Don’t Walk Away from MTG…part I

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.

Don’t walk away from Magic: the Gathering. If you feel like you just have to, then I beg you to please reconsider. Humor me and answer a couple of questions first. What’s your reasoning for doing so? Is the game too simple? Does it provide you with an unfulfilling experience? Are the cards just too darn cheap? Do you wish your collection wasn’t so easy to organize and manage? Is it no longer as fun because you have access to too many cards?

Quitting because someone else thinks you should…NOPE. That’s nonsense. Live your life, and let others live theirs. If you have someone urging you to quit a hobby of yours, then perhaps you need to take a hard look at why that person wants you to quit. Is it because you are addicted to cardboard crack? Having an actual addiction and joking about one are very different. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, then I suggest you seriously look at what actual addictive behaviors look like. For starters, an addict is always looking for the next fix. If you are always looking for more Magic time, then you’re not alone. However, when you replace important responsibilities and people in your life to get your next Magic fix, then you may actually have a legitimate concern. I’m not talking about the occasional decision to play with friends rather than go out with a significant other. I’m talking about ditching your family for Magic or skipping time important work meetings to get a little more Magic time. That’s a serious sign. Otherwise, simply thinking about your hobby or being a little obsessive about it is totally fine. It’s actually healthy to have an active pursuit that is outside the realms of your other daily activities. Finding time to “unplug” from your other areas and plug into a deep and rewarding hobby like Magic: the Gathering is one of life’s greatest blessings. Don’t let others force you to quit playing a game that brings you joy.

I’ve heard people wanting to quit because the game is beyond their current budget. The wonderful thing with Magic is that you can always play with the cards you own. There are so many eternal formats that allow you to recycle your cards time and time again. The lines of play in this game are such that you can easily never play the same game twice. This is one of the aspects that keeps drawing new players to the game. Why not experience an entirely different game every time you play? Perhaps you felt like you were out of control with buying cards. Then I would strongly suggest you try playing Pauper. It’s an amazingly rewarding format that is built for the poorest player’s budgets. You don’t have to proxy you heart out and cash out your morals. You can actually just play Pauper: an all commons format. It’s wonderfully rich and is very rewarding for skillful players. Additionally, you could consider investing in a Cube. Having a dedicated Cube for drafting is wonderful investment that allows you to slowly build and buy and tweak it to your heart’s content, but also limits your purchasing sprees. You only need one of any given card, and you’re constantly limited to the size of your Cube. Plus, you can get tons of drafts in for free time and time again. And, if you’re a Commander player you know that you can always just slim the collection down a bit and focus on one or two decks. You can make slight alterations, and you can decide to focus on things like Uncommons only decks or even create your own budgetary challenges. The key to finding a comfortable budget in Magic is not over-extending yourself. There will always be new, powerful, and extremely rare cards. You don’t have to catch them all, and you can always have fun with what you have. There’s no rule demanding you own everything or that you will actually find more fulfillment playing with everything. I’ve owned the coveted Black Lotus, and I don’t miss playing with. I do wish I had one…so I could sell it!

Sometimes we think we’re done with Magic. Notice I said “we think” as my qualifier. You may think you’re losing interest. That’s fine. Then consider a pause. Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time I was in college and decided I needed to step away from Magic. It was eating up too much of my time and I wanted to get Dean’s list or higher every semester. I figured eliminating Magic was a good way to do it. So, I packed up the majority of my collection that I didn’t have in decks already (about 6 decks escape this folly). I made a whole container’s worth of envelopes filled with random rares, uncommons, and commons. I doled them out to all the guys on my floor that had started playing or were long-time players. They couldn’t believe I was stepping away. I couldn’t really believe it either, but I figured I needed to. I just didn’t have time for it. Well, I was wrong. I came back to it not even six months later. I mourned the loss of all my “extra” cards. I only had a few decks and absolutely no trade fodder. It was a rough time, but I was so glad I hadn’t ditched all of my decks as well. I guess subconsciously I knew I couldn’t part with them.

