Last week, I told you about a little pent-up, angry Magic “race wars” card game action that was happening online within a certain circle of friends of mine (who will continue to remain anonymous). You can read about the build up here. We were set to have our four-player tournament this past Friday night. It only kind of happened.
The evening started off well.
“Peter” was the first online. He was also the first to “unlock” the various cards in the game in the months leading up to the tournament, meaning he had the strongest deck possible. I, on the other hand, being the last one to play the game, had only unlocked 6 out of a possible 17 cards. I was at a decided disadvantage heading into the contest. Waiting for the others to arrive, Peter and I had a warm up game, the first time we had played each other in Magic in the better part of a decade. I’ll tell you more about that a bit later.
“Denny” and “Lee” turned up shortly after nine. One had to put his child to bed while the other had to let his significant other use the internet first…or something like that. Doesn’t everyone have Wi-Fi these days? The verbal bantering between friends started almost immediately over our headsets. Lee had problems with the game and had to re-download it off of the Xbox market site. This left the rest of us time for a three-way challenge. Race Wars had begun!
Denny chose the white deck, famous for its ability to defend, give life, and cast spells that “pump up” the abilities of playing cards. It’s a confounding deck to go up against. Peter, true to his heart the past few weeks, chose the black deck, celebrated for its ability to summon forth, or play, powerful monster cards very quickly. It’s no wonder that many are afraid to play against black. It can be a tough hand to beat. Of course, I chose the red deck, my favourite. Red, if played properly (and with a little luck) can inflict enormous amounts of damage directly on a player and not necessarily the cards that player plays. It’s great when going head-to-head with an opponent, but this is also an inherent weakness when playing in groups. Red tends to get teamed up on. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
I came out fast with various goblin cards, inflicting damage on Peter first as he seemed a little slow in playing his hand. “Revenge is a dish best served…later,” he promised. Denny set up his defences quickly and I knew straight away that he was going to be a tough one to beat, that I’d have to muster up a lot of guile and have a lot of luck come through for me if I was going to win. Really, neither one of those things happened. Peter, who for weeks had been celebrating my defeat, came at me hard in the mid rounds with some vampire-type card that I couldn’t quite figure out fast enough. It prevented me from bringing out both offensive and defensive creatures. Land, or mana (power cards) was not coming my way either. “Who pulled down my pants?” I asked, to snickering laughter at the other end of the internet. Powerless and defenceless, I wasn’t long for this game and a combined effort between Denny and Peter eventually dispatched me.
It turned out that Peter wasn’t long for the game either. Partially because he was so fixated on me and partially through luck, Denny had amassed too strong an army and was quickly able to finish Peter’s black deck. White triumphed.
But Lee was now itching to get in on the action and we were ready for a true Race War – four players going at it for all the glory! Denny set up the game and as it was loading, as we were hotly bickering with one another, the twenty-first century let me down.
The game froze up on me and I had to reboot my system. We tried it again and the same thing happened. So we tried again and again and again. Everyone else was in the game fine, their screens and their cards loaded properly but I was on the outside looking in. From across my headset, I could hear the others playing, poking fun at one another, laughing. I think it was Peter who so wittily said: “You should really upgrade from that dial-up modem!” How very drole.
It was a special torture. While a longed-for battle of cards played out in cyberspace, I sat, wept a single tear and played the computer.
I think I’ll be dropping Microsoft an email. I’m pretty pissed that there’s a glitch in the game that prevents me from playing with three other players. I did pay $14 for the game, after all. I just want my money’s worth. I just want what the game promises. I just want my chance to beat those black, blue, white and green decks into submission!
For me, on Friday night, it wasn’t the red deck that lost. It was science. Science and technology lost to the magic of promise.
But there was a highlight. That warm-up game against Peter? It was a tight, tense struggle. My red deck against his black. In a game where both players start with 20 points and try to knock their opponent down to 0, we finished 1-0. And I was at the winning end of that figure. Only afterwards did I realize that I hadn’t even played with my unlocked cards!
Peter did. And that was enough of a victory for me last Friday.
Even amidst the disappointment, pure magic.