So, before attending Lunacon this last week, I was fairly sure I was pretty geeky. I own four copies of the second A Song of Ice and Fire book; I have 6 different Star Wars T-shirts, and I sleep under Harry Potter and Batman posters. Plus, I write for a website where I’m pretty sure I listed these as my only qualifications when I applied. However, it turns out that there are whole subcultures of geekdom of which I am hopelessly ignorant. In the wake of this identity crisis, I decided to branch out into the unknown. In the Lunacon edition of my ineptitude, I attempted to learn how to play Magic: The Gathering.
On the first day of the convention, my partner in crime Jen (you know her here as Jenisaur) and I stumbled upon the fabled Lunacon game room just in time for the Magic lesson. Unfortunately, this was about when we hit the first speed bump in my quest to become queen of the Gathering. Despite my frantic gesturing and pointing at the con’s program pamphlet, no one seemed to have any idea what I was talking about. Being an extraordinarily persistent and annoying person, I succeeding in eventually getting a very nice man to offer to teach me the basics of the game. After looking me up and down for a moment, my magic master nodded and said I was “blue and green.” It was then that I learned the first rule of Magic: The Gathering: playing the game for years eventually gives you powers of divination. With my brand new blue and green beginner decks, I was ready to go, but instead of explaining to you how to play (I’m not sure that I could anyway) I’m going to tell you the few things I learned about the game and the people who play it:
1) Playing Magic made me lose all of my basic math skills.
I used to be pretty good at math, but after attempting to play Magic, I seriously considered switching career paths from civil engineering to…I don’t know, something where counting 101 isn’t a prerequisite. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, each player starts out with 20 life points for the other player to whittle down. Not only did I fail at keeping track of how much life I had versus how much my opponent had, I kept forgetting which numbers represented strength and which represented attack. When playing Jen and her white deck, she some how managed to bump herself up to 27 life points without me realizing. Hell, I couldn’t remember how many land cards I had from turn to turn. Why though? Did I lose several of my intelligence points with every life point I lost (and I lost MANY of those)? Please, ye of magic knowledge, explain this to me.
2)Damn, that artwork is cool!
While learning to play the game, I was sure to look at every card, read the handy dandy descriptions, and comment on every one. Let me tell you, the art on some of the cards was freaking sweet. My green wurms were among my favorites and the pretty blue faeries were a good time. However, the dark designs of the black cards made them my favorite. I mean, how could you not love a card called terror that features an Ouroboros-like artwork with a man devouring his own muscular innards, which devours his own skeleton, which in turn devours the man?
3) People who play Magic sit around talking about it more than they actually play it.
Two other magicians (is that what Magic players call themselves? If not, they should) Zack and Zack, sat at our table in all their magic glory. They had binders, boxes, and jars (maybe not jars) of magic cards. You’d think with all this weaponry, an actual magic battle would have been going down. You’d be wrong. The Zacks spent about an hour and a half trading from their enormous collections, discussing past battles, and laughing over playing with vampire/werewolf decks (this can happen?). In the middle of Jen thoroughly destroying me in our first game, I eventually asked the Zacks if they ever intended on playing an actual game of Magic. They seemed very puzzled by the question.
4) Sweet baby ray’s, there are holo cards!
When Bobby, (my Magic Yoda) let me peruse through his binder of cards, I was some how transported to my Pokemon collecting days of old. Somewhere under my bed at my parent’s place are about four binders full of Pokemon cards. Know why? The pursuit of the ever-elusive holo cards generated an insane collection that took the better parts of my Saturdays for two years to assemble. My prized Charizard and two Raichus made me a third grade legend, but now I’m just bragging. After Bobby, the best Magic professor ever, gave Jen and I our very own holo cards (Mind Control for me, some other freaking awesome looking card for Jen), my feelings toward the game changed. While the Zacks gave their mewls of appreciation over our new cards, I flashed to an unsettling future. This shiny card of wonderfulness could only lead me down a path of empty wallets, ten copies of whatever the Magic equivalent of the Ponyta is (I swear to god, every pack that I bought somehow had a Ponyta in it), and broken dreams.
The truth is, I’m incapable of doing things casually. I would never be able to get to a level where I don’t suck and still be able to think about other things besides Magic. I remember 3rd grader Pokemon Kaitlyn, and she was scary. This is not Magic’s fault in anyway. We parted on excellent terms and I still may stroke my solitary holo card from time to time, but for the same reason I stay away from MMOs, I shall resist the call of the Gathering and remain forever a Magic n00b.
For more on our adventures at LunaCon, check out our interview with YA fantasy writer Tamora Pierce