Learn from my mistakes. I’ll wager that your collection might be worth a bit now, but it is likely going to be worth nearly the same amount or more 10 years from now. Most of the competitive formats that exist tend to favor particular cards for extended periods of time. Standard powerhouse cards seldom shine only in Standard. As they rotate out and then become popular in other formats they become harder to snap up as the supply has become finite. So, just hang on to those cards for now. Put them in a shoe box in the closet. Stow them under your bed. Heck, hide them in your parent’s attic if you have to! I urge you not to unload all of them for a quick buck. Here’s why. You will probably pick up this game again, and wish you still had that shoe box of cards. Sure, a chunk might just be common garbage. However, some of those commons could have cards like Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, or other simple commons that balloon up in price or become huge in any given format (in regards to my give-away example, I’m sure I probably gave away around 20+ of each of those cards when I gave away my extra cards).

Some cards fall out of favor while others rise up. The casual market created by the Commander format has brought a clear stabilizing factor to prices and demand. As a traditional casual player I can say that I always had casual demand on my mind. The interesting thing is that the casual demand has become a much more informed group of buyers. There’s tons of content out there speaking directly to the “casual” EDH players. The power level discussions tend to let us know that there are varying degrees of casual Commander. That’s great, because playgroups have always had varying levels of intensity. The thing that’s changed in recent years is the speed at which cards are identified as being great for multiplayer decks. The casual janky combo decks assemble and then disperse themselves much more quickly among the Magic community at large. This is interesting, but also a powerful indicator of just how much EDH can command the market. My point is that your current collection likely won’t lose much value overall. The larger the collection, then the more likely your collection will be something you will miss in a few years. That extra cash you score from it will likely be wasted or recouped in the years to come. Re-acquiring lost cards is much more difficult. Trust me on that note (I did recoup my 40 dual lands and that was bear of task).

A newer reason I’ve heard the last several years concerns people quitting because of some evil cabal that is undermining the game. They cry out that they are quitting because they are morally opposed to something that “the man” is doing to the game.  If you’re like me, then your reaction to this type of complaining is somewhere along the lines of “LOL” to “Wait, what? You’re quitting a game you enjoy because you believe the people that make the game are making mistakes?” I wonder if it’s that they feel the people that are in charge of those making the game are pushing designers to do that which they do not wish to do? I just don’t understand this approach to quitting such a great game. Basically people are deciding that by not playing they are sending the message that they loved this game, but now can’t love it because of…greed? Perceived design flaws? I know this is a lot of questioning, but what the Obsainus Golem is happening here? This is a seriously flawed approach to a problem that is actually fixable. Hear me out. Why quit playing a game that brings you joy? You can vote on how you want Magic to be made every time you make a purchase. When you buy sealed product you vote that you support that product. You support that design team. You support Magic’s current direction. You support the retail plan as well. If you purchase your cards and boxes from a local gaming store, then you are sending the message that you want that supply chain to continue to exist. Every purchase you make in Magic, from singles to collector booster boxes to Secret Lairs are all ways of voting for how you want Magic to exist. Each purchase is a vote. Each single is a vote. If you can’t afford to keep up with a capitalist voting system like this, then the good news is that your voice can still be heard on forums, feedback emails, and other online contacts. We’ve never had a greater voice as a consumer/player base. It’s a wondrous thing, and it’s our responsibility to use it wisely.

I believe that we need to take moral stands on issues that are dear to us. I believe that when we find truth we need to plant ourselves next to that river of truth and refuse to budge. I just can’t see how no longer playing the best game ever created is accomplishing that. You can vote with your wallet, and you can shift your collecting and shift your focus. You do not need to liquidate your collection and abandon a hobby that will bring you years of joy. You do not need to jettison your collection and pass on the opportunity to make lasting friendships and glorious memories. You can keep your cards and your morals too! Vote with your wallet, but don’t sell your free time, and don’t squander the resources you’ve already acquired. Those cards can continue to serve you well for years to come.

Well, I’ve got more to say on this, but I think that’s enough for today. We don’t need to quit because we are being told to do so. We don’t need to quit because we think we’re done…we’re probably just taking a short break! Life can be tough, but Magic should be grand and wonderful escape from life’s difficulties. Use your hobby to find joy and relaxation. Use Magic to help you, and in turn you’ll find that your hobby gives back far more than you initially thought. Consider that you could go to the movies for about $20 once a week. You spend $100 a month for 10 hours of entertainment. Now, I’m certain that you can spend $100 a month on Magic and get far more than 10 hours of entertainment out of it. If you’re going to be a penny about fun, then maybe you need to consider that Magic offers incredible value for your time, energy, and dollar. I’ll wrap up a few other false rationales for quitting next time. Until then, may the cards be ever in your favor!

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