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Subject: Why there´s no magic in Magic for me rss

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Filip W.
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It's easy to hate Magic; it's collectible, it costs a bazillion dollars and it is played by kids, the obsessive-compulsive and 40-year-old virgins living in their mother's basements. Magic isn't a proper board game. Tell someone that you play Magic and they immediately assume that you own a copy of Monopoly: the Simpsons edition, consider Risk to be a realistic simulation and spend your evenings sorting your cards by the graphic color preferred by Mike Flores.

Which is a shame. Magic really is a decent game.

I got into Magic right at the end of Legends, on the borderline between Unlimited and Revised, when the Dark was coming out with all sorts of über-powerful cards. We were a set of nerd-delinquents at school, spending our days cutting classes and playing 5-on-5 Magic with the Cool Girls, who also cut classes. Imagine, cool girls and nerds playing Magic on the felt covered top of our school's basement pool table. It all came crashing down over the span of a few hours.

On the Day of the Valise we'd been playing Magic for most of a year. Revised was firmly entrenched, The Dark had been replaced by Fallen Empires and we were slowly expanding our collections at the rate of a booster or two per month. Magic was still Magic or sometimes even magic, none of that M:TG stuff. It was a time of innocence but, alas, all paradise must end.

In our cases it ended with the advent of Mr. X. Mr. X was the stereotypical nerd: overweight, big glasses, lived with his parents even after dropping out of school and getting a job as a clerk at a local video store. Not a very nice person, not very nice in person, he knew it and didn't care. He also had loads of money with nothing to spend it on. Except Magic.

When he came to our gaming night tugging on his valise we were overawed. Here were cards aplenty, more cards than all of us put together had and all in the hands of a single gamer, and one who knew how to use them.

Even after a year we were barely in the noob stage, putting critter decks together, those few of us lucky enough to own working combos using them to the destruction of everyone else (this was a time when a single booster cost us almost as much as three meals at the newly started McDonald's franchise in town - we were backwards). We'd never heard of the Metagame Clock nor the archetypal decks (most of them weren't invented yet anyhow). We were like cardboard virgins painted with honey and whale's blood and thrown into the shark tank. Mr. X crushed us all. He crushed us singly, in two-on-one and in three-on-one games. He humiliated us - and he laughed all the time.

Some of us decided to go with the times and see the darkness. We pooled our resources and with the hired help of Mr. X (he charged a 25% fee) we opened Pandora's box and ordered a box of boosters from the UK. Once the arm's race started the game went down the tubes. I stuck it out until Ice Age, saw a few cards of Homelands and tossed in the towel. A couple of years later I sold my collection for the price of a few beers.

For over a decade I lived with the notion that Magic was a terrible game and it was clearly the influx of new cards that had splintered our gaming group, ruined the entertainment value for me and made the game into the M:TG serious board gamers love to hate. Collectible simply equaled bad.

Then I discovered Axis and Allies Miniatures. It had a theme I loved, being somewhat of a WWII nerd, an OK mechanic that could be improved into real playability and pre-painted miniatures. But it was collectible. I debated with myself for a long time (days, even weeks). Then I decided that I'd get all the minis I needed in one fell swoop, share them with anyone who wanted to play and buy no more. I started fishing eBay for keywords such as lot, huge, set and army and ended up with a FedEx man delivering a fifteen kilogram box of plastic to my door for just short of the price of two required reading books in any one of my university courses. I even got a bunch of rares.

Fast forward a couple of years. It's Sunday afternoon at Essen, mere hours before closing time. Gamers are flocking out, merchants are packing up. I walk around looking for good deals to spend my last Euros on. And find a bargain bin with themed Magic decks.

Encouraged by my success with Axis and Allies I forgo buying half a Slurpie and decide pick up four decks for 50 cents a piece. On the plane home I go through the cards comparing them with what I remember from my Magic days (it's like using your knowledge of the Model-T Ford to drive a BMW M-series, but I manage). I let the cards stew for a few days, gather some friends and put them to the test.

They fail. Miserably.

It simply isn't fun to play Magic. I try to get into the spirit of it, try to force myself to feel the magic of my youth but to no avail. I end the night by giving the cards away to a friend who seems to enjoy it. And all my theories on the fun or not fun of Magic are thrown awry.

Obviously it wasn't the collectible aspect. It may have been the winning (or lack thereof) but I don't think so. I enjoy playing games, such as 1830, that I lose at regularly. No, there's something more going on here.

The realization of what came with my reading of Douglas Buels excellent (best Game Strategy article of 2009) introduction to Magic tactics: Magic is a pure Eurogame. Not that I mind Eurogames. I love Tigris & Euphrates, I've yet to rank a Knizia game as bad and I think Le Havre is one of the best games ever. Magic relies entirely on statistics and math with the theme entirely pasted on. But so does Through the Ages. Magic doesn't further the telling of stories.

