Play Journal – Magic: The Gathering, The basics
The game I will be playing today is Magic: The Gathering(MTG). It is a card game generally played with two people (1v1) using a 60 card deck generally made up of 22 lands or “resources” and 38 other cards consisting of a mix of creatures, spells, artifacts, enchantments and an assortment of other fun and interesting things. A game lasts anywhere from ten minutes to an hour depending on the types of decks or interactions that take place. Each player plays spells and creatures by “tapping” or turning cards sideways to create mana which allows you to play cards which may have effects. Each player goes back and forth taking turns until the other player reaches a life total of zero, each player starts at twenty life.
Below is a summation of the games setup as well as some rules:
For the purposes of playing I am playing against my girlfriend Jessica who has learned in the last few months how to play MTG. We are using two very basic pre-made decks which are simple in how they play but also provide a consistent and interactive experience. Using these basics decks allows us to avoid more complicated interactions and longer games.
Alright now lets get down to playing!
The first game played Jessica decided to go first and decided to draw a new hand due to her hand being full of land (resources) generally speaking you want to have a mix of cards. This is one element of MTG that can be extremely frustrating as the cards you draw are random and sometimes you can encounter an issue where you are “flooded” with resources leading you to be unable to play anything.
Thankfully Jessica drew another hand and it was good. My hand was also good so we decided to continue play. I had a rough start and had the exact opposite problem of Jessica in that I took a hand with two lands or resources but couldn’t play anything because everything I had cost more then two. It took two turns to draw more lands and by that time I was down to 15 life. By the time I was able to get any creatures out I was down to 8.
Suffice to say the game only lasted 10 minutes, I lost and Jessica reigned supreme.
The primary problem with MTG is its element of random draw while it allows emergent game play it also allows for a player to be set up for failure. This is where deckbuilding comes into play and making choices about what is in your deck to make things more consistent. A deckbuilder can take information learned from previous battles and incorporate it into a deck and play test the new deck to find its strengths and weaknesses.
MTG’s main motivating factor is the large customization it allows with the over 10,000 cards available to build a deck. As discussed in the Salen article, “Learning about games and learning with games take place simultaneously. One cannot learn about or from games without engaging in their play.” MTG illustrates this concept beautifully as well as the idea of no one game being the same from any perspective. Many choices can be made in MTG but only by playing and trying different decks can one develop the ability to craft decks and make decks that meet a wide variety of challenges.
After learning how to play MTG one must meet the challenge of understanding the depth of it like any other game. The player determines how to approach the problems they face throughout their experience with MTG and thus becomes aligned with a favorite color (red,blue,black,white or green) each referring to a different play style in MTG.