Old Gamer Plays Magic for the First Time...Again

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I'm 47 and my nephew is 13. Previously, I bought him Christmas gifts like Virus Bugs and those transforming toys--- I forget the names. I think I bought him YuGiOh cards once and was disappointed he hadn't discovered Magic: The Gathering.

Then it happened. This year, he asked for Magic cards!

"My God, they still play them!" I said to myself. Finally, I could dust off the old box of cards in the basement. Finally, I could talk to my nephew about something grown up. I didn't want to be the uncle that always said, "How's school?!" Instead, I could be the uncle that said, "Did you bring your deck? What color are you playing?" Oh, this was going to be sweet.

I think it was Thanksgiving when the family had finished eating that I had a shot to bring out the ol' True Blue deck. I would counter my nephew into oblivion! Then, a few plays into the game something strange happened. There were new rules and a ton of new cards that I had no idea what they did. My nephew kept insisting that ALL my cards were illegal except the lands. And then there were these Planeswalker guys.

What the Hell happened since 1992?

Flashback: 1992: Comicfest, Philadelphia. Back then I was hosting a local TV show called "The Comic Book Show". We mainly covered comic books, but every once in a while a game would hit our radar. This time it was Magic: The Gathering, invented by a local named Richard Garfield.

I interviewed him. Seemed like a pretty straightforward game. Kind of like Dungeons and Dragons poker. I wasn't sure how well the game sold at the convention, but my producer snagged me a free deck, so I took it home. Maybe my D&D crew would like to try it.

We tried the game, but it was kind of weird for us. How can four players play this game with only 60 cards? And the mix of cards seemed kind of random. Like we really needed more cards to play this game. Still, it was fun! Once in a while, someone would actually get enough mana to summon the Jade Statue and look out!

I tried to find some new cards, but they were hard to come by. Eventually, they reprinted some and I nabbed some packs. Then someone at the comic book store told me everyone had to have their own deck of cards. Custom made decks with custom made strategies. That was the point.

Oooooh. Now these ante cards make way more sense.

It was a bit of a buying frenzy with the D&D crew. My brother decided he'd just buy a collector's set and play with that. With all the moxes he had, he kept winning our cards. Eventually, we insisted that he could play with our good won cards because they didn't have pointy points like the collector ones. His response was to cut off all the corners on them. I guess that was fair.

For the next few years, Magic: The Gathering was all we played. And when my TV show became a distant memory and I was managing a comic book store, they became a great source of income. My friend who was in financial straights dumped his cards for a cool grand and I made my brother half that much selling a bunch of cards he probably won off of me.

Somehow, I never got around to selling my cards. I just switch to Vampire and then Star Trek cards. Magic was always in the background though. I guess it was somewhere around 10th edition where I found myself buying cards just to check out the new ones. Life took precedence over the game. (Hard to believe, I know.) The big box of cards went into the basement until my nephew came in to the fold.

"Planeswalker?!" I squealed. "What the Hell is that?! I don't have any of those!"

As my nephew explained their powers and abilities, I secretly thanked the gods he had no idea what an "ante" was. I shook my old man fist. Then my brother came in with his hacked up collector's-deck-of-a-thousand-moxes just in time to see me get my head kicked in by the Planeswalker.

"Ha, ha, Uncle Tony!"

Kids today. They have no respect for us elderly card junkies. My brother joined in a three-way game. We took delight in knocking my nephew out of the game first so we didn't have to hear him explain every power of his Planewalker. Then we got down to business to see which of us would win.

My brother was rusty and playing with way too many cards. He complained that my nephew regularly savaged him in games. (No surprise when he was playing a red deck with over 500 cards.) The most hilarious and ironic part of the conversation was that he complained that my nephew was a ruthless "card-o-crat". Unable to enjoy the simple majesty of the card game, he merely wanted a deck that was tight enough to win, no matter how boring the strategy.

I laughed in his face. My brother made that strategy famous when we started playing. Just desserts that his son took up the baton of "Soulless Game Number Cruncher" and was beating him senseless. Oh well. My brother went back for Thanksgiving seconds, while I adjusted my strategy to these "Planeswalker" jerks.

Fortunately, my nephew's strategy tended to skew to big mana items like the Planeswalkers. I had already pummeled him using merfolk enchanted with Unstable Mutations and then followed up with a Juxtapose a few rounds later, leaving him with the dying merfolk and stealing his Daxos of Meletis.

"That card is too powerful for four mana, Uncle Tony!"

Yeah-yeah-yeah. Go cry in your dice bag, nephew. I'm winning here. Hmm, maybe I should play for ante.



Comments on "Old Gamer Plays Magic for the First Time...Again"

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Author: Glenn Miller

Date: February 25, 2014


Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Also new to kids these days: sleeves. A few months ago, I pulled out an old three-color standby deck I put together in the 90s, to play against my stepson's teenage friends. Partway through they stop to look closer. I'm thinking it's because I need to decipher banding for them or explain that an interrupt is now an instant. Instead, they ask me if I'm actually running 12 dual lands in the deck. "Of course. It's three colors." They tell me I might want to check the prices on those lately.

... checks prices ...

... buys many boxes of sleeves ...

Author: Jon Uzel

Date: June 30, 2014


I have this kind of conversation with more and more kids of late. I started playing in 94, so I missed the power 9, but I have an amazing collection of things since. Unlike some others, I've tried to pick up at least some of each set since (excluding some core sets) so I can at least relate to the changes in power curve, and at least occasionally field a "legal" deck.

My favorite comment came from a kid at a sealed tourny a few years back when I was first really starting to play again. We were playing for fun while waiting between matches and I used my Sliver deck. "Oh, I could have a deck that nice too if I had $500 to blow on cards!" he said to me. My response? "I didn't spend anywhere near that much, I've just played that long..."