The importance of having fun in Magic
My name is Alex, and I hail from Dublin, Ireland. I come from a casual background of MTG, and my articles will reflect that, though I hope that that won’t make them unreadable for more professional players. I aim for my articles to be interesting and accessible, regardless of skill level or time playing. I want both those who have been playing for a week and those who have been here from the beginning to enjoy and get something out of what I write.
For a few days I could not decide what to write about. A deck idea? I could do that, but it’s done all the time. I will absolutely do some eventually, but not for my first article. Decklists, theories, card analysis, set reviews; these are the standard articles you will see across Magic journalism. None of them are in any way bad. They are intended to improve players, to spread ideas and interesting methods of playing, and they work. I have improved my game significantly from such articles. But for my very first piece here I wanted to do something different. So – I have decided to take a personal perspective and talk about why I got into Magic, what it means to me, and why it is important in my life.
I have been playing Magic now since the release of Gatecrash, so around eight months or so. If you have been playing for years you might say that isn’t very long at all, but it seems like a long time to me. I can’t remember a time when I did not play Magic. I got into it simply because I had been out with a group of friends and all of them (six in total) were playing Magic and I felt left out. I wanted to see what this game was all about. I had played Yu Gi Oh when I was younger, and I did have an interest in CCGs. I’m a Nerdfighter, so I knew several people who played and it was as good a time as any to begin. I was hoping it would be a lot of fun.
And it was.
I had a blast right from the beginning. I remember the very first game I ever played, against my friend who also had never played before, and we both were eagerly looking up abilities as we played them. I remember how awesome I thought it was when I learned what the Flying ability does. Flying over creatures!? That is so cool. I was drawn in by all these interesting effects and abilities, and I was just having so much fun. Like most players I started off slow and then became hooked, and before I knew it I was buying singles and booster boxes to build my collection and I now play almost every day. I have currently banned myself from buying cards for the time being so I have enough cash to pay my rent this month…
However, Magic was, is, and always will be a competitive game. It will inevitably be taken too seriously by certain people. We will all from time to time take a game too seriously, too personally, and it will ruin the experience for us. Some of my least favourite experiences of Magic come from playing in tournaments, where my enjoyment and the atmosphere was ruined by opponents whose only thought or worry was winning.
They weren’t thinking about enjoying the game, and from my perspective they didn’t seem to be having any fun. They just stared across at me with two serious eyes, many seeming to stress themselves out by merely looking at their cards. One tiny mistake would be the end of the world in those situations. But it shouldn’t be. I just wanted to play and have fun. If I won, so much the better, but if I didn’t, at least I’d have a fun day of Magic.
But of all the tournaments I have entered, I have enjoyed very few. Opponents have taken the game too seriously and sucked all of the fun out of it for me. This isn’t going to happen every time, and I likely just happened to have bad experiences, but the seriousness of many of those tournaments put me off from going back to do any more. Whether I won or lost, the atmosphere of playing in that environment was not enjoyable.
I of course – like anybody – enjoy winning, but my favourite part of Magic is the playing. I like fun decks, interesting combos, humorous moves. I like playing cards to create awkward situations, or difficult choices. That might be something ironic, or reminiscent of a previous game. The oddities, the randomness, the moments of sheer fun are what remain with me after I play a game of Magic. My favourite games are often those that I have lost, and generally by the next day I have forgotten whether I had won or not.
I am thankful that I have a group of friends who live nearby, and regularly come over to play Magic. My flatmate also plays and we generally (depending on University and work) play a game or two most nights. Due to such regular battling we have come to know each other’s decks inside out, as I am sure happens for most friends.
Through this it becomes a proper battle. When I play Fiendslayer Paladin my friend curses, not because it’s overly good, but because he’s suffered so much from it in the past. As soon as my friend gets out Wolfskull Shaman, I try to destroy it as soon as possible, not because it’s a threat, but because my friend only recently purchased it and we joke that it never gets to do anything. As soon as I get Assemble the Legion out, he sighs, because he remembers the time I had fifteen tokens emerging each turn.
The past experiences of cards add to the flavour and threat-level with repeated play. Cards maintain meaning from previous games, and certain cards then come to gain characteristics because of this. My Fiendslayer Paladin is known to my flatmate as many many things, none of them suitable to write down in this article… It’s another element of fun in the game.
Even if one move might be strategically better, if another is more fun and will make the game more enjoyable and interesting (without of course, being idiotic), I generally opt to go down the more fun route. Being extorted to death by a friend playing Holy Day is just so grimly ironic that I laugh every time she does it.
I played in a draft a few weeks ago, and in my group’s pot there was an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. There was also a Thoughtseize, several Gods and weapons, and a Stormbreath Dragon, but Elspeth was what I was aiming for. We drafted, I made my deck, and I started playing. I didn’t think I was going to win, so I played enjoyed my first game of my first match.
I was playing Boros Heroic, and my opponent was playing Dimir. I lost, but it was fun. Then I won the second game. And then I won the third. By the time I got to my second match, with one win under my belt, Elspeth started to seem within reach. From that point on however, I stopped having fun. The next two rounds became obstacles, things I had to overcome instead of things to enjoy.
There was no reason why I couldn’t enjoy myself and win but I found it hard. I couldn’t give myself any breaks. I was stressed out, on edge, nervous that I would make mistakes that ordinarily I would not care about but tonight, they would be devastating. I wanted Elspeth. She was my focus and my goal. But because of that, I wasn’t having any fun. I was just moving my hands and playing my drafted cards, but I may as well not have even been there. The end goal of winning might be exciting and fun in its own right, but the destination means nothing without the journey.
In the end, I won, and I was of course happy that I had won. But I hadn’t enjoyed any of the games I had played in order to win. For me, I don’t want to play unless I’m enjoying myself. It’s not the end of the world if I lose, nor is it the beginning of one if I win.
Sometimes I do get annoyed that I lose, though. It’s inevitable. I am, in general, quite a competitive person by nature and I have to work hard to not to get frustrated with Magic. Playing with my newly acquired Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, I got it out in the first game I played with her in my deck. But in my second game which was a six person free for all, I was killed a turn before playing her. It was annoying, and I was sour about it for the following half hour. But I had no reason to be. Killing me was the most strategic thing to do, and I was just annoyed.
Being annoyed ruined that game for me and took the fun out of it. I can barely even remember that game now, but I know if I had just played and enjoyed it and hadn’t been irritated that I died, I would have kept watching and even though I was gone and out of the game, I still would have enjoyed the remainder of the battle. It is inevitable that from time to time people will get annoyed and frustrated while playing magic, but at the end of the day Magic is just a game. When your only focus is on the winning of the game, the playing loses much of its fun.
I am not advocating that nobody should ever compete in tournaments or professional play. Despite my bad experiences I likely will compete in more tournaments in the future, and hopefully I will enjoy them more than previously. But I know some people who simply can’t abide losing, and they take no pleasure in the game unless they are winning.
It’s important to keep Magic (like all games) in perspective, and enjoy it and just have fun. I love Magic because of its interesting mechanics. I love it because of its limitless combinations and crazy situations, its randomness and its precision. I love it for the lore, the flavour, the design. But most of all I love the people who play it. I love the friendly banter, the socialising, and just relaxing over a game of Commander or Pentagram after a long day of work.
Some dream of competing in a Pro Tour or the World Championships; I just want to sit at home and play with my friends.
So, what is fun to you, why do you play Magic?
Thanks for reading guys. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments. If you agree with me or even more importantly, disagree with me, I’d love to hear what you think.