I’ve got a circle of four friends that is distinctly different than any other circle I belong to and there was a time, not so long ago, when we were all hooked on a bad, bad drug.
Within the comfortable confines of this article, their names have been changed to protect both the identities and the abhorrent behaviour of the guilty parties from the rest of a surely disapproving world.
The card game Magic: The Gathering was introduced to our group by “Lee”. The turn-based game, wherein you held a deck of 60 cards, was a little like euchre. Different cards had different abilities. Some trumped others. Some were only good when another card was played first. The premise of Magic was that you were a wizard, a harbinger of powers that you would let fly against your equal (and sometimes opposite) opponent. The cards in the deck were a defacto spell book, divided into five distinct elemental camps of mana or power: forests were green, swamps were black, water was blue, mountains were red and plains were white.
The stunning “trick” that Magic played on all, however, was that beyond being a simple, yet elegant game of cards, they were also collectibles, playing upon the hard vices of comic book, science fiction, role-playing and fantasy fans everywhere. Some cards were hard to get. In order to find them you had to try your luck with the purchase of booster packs – foil wrapped sets of 15 extra cards that you could add to your deck. Some you could only find in specialty shops and they could be downright expensive! Spending $40 on one card was not unheard of at the time. I’d spend my hard-earned money on the booster packs, desperately trying to find another Mill Stone, Shivan Dragon or a Black Lotus card. You know – the really powerful or really scarce ones.
“Denny” was the next to get hooked and then it was me. “Peter” soon followed. That’s what happens when you run with a bad crowd. You take up all of their horrid vices as your very own.
The four of us would have all-day tournaments against one another which would inevitably lead into what is known as “race wars”. In Magic, each colour card has its own inherent race of creatures including: elves, the undead, goblins, mer-people and men.
We’d dedicate our decks to one particular colour and then challenge each other, attacking and defending, forging alliances and then breaking those loose bonds. Games would always quickly devolve into something truly base. We’d shout insults from across the table at each other, at our cards and at our proficiency with them. We’d boast at a win, pout at a loss, always starting a new game where a poor previous outcome could be reversed or a supremacy retained.
Some players were better than others, mainly because they would spend more money on those booster packs or at the card shops, but everyone would have a turn in the limelight. Race Wars, because of the cacophony and discord the game nurtured, was inherently fair.
Real life eventually closed in. Ten years ago, car loans, families and mortgages took over our lives and there was no more money or time left for Magic.
Until last month.
Magic recently went online via the Xbox and Peter got hooked first. No longer was he spending money on packs, looking for powerful cards like the old days. Now he was unlocking them by playing campaigns and other drug-riddled players around the world.
He might tell you that nostalgia brought him back to the game. I think it was revenge. Perhaps there was something left unsettled from a decade ago.
Denny and Lee have also been seduced by the sweet disease and have been playing the game too, unlocking potent cards and rising in the Magic ranks. I, on the other hand, have been sitting idly by. For those three, that noxious bravado, once banished by responsibility, had returned far too easily and too strongly.
There have been numerous arrogant email taunts and challenges of late and, finally, two nights ago, I relented (or surrendered, depending upon one’s perspective). Two nights ago, I downloaded the game and began playing.
In relative secrecy, I’ve been getting accustomed to the game’s intricacies, unlocking my own cards, training for a Race War against the other three. I easily slipped back into the old mindset. Because of my mounting hate over the culturally bankrupt black, white, blue and green decks, (I was always a red deck fan), on the same night that I started playing Magic I issued an email challenge to Peter, Lee and Denny. Maybe it was more of an ultimatum. If we were going to do this thing, we’d do this thing old school.
Denny JP Lee Peter
Race Wars: Magic Kick-Ass
Because some things were left unsettled
Friday, August 13, 2009, 9:00 PM
Yes. It is just like a movie. This Friday night, there can be only one. And I plan to be the last man standing in this war of races.