NEVER come CLOSE to getting my money back… a few hundred dollars every few months for the new sets, tournament fees, travel expenses (I knew that shop in Seattle by the university very well), and well, food (going out to eat twice a week added up) – over about two years – well, we’re talking thousands easily.
    I loved deck building and planning strategy, and winning – and watching my friends win. It was exciting, but draining. To the point that there was very little fun to be had at way too high an expense.
    But it holds a special place in my heart and special corner of my garage. :)

  30. Very glad that you’ve enjoyed Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers on XBLA, Wil. I helped found the business case at Wizards to make it happen and worked with a lot of great people to make sure it met our goals and got completed. Unfortunately Wizards went through a couple of rounds of layoffs last year…so…gone was my job in December 2008.
    Happy that the game is a hit ;)…and that it has brought some old school geekery back to you.

  31. You go to CMU? There is a group of very good players who draft every Tuesdays around 5 in the dining room above Entropy. We usually do team drafts (3v3, 4v4, sometimes more) with random teams where the winning team gets all of the rares and foils, and we fire 4 or 5 drafts a day. The price is 3 packs for $10 so it’s cheaper than drafting at a store and since it’s draft you don’t need to show up with anything but $10 per draft! Just come on by on Tuesdays if you want and if you want a more personal contact just as for “3T” and I’ll introduce you to everyone. Hope to see you there!

  32. Eh. I’m not really that interested in Magic. I’m done with the card-games stage of my life, having bought both Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards at some point in my life. Thanks for the offer, though. 😛

  33. I have a literal chest worth of magic cards. I keep telling myself I will NOT buy more. Then they come out with a new series and I think: ‘I bet there are new dragons in there.’ After that thought I am walking out of the store with another pack of cards… :sigh: geek addictions, near impossible to break.

  34. As one of those long term Magic players and current game store owner, I can heartily agree that Dominion is worth your time and (relatively) small amount of money. While I’ve been playing Magic since ’93, it’s hard to argue against a game where you buy a box and you’re done (assuming the cards don’t wear out) and there are almost endless possibilities when playing.
    Of course, keep playing Magic too, can’t go wrong there, even if you just play Pauper with cards from 10 years ago!

  35. My fiance and I, too, find no joy in spending money. We have, however, discovered that limited formats are fun without buying boosters. Just grab a bunch of your old cards, shuffle them together, and split them, then make decks out of that. They talk about cubes on the Wizards website all the time, the concept works even when you don’t go to the great lengths that they do. (a cube is a bunch of cards that you use and reuse to play limited formats without buying new cards)

  36. You should check out Die Hard Games. It is in Pawtucket which is a bit of a hike from westerly but it is a great store chuck full of nerdy magic players. is their website :)

  37. Me, too! OMG, it’s like we have the same brain! Are you watching the first Star Trek movie director’s cut right now, too? Do you think Bones and Kirk are in love? That moment when Bones first comes aboard is so fraught with sexual tension, I can’t believe I never saw it before.

  38. Had a similiar experience where a few of us at Microsoft discovered the game early on. Bought a ton of cards and played the hell out of them and stopped around Ice Age timeframe. Stored them in a box and forgot about them… Cut to 14 years later and people are talking about it at work again one day cause their kids are playing. “Oh yah, I had some of those.” I brought them in and my buddy started doing the same freak out thing about the sleeves. It was hilarious. Anyway, I got them all sorted out and ended up selling them on e-bay for around $6000 total. Most of that was the 3 Black Lotus and the alpha/beta cards. Crazy.

  39. Nothing cool ever happens on my days off, does it. I wish I wasn’t working tonight, for it would be an honor to school you, sir.
    Even with its strange limitations, Duels of the Planeswalkers is a pretty good game overall.

  40. I just got to play MTG online with you, Wil, and had a great time! I sent an email to the XBox Live folks like they asked, and I included you in the cc: line, so if that sort of thing interests you, pluck it from your spam filter :)
    Thanks for a great game!

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