Once again a Bath monthly Type II tourney is just around the corner, and this month we’ve managed to get a lot more testing in. There have been several reasons for this: I’m getting home an hour and a half earlier than I was, for a start, but the main reason though is that someone wandered up to me and asked if I could teach them how to play Magic.
Initially I was quite surprised. I’ve taught a few people how to play in the last couple of years, but over the last six months I’ve slowly watched most of my playing partners either give up completely, go into a state of semi-retirement, or move away to somewhere new (damn university courses, why do they only take three years). The idea that someone I knew wanted to take up the game came as a very welcome reversal of this depressing trend – now she thinks that a couple of her friends may want to learn too!
I invited her round to our weekly Wednesday night session and sat her down whilst I wandered off to get some decks. To my dismay the only decks I had built up were Type II decks and some of the A1-4, B1-4, style decks that we’ve been testing MBC with. Now, not wanting to bore her to death I picked up my Speed Green and Counter-Burn decks… and sat down to try to describe the game of Magical cards.
“Imagine that we are two mighty wizards at war with one another. We can try to cast spells on each other, and cast spells to pull minions from other planes to do battle”.
She’s played a lot of D&D, AD&D and Vampyre so she knew what I was talking about straight away.
“We direct our minions in battle until only one of us is left standing”.
I then started on to talk about how spells were cast:
“Each of us has a number of resources, or land, that can produce mana. We use this mana to cast spells. Each resource can produce a certain type and amount of mana. Each spell has a cost made up from a number of these types. If your resources can’t produce the mana, you can’t cast the spell”.
I moved on to describe the types of spell there were, starting with creatures and artifacts, then sorceries, enchantments and finally instants. Not having to describe interrupts probably helped a little because I could see that she was starting to feel a little overwhelmed.
“This game’s much more complicated than I thought,” she said.
Too right. I picked up the Speed Green deck and handed it to her. We went through the deck and I got her to identify what spell types the cards all were and showed her that some creatures have abilities. I omitted that they can be played whenever instants could be played for now; I wanted her to get the hang of instants first.
I explained how a game commenced. We both shuffled and I explained the mulligan rule, and the types of cards she should be looking for in her hand. I then got her to lay her hand out on the table and I did the same. I’ve found that it helps playing face-up to start with; after a couple of games I let her keep her hand hidden.
After a few games she’d worked out that Speed Green was an aggressive deck and that my Counter-Burn deck was more controlling. She won the first game, but Morphling won me the next two. She couldn’t believe how many abilities Morphling had, she really couldn’t.
She got the hand of the phases and steps, got the hang of summoning sickness and began to get the hang of the stack. Somewhat unfairly, I’d left the Tangle Wires in the deck – she even picked up those after a while.
At the end of the night I asked if she’d enjoyed it.
“Yes. When are we going to play again?”
A breath of fresh air, a real breath of fresh air. As it happens I got four of us together on Friday and we played from 6 p.m. ’til after midnight. We’re playing again tonight, and tomorrow. She’s played Rebels, Suicide Black, Counter Burn and Speed Green. I’d like to introduce her to a few other decks, but she likes the Rebel deck enough to want to stick with it and learn how to play it.
Just one new person has revitalised our playing group. I’ve tuned Counter Burn a little more (Foil had to go, the Islands are too important on the table to be throwing them away. I was also a land short, and a fourth Powder Keg may be heading into the main deck; it depends on the field on the day, I think). Some of the others in the group have started to come along a little more regularly and one has come back out of retirement.
Just one person has done all of that. Just one person has washed away our apathy with a stream of questions waiting to be answered.
It’s also got me thinking about the right way to teach Magic, and I came to the conclusion that you need to play with creatures and sorceries first, then introduce enchantments and finally bring in creature abilities and instants: Portal, anyone? Maybe Wizards did get it right after all?
Next week I’ll go over the tourney. Fingers crossed, I’ll do a little better this time.