A-ha.

I love my meeples. Not just meeples but my meeples. I don't see it as me taking the woodcutting action, no. It's Georg going out to chop some wood while Angie stays in the hut caring for the wee one and young Hans, not so young now, is helping the family by rounding up stray sheep in the pasture. One of my main problems with Agricola is the theme-breaking solutions that it, as a near-pure Eurogame, has to accept: what do you mean only one farmer in the entire village can plow a field each year?

I remember playing Magic in the old days: I had games where I felt bad about casting a lightning bolt because I had no one on the board who could conceivably cast it. Playing it Deux-ex-machina felt wrong; here was the goblin horde invading Itacia while the [url=http://www.wizards.com/magic/autocard.asp?name=goblin[king]Goblin King[/url] is lying ill in the draw pile. It felt not quite wrong but at least un-right that the mighty Lord of the Goblins would ask his god to toss in a few storms while he stayed safe at home chugging dwarf mead. Magic does not promote this kind of story-thinking. In fact, Magic punishes it. It is ineffective play. It's sloppy, it places restrictions on the deck that go counter to all deck building practices and it still doesn't manage to create a good story.

Not all Eurogames suffer from this kind of flaw. Through the Ages excels at telling stories. Ghenghis Khan building the Kremlin? Could happen. More likely Napoleon will - look, ol' Nape's conquered Moscow! Tigris & Euphrates follows the development of civilizations, their leaders gathering followers, spreading across the fertile plains. Sure there's loads of fiddly bits, odd scoring mechanism and stuff but you can still go "remember when my king invaded your glory producing grounds and claimed the gold?". In Magic you get to say "remember when I went bolt-bolt-bolt and gave you XYZ damage?". To me, one of these is fun, the other is not.

The Magic meta-game is even worse. What kind of stories can you tell? "Remember when I sat alone at home and threw down random combinations until I saw the light and made a Tinker deck"?

Wizards of the Coast invests lots of money into giving Magic a semblance of story. Like studio directors, politicians and con-artists worldwide, WotC knows how important imagination is when you want to empty someone's wallet. Thus they produce books, reuse names to create continuity and promote the writing of Magic fan fics based on official Magic story lines. But when it comes down to the play it's still statistics vs. statistics. Gameplay wise Magic is the heir to the old specialty cards where you could "play" by comparing a number on two cards: "my car goes 125 mph, how fast does your car go?". It is the ultimate Eurogame. But it doesn't stop there.

Magic has another mechanism that I abhor. It is the ever dreaded poker aspect. In Magic not only do you have to make and play a good deck but you have to get inside your opponent's head and deck. You need to instantly see what type of deck he's playing, if it's faster than yours and how you're going to triumph it. You need to read your opponents Magic face and poker deck and I hate both of these tasks. I want my information to come from the board, I want to be able to pick up the rules of the game and see, logically from how the board is made up or the cards tossed, possible ways of winning.

Magic doesn't let me do that. It punishes that kind of intuitive behavior. It is like the old Othello slogan: a minute to learn a lifetime to master. In order to be anything other than a whipping boy in Magic you need to learn, to intimately know, not only all the cards available but also their combinations, where they fit in conjunction with other cards and how to counter those synergies. Magic is the Eurogame of Eurogames, complex beyond belief, relying on minute changes of stats and abilities between near identical cards to create a bewildering variety. It is like Chess with a million pieces and it makes regular Chess look simplistic, Go like child's play and does it in a way that suggests that it is a full-of-theme Ameritrash extravaganza.

As if.

I dislike the learning curve of Magic. I dislike the requirement that I outguess my opponent, that I internalize a huge number of possible cards and combinations to the level where they become second nature. I dislike the counting aspect, the ridiculous one-shot-kill combos, the broken cards that first soar in price then get banned, the time required for preparations (deck building) and study (reading up on strategy and decks in order to be an even decent player). I dislike the lottery style way it is sold and I dislike the randomness, the fact that you can stack your deck to the max and still not draw the cards you need to make it work, Mulligan or no.

I still think that Magic is a decent game.

I imagine that people who appreciate learning huge amounts of near identical trivia (children, obsessive-compulsives and middle-aged singles) will continue to love it. I imagine that WotC will keep producing expansions that fill this demand and that they'll keep generating huge revenues for their owners. And I imagine that Magic will be around for a long time yet. I might even play it again.

But probably not.



################## ORIGINAL REVIEW ENDS HERE ######################




EDIT:
filwi wrote:
cosine wrote:
Quote:
I imagine that people who appreciate learning huge amounts of near identical trivia (children, obsessive-compulsives and middle-aged singles) will continue to love it.


In the future, perhaps you'll learn the difference between reviewing the game on the games merits and refrain from inflammatory, rude, trolling by insulting other gamers. As it is, this is a total failure on your part.


