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The magic is in the gathering

A first person account from Dungeons and Dragons Club

Coleman Andersen, Opinions Editor
Originally published December 19, 2014


Cassin Stacy

Cassin Stacy

I wanted Dungeons and Dragons, but I found Magic instead.

The kids were hunched over two tables and playing three different games in the back of the classroom. I approached them with caution. Their eyes were focused and clouded with strategy and their arms and cards flew around the table.

“What are you attacking with?” “You refuse to play with hand limit! That’s just a [expletive] move.” “You’re a very, very sore loser.”

The banter was loud and the girl in the far corner playing Ukulele made it louder. I felt swallowed whole.

I walked up behind a short blonde boy and tapped him on the shoulder, pencil and paper in hand. He froze and looked up. Whatever spell of focus previously in place had broken. The others looked up at me, too.

I stuck out my hand and introduced myself. I was from the newspaper and hoping to do a feature on our school’s Dungeons and Dragons club. I also asked them why Dungeons and Dragons club was playing Magic: The Gathering.

“We do both,” said freshman Evan Stern, the boy at the table in front of me.

Both he and the blonde boy, freshmen Ben Reed, looked longingly at the game, which they wished to resume. I asked to sit down and they let me.

The two talked quickly and concisely. Buried behind their Magic garble, I heard what might have been trash talking.

They were mentioning deathtouch, double strikes, hexproof, landwalking and a lot of other stuff I couldn’t remember to write down. This was a foreign country.

A third boy, freshman John Dreher, sat at our table, playing on his Nintendo DS and watching the card game. While doing so, he did his best to explain the game.

There are five basic colors: green, white, black, red and blue. Each color is a different type of mana, a resource that lets you make actions. Most monsters have colors corresponding to the mana they need.

As Dreher talked, Stern’s cards had been slowly dwindling, and Reed was getting confident.

Dreher continued. Most decks have 60 cards, and each turn you can draw once. Reed, eyes still trained on the game, said that a good deck should use just one or two types of mana.

Suddenly Reed was standing up and everyone turned to watch him as he threw card after card onto the table, yelling all sorts of indecipherable Magic jargon; Dreher exclaimed and asked how much his deck cost and Reed grinned proudly.

My phone rang, but I didn’t dare check it.

Stern, apparently stalemated, forfeited. They started a new game.

Dreher continued and I listened studiously. There are artifact cards, and there are creatures that have boosting effects.

“Are you following all this?” Dreher asked kindly. I told him kindly that I wasn’t.

He smiled. “It took me like a year to learn the rules.” He said that some of the new sets still confuse him.

This made me a little less embarrassed to be the only one who couldn’t speak the language.

Across the room, I heard someone comparing “Interstellar” to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“They’re like the same movie, except ‘Interstellar’ had a way better story.” I’m a video production student, so my teeth clenched before I yelled out in anger against this ludicrous proposition.

“There’s no way,” I said, turning around. “At all. Matthew McConaughey travels through dimensions powered by nothing but love. It’s sappy.” The Christopher Nolan lover’s eyes narrowed. “It’s not a classic. Not like ‘2001’.” We agreed to disagree.

Suddenly Reed made some last minute daring play that I still couldn’t understand and Stern packed up his cards, upset.

Then Stern turned to me, and said, “So, what’ve you learned so far?”

I thought, and explained to him colored mana and the 60-card limit. “I also know that Reed’s got a really, really good deck,” I added.

Stern’s brows sank. “Well, I put mine together in like half an hour last night,” he mumbled.

Reed chuckled and called Stern resentful.

Soon after, I found myself sitting at a side table with Dreher and Reed while they played on their DS and iPad, respectively, while Stern and the others yelled and slapped their cards on the table across from us.

I leaned across to watch Reed’s game and recognized it immediately. “I have Terraria on my phone,” I said.

Reed nodded enthusiastically. “I just got this game a few weeks ago and I’m super addicted.” He’d beaten “The Wall of Flesh”, a big boss, earlier that day. I was genuinely fascinated.

“What other games do you play?” I asked.

He liked Minecraft, and so did Dreher. I told them about how much I’d struggled with modding my game, and that I’d practically broken my computer on several occasions as a result. They snickered at me.

Reed said he was mostly a console gamer and we talked about Microsoft workers getting Xbox discounts and “Halo Reach” and “The Walking Dead” video game. They hadn’t played it so I explained it to them and they were genuinely fascinated.

Every once in awhile, someone over at the Magic: The Gathering table would cuss in joy or anger.

I looked down at my notes. I hadn’t written something about Magic: The Gathering in almost an hour and it wasn’t because I was bored.

Dungeons and Dragons club, or Magic: The Gathering club, or whatever they decide to go by, possesses an infectious energy that rubs off on people like the static from a balloon.

I knew little to nothing about Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons, but that didn’t really matter.

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The magic is in the gathering