The Apple Tree Of Magic

Comparing Chess to Magic is like comparing apples to oranges – or, to be more descriptive, like comparing an apple to an apple tree.

~*~*~ Begin pre-article corrections. ~*~*~

First of all, let me amend something I said in my article "The Real Story Behind Planeshift:"

~"He is Yawgmoth’s reward to me. I shall kill him a hundred times a day." –Crovax, to Ertai~

And I said: I hope they’re talking about Gerrard!

Many of you wrote in to tell me that Crovax is actually talking about Squee, as is evident in the artwork for the card. Well, there you go. But, for the record, I wasn’t using the cards as my sources of quotes – I was using Wizards’ spoiler.

Additionally, in my article "How Richard Garfield Made You Jewish," I said:

I feel relatively certain that Mageta and Tsabo don’t translate well into Japanese*.
* – I invite anyone who speaks Japanese to email me in order to confirm or deny this assumption.

Well, Eli Kaplan, an English teacher in Japan, wrote in saying this:

"But YES, Japanese players can say "Tsabo Tavoc" . . . Tsabo here is kataganized as "Tsu-ah-bo", sounding like ‘ch’abo." I personally pronounce it ‘chabo.’ Mageta is pronounced "Mah-GEH-tah za Reye-ahn". Of course, Japanese doesn’t really stress syllables in words as much as English does."

There you go again!

~*~*~ End pre-article corrections. ~*~*~

Often, one will hear Magic being compared to Chess. Many want Magic to be as popular as Chess. Some will tell you that Magic is more or less complicated than Chess. Some will tell you that Magic should be more or less complicated than Chess.

But, it’s my opinion that comparing Chess to Magic is like comparing apples to oranges – or, to be more descriptive, like comparing an apple to an apple tree. Chess is a game. Granted, it has been played for hundreds if not thousands of years, and its complexity and skill level take true wizards to be mastered, but it is still just a game. Magic, on the other hand, is so much more than a game. And, it can be so many different thing for so many different people.

For instance, to a pro player, Magic might – believe it or not – be about intrigue and spying. Pros have to guard their tech in order to be the only ones with that secret weapon in order to win a big tournament. That win might bring in the big bucks.

But, pros aren’t the only ones concerned with money. There are those that don’t actually play Magic – they simply deal in the cards. Through buying, selling, and trading, these collectors are in it for the money or possibly the thrill of getting a good deal. Try to imagine being a Chess collector:

"I’ll trade you this mint Bishop for two Pawns and that played Knight." Umm…

Now, of course, the game can be played for a game as well. Players have countless hours of fun gaming with friends and having unique tournament experiences. Also, in my opinion, Magic is much more fun than Chess. In Magic, there are endless possibilities: You could be serving with a Blastoderm on turn three, countering spells turns two through twenty, taking infinite turns, or playing that techy Searing Wind/Furnace of Rath combo deck. In Chess, you start with the same sixteen pieces against a mirrored opponent.

But, I’m not here to talk about Chess; I’m here to talk about Magic.

"But, you’ve already talked about playing and collecting," you say. "True, true," I respond. "Then aren’t you done talking about Magic?" "Nay," I respond.

For, Magic is much more than a bunch of cards that have monetary value and interact in millions of different ways in play. Magic is also an idea. You’re reading this article, right? Well, this installation of my writing, as well as every other article that I’ve ever written for Star City, has been inspired by Magic – and never have I used a Magic card to directly write an article.

Similarly, you don’t use Magic cards when you read an article. And when the article isn’t necessarily about Magic, then you leave the piece with residual thoughts that you hadn’t had before that might affect the rest of you day. You might be encouraged to engage in some creative or innovative activity, Magic-related or not. You might walk away from the article knowing something you didn’t that changes your outlook on life. Who knows what might go through one’s head after reading an article by a favorite author? This sharing of ideas by a community of similar people is possible because of that common thread: Magic: the Gathering.