The remark was intended as a circular closure tying into the prejudiced stereotypes presented sarcastically in the first paragraph (as per Greek drama). I apologize if it was too obtuse.


Since I'm getting slammed over this I feel that an additional explanation is in order:

If you remove the pure review parts (from Essen to the second to last paragraph) you'll notice that this is a cyclical story hinged on the recurring theme of the nerd stereotype: in the opening paragraph, in the description of Mr. X and in the final paragraph. This gives you a basic X - y - X - z - X structure with a rise until peripety at "basement pool table" when you sink until thematic zero at the return to the theme in the description of Mr. X then disaster until a second turning point at Axis and Allies and then a rise back to thematic neutral in the return to the theme in the last paragraph. This is a classic Comedic structure as theorized by Plato and Aristotle.

So now you can say that you've studied ancient Greek drama.

End of Edit.
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Abdul Rahman Ibrahim
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You, sir, have just covered the entire reason why I stopped Magic as well. I've been at it off and on for 9 years but it was always been among friends and we always play it casually. Then the tournament bug hit and I start meeting a LOT of people like Mr. X and card sharks that prey on n00bs by offering high prices for subpar rares. It was sickening and it was evil capitalism incarnate. I lost all my fun in playing the game ever since.

Good game, I agree. But having a good community goes a long way into making it fun.
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The Mighty Greedo
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almond55 wrote:
by offering high prices for subpar rares.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

G
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Adam
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You have taken my thoughts and feelings on magic and summed them up exactly. Excellent review! I certainly understand why people enjoy the game,and it is not a -bad- game at all, but certainly not for me. Well done.
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I will always love Magic for the creativity of game play it inspired. I don't get that same feeling from a boardgame.
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One hour and fifteen minutes into the movie it turns out Valise Guy doesn't actually exist. It was YOU all along!
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Eric Jome
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filwi wrote:
I dislike the learning curve of Magic.


Magic is not difficult to learn at all. It is difficult to play in the Master class level... or wait, not really there either, because the net is filled with resources to help you play well - strategy, shops, friends.

Quote:
I dislike the requirement that I outguess my opponent, that I internalize a huge number of possible cards and combinations to the level where they become second nature.


Oh... so you should be giving a 10 to LCR and rating everything else like Agricola, Twilight Imperium, Warhammer, Hammer of the Scots, Go, and everything else with a bit of actual strategic planning low, eh? I mean, considering your opponent's plays... that's only one of the most important things in a GOOD game.

Quote:
I dislike the counting aspect, the ridiculous one-shot-kill combos, the broken cards that first soar in price then get banned, the time required for preparations (deck building) and study (reading up on strategy and decks in order to be an even decent player).


Real players, people who play the game to enjoy it, who have learned how to approach the game in an effective, interesting, and adult fashion play in a limited format. Drafting, sealed decks, precons, cubes... it is cheap, easy, fair, and interesting.

Quote:
I dislike the lottery style way it is sold and I dislike the randomness, the fact that you can stack your deck to the max and still not draw the cards you need to make it work, Mulligan or no.


And this, this is the only interesting thing you've said in the entire review. And even this is still technically wrong - there are many ways to enjoy Magic without spending lots of money.

Quote:
I still think that Magic is a decent game.


Really? Cuz I sure don't get that impression from the backhanded slam with which you spent the whole review slandering it.

Quote:
I imagine that people who appreciate learning huge amounts of near identical trivia (children, obsessive-compulsives and middle-aged singles) will continue to love it.


In the future, perhaps you'll learn the difference between reviewing the game on the games merits and refrain from inflammatory, rude, trolling by insulting other gamers. As it is, this is a total failure on your part.
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Excellent review. It's very nice that you can show your dislike using such expressions as Eurogame of Eurogames, complex beyond belief. Obviously a lot of people, including me, love Magic exactly because of these properties.

Also nice and many reviewers of Magic fail here, that you can go beyod the collectibility aspect and speak about the game itself. Yes, it is a lifetime to master, you have to know an insane number of cards, combos and decks to be good at Magic. But I think it can be enjoyed without them. If you are not prepared for something, you lose a game, but you learn a new trick, a new way of seeing the game.

What I strongly disagree is the pasted on theme. Players are planeswalkers (powerful wizards), who can cast spells and summon creatures to help them. Yes, it is strange that you cannot cast the goblin king now, because it's not in your hand yet. But you can think of it as the nature of Magic in that world. You can learn spells, but it is random which ones you can remember. And I think every game has similar problems. I don't know how you explain in Tigris & Euphrates that the controller of some territories plays a tile far-far away.

