Note 1: It should be noted that I am writing this article pretty much “on the fly”, or more accurately, as I think about the issues at hand. Any good piece of non-fiction writing attempts to answer a question, and that philosophy undermines much of my article writing anyways. So consider this more of a blog and less of a “serious article…for serious”
Note 2: I’m going to be referring to answering this question mostly between you, the Magic player, and your significant other, the non Magic playing entity. Please understand that while I may use “she” as the primary operative word for the non Magic playing entity in your life, I’m not purporting any one particular lifestyle choices as better than the other, I’m simply thinking in my own personal context. “She/her” could easily be interchanged with “he/him” or “other” as you see fit.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all met someone new in our life that wants to hang out on that random Monday night when there’s a draft, and you have to tell her that you’re busy and you need to hang out on another night. What do you say? You haven’t exactly brought up the Magic: The Gathering hobby of yours just yet. If you’re not like me, you haven’t brought it up not because you’re embarrassed about your hobby (I could write a whole series of articles about being you and being you proudly), but because Magic: The Gathering and all other types of trading card games are, at some level, a unique type of hobby that many people have a difficult time understanding.
Take this girl I just went on a date with this week (and here you can see my underlying motivation to write this article: it’s directly relevant to my life and I need to think through these issues): I don’t know how it came up but I felt that it was about time to tell her I spend an inordinate amount of time and money on this game that is designed for children! Her response, “So you’re a magician?” Well…not quite (and now I have to learn a magic trick before our next date). I told her it’s a trading card game, much like Pokémon, but a lot more adults play it and at a competitive level. Trust me, it killed me to make the reference. The next question that arose, and not surprisingly, was, “So…do you dress up?” Sigh. No, I don’t dress up. In fact, I dress more professionally at these tournaments than I do my actual job a lot of the time. This led to the question that I had quite the difficult time answer, and hence this article:
So what exactly do you do in this game?
Magic means so much to so many different types of people. There are your “casuals” who play the game predominately on their kitchen tables at home and have no interaction with the general Magic community, there are slightly competitive players who may travel to their local store to compete in local tournaments every once and a while, and there are people like myself and my teammates who travel regularly to major competitions in the region to play for big prizes. I’m going to guess that if you’re reading a website like LegitMtg, then you are probably on the more competitive side of things. Maybe you’re considering doing some traveling for the game, and you’ve most likely been seen around your local circuit playing the nightly events. You probably enjoy the game at a competitive level and spend a fair amount of time and money on your hobby. How do you communicate this and what the game is about to someone? It starts, unfortunately, with the non Magic playing entity in your life.
What presuppositions do they have regarding the game? To communicate your love of MTG to your friend/spouse/romantic partner/etc. you have to know what they know. In general, you’re going to get one of two people when you introduce MTG to someone:
- If you’re lucky like me, your date has zero idea what you’re even talking about and you can kind of mold her opinion about the game. I talked about how I play for big money prizes, have even done well financially to a certain extent, and that the game is an intellectual one for smart people at the highest level.
- If you’re less lucky, the non MTG player will have had some sort of experience with the game and you’ll need to work through that. I assume that this experience is going to be negative because of issues such as “Crack Gate“. Adults that play strategy games, and particularly collectible card games, have a negative stereotype of being nerdy, fat, smelly, or antisocial (wait, am I all four of those at times?? Oh boy…).
Generally if someone has these negative presuppositions about the game, the best place to start is with you! You’re their friend for a reason right? Show that you aren’t just a negative stereotype that they’ve constructed in their head. I usually show naysayers a picture of Brian Kibler and say, “Is that what you think of when you think of ‘trading card game player?'”. This strategy shows them the human element of the game and goes to show that, despite the realities of various stereotypes, the game is not dominated by mouth breathing neck beards who hate everyone and everything.
The Actual Game Itself
I know that up until this point, we’ve talked predominately about the problems that come along with introducing the game to someone. “Hey, I play a trading card game called Magic: The Gathering and I swear to God I’m not weird because look, Brian Kibler!” Well, that doesn’t answer my lady friend’s question on what in the world this game is. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- Magic is a 1 versus 1 game at the competitive level.
- Both you and your opponent start with 20 “points” called life.
- The goal of the game is to get your opponent to zero life points before they get you to zero.
- The game consists of playing a multitude of cards in a strategic order to reduce your opponents life to zero quickly than he/she can do it to yours. The order in which you play the cards is the strategy portion of the game.
- Some cards can “attack” your opponent repeatedly (creatures) and some cards just do a thing once before they are discarded (instants/sorceries). Some cards interact with other cards and some cards interact directly with your opponent
Now you’ll know that this is a very simple overview of the game. This doesn’t get into cards like enchantments, rule mechanics like “the stack”, or the intricacies of things like sideboarding or “good vs. bad matchups”. This is literally basic primer on what is going on when a game is happening.
The Next Step
Naturally after you tell your partner, friend, whoever about this game, they’re going to have questions. The thing I’ve found best is to attempt to answer their questions in the most simple way possible. Talk about the cool things Magic has done for you! For me, I talk about how Magic has given me my best friends, it has literally paid me, and I get an opportunity to do a podcast about the game (http://www.atyourendstep.com #shamelessPlugs). I tell the stories of my friends. For example, one of my buddies has been to Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Dublin all with free flights thanks to the Pro Tour. That’s a really cool thing to tell people about the game.
Explain to them that when you’re out at a store three nights a week playing, you’re playing to get better for your next big event. Talk about the practice you do! If you feel like blowing their mind, talk about the price of your deck. My favorite thing to do is to bust out my four Gaea’s Cradle and talk about that price point (do this one with caution because it may freak some of them out)!
All in all, tell them why you love this game. We play, in my opinion, the most beautiful game in the world – bar none. They will have questions that seem silly. That’s okay. Answer them. You had dumb questions the first time you heard about this game too.
Best case scenario? You’re newly found romantic interest asks you to show them the game and maybe teach it to them! If that’s the case, go pick up a duel deck or an intro deck and show them the ropes! There are a million resources out there to teach someone Magic, just Google it (remember, patience). It’s also cool if they don’t want to learn it and are just happy that you have a thing! Remember, card games aren’t for everyone. I hate fishing, but I don’t begrudge others for fishing! Worst case scenario? They think you’re weird and want nothing to do with you. That’s fine. They weren’t worth your time anyway if they don’t like you because of an interest you have.
Basically, this was a long winded attempt at saying, tell the person you’re trying to communicate to why this game is the best thing ever to you. Explain it to them like they’re five. If you can accurately communicate the passions that you have when it comes to this game, the person you’re communicating with will have no choice but to respect you. Remember, you don’t like Magic because you’re “immature” or “weird”. You like it because the game speaks to you on so many different levels, and it is truly a multifaceted, beautiful test of the human psyche.
I’d like to continue the conversation on explaining Magic to those who you appreciate. Do you have any successful strategies? Any horror stories? Feel free to leave a comment below or hit me up on twitter @imjorman or @atyourendstep.
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