When I first started playing our beloved game, Magic, the Backstreet Boys were still a band, Spice World was the movie to hate, and adolescence was at least a year away. I’ll never forget the first time I saw some guys playing with some weird cards under a patio at church camp. I was so intrigued that one of the guys gave me a free stack of cards. When I got home I introduced this new game to my parents, and my dad went out and bought us the Starter deck that was out at the time. I then played my first game of Magic against my father, and a life long obsession had evolved.
My parents insisted that my love for Magic would eventually waiver, being replaced with girls and cars. To their dismay, this never happened. Except for a few exceptions, I ignored most girls, and all I cared about with a car was if it ran. Instead, Magic was everything. I played it at least 20 hours a week, except when involved with a Theatre show. It shaped me, and it helped me grow. Along the way a few important life lessons helped make me a better Magic player, and I want to share them with you.
One of the most awkward things about being a teenager is the discovery of oneself. I was very lucky in this respect, because I had parents who welcomed the fact that I was individual, and they did what they could to help me discover who I was. Finding out who I was still wasn’t easy. It took experimentation. I had to try many activities to discover which were for me. Eventually, I ended up auditioning for a Theatre production and fell in love with it. To this day, at my core I am an actor. On the way to discovering Theatre as a passion I had to experiment with Football, Band and many other things. But when I found Theatre, I knew it was who I am.
The same principle can apply with Magic. I feel like many people automatically fit themselves into being a Spike without much thought, since it is the aspect of the game that has the greatest risk and reward. Regardless of that, I encourage everyone to experiment with many different aspects of the game. When I first discovered the competitive aspect of the game I jumped headlong into trying to become the most technically sound player I could be. Within the last year, though, I began to trade heavily. After realizing how much fun I had trading for value, I have almost completely stopped play competitively. I feel that I have discovered who I am within the Magic world, and because of that I enjoy Magic much more. I would encourage each of you to experiment with casual play, trading and collecting to try to maximize your own enjoyment of the game.
2. Utilize Your Resources to Their Maximum Potential
During my Junior year in high school, I had a crisis. I didn’t have the time or the money to do all the things I wanted. I was in a relationship, participating in a play, had school and homework, and still wanted to spend time with my closest friends. At one point, I realized that my grades were slipping because it seemed that I just didn’t have time to study or do homework. I was focusing too much of my time resource into all my other activities and not enough into my school work. I needed to better balance the time I spent with friends and my girlfriend, along with rehearsal times. Somehow, I needed to discover or create time to study. Instead of dedicating a single night to my girlfriend each weekend and another to my friends, my friends and I would go out and do our thing on Friday night, and then later in the night, my girlfriend and I would go on a date. This would free up Saturday for studying and homework. I would also utilize downtime in the green room during rehearsal for studying. I saw a marked improvement in my grades almost immediately.
In Magic, we have a large number of resources to balance. We have mana, life, cards, tempo and time (yes, even in casual play). We have to learn how to manage each of these resources to maximize both our success and fun. Typically, a game of Magic is won by the player who better utilizes these resources, whether it’s by better deckbuilding, or more technical play. Every card in a our sixty card deck is a resource to be exploited (even the lands) and if we don’t manage these resources correctly we will fail. Time management is important to competitive play, because we are also playing against the clock. Chapin talks about making mental shortcuts in his book, Next Level Magic, in order to maximize your time to beat the clock. But, it’s not just in competitive play that time management. When playing casually, nothing can suck the fun out of a game more than a player who slow plays every decision they make.
3. Have a Plan
I touched on this point a little above. In order to better utilized my resources, I had to come up with a plan in order to maximize them. Without a plan, my grades would have continued to slip, and I would not have succeeded. This also applies to the a larger scale. I knew that I wanted to Major in Theatre when I went to college. Surprisingly, Theatre is not an easy major. I would need a good deal of experience going into college in order to succeed at my course of study. With this knowledge, I planned to be involved with every production possible at my local theatre. I knew I would need the experience, so I made a plan that maximized it.
When playing a game of Magic, you need a plan. When crafting a deck we need to make sure it has a plan to win. When utilizing a Pre-Con deck we need to know what the plan is. If we have no plan, or no understanding of the plan, then we are going to lose. This also applies on a smaller scale. When I draw my opening hand of a game, I need to make sure that hand has a plan. We also need to make sure this plan is a good one. If my hand is six lands and a seven drop, then we have a plan, but it’s not a very good one. Also, we have to stick to our plan. If I’m playing an aggro deck, and try to play a long game, I will most likely fail.
4. Be Willing to Adapt
Even though, we have a plan, and we know how to implement it, sometimes circumstances will arise that dictate that we change our plan. When I was in college my father was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed and in critical condition for a long period of time. I became depressed and lost sight of my plan. Because of this, it was not feasible for me to continue my higher education at the time, so I adapted my plan. I entered the military. My plan changed, but I had to be willing to change the plan.
Likewise, sometimes in Magic, even our most welled laid plans don’t work out. Sometimes, when playing aggro, we draw the nut hand, but our opponent has one for one removal for the first four creatures we drop. We have to be willing to adjust our plan for a longer (and much more painful) game. If we just give up at that point, then we lose the potential to win the game. Yes, our original plan didn’t work out, but is it possible for us to land an Elspeth, Knight Errant at some point and take over the game? This wasn’t our original plan, but it can win the game.
5. Have Fun
Being a young person today can be very stressful. If we don’t find time to have fun, then we will become so overburdened that we will fail. Theatre and Magic were both outlets for me through the harder parts of adolescence. Blowing off the steam of everyday life keep me sane and healthy. Even when my father was in the hospital in critical condition it was important for me to be able to play a game of Magic in order to get my mind off of the bad circumstances in my life.
Sometimes, especially in the competitive circle, we forget that Magic is a game. We need to enjoy it as such. We can’t let it always be about maximizing our plays. Sometimes we need to play a deck that does something stupid, just to have fun. Even casual players struggle with this. Many casual circles are a constant battle for supremacy. In these circles, the players need to sometimes take a step back and realize that they are playing game. To have fun. To relax
Yes, these principles are simple. But, they are also essential in both life and Magic. Growing up playing Magic allowed me the interesting perspective of developing this principles in both life and Magic simultaneously. Without Magic, I feel that my understanding of these principles in life would have come slower. I am thankful that I had this great game to help me develop into the person I am today.