A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
I used to be able to trash talk how often I won games like Yahtzee and Rummy against my wife. I use the past tense, because she started keeping a record book to prove to me that my win percentages were anything but brag worthy. As it turns out, though not a surprise after 15 years together, she was right. She took to labeling the winner: “Champion” and the loser (only when I lost) the “Hunted Wumpus”. She crushes me, routinely. Thank goodness she never picked up playing Magic–I can still say I am the best Magic player in the house. I decided that the record book was a great idea, and so The Kills Book was born. What is The Kills Book you ask, well it is a piece of living history. Aside from keeping track of how many times you’ve defeated your foolish foes, I mean friends, it serves many other useful purposes.
The Kills Book records the names of players, the dates we play, number of kills, and wins earned for each gaming session. For cube drafting days I also record draft records and deck archetypes. It is important to record a variety of information, but I did not want this to become some Sisyphean task. The date, names, kills, and wins is OK, but Commander players need something a little grander. Hence, I have an EPIC WINS column. Epic wins involve four or more players, and require the winner to have dealt the fatal blow to all three opponents. To properly honor a win of this magnitude the deck’s name is recorded next to each epic win check mark.
What other purposes, aside from wins recorded, does a kills book serve?
The Kills Book offers people pride, honor, glory, and a place in the annals of local Magic history. It is not all about recording total wins. The Kills Book does not care about your all-time wins or even your all-time kills. Each gaming session stands on its own. This makes each session even more special. Killing someone and earning a tally mark each session is a point of pride. Even if you lose every game that day, you at least walk away with the pride of having taken out someone else first. Each tally mark on the day is a way to inch closer toward the honor of Championship status. After all, no one wants to be the shameful Hunted Wumpus (no kills). Keeping each session recorded by its date allows one to better reminisce on the history embedded in past gaming sessions. As an example, let us analyze a page from the book and see what memories it dredges up.
This was nearly ten years ago, and I remember that January 5th gaming session better than most other things that happened a decade ago. In particular, I vividly remember Lenny allowing Doug to take the Epic win, by hosing me.
Lenny removed my graveyard from the game in response to me targeting my Akroma, Angel of Wrath with Miraculous Recovery. He could have used his Tormod’s Crypt to exile Doug’s graveyard (he was playing a clone style deck with Kokusho, the Evening Star and Keiga, the Tide Star. When I asked him if he was sure he wanted to target me, his response was clear, “I want to see Doug’s deck get an Epic win by doing its thing.” I was tapped out, and I had no other plays. I had no outs, and Doug was surely going to go off next turn. Yes, Lenny wanted to see Doug get the glorious Epic win, and so everyone (except me) got what they wanted. The Kills Book, and the coveted glory of the epic win, made this possible. Would Lenny have been less likely to have allowed Doug’s deck to get the win? Well, I asked him, and he totally wanted Doug (or anyone but me) to get that first Epic win.
Additionally, I distinctly remember Jay killing off Doug when he was mana screwed in one of our games that session. Why? Jay wanted to record his first kill for the day, and Doug was accepting of being killed off early, because it was clear Jay needed that tally mark—he was almost the dreaded “Hunted Wumpus”. Clearly, The Kills Book helps foster an environment that eliminates board stalls. Recording kills can be just as satisfying as winning games. Maneuvering for epic wins is yet another element to peoples’ overall strategies. Do not underestimate the desire to achieve glorious epic wins, and rabid fascination of avoiding the shameful title of Hunted Wumpus.
