Over the weekend, I got roped into a Magic: The Gathering tournament by an acquaintance. There was a booster draft going on and they needed an 8th, so the guy offered to pay my entry fee if I’d take the slot and let him keep the drafted cards. Not as cool as Hornblower being paid to hang around and be a 4th for Admirals playing whist, but the D&D game I’d been hanging around waiting on had moved to another location unbeknownst to me, so I figured why not?
Having not played Magic in a decade , it was a surreal experience. Some bad draws screwed me, and my last loss came because I didn’t bother to call the other player on his misinterpretation of the rules and was really more eager to be done than anything.
One thing that struck me was how many new rules and terms have been tacked on in the years since I quit playing. The last time I still collected –over 16 years ago – Interrupts were a thing, and when I started playing, creatures had only 5 named abilities (flying, banding, trample, first strike and rampage) while the rest were spelled out in detail. These days, lots of the old familiar phrases, such as ‘remove from the game’ and ‘play any time you could an instant’ have their own unannotated terminology. Simpler, sure, but not exactly clear for someone who hasn’t been steeped in the game for any long period of time. It made me realize just how much I’d taken for granted MTG’s complexity back when I did play it and how strangely impressive it is to have all of these folks playing such a game without a single rulebook present.
While it’s not one I look to revisit any time soon, it was an interesting experience. The guy who paid my way in was actually impressed by the deck I’d drafted; it worked in theory, I just never got what I needed until it was too late a lot of times. He was happy with the cards he got, even though we both ended up losing pretty hard.
While I miss the old old old old artwork and style, the new set Shadows Over Innistrad isn’t as bad looking as some of the recent stuff I’d seen, even if it is still that muddy modern fantasy style that’s everywhere. If I were still into MTG, it would be a set that I’d be interested in (thematically, at least), as it aims to be sort of a ‘gothic horror’ block. In some ways it reminds me a bit of Homelands which, while universally accepted as one of the worst expansion in MTG history, was always one of my favorites in terms of art, flavor and overall setting.