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 conducted an experiment where I avoided every Kaldheim spoiler prior to opening my own packs of the set. If you’re wondering why I would do such a thing, then perhaps I should go back to this being an experiment. My basic hypothesis was, “If I avoid all spoilers will I be able to recreate the wonder I experienced when I opened up my first packs of the original snow set—Ice Age—and would it be worth the self-imposed exile on all spoiler season venues?” This is based on the concept of whether or not I could recapture the joy, mystique, and wonder that I once had while opening packs of cards in my early days of playing. In order to do this, I successfully avoided every spoiler throughout the spoiler season. I was purposefully trying to see if I could re-create the wonder of coming to a Magic: the Gathering set with only tangential knowledge similar to what I would have been exposed to during the mid-90’s. I learned much from this experiment, and I’d like to pass on some words of wisdom.
If you’re unsure if this experiment is worth it, then let me explain a bit more. When I was new to Magic it was amazing to me that there were so many cards in existence (at the time there were a whopping 4 expansions out). I remember that a couple years later there was a new set called Ice Age that was coming out. There was some artwork out and some rumors circulating about a Jester’s Cap card that was incredibly powerful, but no one in my circle knew exactly what it did. The mystique was there. The wonder was there. I was so excited to open my first starter box (think 3 boosters crammed into a box with lands as well). The box had a crazy looking wurm (Scaled Wurm) on the cover that was back dropped by snowfall. As a fan of the original Craw Wurm, I was excited to see what this scaly new card had in store for me. The snow-covered lands were also exciting, but not nearly as exciting as the the two sets of dual lands they printed (Land Cap and fellows were the counter lands and Adarkar Wastes and the gang were the original pain lands). I had heard about those as well. However, the most exciting part was that I had no idea what I would find in there. I look back fondly on those days, and I wanted to try and recapture a bit of that wonder. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy today’s modern spoiler season. Spoiler season and the internet do a great job at hyping everyone up for a set by showing off new cards, explaining interesting new mechanics, and ramping up people’s expectations for what lies in their packs. However, spoiler season also spoils the wonder and mystique of opening packs. I’m not arguing for or against it, but rather just sharing with you my experience as a modern player attempting to relive the wonder of un-spoiled Magic.
At times I have been bummed by this experiment. So many opportunities for instant gratification have lurked just a flick of my finger away. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and my Google Feed all wanted to push spoilers on me. I was able to avert my eyes and my attention away from nearly everything of substance. I was exposed to artwork, and a few names, but honestly the exposure was so brief that I couldn’t remember the names of cards I had read, and the artwork really just ramped up my interest. In that way it was very similar to the feelings I had during Ice Age’s arrival. In the interest of transparency I did happen upon the following bits of information: there is some sort of rare land cycle, there are gods, there are legendary weapons, and snow-covered has made a return. None of these were surprises for me as I actually anticipated each of these based on my experience with previous sets like Theros, and Amonhket. Theros was also exciting for me, and I anticipated Kaldheim to be a similar experience. The rare land cycle made sense, and the knowledge I possess of Norse mythology is good enough to pass any college course’s requirements on the subject. So, I figured the design team wouldn’t drop the ball on including major elements of Norse mythology. Having read and studied Beowulf in graduate school, I was ready for some epic sagas. I’ve long been a fan of nearly all mythology; so, yeah, I have been super excited for this set. However, the overall doom and gloom that surrounds much of the Norse pantheon had led me to feel that this set was going to be much darker. I saw some artwork, and other elements, but those only made me more excited to finally open some of this product. Basically, the artwork being spoiled did nothing to actually spoil my experiences with the set. I actually feel that there may be a case for spoiling artwork and using it to ramp up interest on its own.
When I finally got my box of booster packs I was giddy with anticipation. My brother and friends still couldn’t believe that I had managed to avoid all spoilers. I was approaching this moment as an unspoiled brat. Now, I say this because I did buy a pre-release kit, a bundle, and a booster box. That would have been an absolute crazy amount of product for the kid I was in the 90’s to afford. It basically was akin to getting super spoiled for my birthday (which isn’t until March). When I first opened my pre-release kit I was so excited to see a Barkchannel Pathway as my very first rare. This isn’t much different from how I was back in the mid-90’s. I loved rare lands back then, and opening them up now is still exciting for me. I was weird that way as a newer player. It usually takes people a few years to realize how important lands really are, but I had warmed to them quickly as I was always trying to play as many gold Legends as I could. The joy of opening a Barkchannel Pathway as my first card was quickly replaced with the feeling that it wasn’t really that great, because now I knew which Pathways would most likely be in this set, and it was just a cycle being finished off. Overall, it was exciting, but also a clear warning sign that this was not going to be the same thing I used to experience as a newer player. I know too much about the game and development and product design. My knowledge was thwarting my ability to live in the moment. I was familiar with this exact land style, and so it was cool, but not terribly exciting. I also instantly knew which ones were going to be showing up in set, so a bit of mystique vanished from the onset. I had somehow spoiled myself already. Darn. In some ways I’ve found that you can’t turn back the clock.
