Saturday, March 26, 2011

Our Magic Habit!

by Randy

Ever have a habit? A full-on, I REALLY NEED something. Whatever that something is. Well, I can tell you that my wife and I were there with Magic: The Gathering. Well, more her than me. But we were both pretty stupid about it.

Magic the Gathering Card Game Deck Builders Toolkit

I had first came into contact with Magic in the early 90's, shortly after its release. I was hanging out with my friend Al and he whipped out a couple of decks and offered to teach me to play. I was initially a little opposed to it, but we played a few games and had fun. I never got really into it because I always considered it a "rich kid wins" game. Again in the mid-90's, I was a night manager of a coffee shop in Lexington, Kentucky, and a coworker mentioned that since there was a comic shop down the hall from us, we should each grab a starter deck. If each of us only ever bought one booster at a time, and only when the others did the same, we wouldn't need to worry about the whole money pit the game was.

It was around that time I really started to see the extent to which it was truly a huge money pit. Being so close to the comic shop, a few kids would see us play on slow evenings and talk about their decks. "My red deck blah blah blah...". Red deck? You mean you make decks of just one color!?! Yeah, I know. Utter noob. I really knew nothing about deck construction. We played that way for a short time before getting bored, before I even got to understand much about the depth of the game.

Fast-forward ten or so years. Moreso a gamer than ever. Further, my frequent visits to game shops for other games (boardgames and RPGs) has increased my exposure to M:tG. I still, ven more than before, consider it a "rich kid wins" game. But now I'm married. Katie has been born, and my available time for gaming has decreased. Several friends are pretty into Magic, and Angie is starting to want to play. I am definitely apprehensive about it, and convince her we don't want to go there. For awhile. Then... XBox 360 comes along, and the Duels of the Planeswalkers game releases as a downloadable arcade game. For those of you who don't know, Duels of the Planeswalkers is Magic. And who starts playing that game? If you guessed Angie, you win!

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers Intro Pack

For quite a while, Angie raves about it. Eventually, I relent and try it; I kinda like it. And so it began. We started with some pre-made starter decks for the Conflux block. She had JUnd: Appetite for War and I had Bant: On the March. Soon, that wasn't enough. And then we started buying cards out of the penny and nickel bins. Some quarter rares. And then... the boosters. The booster packs are definitely what get you.

Magic The Gathering M11 Core Set 2011 SEALED Booster Box

Opening a booster is like getting a fix. And much like a fix, there are diminishing returns. Now, I'm not going to make light of something serious like drug addiction by continuing too far down that path with the analogies, but there is definitely something addictive. So a booster... for those of you not familiar, a Magic booster has 15 cards: one rare, ten commons, three uncommons, one basic land. After opening the first 5-10 from a given block, you're going to seeing mostly the same commons and uncommons. And it's just going to be the rare that excites you. But you need to get more! Because you want the maximum number of a given rare for deckbuilding. And that can add up.

And it did. Short trips to the Magic shop for "just a few quarter rares" often ended in bringing home a handful of boosters. Trips to Target to pick up prescription medications often ended in -you guessed it- a few boosters, as well. They're everywhere. And when you're in it it, you see it. After all, it's just one pack, right? Angie, again, was always particularly bad about this. But I was an enabler. And I did it, too. The last set we purchased was Scars of Mirrodin, and we had already started being more cautious about it. And we still ended up with three Fat Packs ($25 sets with I believe 9 boosters each), a few fistfuls of boosters, as well as what we each got at the pre-release and release days. They don't call it "cardboard crack" for nothing!

I'm not sure how much we've spent on Magic over the last two years, but it was quite a bit. I am happy to say that now we have moved on. We shook the addiction. Anyway, now we're looking for a replacement. We've been playing a little Warhammer: Invasion lately. It's not a CCG (collectible card game) like Magic; it's an LCG... a Living Card Game. What does that mean? It means that you don't have to buy boosters, that's what! There's the base game, and then there are monthly releases. The monthly release has twenty new cards with three copies of each; it sort of expands like a board game. So far, I like the format. The jury is still out on the game, though. I'll cover Warhammer: Invasion and Living Card Games in another post, though.

Warhammer Invasion Core Set

In regard to Magic... we still like the game. We certainly have plenty of decks, and loads of cards to make new ones. Heck, I even think we'll continue to purchase their annual multiplayer format releases, as well as duel deck sets that interest us. But beyond that? Nothing. A little too much for us!


  1. Most people who play Magic seriously quickly learn that the most economical way to acquire cards is to purchase singles rather than boosters.

  2. I've been playing M:tG since 4th edition launched. At the time, I was 12 or 13 and had NO idea what I was getting in to. I ended up massing a decent stock of cards, and spent much of my "fun money" on fueling the habit. (I actually had 27 decks created at the same time once, which is just insane). I eventually got over it being a habit and rid myself of most of my cards. Still though, every now and then I feel the sirens call and buy a booster or two, playing with a few of my friends casually.

  3. I'm relatively new to magic(started in Mirrodin block), and as a college student with tons of free time and a small budget, I definitely learned to rely on singles wholesale sites, for example(very popular, not the cheapest). It really allowed me to play a wide variety of good cards in a casual atmosphere(I would never buy cards that cost more than $4 or $5. I dont play as much now, but i still this is one of the most elegant and well designed games ever made.

  4. My story is very similar to yours. I will never play a CCG again because of M:tG, as great a game as it is. I love expandable card games like Dominion though.