A Dorky Story of MTG

Work’s going surprisingly well.  Took up a 9-5 in hopes of putting my new CAMS cert to work and it’s been making me learn to code, and golly, I like it.  Made my first button yesterday.  Except for SQL, as far as I can tell, you can pretty much make a game in any computer language, and it’s rewarding and funny.

Ok I guess you could make some sort of a data-hunt game in SQL, but it’ll suck.

I’ve also learned that I’m great at presentations. I don’t mean to overboast, but I can certainly speak, I have my style, and it gets my point across.   Moreover, I also think that there is a confidence that comes with getting older.  It’s not so much of a DGAF (although there is less GAF of the anxiety-making kind) as much as a know thyself sort of root.  When you know you’re not perfect, but good, when you try really hard what comes out can be consistently great. When you know your tone, volume, and body language are not your weakpoints, you can be that much more confident in using them.  And when you know your sense of humor is pertinent, and you use it, then you’re funny.  And only miserable people hate funny.  So you can make ‘em laugh as they learn, and the crowd’ll smile for it. Win win.

Every presentation so far – seemed to get some notice of distinction (as in I get to read the word “Distinction” from reviewers, and I like that.)

Lastly, I look spiffy in a suit.



But all that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Nope.

I wanted to talk about Magic the Gathering.  That game where you combine poker and chess and lore to make what turns out to be a pretty personal and intricate game.  MTG, one of the few games where an AI is NOT better than humans yet because it’s that complex. Yep, Magic.

I started playing the online version about….9 months ago? Got much, much better than I ever was when I collected as a kid in terms of deck making.  Jaidree got into it too….and while I think she’s more into the organizing a collection and going ooOoOooOooOO, she certainly isn’t against the game’s play.  So we’ve gotten into collecting and playing the good ole cardboard version.

And I really like it. In the zombie apocalypse, I’m taking my MTG collection with me.  It’ll pass the time in fortifying nights (henceforth called fortnites) and I would laugh if mtg cards would be valuable currency.

And I’ve been going to tourney’s regularly. As in twice a week.  I saw a t-shirt at one.  It read, “MTG: Drugs are Cheaper.”

And it’s correct. I’ve quit smoking for longer than a year now (insert obligatory “And fuck vape-hipsters” here) and am preeeeetty sure my spending is still higher with my mtg fix.  But I get an experience of playing and permenant cards!

Anyway, I tried a tournament yesterday, and this is its storytime.

The tournament format is Standard with brackets arranged via the swiss point system.

This means that cards are legal as long as they’ve been released or rereleased in the last four sets that are released.

And you bring your own deck.  The tourney’s I’ve been playing in so far have been called Sealed or Draft, and those are both formats where they give you packs, and you make your deck from them.  It’s tons of fun in that, randomization eliminates losing just because your opponent spent a grand on their deck and brought in some expensive crazy build that they read about online.  That’s totally kosher, and the only way some people play but, for a wee-n00b like me, this “Make your own decks on the spot” has become fun, taught me a lot about construction, and after a few weeks of giving away all my moneys, I’ve met with and connected with lots of regulars. Maybe even become one myself.

And of course, you get to keep the cards you collect, and there’s always the possibility of winning more. Yay prizes.


So I decided to give a standard tourney a shot yesterday. Again, bring and make your own deck. I did. I’ve collected so many cards that, I felt ready.

And fuck netdecks. Enjoy piloting someone else’s cooky cutter build if that’s your thing but, I think one of the reasons I’m against that is that I loved Magic even as a kid and one thing that it meant to me was, customization.  The story the game can tell, in the eyes of a kid, is about them in this immense universe.  And when they’re a protagonist, aren’t they’re special?  Aren’t they some sort of superpowered being, and that’s something that makes them unique and leading an army?

So I bring my own deck. Janky, homebrewed. And if you sit in this shop’s backroom (generally reserved for the shop’s more talented and knowing folks – wtf am I doing back there?)

There’re three rounds.  Points determine prizes at the end.  I want prizes dammit.  Makes me feel like I got my money’s worth.

And I’m myself, people back there clearly play regularly and know what they’re doing. I’m set up and might have brought too much wine. But it’s my day off and I’m here to enjoy myself, so I do.