Now, once I got into opening cards I was so excited to see the showcase treatments. These managed to look like Magic cards (unlike those monstrous Invocations from Amonkhet), but also looked special and uniquely made for this set. I love this fancy treatment. I also enjoyed seeing so many Legends in the set. Wow, it’s like Commander Legends part two. I was blown away by how many legendary creatures I kept opening up. This was very exciting, and made me spend quite a bit of time perusing not only my rares, but the uncommons and commons as well. It felt a bit like I was trying to become a better drafter of the set, but my focus wasn’t on drafting. I was studying the cards with interest and wonder. I found myself reading flavor text for clues. I recalled doing that during the Ice Age expansion to try and figure out what the deal was with Leshrac and if he was a card or not. I was scouring the italicized words to find hints about other cards and characters. I desperately wanted to know who was next, and I kept thinking that I was so excited to open the next unknown. I was digging for clues to what was next, but it was less a spoiler reveal, and more a detective novel. I kept picking up clues to other characters, thinking about the potential plot, reviewing sagas, and then being amazed that there was a Tibalt Planeswalker that was actually good. It was actually a bit overwhelming. A splendid sort of overwhelming. Opening Tibalt as a showcase card was exciting for many reasons. I had already stumbled across the Pretender Saga, and so I was reasonably sure Tibalt was going to be in the set. Once I found him and realized he was the Loki of the set, then I truly loved this whole ridiculous take on Norse mythos in the Magicverse. The wonder and excitement were definitely back. I would never have been so eager to read about the story or the pour over flavor text and mechanics for clues about other cards had I devoured all the spoilers. I definitely was able to bring back the mystique.
As I opened more cards and reviewed pack after pack I realized that I had spoiled something else. I had spoiled myself beyond any nostalgic feelings I had from the past. I don’t think I could ever afford so many packs at once until I was in college. I never bought anything but singles and occasional packs prior to having a decent job, and therefore a decent Magic budget. For me, this gluttonous greed with my pack cracking was really just a spoiled brat moment. I was spoiled by being able to have so many cards all at once. I think this is fun, but also something that can take away from the collector hunt that can develop when on more limited funds. I don’t think it’s necessary to instantly gain access to every card in a set. In some ways it rots away the joys and wonders of opening new packs. It’s similar to studying the spoiler sheet prior to opening. It becomes a chore to open pack after pack, and that just shouldn’t be the case. If this is your hobby, then you should enjoy it. If you like to collect cards, then collect them while having fun doing so. I felt that buying so many cards at once killed the joy of the hunt. I now only had a few rares and mythics to chase down. That’s a bit of a bummer, and definitely was something I didn’t anticipate about this experience. I’m still happy to have been spoiled rotten and all, but it does take away from the hunt.
I know that many Magic players suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I get it. I know you are worried about not picking up a card before its price soars beyond your budget. So, I know that many of you think that if you study the spoilers and predict which cards are great before everyone else, then you will be able to either make a buck or save some bucks. You may very well be right. However, those types of pickups usually happen after the first three weeks a set has been out. The market is typically flooded during the first two weeks. All those pre-order prices come back down to reality, and competition lowers the prices a good deal. I find myself ordering many singles during that second week after a set releases. This is also the time when tournament results for Standard start to add up, and that’s around the same time when new decks show up. This sweet spot isn’t affected by spoilers. Your knowledge of the set doesn’t have to hamper you from this. You can easily pick up cards or sealed product during the first week of release, and then still pick up the cards you need at excellent prices. Standard sets have plenty of product printed, and you don’t need to be fearful of not getting your hands on it. As a Commander player, you should know that time is usually on your side. Avoiding spoilers didn’t cause me to miss out, and actually ended up helping me enjoy packs even more. This experiment really seemed to work out pretty well.
Spoilers have spoiled some things for me, but at the same time I feel they have offered me plenty of excitement in their own way. They are a form of instant gratification. Spoilers give me knowledge, and as we know, knowledge is power. I can have knowledge before others, but what I do with that knowledge determines its power. Do I use it to plan decks? Do I pick up cards others might not realize work well with the newest cards? Should I suddenly stop everything and buy up every Beta Craw Wurm ever printed (the answer to that is always yes). Spoilers can be great when they are done right. It’s similar to a good movie trailer. The good movie trailer should tease the elements of the movie, clarify the genre, and give me a taste of what is to come. The worst movie trailers act as summaries of the entire film; you watch the trailer, and you’ve basically seen the whole movie. The same is true with good Magic spoilers. The spoilers that discuss ideas, present themes, and flesh out concepts or tease bigger moments are the types of spoilers I’m interested in consuming. Seeing a list of cards is just someone giving me the answers to a test without offering me any real knowledge. I don’t care about the simple mechanics alone. I want some drama, some story, some synergy, and some mystique. Let me discover some things on my own and they’ll mean an awful lot more to me. Spoiling yourself with spoilers can kill much of the fun that a Magic set initially has to offer. Yet, when spoilers are done right they build excitement. However, spoilers can also limit the joy of discovery, and I would personally rather have no limits on my Magic moments.