And about the huge amount of near identical trivia (your only sentence which hurts): that's true for other games in some sense. In order to be good at your top game, Go, you need to learn a lot. What to do in this situation, in that siuation. Those seem to be nearly identical for me. Maybe they seem different and interesting if you are really into Go. I know for sure that I don't see the trivia in Magic "near identical".

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Randy Shipp
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louper wrote:
The "problem" is that you haven't played Magic the right way. I empathize with your story - my M:tG experience started the same way. A few friends, a few cards, pretty small collections, and then entered an arms race once we got jobs. Who he owns the most, wins the most. I sold my cards, too. 10 years ago.

1 year ago, I found out about booster drafting, but that still cost money. How about cube drafting?


For those of us unfamiliar, is there a link to some info about cube drafting?

Randy...
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Stephen Tudor
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The reasons given in this review are why I decided never to get into regular Magic in the first place.

However, I do enjoy Pauper Magic (see http://pdcmagic.com). Keeps the cost down and the fun high. I have a ton of commons that I got for next to nothing, and the only significant differences in playing with only commons are that you kill your opponent slightly slower, and the pool of cards is smaller.

Pauper nullifies the Mr. Suitcase arms race phenomenon.

edit: for clarification only
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Austin King
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rshipp wrote:
louper wrote:
The "problem" is that you haven't played Magic the right way. I empathize with your story - my M:tG experience started the same way. A few friends, a few cards, pretty small collections, and then entered an arms race once we got jobs. Who he owns the most, wins the most. I sold my cards, too. 10 years ago.

1 year ago, I found out about booster drafting, but that still cost money. How about cube drafting?


For those of us unfamiliar, is there a link to some info about cube drafting?

Randy...


Here's a few links to places dedicated to cube drafting. From someone who quit constructed Magic twice since 1995 due to it becoming "unfun" Cube drafting is quite excellent and a different beast than constructed; it is what the cube designer wants it to be.

http://www.cubedrafting.com/

http://playmagicwith.tomlapille.com/

http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/forumdisplay.php?f=349
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Yikes, some harsh commentary here.

What I can say is that I thought the review was amusing. The Mr. Suitcase phenomenon is familiar to me as well, and also led to our local group (which played with a fixed card pool) to dissolve when we were kids. Still, I think it's a fun game (and relatively inexpensive as we split 3 booster boxes between 5 people for ~$50 each).

I do think that WotC recognized the flawed position MTG was in when they designed Magic 2010. I became inspired again with the new set to collect friends together to play with a fixed set of cards, which has been fun. Certainly the re-introduction of classic fantasy theme is good, and simplification of rules is a benefit as well.

... Still, I'm not sure I'd rather play MTG 2010 (in any form) than the slew of games I've acquired from exposure to BGG. That said, it is clear that my friends really do enjoy MTG 2010 with our fixed set of cards, as they bring their cards to every gaming session in the hopes of getting a game together. We don't as often as we would like because we (I) generally have to get the wife involved for it to be kosher, and she hasn't been inspired to try MTG 2010 yet.
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Erik Hagen
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In my opinion, Magic isn't a game. It is a gaming universe, where the cards are simply the parts you need to play the plethora of different games that are available to you.

If you play "constructed", where all players bring their own deck without any limitations like set, banned/restricted cards and so on, and you want to spend $50 on the game, then you're obviously going to get brutally beaten over and over again. And that's pretty obvious, because of the sheer number of cards available.

So should you force people to play in the same league as yourself? Then what do I do? When I judge a large Magic event, I usually get 2-3 boxes of boosters for the weekend. Am I then disqualified from playing the game?

You should realize that Magic isn't just for you and your needs. Mark Rosewater (the head of Magic R&D) has written several articles regarding how they make the game for different players with different motives and goals. This article covers the basics:
http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/...

You criticize the way the cards are sold; in boosters containing randomized cards. I think this is a good thing: My fvorite way of playing the game is booster draft and sealed deck. These formats would not be available if you knew the contents of your booster. Also, playing sealed/draft limits the problems you have with the rich player owning lots of powerful cards: In a sealed deck tournament, all players meet on equal grounds. Some players obviously get bombs, but deck building skill is more important.

There are several options if you don't want to shell out thousands of dollars. Cube drafting has been mentioned, which I think is the most fun way to play with the cards I own. Why don't you and your friends pool your cards together, make "boosters" containing 15 cards (1 rare, 3 uncommons and so on), hand out 6 to each player and play sealed deck? Or 3 to each player and draft? And if you feel like it, you can add a few cards to the pool now and again to keep it changing, preferably when you find cheap boosters at a sale somewhere.

In my opinion, deck building from a limited card pool is the most fun way to play Magic. It eliminates the pricey "arms race", and lets you play with all your cards, not just the very best ones.

You don't like the bluffing element of the game. I find it one of the game's strengths, and perhaps a vital part of it. I often keep a basic land in my hand, just to keep the option open for my opponent that I could have a Giant Growth, a Counterspell, or another trick. A lot of cards would be useless if the content of the hand was public information.

