Excuse me while I talk about Magic, ok?

Magic_the_gatheringSo. I mentioned I have been playing Magic The Gathering again on the occasional Saturday night. My cards are old. I think the last set or booster pack I bought was around the Exodus era circa 1998. Don’t get me wrong, while it’s been a challenge playing against all these new cards people have, it’s also worked in my favor a couple of times. I have some cool old cards people haven’t seen in either a long time, or ever. And that works and I use it to my advantage.

For those of you not in the know – Magic is a ‘customizable card game’. You build a deck using creatures, spells, artifacts and lands. You tap lands for mana and use mana to cast spells, bring out creatures, etc. Mana comes in five colors – Mountains produce Red, Plains White, Islands Blue, Forests Green and Swamps Black. Some lands produce multiple colors, some, no colors at all. Cards have casting costs like: 1 White and 3 colorless (doesn’t matter what color). Tap the lands, cast the spell/put the card into play. Easy peasy.

Until I encountered ‘EDH’ decks. These ‘Elder Dragon Highlander’ decks are also called ‘Commander’ decks. The way these were explained to me goes as follows: you build a 100-card deck with no repeats except for lands. Example: if you have a card that is called ‘Counter Spell’, you can only have the one. You can have other cards that do the same thing, just not be the same card. Also, you have a ‘Commander’ – a Legendary Creature and they usually have a multi-color casting cost like 1 Red, 1 Black, 2 Blues or some such. These decks are built around the Commander and everything compliments everything else. It’s all about the combos with these, and building up to whatever it is your deck does.

I watched a few of these games and played a hand or two with a borrowed deck, but didn’t do very well. Using other people’s cards is hard. Especially when all the cards are new and different and I have no idea what any of them do or what the purpose of the deck is. So I built one of my own, using my old cards. I played a couple of practice games and it turned out, I did okay with my build. I was ready for the next time someone wanted to play ‘Commander’.

And then came the Saturday when I was invited to play and forgot my cards. Since I was invited to play in Colorado Springs, I couldn’t just pop home and get those cards. I had to buy some new ones.

I went for 2 ‘intro packs’, which back in the day, I would’ve called ‘starter decks’ (except these also came with several booster packs). Both are 2-color, which I didn’t realize when I bought them. I saw Black – which is one of my favorites, and snagged it, and I saw Red and snagged that one too. Turns out, the ‘Black’ deck is actually Black and White. The Red is Red and Black.

And they kick ass. I was super impressed. I bought some pre-constructed decks back in the day and never thought they were anything to write a blog post about. These are different. A regular player that night told me the Black and White deck was the ‘best pre-constructed deck ever built’. I admit – it’s pretty nasty. And I won with it. And with the other one. Which felt really good.

…then they wanted to play Commander. Sigh. Once again, I would have to borrow someone else’s cards.

I was playing with two people who are better at playing Commander. Or maybe ‘more experienced’ is a better way of looking at it. They knew every card in their decks and what they did. I just sat there and tried to figure out what to do. My Commander had the ability to take control of any creature on the board and keep control as long as she stays tapped. Guy #1’s Commander had strength and toughness each equal to the number of creatures in all graveyards. Guy #2’s Commander did something or other – I forget what.

Guy #1 had cards that forced you to turn cards over from your Library to your Graveyard – which sucked. He did that to me a lot. He was obviously doing that to build up creatures in the graveyards – and it wasn’t working fast enough, so he wiped the board. Everything died. Now his Commander was massive in power.

This was when I realized I could take said Commander. I also had an enchantment I could play on other people that said when someone attacks them, the attacker can choose to tap or untap a creature on the board. Guy #1’s big guy was tapped. So I played the enchantment on Guy #2, took Guy #1’s Commander as my own (My Commander’s ability), attacked Guy #2 with a little creature I’d put out, untapped Guy #2’s Commander, and then attacked with him, killing Guy #1.

Both Guys went, “Bwuh?”

In the next round, I also killed Guy #2 and won the game.

Much to everyone’s surprise – including mine!

The owner of the cards I was playing, even blinked at that one, and at the combo I’d employed.

I left that night with a win and feeling good.

To my mind, Magic: The Gathering is an interesting game and phenomenon. When I stopped playing in the 90’s, I never thought it would still be around in 2014. That surprised me. I also find it fascinating how people approach the game so differently. Shows you a lot about their personality, too.

Anyone else out there playing Magic these days?


  • J.T. Evans Posted June 26, 2014 6:56 pm

    Yep. I still can’t believe you whipped my ass with my own critter. It happened so fast that I just didn’t see it coming. Even if I saw it coming, there wasn’t much that I could do about it other than maybe try to kill your commander before you whipped out that play.

    Well done, Patrick!

    PS: I shall have my revenge. I have another Commander deck assembled and after seeing how well your Minotaur deck played out, I have some cards in my boxes that I think will come together as a Minotaur deck as well. I haven’t had time to put it together yet, but I will by the time we play again.

  • T.J. Zmina (@Cantplaypiano) Posted June 26, 2014 8:49 pm

    I played from 1998-2001, sporadically thereafter until 2008. Got back in then and have been active off and on ever since.

    For a while I kept up with the constant influx of new cards in Standard, but I’m warming up to Commander (despite only having played a few times) and Modern. At least Modern is a semi-eternal format so you don’t have to constantly update your decks. I find Commander tolerable because it can be financially doable, even if you have a couple of extremely expensive cards in the deck, you only need one copy unlike the 4-of required for other formats.

    The thing that kind of eats me is that booster draft seems to be one of the most popular formats, and I kinda hate it. Probably because I’m bad at it. The only way to get better is to do it more, but I don’t really want to do it because I’m bad at it (and by extension it’s not fun to me.)

    So there you have it.

  • Dan Posted July 11, 2014 1:38 pm

    Still out there? I only first heard of this game from a coworker in 2012 and I still have never had a chance to play. I thought it was brand-new!

    • Patrick Hester Posted July 17, 2014 7:18 pm

      Yup. I first played in the early 90’s when I saw my cousin and her boyfriend (at the time – now they’re married with 2 kids!) playing. Got all my friends involved soon after.


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