Magic: The Regathering

Middle school. Junior high school. Intermediate school. For me, it was 7th and 8th grade. My hometown had three elementary schools that all fed into one school for 6th grade, and then 7th and 8th were at the one middle school, which fed into the one high school. It’s perhaps the most awkward time in a person’s life–the weird transition from kid to teenager. I was wearing super baggy t-shirts with the same hoodie and a different pair of bootcut jeans every single day. My hair was super frizzy and I didn’t know how to tame it–but I wanted it long so I started wearing a bandana, which caused it to resemble a mushroom. I was interested in girls–maybe just because society said I was supposed to be since I certainly wouldn’t have known what to do if one had shown interest back, but luckily none did. Besides, I had bigger things on my plate.

I don’t remember how I came into ownership of my first Magic: The Gathering (MTG) deck. I think a friend gave it to me? I only remember that it was a black deck in clear sleeves held together by a big binder clip. That friend must have been the one to introduce me to MTG because all we did was play games against each other and trade Pokemon on the GameBoy Advance. He also introduced me to “Weird Al,” which–being a sheltered kid–was my doorway into ‘real’ music. One time, we went to the local bookstore (where all the kids in town bought their Magic cards), and there was an ad for “Magic Players Wanted”. We called the number and set a date/time to meet at the local library, only to be met by the most stereotypical MTG player you can picture. We still had fun games, though. I don’t remember the guy’s name or what decks he played, but it was fun.

As middle school transitioned into high school, my interests broadened. I got into theater, dropped out of band (I wish I hadn’t), started cheerleading, eventually joined the choir, and stopped playing “childish” games like Pokemon so I could play more ‘mature’ games like Halo and Call of Duty (that one obviously didn’t stick, but I still love Halo). I also dipped my toes into Dungeons and Dragons. When my D&D crew couldn’t get everyone together for a game, would default to games of MTG, leading us to pull more all-nighters and create more Mountain Dew towers. Then my MTG decks started to evolve. Burn decks (direct damage spells as a primary win-condition) became my default. We thought our decks were so good that we even started traveling to the next town to play at local game shops. We thought, “if we entered a tournament, we’d at least do pretty good.” Meanwhile, we had, like, one copy of a couple of good cards in each deck. We knew nothing about deckbuilding–we just played with cards we liked. Then we met a real adult who had played real Magic, and he taught us about tournament play and how to run full playsets (4 of a card) in a deck to maximize strategy.

Peak college: 3DS filter with the famous Dew Wall in the background

As I entered college, Magic remained a staple of my friend group. In fact, we used it as a strategy to meet like-minded nerds when I first moved into the dorms. My roommate (who had been my friend through high school) and I actively left our dorm door open while playing MTG to allow anyone walking by to see and potentially join us. Our ploy worked, and we soon had a decent little crew of nerds to game. Since we were adjacent to the “big city” (at least in my smalltown mind), we started visiting local game shops to buy packs, play, and hang out. We eventually started attending Friday Night Magic events at the shops and even entered ranked tournaments. We got pretty into the tournament scene for a while, and I sunk some serious cash into making competitive decks. But eventually, it became unsustainable. The constant shifting of the landscape and the “pay-to-win” aspect kinda sucked the fun out of what was originally a casual way to pass the time with friends.

When I graduated from college, I kinda unofficially retired from MTG. Other interests and real-life became the focus of my attention and cash flow. I also moved away from the people I used to play with, and I wasn’t actively seeking out new groups, so it became less of a priority to bust out the old decks or try to build new ones. I didn’t sell any of my cards, but they lived in a box in storage or under my bed for quite a few years, and I still played when seeing old friends.

I slowly started getting back into MTG and started buying more cards while busting out the old decks when I finally got my partner to play during one trip visiting my college roommate (she was always way better at teaching and explaining the game than I was). Once my partner was hooked, we started occasionally buying new premade decks to play against each other. The Dungeons & Dragons set was irresistible, so we bought a bunch of cards to draft our own decks out of.

Now, I have some friends who are interested in scheduling monthly get-togethers to play. These get-togethers also include Commander, which is a format that started gaining popularity right as I was on my way out of Magic, so I never really made my own Commander deck. As such, I took the opportunity to finally build a red Elemental Burn Commander deck that was based around one of my oldest standard 60-card decks. I had a blast going through my local card shop’s website, finding cheap cards that fit the strategy, and adding them to my cart. The deck only ended up being about $30 altogether, which is considered a good deal for a hundred cards. I’m a big proponent of spreadsheets–those who know me, know that I track yearly gaming, watch habits, running, etc. on spreadsheets–so I also took the initiative to track this new deck on a spreadsheet. This led to me logging all my old decks on a spreadsheet, too and reminded me that a website called TappedOut existed, where folks can post their decks to get ratings/suggestions from the community. I logged back in and started cataloging my decks.

Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back. 

I probably won’t get into the tournament scene–that’s way too much stress and I don’t have the time–but I’m paying attention to the new sets coming out and thinking of new deck ideas. If you play or have played in the past (even if it’s just for a brief stint), check out my decks and tell me what you think, or tell me about your decks!



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