You also mention that certain falvorful elements don't make sense. Just to illustrade that people are different: I don't care about the pictures on the cards, they're just there to let me tell the cards apart easily. They could be called "Blue instant #73" and so on. I don't read the books, and I don't imagine myself being a planeswalker playing spells. To me, Magic is a set of rules, and all the cards allow me to manipulate or break the rules in some way or another. A good card or a good play is one that costs my opponent more cards than it costs me. In every game, mechanic is 95 % of the game for me. If the flavor is funny, like in Galaxy Trucker, then it contributes to the experience. If it's not, like Dominion, then it's irrelevant. If you want flavor and good stories, play RPGs.

And if you don't enjoy games that are easy to learn but difficult to master, then perhaps you should stick to easier games? In my opinion, the more complex a game is, the more the replayability and variety.
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Andy Stout
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I agree that the stories from a Magic game tend not to be thematic narratives. However, Magic is DEFINITELY a game that creates GREAT stories. The wide range of unusual things that can happen in the game can make for great, dramatic stories to tell someone who already knows how to play, more dramatic and exciting even than something like Tales of the Arabian Nights. Unlike many Eurogames, this is definitely *not* a game where all your plays kind of blend together.
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filwi wrote:
I remember playing Magic in the old days: I had games where I felt bad about casting a lightning bolt because I had no one on the board who could conceivably cast it. Playing it Deux-ex-machina felt wrong; here was the goblin horde invading Itacia while the Goblin King is lying ill in the draw pile. It felt not quite wrong but at least un-right that the mighty Lord of the Goblins would ask his god to toss in a few storms while he stayed safe at home chugging dwarf mead.


...you represent the magician. you used mana to power your magic and summon the goblin with a geas to do your bidding, just as YOU are the one throwing the lightning bolt. That YOU are the magician casting the spells in your deck is and always has been (in every single rulebook) the basic thematic tenet.

you're totally entitled not to like magic, but i think a lot of your dislike comes from either bad circumstances (like Mr. Suitcase tainting your early experiences) or from your own misperceptions. For example, most of your complaints about the "poker" nature of magic only apply to tournament level constructed play, and disappear in draft or sealed deck formats (including things like cube drafting).
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James Ludlow
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First you wrote this:
filwi wrote:
It's easy to hate Magic; it's collectible, it costs a bazillion dollars.


And then you wrote two dozen more paragraphs which say this:
filwi wrote:
It's easy to hate Magic; it's collectible, it costs a bazillion dollars.



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I do sympathize with the spirit of this review. Yes it was a little opinionated and generalizing of people, so I will not harp on that. But I will express my thoughts on why I agree with the over all feeling of magic having no “magic” in it any more.

I began playing magic in High school, right when 3rd edition was out, so I consider myself someone who was a fan from nearly the games creation.
I and one friend purchased a starter deck and dueled regularly for days on end. I was hooked! The game was amazing for so many reasons! The variety of cards, the thematic element to the game, the concept of being a wizard or plains walker as term is, and dueling it out in a vast arena. Simply put great idea…

We added a few new people to our ranks and had weekly gaming nights where we would play free for all matches. Everyone had “their deck”, we all picked 2 colors and continually added and modified our deck as months went on. We bought a fair amount of boosters, nothing over the top, just enough to give us a good pool of cards to choose from.
In the beginning our decks did not have “killer combos”. A combo was playing lord of Atlantis with Merfolk of the Pearl trident. “+1/+1 to our Merfolk! Take that!”
We expanded into themed decks, goblins, weenies, artifacts, nothing thematically destructive, just a deck whose theme was noticeable after the first few cards hit the table.
So when we opened boosters we would say, well by the cards nature it has to go into your merfolk deck because it is a sea creature.

So for months we went on playing in this manner. We went through legends, and the dark, and fallen empires. The 5 elder dragon legends of Legends were the pinnacle of power! They were the cards we feared and respected. 8 casting cost flying monsters that were so strong that you had to pay extra mana every turn to keep them in play.
You could tell the relative “power” of a card by its casting cost. We did not go on to websites and research rarity. Back in the day you could not tell if a card was rare or not by looking at a colored symbol on the card.

Now we fast-forward into the new generation of cards. Ice age, alliances, and then the Urzas blocks come into view. My friend who originally played magic with me from day one decided to call it quits. He said it is no fun if you have to buy more and more cards just to keep up with the competition.
So I found new people to play with after my old crowd of purists (as I refer to them) placed their decks on shelves and sold collections and moved on to other things.
The new group of people hit me like a ton of bricks. Killer combos, ways to lock down the game and control everything. Decks that were wall to wall rares, with not a common card in sight.
So needless to say, my themed Minotaur deck, failed against them because I put all Minotaur in I could find just to keep the theme of the deck alive. Even the weaker ones.

