SCG Daily – Diary of a Magic Player: My First Game

For my Daily Series, I faced a dilemma. I’m not as clever as some authors, nor as funny as others. I’ve no uber-tech to share, or wacky decklists. While I’ve been to the Big Show, I’ve never eaten at that bloody sword restaurant or mised onto the Price is Right.
So what can I bring to the table?

For my Daily Series, I faced a dilemma. I’m not as clever as some authors, nor as funny as others. I’ve no uber-tech to share, or wacky decklists. While I’ve been to the Big Show, I’ve never eaten at that bloody sword restaurant or mised onto the Price is Right.

So what can I bring to the table?

Magic, for me, has thus far been good. Not always in the winning, which isn’t often, or even the playing. The game has taken me places I’d never have seen, given me experiences I’ll always remember. Most, ironically, are nothing at all to do with cardboard or creatures.

For my Daily Series, I bring you my Magical journey from beginner to… more experienced beginner.

I hope you enjoy it. I know I will.

After all, I was there when it happened.

It all starts, as do most things, with a cardboard Playstation Two.

I came to Magic later than most. This was largely unavoidable, as I’d hit twenty before Richard Garfield was pitching RoboRally to wearied toy execs. My first booster was bought when Nemesis was the hot new girl in town. As a gamer, and a role-player, and a working Computer Games Designer, Magic had occupied the fringes of my vision for some years, but always evaded a direct examination. Colleagues were avid fans, with boxes of cards littering desks of designers, programmers and artists alike… but I resisted, without rhyme or reason.

Then one day, I bought a magazine.

It was a computer games mag entitled “C&VG”, aimed strictly at the younger end of the market. As an industry insider facing down the evil side of my mid-twenties, it was juvenile, well beneath the standard copy of “Edge” I’d buy each month. This issue, however, bore gold in the guise of free gifts. The most important, by far, was the easy-to-assemble cardboard model of Sony’s upcoming gaming behemoth, the Playstation Two.

The real machine was a year off its UK release date, I think. We’d yet to receive development kits at the code-shop where I worked, and even the early adopters had no access to the hardware. My cardboard, life-size model, when assembled, would sit pride-of-place on my desk and make all the Sony fan-boys jealous.

Also in the magazine were two fifteen or twenty card “Magic: The Gathering” starter “decks”, in booster format with basic game rules.

Yeah, whatever.

I took my magazine to a friend’s house, and sat assembling my cardboard Playstation Two. Frankly, it was rubbish. I’m sure with Stanley Knives, decent glue and a surgeon’s eye I would’ve constructed a wonderful replica, maybe even a working and fully-playable machine. As it was, my limited motor skills and lack of level surfaces led to much cursing, torn cardboard and a scissor induced stigmata on my left hand. I cast the papery detritus aside, and turned to my friend.

“Fancy a game of cards, or something?”

My friend, a guy called Seneca Perez-Corral (who held the title of Best Name in the World until I started work with a “Vernon Victory” and a “Barclay J Christmas”), was training to be a croupier. How could he refuse?

We cracked the Magic “starter boosters.” We read the rules, followed the example game presented in the rules, and had fun.

Fifteen minutes later, I was heading back to town. I returned with the basic starter-game.

The starter box was wonderful. It contained, well… magic.

Two decks, intricate rules, beautiful play-mats, and glittering counter-stones. It was mesmerizing. Boys and their toys…

Sene (pronounced “Senny”) and I played game after game with the starter decks, wearing down the corners within hours. It grew dark outside, as we sent creature after creature into battle. The game itself was a wonderful example of the intricate, yet simple enough to hook. It was subtle yet obvious, open yet restricted. Then there was the artwork, arcane and beautiful, fantastic to behold, vivid colors and stark images entwined. Couple this with the new language to learn, the language of mana and tapping, of

Though I didn’t yet feel it, I’d fallen in love, and deep.

As the night turned to morning. Sene begin to flag. He was enjoying the game, which was obvious, but there was no spark there, no fire growling in his belly, urging him to play and play. Given the option, I would’ve happily continued until my fingers ached and the cardboard blurred my vision. I’d gladly play without sleep, if need be, knowing that such blessed rest would only lead to Magic dreams.

Eventually, we had to stop. It was late, and I needed to return home. The darkness outside swept through me as I trod my Green Mile, but my mind was exploding with new images and thoughts and ideas.

The following day, I returned to the gaming shop, a computer-game outlet that sold Magic cards as an afterthought. I knew I needed more cards. I think I knew then, even at that early stage, that I’d always need more cards.

“Ten Magic: the Gathering boosters please." I asked. The “guy-who-knew-about-those-weird-cards” was summoned to serve.

“Ten boosters? Sure. What sets?”


What the hell were sets?

“Erm… just give me a mixture, please."

“No problem.” He handed me my boosters, and leant forward with a conspiratorial whisper. “If you pull any Nesting Wurms in those Nemesis boosters, I’ll trade them with you.”


What the hell did that mean?

This was going to get complicated.

And I was loving it.

I played Magic with Sene for a few weeks, but soon it was too clear that his interest had peaked. I was buying cards, adding them to decks, learning rules, having fun. Sene was content to play with my cards, never feeling the need to experiment or expand into a collection of his own. Eventually, I’d beat him every time we played, and this was no fun for anyone.

So I looked for new opponents.

Eventually, I found them.

I’d love to say that, at this early stage of my Magical growth, that I saw something special in this game. I’d love to tell you that I spotted the greatness inherent in the design, the capacity for expansion, the whole kit-bag, caboodle and cooking pot.

If I told you that, however… I’d be lying.

I loved Magic from the outset, of course, but it was still simply a game to me. It was a good game, even then perhaps the best I’d ever played, but it was still a game. A distraction. A pastime, a hobby at best.

Through Magic, I’ve made new friends, visited faraway lands, made a little money, honed my writing skills, and (more frequently) scrubbed out on Day One.

Today was the story of my First Game.

Tomorrow, I play my First Match.

Until then…

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson

[email protected]

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