Getting back into Magic the Gathering

Last night, a had a few friends over to play a pre-pre-release in anticipation of the new Born of the Gods set release. We drafted packs of Theros, battled titans against dragons, ate pizza, had a lot of good laughs and chatted about our experiences playing Magic Cards. We sat by the fire (no really, I have a fireplace this isn't just for goof storytelling) and told tales of our first forays into the world of planeswalkers.

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I first started playing Magic the Gathering in 2006. And quickly quit after losing almost every game to my brothers. In truth, I don't think I ever put much effort into it or really tried to understand the nuances of the game back then. Maybe I was too young or maybe my brothers were just too good and I couldn't keep up. But something about it stuck with me. I would find myself browsing the beautiful booster packs while picking out new D&D books in my favourite gaming stores well after I stopped playing. On one such occasion, just on a whim, I grabbed the prettiest looking pack in the box and checked out with a new set of chessex dice and a Settlers of Catan expansion. I opened the pack on the subway and flicked through the deck. The mechanics didn't matter to me, I didn't remember how to play or even have anyone to play with, but the art and the flavour text simply enthralled me. I think I missed my stop I was so taken aback by those little beauties. It was a pack of Innistrad. The stories I could put together though the snippets of text was one of Lovecraftian gothic horror freckled with goodly snow white angels to combat the evils that had infected the lands. In that pack, I pulled a foil Angel of Flight Alabaster. She was magnificent (if only for the fact that at the time I thought she looked a bit like me). I lost the rest of the cards somewhere along the way but that little angel always stuck around, hidden in draws or tucked inside the pages of books. I would come across her from time to time, usually when unpacking after a move, and she always would hold my attention. Calling to me from inside those thin black walls.

Artist: Howard Lyon
When the Theros sets was release this October it seemed to be popping up everywhere. Whether it was on Youtube, in the stores or online, that haunting song kept calling me back. My biggest impetuous to start playing again was finding someone (hopefully someone not too advanced who just would simply crush me again) to play with. I shyly approached Dan on the subject and he was surpringly excited by the idea. I went online and ordered a small starter deck builder and waited anxously by the door for its arrival. IMG_5000IMG_4988 When I opened the box, Chandra's wry smile looked up at me and I knew right there - this was it. I was obsessed. I spent the next couple days (on my holiday nonetheless) sorting cards and building decks over and over again until I found the perfect assembly. Every game would tell a new story. Myths and legends would unfold before my eyes. Slender Slivers in their hordes could slay a dragons, Dimir agents lay in the shadows trading secrets and observing it all from the flames was Chandra's burning gaze. I loved this game. IMG_4987 I became enraptured in the lore of each set. The different tales every block could weave seemed endless. Return to Ravinca with its all its guilds and alliances was like a glorious opera painted inside the most fantastical city I had ever seen. Even those who won't even consider playing magic are always peering over my shoulder to admire the art on every card. IMG_5161 The lands you play with in the decks aren't commonly seen as the altarpieces of the decks but to me their beauty is unsurpassable. It pulls you into the world, it lets you see what's all around you not just what's in front of you. The Ravnica block's lands were especially impressive. The way in which the designer wove the lore of the colours into the architecture made it feel like a lived in world hundreds of years old. IMG_5083 The new Theros set was really the deal maker. I have always held a keen interested in Greek mythology. From the champions to the villains, from the lovers to the fighters, I knew all their stories. I have an old copy of "Greek Myths & Legends" I've trotted around with me since I was young. I pulled it off a dusty shelf the other day to pour over once more. Inside those pages were the inspirations for the world of Theros and the characters therein. But in my world of Theros, in the game I played, I got to tell the story. Dreamers saw the Gods come down from the skies and in their presence could change the world. Monsters could stand along side soldiers and miniatures could befriend treefolk. IMG_5007 And maybe that's the one thing I would say to any of those who think Magic is just a card game. And sure, to some people maybe it is just that. But for the rest of us, a simple set of cards can spark something creative inside you, should you let it. It can be so much more than just cards laid on a table. It can be a story you'll tell your friends on the subway to work the next day. A fantastical story of how you, a powerful wizard, took down an army of undead or flew on the wings of a Chimera to victorious glory. It can pull you out of a shitty, stressful, regular day and allow you soar into a world beyond our reality where dreams (along with nightmares) are real and you control your destiny. IMG_5058 And as another aside, I have to say I love the way I see women portrayed in this game. Women do NOT have a backseat to the action. In Theros (as in a lot of other sets in Magic), the hero is a warrior woman, clad in stunning armor not skanky skirts. Women can be the powerful leaders charging their rallying armies into war. They are still beautiful and wondrous but not simply objectified. They are revered and even a force to be reckoned with. Young female players can see Chandra, in all her glory, and they get excited and inspired to stand side by side with these powerful women and maybe even start to feel a little bit more powerful themselves. IMG_4941 So yes, I love this game. I'm getting a little braver the more and more I play. I want to attend more Friday Night Magic drafts, more pre-releases and Game Days. And let's be straight, my decks aren't going to win any PTQs and I'm most often the bottom of the barrel in my drafts but I have a good time, even when if I'm losing. After all, sometimes even the hero dies. But they'll be reborn anew, better than before, bestowed with the power of the Gods.....I'll see you next time we meet on the battlefield.

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