I love a challenge, challenge me to anything and I’d be real tempted to give it my best shot. I enjoy learning new skills, pushing my limits and feeling that inner glow and satisfaction from achieving something I didn’t know I could.
This week it’s Magic: The Gathering.
And what is that I hear you ask?! Well I’m actually a big fan of playing card games and my partner in crime and all things fun is a big gamer. Over the weekend we felt that we needed to explore a new area of gaming, something that was interactive and transportable.
We headed to our local game store when we chatted to it’s very personable owner, Stuart. As luck would have it there was a tournament playing – for a playmat and some other souvenirs – well if there are goodies involved I am hooked already!
Hearing someone explain the nuisances of a battlefield base card game between two duelling Planeswalkers who are essentially sorcerers who can cast creatures to do their bidding and enchant them to improve their statistics and damage.
I was completely confused – talk of creatures and tricks, renowns and tapping. I was learning a new language as well as a new game. My brain was having to think about processes (first you untap, then you play land, then draw – that before what I would describe as ‘my go’).
What I like as a beginner, is that it has a lot of structure. There may be lots to remember in terms of what card to use when but once you have the basics (which doesn’t take long) you have to start to strategize. Playing with the same cards could make moves quite predictable for your opening as you become familiar with the cards, the characters and the powers they wield.
It can be frustrating at times so it’s really important to get yourself a patient playmate, especially if their knowledge is greater than yours. Take your time to really understand the basic mechanics of the game and work through the battle phase slowly with full comprehension. It continues to raise questions with the amount and value of attacking, blocking, tapping and enhancements. There is a lot to consider and when you make your moves there is no time for a change of mind or strategy. No mercy is afforded when the attack has been cast!
The main challenges in learning a new skill for me is remembering all the different aspects, just like a new language with all the tenses that are involved – they have to be applied at the right moment in the right situation the same is true in Magic. Despite being a card game and not learning parkour or how to perform a successful headstand, engagement in the game is a skill to be mastered this takes a mixture of good preparation and lots of practice!
What I liked about Magic: The Gathering was the ability, to a degree, to personalise your ‘deck’ or your wizardry powers. There are 5 ‘mana’ (your spiritual life force that is required to summon all actions you take in the game) which are White, Green, Red, Blue and Black. Depending on your style you can have a starter pack (I highly recommend this) that mixes one source with another; purity with nature, raw power with misdirection and trickery or undead and raw aggression. Whatever you feel most inclined towards, some styles lean towards playing big hitting characters to deal big blows which multiplies as more hits are made, others create a build up effect laying down smaller characters on the battlefield and enhancing them to block attacks and exile opponents strengths. Great skills I’ve found in this game are the ones that allow a targeted move to a Planeswalker’s creature. The majority of combat phases are Planeswalker to Planeswalker who call upon their creatures to attack and defend to protect their ‘life’ so it’s ‘all vs all’ rather than your big character attacking their big one, they can block your big game ending 10/10 with a smaller 2/2 (2 attack and 2 toughness/defence). It’s a real advantage to prevent big damage by blocking and deal a deathly blow to a key part of your opponent’s strategy.
Really getting so into describing this that I may have to complete a separate blog for anyone looking to get into it. I highly recommend it as you can play with more than 2 players so it can be quite social as well as being very involved, so far our games have been anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours!
As far as learning something new is concerned it is important to find something that intrigues you, that piques your curiosity there is no point going through the time consuming process of learning something that bores you as soon as you have mastered it. I also love picking up new skills that help me reach ‘flow’ the mental state of doing something so involving that you lose all track of time and 2 hours passes in 5 minutes.