So now I had to either adapt or die. I chose to adapt. I upped my spending on cards significantly and buffed my decks with rare and strong cards. I booted out the cards that may have thematically fit in, but did not help the flow of the deck.
And sure enough I was holding my own. But at what cost? ¾ of my collection collected dust because they weren’t good enough to go into decks, or because I had 20 copies of so many cards. The game took up a lot of space, and I could not keep track of my vastly growing collection. I had 40 decks going at one time to keep things fresh.

But after a couple more years the new expansions started coming out and the concept of powerful got completely destroyed. Our powerful cards back in the day were obsolete at best. Now we see 5 casting cost dragons that put our 8 casting cost elder dragon legends to shame. I saw creatures like the spirit monger and said “Come on! That should cost 8 or more to cast!”
My friends tried to argue that it is a “rare” card so that’s why they make rares so unspeakably powerful. But I countered with, how can anything really be rare when you buy 6 booster boxes when each series comes out and assure yourself 3+ copies of every rare. So some people were just winning all the time because their decks and combos were just way too powerful. Well at this point I decided enough is enough. I do not enjoy killer combos and vanquishing my opponents so easily. I was able to match them deck for deck, but I did not want to anymore.

I also watched the moods of the players. People weren’t having fun. The game became stressful, people did not like getting their butts kicked, or having to spend money they didn’t have. The whole “magical” energy of the game was lost to me.

I still played casually. I was always up for sealed deck tournaments and things with a level playing field. But seeing the new cards even in a tournament, it many times came down to who got the biggest most badass card in their packs was the overall winner.

Thematically the game changed for me. I liked picturing 2 or more plains walkers dueling in an arena. Now the cards conceptually do not make sense. Many apply a game spreading over a world, as opposed to an isolated area.

The game mechanics also became tedious. The entire concept of the “stack” utterly ruined magic for me. Every time you try and do anything, your opponent says “before damage goes on the stack, I do ____ and before that resolves, I tap my creature and do ____ to yours, and before that resolves I tap this and this and this and do ____ to you, and after it resolves I untap this and retap this and do _____ and ____ and _____.....
And I am sitting there going, “all I wanted to do was lighting bolt your guy…”

So the game is now more, who can master and manipulate the stack best, or who has more rares. It is just not for me. I feel even it the games simplest forms it was complex with a deep level of strategy. But somewhere the game got insane to me. When you summon creatures that can cause an opponent to lose just by damaging them, or creatures that remove dozens of cards from your deck in a single turn, or creatures that become so large and powerful all for the cost of a craw wurm! It just isn’t fun.

Each new expansion feels like a stand alone game in itself, it has its own mechanics, and the synergies of the cards flow within the set. You can mix and match. But from what I have seen, most people only add older cards to new sets to help find new unspeakable combos that crush their opponents even easier than before.

I miss the days when a player using white mana summoned a Sera angel and everyone cringed and said, now that is a powerful creature.

To me magic is a game of nostalgia. We always reminisce about the good old days of magic before it went nuts and the magic got lost in the combos, rares and insanity of what the game is today.


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filwi wrote:
The realization of what came with my reading of Douglas Buels excellent (best Game Strategy article of 2009) introduction to Magic tactics: Magic is a pure Eurogame. Not that I mind Eurogames. I love Tigris & Euphrates, I've yet to rank a Knizia game as bad and I think Le Havre is one of the best games ever. Magic relies entirely on statistics and math with the theme entirely pasted on. But so does Through the Ages. Magic doesn't further the telling of stories.

A-ha.

I love my meeples. Not just meeples but my meeples. I don't see it as me taking the woodcutting action, no. It's Georg going out to chop some wood while Angie stays in the hut caring for the wee one and young Hans, not so young now, is helping the family by rounding up stray sheep in the pasture. One of my main problems with Agricola is the theme-breaking solutions that it, as a near-pure Eurogame, has to accept: what do you mean only one farmer in the entire village can plow a field each year?

I remember playing Magic in the old days: I had games where I felt bad about casting a lightning bolt because I had no one on the board who could conceivably cast it. Playing it Deux-ex-machina felt wrong; here was the goblin horde invading Itacia while the [url=http://www.wizards.com/magic/autocard.asp?name=goblin[king]Goblin King[/url] is lying ill in the draw pile. It felt not quite wrong but at least un-right that the mighty Lord of the Goblins would ask his god to toss in a few storms while he stayed safe at home chugging dwarf mead. Magic does not promote this kind of story-thinking. In fact, Magic punishes it. It is ineffective play. It's sloppy, it places restrictions on the deck that go counter to all deck building practices and it still doesn't manage to create a good story.