First guy pulls out a netdeck called “Red Deck Wins”  I’ll give one hint about what it does: it’s red.

Red deck wins is a cookie cutter deck that’s famous for killing opponents on turn 3 with all out early game aggression and spells. It’s very easy to play, and good on a budget.  I’ve learned to hate it. Even decks that specialize in countering other decks and not winning take more mind to play so I find the deck too simple. They should also make another t-shirt that reads “RDW: You Win or You Die” because, if you’re still alive after turn 5, the red guy’s burned out his hand, and fucked.

Anyway, the guy spreads my buttcheeks.  Almost had him second game but, he blasted me.  He blasted me hard.  So he pulls off a win, 2-0. And I figure that’s ok, I brought my deck, and there’re still two more matches.

Next game, all me bb.  And I liked that. Again, I’ve crafted what I’ve got from the kajillion packs Jaidree and I have opened at home, and there’s a certain satisfaction in people going “Whats your deck” and knowing that the answer is one that you created with the universe’s materials and luck.

And I may have gotten a little lucky.

Here’s the story clinker.

If I win match three, there’s a good chance I’ll walk away with a decent amount of prize.  If I don’t, I walk away with a promo pack (which I got, and which had 40 bucks worth of cards inside so, hell yea)

Final match is against a cool guy who is friendly and says supporting things when I point out that my standard tourney virginity is in the process of being taken.  (No I didn’t say it like that, but I should’ve.)  Opponent says “We’re going to make you a master if you keep showing here.”  I like that. I like him.  He’s a sport.


He also is playing a mono-white deck which is based on themes similar to the red deck wins, but it’s much better.  Pretty much, he’ll fill the battlefield with a bunch of little shitheads, and buff them, and then he’ll use them to hit me in the face.

My deck.

Nerd alert.

It’s the bad guys.

Watch the war of the spark trailer, identify who’re the bad guys, and that’s my deck. I amass zombies and zombie armies, I give them special effects so if I’m unchecked I have big deathtouch trample flying first strike armies.  I have two zombie gods. I have sacrifice and recursion.  I have a couple of ways of gaining life. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to draw the two most expensive cards in the game.  Nicol Bolas and Liliana. And dragon gods. And I’ve got spells for days.

This white knight vs my deck is set in game lore, and that makes it fun.

The fact that it’s my deck makes it mine.

We battle.

I amass faster and stronger stuff than he can respond to and stab in the first round.  It goes to me.

Game 2, he gets to go first, gets an early advantage and is onto my shit. He pulls it off.

Game three is great.  He’s constantly creating white knights and tokens on the board, but it’s clear that after a certain point when I have enough mana, the cards I output will exceed his in strength and ability.  But, he’s certainly got the advantage in the early game.

I’m using my armys to hold him off.

He’s using his knights to get damage through. I’m casting removal spells that give me life, wipe his creatures, and create armies, and he’s moving his might around it, or using the fact that zombie armies are tokens against me.

He’s still getting through.

Other guys from other matches have gotten quiet around our table. I don’t realize this for a bit.  It’s like playing chess at a Russian beach – spectators suddenly show up, but you shouldn’t notice unless your attention leaves the game.

He pulls out a 12 dollar card and bounces back one of my big boys back to my hand, which it’s not able to do because of its nature, so it’s dead instead. It looks like he’ll win if he can keep up the pace. Because of this missing creature his greater number of creatures can outswarm my board, which means damage gets through.

That hole in my battlefield is both, gaping and eesh.

He’s at 19 life, and I’m at 9.

I draw, and like that I have a poke face.  I feel my luck, because I feel it deaden the expression in my eyes and cheek before I really register my luck.


Yo, this is the second most expensive card in the set. I got him in a draft, and he’s foil.  If you play pokemon, it’s like randomly encountering a shiny mewtwo. I use him to destroy my opponents more important creature.

This card is great, but still not enough to determine the game, I think. I know that if I attack with what I’ve got left on the board that they can’t defend and it’s game over man.  Game over.

He’s got some great stuff on the board, and uses it to swing everything he’s got again. I put my guys in front, fighting till the last card as one does when it’s 1-1 and 1-1 and it’s the last game that counts.  He loses many of his creatures but gets 7 damage through.

