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.
Last time we discussed why you were considering quitting Magic. Now, if I didn’t hit on one of your reasons, then this time I’m betting I will. There are plenty of reasons to stop playing Magic, but none of them are good. This is truly the best game ever made, and not playing it anymore is really odd decision. I’d like to offer some insight into why you should consider keeping your cards and your hobby intact. The reasons you have for leaving might not be as solid as you think.
Perhaps you’re considering getting out of Magic because you need cash and you need it now. Listen, quitting because you need the money isn’t really quitting. You’re liquidating a happy hobby to deal with life’s responsibilities. Look, I get it. Life can be hard, and cardboard is not food. Magic is a lot of things, but its not rent, a car, or even a resume. It’s not something that can keep you warm, insured, or help you get to your job. I’ve been down this road before and I’ve sold some expensive cards just to make car insurance payments. That’s right, I wasn’t even paying for the actual car, but just the insurance to drive it. I didn’t even have anything to show for my cardboard. I’m not alone in my stories of parting with cards to meet life’s challenges. Just about every one that’s been playing for longer than ten years has stories of selling their cards for way less than they are worth now. We all find ourselves wishing we had found another way to make that payment. Whatever you need to pay, perhaps you should be a bit more creative in how you drum up the cash for it? There’s plenty of side-job work out available in today’s economy. I wish I had mowed some lawns, or bailed some hay instead of unloading those cards. Some people say they live life with no regrets, but I’m certainly not one of them. I have regrets. I hope and wish that others don’t, and won’t have the same regrets I have. Mike Rowe once said, “Life is full of pain and disappointment.” He’s right. He also knows, like I do, that life is full of overcoming challenges and pushing past the pain. You can find other creative ways to get deal with those annoying bills. Here’s why: you will want to come back to this game again, and when you do it’ll be so much easier to do so with an established collection at your fingertips.
If you have to pare down your collection, then seriously consider keeping at least one of each card. I say this, because at least then you can come back and play casual Commander whenever you’re ready. The opportunity cost of not selling a couple decks or more worth of Commander cards is pretty low when compared to the future opportunities you will lose by shipping off your entire collection. You may think you won’t miss that one dual land, or that one big money card you have, but if you ever come back to this game, then you undoubtedly will. Please, take it from someone that has sold his set of 40 dual lands, Black Lotus, Time Walk, and Beta Mox Jet…you do not want to unload all of your money cards. Selling some of your cash cards may get you through a short term loss, but the long term sorrow just isn’t worth it. Now, if you have to sell some of the collection because there is just no other way, then I’d like to offer a little insight into determining what cards you should try to save from liquidation. To be totally honest, I don’t miss playing with the power as much as I missed playing with the duals. It was fun playing with the power cards, but even if I had them today they wouldn’t offer me nearly the satisfaction that playing dual lands does. I just love the look and feel of the original duals. The ways I originally acquired them and the memories attached them are just so positive. I look fondly on those cards, and you need to take a hard look at each card you plan to sell. Instead of thinking about the money the card can offer, instead look at what nostalgia, play value, and overall emotional connection that card offers. If you find yourself totally unattached to that card, then feel free to sell it off. If you find yourself pining for the good old days of playing it—keep it! Be aware of your emotions, and use them to make informed decisions about what to keep and what to ship.
Too many rules and too much product have been things that keep players away from the game. Magic is not a simple game. Quitting because you are overwhelmed is a real possibility for newbies. The solution to this is rather ironically simple. Just take a step back from the game. Don’t buy anything else. Just play with what you have, and learn only the new cards that are played against you. This might sound counterintuitive. You feel like you don’t know enough about Magic, so you start trying to learn everything about Magic. That won’t work for Magic just like it doesn’t work for any other subject. You can’t just learn everything about something and think it will make it all easier. The more you learn about any complicated subject, like retro video game programming or grammar—the more you realize that it is complex and nuanced. There are subtleties that only become apparent when you combine experience and knowledge. That’s why taking a step back and just focusing on what you have at hand can be the key to unlocking further understanding. People that have been playing this game for over a decade can tell you all about this type of experience. This may seem a bit weird, but people take breaks from Magic, and when they come back they always go through this same “beginner over-load” phase. So much has changed, but Magic is still, at its core, the same. The rules alter slightly, and the cards shift and change, but the basics of the formula remain. That’s the elegant beauty of Magic. Once you’ve learned the game, then you can learn more of the game at any time. Having gaps in your knowledge is totally fine, and most players only know small portions of the entire list of unique cards anyway. Magic has gotten to a point in its index that very few players are actually familiar with most or all of Magic’s catalogue. It’s just too much for mere mortals. So, give yourself the time you need to realize that being overwhelmed is just one of the things you actually get used to. It’s ok to be reading all the time, because once you read the card you know what it does. We’ve always said, “RTFC.” Read the Card. So, don’t quit, but instead, shelve buying cards for a bit. Or, focus on buying cheaper singles that are quirky, fun, or help you complete a pet deck project. You don’t have own them all or even know them all. You can adapt and respond to new cards as you encounter them. This is what helps keep every game of Magic from being the same as the last. The variety and changing nature of the game is what makes it so grand. You don’t need to quit the entire game, but perhaps quit buying cards or quit trying to study the entire catalogue. Focus on a set at a time, and don’t be afraid to skip buying tons of each set. You can simply pick up a few singles that catch your eye, and thereby limit your overall overload.
This last bit is rather sad for me to wrap my head around. I guess what makes it so tough is that I personally haven’t had to experience this in any true capacity. I’m lucky, because I’ve never had to face quitting because I didn’t have a play group any more. This may be the toughest reason. I feel for you. It is awful when you have the greatest game at your fingertips, and no one to play with. I’ve had years where I wasn’t able to play very often, and that’s because I just couldn’t fit play time into my hectic life schedule. I think that Covid sucks, and because it sucks so much I’ve been forced to realize a few things. One of those things is how much I cherish the chance to play Magic with my brother and my friends. I can’t wait to have family and friends over to play again. Those times are precious, and I’ll be sure to record every one of those moments in the Kills Book[article link]. If you don’t have a group, then wait. If you are young enough, then start a club at your local school or college. People will come. Ask for donations from your LGS. I’ve made hundreds of commons only decks over the years just to teach newer players. It’s worth it. Hang on to your collection, and if anything, try to grow it more during the times when you don’t have a group. Sometimes the only way to find a play group is to build a play group. This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. The feeling of joy you get from spreading your love of Magic with others is incredibly fulfilling. I have introduced, taught, and mentored many new players over the years, and I feel blessed that I’ve been able to bring the joy of this game to their lives. Magic has brought me so much, and I know that it will bring just as much to others as well. When you don’t have a playgroup you just have to double down and build one.
I haven’t run across many other reasons why people have quit or tried to quit Magic. If I’ve missed one between this column and the last, then please let me know in the comments section. Ultimately, we each decide what to make of our hobbies. We decide how much time and money to invest in them. However, when you are making the decision to continue your hobby or not, then I urge you to consider how much the hobby gives back to you. How much satisfaction and joy do you get from it? You are worth more than you might think. You deserve to have an awesome hobby with great pieces to it. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t give up on a source of joy. I hope I’ve offered enough rationale to keep you with the greatest game ever made—Magic: the Gathering. Until next time, may the cards be ever in your favor!