These games took place over the course of a twelve hour Magic marathon day. We started at around 8am, and played until 11pm. It was glorious. We played thirteen games of Magic that day. I even recorded my first Epic win with my old multiplayer monstrosity, The Kaboom! Deck. That was a thing of beauty. I distinctly remember setting up the kill by gauging everyone’s life total, stacking my deck with Riddle of Lightning, and doing 16 points of damage to Jay on his end step by revealing Draco. Then, on my upkeep, I spun Sensei’s Divining Top. I drew a land, spun the top, then cast Kaboom!. I did 16 (Draco) to Doug, 14 (Blinkmoth Infusion) to Lenny, and 5 (Kaboom!) to Jay. I would never have remembered that with such clarity if it were not for the record keeping help of The Kills Book. This is just one example of many stories I can recount of that day’s Magic games.
I find myself remembering the first real day of Summer Vacation. Doug’s Kokusho Deck got another epic win. Then Lenny’s Monoblack snuffed us out to score him an epic win, and I snagged two epic victories using two of my old multiplayer decks, Draganimation and Worm Harvest. Lenny brutalized us with massive swamps matter spells, like Nightmare, Mutilate, and Korlash Heir to Blackblade. I remember casting Victimize by sacrificing Bladewing’s Thrall to return Dragon Tyrant and Bladewing the Risen. The Thrall got to join the party again. Meanwhile, I used Bladewing the Risen’s trigger to return Karthus, Tyrant of Jund, and then I proceeded to win target game.
The other epic win I pulled off was with my Wurm Harvest Deck. I used Invasion sacrifice lands, and weaker cycling lands as well to fill my yard with Wurm Harvest fodder. I then dredged up Dakmor Salvage several times to recast Wurm Harvest, cycled a few more lands, then drew a game ending Overrun–epic win complete!
Those were glorious days, and reading over these notes gives me such a wonderful feeling of nostalgia. The Kills Book creates honorable moments, gloriously epic victories, and a place to look back and remember how we all grew closer together, by crushing one another in Magic the Gathering. The organic living history of our Magic gatherings is really a wonderful thing to behold. Each playgroup needs to keep one of these. Adding to it makes every game night a part of your organic saga. Being able to look back on your friend’s successes and your own crushing defeats can be surprisingly enjoyable. Keeping this living history going is actually simple. The Kills Book creates a hunger for more tally marks, and your friends will be asking you not only to bring it, but to keep it as accurate as possible.
It sounds like a nice idea, but I’m overwhelmed. How do I even start?
You start by getting a notebook. I chose a simple Steno Pad, because it is easily portable, and easily storable. It is bound, so the pages will not fall out, and I had one handy. You may opt for anything from a leather-bound journal to napkins sewn together with yarn. Once you have a notebook, outline the criteria you wish to record. I suggest keeping each play session as a separate entry. You can use mine as an example, but do not feel like you must keep to my methods. Feel free to include snacks you had, amazing plays that were made, or even new cards that were showcased! If you feel like this is too much, then just keep to recording kills, wins, and epic wins. You can change the criteria for an epic win to whatever your playgroup defines it to be. Perhaps you feel epic wins only occur when someone’s deck wins by “doing its thing”, as Lenny so graciously decided Doug’s deck should. I am not bitter…I am simply recalling the phrasing that preceded my loss and Doug’s epic win (yes, I am still salty). Once you have the criteria recorded, then I suggest you keep the book with your decks. This ensures you never forget to bust out The Kills Book. Nothing makes a gaming session feel more official than the opportunity to add to the living history you and your friends are recording each and every time you sit down to destroy one another.
I have been keeping The Kills Book for nearly a decade. I love this thing, and my biggest regrets I have about it are not recording every single game in it. There were days I forgot to bring it to a friend’s house. There were days I left it in my cabinet, and others where I just forgot to record it as we were playing. However, I have managed to capture most of my play sessions with it, and it is something that has brought me far more joy than any other record keeping I have ever done. It helps move games along and eliminate board stall. It helps give people pride when they lose the match, and can bring a whole new quest for glory to those of us with a desire to record every kill. You need a Kills Book whether you are players just starting or original gamers from the ABU era. The Kills Book is simple to keep, but pays major dividends. Does your playgroup keep one already? I would love to know what you record in yours.