Two life. This means all he has to do is poke me again and I’m done. His decision to attack was correct.

He passes to me and it’s my turn.

I draw again, and again I feel my face deaden.


I have the perfect amount of mana for this. This, the card that’s the most expensive in the American set. The card I was lucky enough to draw the perfect number of for this deck. The card that puts the “ee” in zombee.

I feel my head lift, and look him in the face.  It’s a question I can answer myself by looking, but I don’t want to make a reading mistake and maybe this sinks my bomb in if I do it right.

I love winning with 2 life, and I love prizes.

“How many creatures do you have on the board?” For some reason my man-voice has come out.  I’ve temporarily forgotten how to have a sense of humor because temporarily, winning has gotten better than being funny and I can taste the maybe.

He answers without any hesitation.  He’s clearly been counting and aware.

He says, “2.”

I don’t hesitate either. “Nope.”

I say that and throw Lilianna down and tap all my mana.

I don’t normally get people to worldstar. That’s not my style.

But 4/5ths of the back room goes “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”

I use Lilianna’s second ability, which means both players have to sacrifice 2 creatures. After the last fight, I have nothing to sac, but that’s fine. I don’t have to.

My opponent has exactly two.

I see his hands start shaking.  His demeanor and everything else is still steely, and I know he’s a cool guy, but the shaking hand is a tell, and now I’m sure there’s a way I can win this game because he see’s it. This is how serious magic in the back room.

He sacrifices one of his creatures before Lilianna does her thing, and creates two new ones.  This enables him to destroy the newcomers and still have a creature on the board.

The foil dragon god is still staring at me.

There is an audience.  They’re respectfully quiet again.

Nicol Bolas can copy any other planeswalker on the board.  His passive ability is that he’s got all the other available abilities, and that makes him great. My opponent has that 10 dollar planeswalker, and another that’s full of meh.

But because I’ve also used him to destroy last turn, that he doesn’t have the juice left to use these great -3 abilities.

I study my opponents creatures again.  I see this token on the board the represents a creature he just made that can do two damage.  I feel my empty board. I wish I could use Lilianna one more time but no, not this turn.

The dragon god stares at me.

I think for ten more seconds, and in my head, something misfires. I tell myself that I’ve studied my options and use his +1 ability, and pass turn. But something feels unsatisfied.  I know that pass was a death knell cause I have nothing to defend that goddamn 2/2 knight token.

My opponent points out correctly that he can sac anything he wants, so he doesn’t have to sac that knight. I know I say, and wait for him to play correctly.

He does, and he pushes the attack.

I remember seeing him calm and relax as he says “And I attack for …two damage.”

I remember looking down to verify my options, and there’s really not much you can do with 0 mana.

I shake his hand and point out that it was a fantastic game. And that’s when one of the observers points it out.

“Why didn’t you have Nicol Bolas copy Lilianna’s +1?”

That was the unsatisfied condition. I look down at my state of the board. “Fuck! I misplayed!’

My opponent, still a cool guy smiles because he see’s this two. He agrees because it’s correct “Yeah, that would’ve been a big problem.”

“Wait, let me see what you would’ve drawn next turn.”

We both a couple more cards to figure out what could’ve been. It turns out that in two turns I would’ve had a massive advantage within two more turns, and pulled off the win unless I was really, really, really bad.

But I wasn’t good enough.

I didn’t read all my options, I had turned a win into a wine.

Seriously, I doubt the wine helped.

There’s one player I saw who had made this exact same mistake before. He’s one of the guys who went “OOOOOH!” And that’s one reason I was so centrated on seeing if it was wise for bolas to copy on of my opponent’s abilities.  It totally slipped my view that copying my own was clearly, the perfect option.

I should’ve won, but I didn’t play perfectly enough.

And that mistake will forever go forward with me, and teach me to widen the scope. No good strategem in a competitive situation involves not considering all the strategies when time permits.

So that’s my story. I still had some great games and great times, but I like making packs with my prizes,  it gives a great feeling of progress and I’ll never know what additions I could’ve had from those prizes.

But that’s ok.

Live and learn, and have a good time in the process. We get to do that.

And that’s mehjick.

And that’s my dorky story.


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