Did I hear the magic word "community"? {Checks above paragraph.} Yes I did! Magic brings people together that might otherwise never meet. People flock to large tournaments and meet intelligent, unique people; they might even make some friends. Of course, the Internet can be a gateway to communication as well. Articles, forums, posts, emails, and chat rooms are all ways that people with a common interest can come together and talk about whatever interests them. I’ve talked to Magic players from all over the world: Japan, Eastern Europe, Australia, Canada, South America. I’m sure that many others have had international contact as well, and none of this would have happened without Magic.

But, on a more personal note, sometimes Magic can be very important to one’s life without bringing rectangles of cardboard into the picture at all. I get to do one of the things that I love most – write – because of Magic. I always wanted to have my voice heard by multitudes of people, but before Star City came along, there was no way for me to do that. Now, because of Magic, I have a convenient place to host my thoughts and share them with hundreds if not thousands of individuals.

Additionally, the complex combination of interactions between Magic cards is mind-boggling. Yet, most Magic players are easily able to comprehend how sixty cards can symbiotically work together to thwart another symbiotically connected set of sixty cards. This sort of intellectual ability is impressive. Also, many Magic players can recognize sometimes thousands of cards simply by their names. Take this list, for example:

Lord of the Pit
Crystalline Sliver
Arcane Denial
Cursed Scroll
Illusions of Grandeur
Goblin Cadet

If you were to show that list to someone who doesn’t play Magic, there would be absolutely no way that they could make the connection. However, Magic players know exactly what they are, what their uses are, and what kind of deck each would be in. Often, the entire text of the card could be recited, with flavor text if you’re lucky! This sort of vast comprehension makes Magic much more mind-expanding that Chess or crack – or playing Chess on crack.*

Now, if you want to go to the extreme, you can easily find people whose lives literally revolve around Magic… and you don’t have to go further than your local website, Sideboard! The fine people who run that establishment are employed by Wizards of the Coast. Their job IS Magic. Pretty sweet, huh? They’ve managed to take this game and turn it into a career. Now that’s something that you’ll NEVER see in Chess. (Um, actually many people do make a living writing Chess strategy and publishing exotic chess equipment… But close enough. – The Ferrett) Some people design new sets while others playtest them; some people deal with sales, while others strike deals to buy competitors; some write flavor texts on cards while others develop a storyline.

Yeah, you knew I’d come to that. 🙂

One of the things that sets Magic apart from many other games is that there’s a world that can be seen through the window of each card. Not everyone has to appreciate the world of Magic – but for those who want it it’s there, and it’s as real as any fantasy world can be. When you read a book, you can get into it, but all you have is the words plus your imagination. Magic takes the reading experience a step further. Instead of creating a world in a book, Magic writers make books that showcase the Magic world. It’s like reading Julius Caesar. You follow him through a real world experiencing his adventures. You know you’re only getting a small glimpse at what life was like when Caesar was invading Gaul, and if you’re interested, you can learn more because the world was real and there’s plenty of information about it. Reading a Magic book is a similar experience. Each book is based upon a world where more information can be pulled by a curious mind. And though it may be exciting to think of a chessboard as a battlefield of two advancing armies, it’s not nearly as involved as Magic is.

So, now you know why, when a friend asks you, "So what IS this ‘Magic’ thing anyway?" you can’t really explain it. You can’t say "It’s a card game," because it’s so much more than that. You can’t say, "It’s a window to a fantasy world," because it’s so much more than that. Even if you’re simply a collector and you’re only in it for money, telling that to a friend wouldn’t be showing him what Magic really is. It’s impossible to explain a complex notion like Magic in terms understandable by the unenlightened citizen. It’d be like explaining being an American to a Chinese person.

But, you’d be able to explain Chess just fine.

Daniel Crane

* – Note to the kiddies: Don’t play Chess and take crack. You’ll almost definitely lose your Queen to your opponent’s sacrifice of a Knight, and that’s just SAD. That’s the real reason why you shouldn’t do drugs. 🙂