Not all Eurogames suffer from this kind of flaw. Through the Ages excels at telling stories. Ghenghis Khan building the Kremlin? Could happen. More likely Napoleon will - look, ol' Nape's conquered Moscow! Tigris & Euphrates follows the development of civilizations, their leaders gathering followers, spreading across the fertile plains. Sure there's loads of fiddly bits, odd scoring mechanism and stuff but you can still go "remember when my king invaded your glory producing grounds and claimed the gold?". In Magic you get to say "remember when I went bolt-bolt-bolt and gave you XYZ damage?". To me, one of these is fun, the other is not.
...
But when it comes down to the play it's still statistics vs. statistics. Gameplay wise Magic is the heir to the old specialty cards where you could "play" by comparing a number on two cards: "my car goes 125 mph, how fast does your car go?". It is the ultimate Eurogame. But it doesn't stop there.
Everything you said here applies to every game, it's just a matter of how you look at them. Even RPGs, which are theoretically 95% flavor and 5% mechanics, fall prey to this, especially when in a competitive environment (see the RPGA for examples).

I'm a Magic judge and Tournament Organizer, so I see an awful lot of players of every style and demographic. There are thousands of players who play the game and completely revel in the theme and setting. You look at it and say "remember when I went bolt-bolt-bolt and gave you XYZ damage?" they look at that same situation and think:
Vorthos wrote:
The goblin horde was bearing down on me. I'd been holding on to my last ounce of strength. My opponent believed I was helpless, as good as dead, but I'd been holding back. I'd waited long enough, my final volley was ready! I reached upwards, and with a roar of thunder that seemed to echo forever, three bolts of lightning cascading from above. My foe slumped over, defeated. In an instant, his Goblin horde vanished, dissipating back into the AEther from which he'd called them.

I had survived, this time.

It's all in how you look at it. Although seriously, it is very hard for any game to maintain any storytelling aspect in a competitive environment. The focus the game receives when concentrating on the win tends to shut out the imagination.

The fact that you can see a storytelling aspect in dry Tigris, but can't in something as primed for it as Magic just baffles me. I don't even know the actual theme of Tigris, and I play it all the time. (I know the setting, Mesopotamia, just not the theme)
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Some great points about a great game.
I geekmodded this article and recommended a 5GG payout. I think it has some great points. I experienced a similar curve. when I started I loved having just two or three hundred cards. I would buy a booster here and there and absolutely loved opening them to see what I had got and whether they would help my deck.

I suppose the next step was going from this blissful enjoyment to having opened enough boosters to wonder how I was going to get enough land to power all the decks I could now make. So I started buying starter packs again instead of boosters.

I guess the next milestone was meeting someone who went to tournaments, had a car and invited me along. Soon after that I remember opening a whole box of Alliances boosters one after another looking for cursed scrolls.

The learning curve on the mtg tournament scene is quite remarkable and breathed a different life into the game. The tournament game was different. It wasn't having fun with some friends. It was cutthroat. I remember losing many games to rules-lawyering and even more to lack of deck knowledge.

After five years I eventually got to a standard where I was in the top 100 ranked UK players and made top 8 in the UK Nationals. I also ran a magic the gathering club with 20 regulars and got cards at retailer price due to this. I had a collection of 40,000 cards and an unlimited set of power nine.

Over my years in magic I met many great people. But I also met a lot of people that ripped me off. Magic is a game based on greedy capitalism and in my opinion it brings the worst out in people. Myself included. Since my daughter was born and I could not justify the expense of collecting anymore I have led a happier life without Magic. And since discovering boardgames a few games ago I have been much happier than I would have been playing magic.

Having said that, it is a great game. If you keep to playing with friends, moderate your purchasing, resist coveting your neighbour's ox and stay away from nasty tournaments and dealers!

I have two friends, Bob and Phil, who have played magic with each other for about ten years now. They buy boosters sensibly and arrange there games into 100 game challenges and 500 game championships. This to me is the perfect way to play magic.

DG.
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
The game mechanics also became tedious. The entire concept of the “stack” utterly ruined magic for me. Every time you try and do anything, your opponent says “before damage goes on the stack, I do ____ and before that resolves, I tap my creature and do ____ to yours, and before that resolves I tap this and this and this and do ____ to you, and after it resolves I untap this and retap this and do _____ and ____ and _____.....
And I am sitting there going, “all I wanted to do was lighting bolt your guy…”
That's not a new change. The ability to respond to everything you do has been there since the game began. The exact sequence you describe was legal play when the game first started. EDIT: well, except the part in italics, but that's not all that common. It doesn't come up in your average game, and when it does, you can usually expect it.

The Stack (and the system of Priority) were just a way to better codify those rules. In the old day, they were called Batches. The change primarily fixed stupid timing problems. It did allow added flexibility in a few situations (responding to your spell with a draw spell to draw a Counterspell, then using that Counterspell), but most situations didn't change all that much. Unless two blue mages are in a Counterspell war, it's rare that more than 2 spells are on the stack.
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bsushort wrote:
MajaiofDreams wrote:
The game mechanics also became tedious. The entire concept of the “stack” utterly ruined magic for me. Every time you try and do anything, your opponent says “before damage goes on the stack, I do ____ and before that resolves, I tap my creature and do ____ to yours, and before that resolves I tap this and this and this and do ____ to you, and after it resolves I untap this and retap this and do _____ and ____ and _____.....
And I am sitting there going, “all I wanted to do was lighting bolt your guy…”
That's not a new change. The ability to respond to everything you do has been there since the game began. The exact sequence you describe was legal play when the game first started. EDIT: well, except the part in italics, but that's not all that common. It doesn't come up in your average game, and when it does, you can usually expect it.

The Stack (and the system of Priority) were just a way to better codify those rules. In the old day, they were called Batches. The change primarily fixed stupid timing problems. It did allow added flexibility in a few situations (responding to your spell with a draw spell to draw a Counterspell, then using that Counterspell), but most situations didn't change all that much. Unless two blue mages are in a Counterspell war, it's rare that more than 2 spells are on the stack.


Not in my group of friends. A scenerio like that is par for the course. Which shows, everyones experience of magic is based on the people they play with. I have at least 2 friends who have that as a staple in their decks.

And yes I know this was always around, but I feel the newer cards use the stack more. Back in the day the stack had a few cards on it, but now a days, the stack can get very big very easily if you choose to build your deck towards it.
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
And yes I know this was always around, but I feel the newer cards use the stack more. Back in the day the stack had a few cards on it, but now a days, the stack can get very big very easily if you choose to build your deck towards it.

based on your prior post, you seemed not to know it was always around. and the size of the stack isn't relevant- yes, some decks use it more than others, but that's not a negative thing... who cares if he has 5 responses to your spell? nor is it present now in any greater capacity than it used to be. the real difference is your perceptions, not the game.
 
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Just wondering--are you from Sweden originally? Where and how did you learn English? I'm guessing you must have lived in an English-speaking country for a significant part of your life, because you write in English better than 95% of native speakers.
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jdaly72 wrote:
Just wondering--are you from Sweden originally? Where and how did you learn English? I'm guessing you must have lived in an English-speaking country for a significant part of your life, because you write in English better than 95% of native speakers.


If the natives are that bad, how would living in their country help?
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milegyenanevem wrote:
What I strongly disagree is the pasted on theme.

The way I measure theme is by feeling - when I play the game, does it feel like the game is telling me a story? In that aspect I compare games to books (and in a lesser sense to movies, but I think that many movies fail in this department as well, inserting action and effects in lieu of story).

In Magic I don't feel the story. It may be because of the nature of the tale, that Planeswalkers are all powerful (at least compared to the cards themselves). It feels too much like deux-ex-machina to me, a storytelling mechanic that I truly hate.

It may also be that I can't connect to the aspect of myself (i.e. the player) being "part of the story". In my games (and books) I like to be drawn into a world as an observer (it's different in RPG:s but I can't see Magic or Agricola as an RPG). I almost never identify myself as one of the characters, preferring to enjoy the exploits of others without personal involvement.
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And about the huge amount of near identical trivia (your only sentence which hurts): that's true for other games in some sense. In order to be good at your top game, Go, you need to learn a lot. What to do in this situation, in that siuation. Those seem to be nearly identical for me. Maybe they seem different and interesting if you are really into Go. I know for sure that I don't see the trivia in Magic "near identical".


I think that where our views depart is in the word "trivia" rather than "near identical". I agree with you that most games (except the most random ones) rely on knowing near identical strategies and patterns. What I have a hard time with in Magic is the similarity of the cards - for example, every faction (to my admittedly limited knowledge) has a +1/+1 leadership type. Only the casting cost and occasional special ability differs. Yet in order to master the game I'd need to know each different leader card to tell me if a person is playing a particular type of deck.

These are facts I need to learn. I can not grasp them intuitively by looking at a board (as in Go, for example), I need to know if a certain card exists (and by extension is allowed to be used or not). I can't deduce the existence of a card based on other cards. I can't deduce the casting cost of a hypothetical card (would my opponent be able to afford it if he had it?). I basically can't deduce anything without the raw facts.

Sure, in Go, I will be greatly added by knowing basic patterns. If I do I can see that a position is strong or weak or an attack unattainable or a group dead. But this is something I could, given time, deduce from the position of the stones by imagining the forward play move by move. I can't do that in Magic.

In order to master Magic I need to know lots of cards, what they cost, what they do and how likely I am to encounter them (i.e. rarity). This is factual information with little value outside the game, not a skill at, for example, pattern recognition. This, in my world, is trivia.
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