Rain drops softly onto the window, the sound of traffic outside is muted and there’s a quiet peace to the day. By the table sit two young boys, shuffling Magic cards together in anticipation of an exciting game. They’re both under ten, despite the 13+ suggestion on the side of a booster box, and though they’ll get the odd rule wrong and do something which wouldn’t be allowed at a Pro Tour Qualifier, they’ll definitely have fun.
“How many Dragons do you have?” asks one, his eyes show his eagerness. He knows he’s going to win this particular challenge.
“None in this deck,” explains his opponent with a little sad sigh, “should I?”
“Dragons are what win games. Dragons are the best.” Of course you should, is the unsaid statement. Magic is about Dragons.
“Oh.” The opponent is a little dejected, but he continues to shuffle. Maybe he can beat the Dragons.
Then the games begin. Mountains and Swamps hit on one side of the table, while on the other an assortment of Islands and Forests begets smaller creatures who grow through interaction with each other. The first game goes to the Simic player, but the Dragon lover still asserts his superiority with his words.
“You were lucky; I almost cast my Hellkite,” he says, waving the card around to prove it was in his hand.
“Yes,” sighs the other. “Wow.”
There’s another game, and another. Dragons do eventually hit the table and sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t, but in each and every match, fun is had.
Magic is a wonderful game. Mark Rosewater often mentions how he thinks of the game as not one thing, but an overarching whole which contains a number of different games for different people. It is one of the the things which makes writing about Magic such a joy – there’s something there for everyone. When thinking about what I’d like to write as an article series for mtgUK, a large number of ideas rolled around my head, but I kept coming back to the idea of Magic being so different based on your perspective.
So here we are. Each week I will look at the game from a different point of view: a different game for each different person. I often hear arguments popping up because people are coming to the table expecting their opponent to see things the way they do and I hope that this series can help us all see things a little differently, to find a little more fun in the little pieces of cardboard. It’s a little wider than Johnny, Timmy and Spike and at some point I hope to touch all of you with a piece of yourself – feel free to comment and bring more perspectives to the table.
Let’s get back to the children.
It does say 13+ on the side of the box, something which was pointed out to me very recently to my genuine surprise; I wonder how many times I’ve pulled the cellophane from the cardboard and not noticed. I spent a week recently playing and helping players, many of whom were younger than thirteen. I ran an event with 29 players which saw a child no older than nine in the finals. He didn’t win, for shame, but he did an awesome job on the way with a deck made from spare commons and uncommons a few days earlier. Children are the lifeblood of the game; without them, there’d be no up-and-coming Pro Tour contenders for Magic 2020 season, and there’d also be no one scrabbling around trying to find Dragons in the £1 rare box.
Kids love Dragons. As children, Dragons inspire us with their power and majesty and wonder; as Magic players, Dragons impress us with their Power (large P), flying and secondary abilities. No one quite loves the Dragon as much as a child approaching their tenth birthday; to this subsection of the community, the big flying monster is the apex of any deck. The only thing that worries him is the 8/8 Kraken that the blue player might pull out.
Thoughts of mana curve, or early game play are not for the young beginning player. Why should he bother with options for turns one through three (OK, there’s Dragon Egg, and Slumbering Dragon)? No, for him Magic starts on turns five or six. Drop the Mountain, turn it all sideways and utter that line: “Dragon!”. Perfection.
It doesn’t happen every game, but when a turn seven Kilnmouth Dragon comes out with twelve amplify counters on it, it comes with a grin, a laugh, perhaps even a cackle of pure delight. Magic at its best.
And while I can hear the experienced players out there screaming out how he should improve his deck with something; perhaps some early burn spells, or the odd mana rock to get to the requisite mana a little earlier, they are weakening the fun of the deck – after all, if you put those cards in, you have to take out some of the Dragons.
For the Dragon Boy in the story, there’s no joy in taking a Dragon out of his deck; something that has been traded for, or bought, and treasured much like the gold of the creature itself. He is hoarding each and every overpriced flying 5/5 and doesn’t want to relinquish them. So how do we play with this as a perspective?
- Stop worrying about the first few turns. Build a deck to play with Dragon Boy which ignores concepts like mana-curve or efficiency.
- Play with those cards which sit unloved in your collection but you always really wanted to play. Dig out the six-cost blue enchantments which are way too slow for tournament play and really a little weak even for Commander. Find those great big 8/8 green stompers which are just pointless in a world of Primeval Titans.
- Choose creatures based on their ridiculous P/T stats.
- Avoid packing too many Doom Blade effects.
A deck like that may seem ridiculous to many of you, but search inside yourself for the inner Dragon Boy (or girl) and you’ll probably find him right there with a smile. Is this the kind of Magic that you are used to? Probably not, but it is Magic Dragon Boy style and it’s a lot of fun. Even if there are no actual Dragon Boys in your local club, it’s a fun casual ‘format’ to try nonetheless and if one walks in one day, he doesn’t have to suffer playing against a gauntlet of tier one Modern decks for an evening.
Playing like Dragon Boy is about playing Magic at its most pure. It’s about the love of the game, the sheer thrill of seeing a majestic scaly monster descending from the heavens to rain fiery death upon all who challenge him. It is not a game about complex stack interactions, or squeezing maximum card advantage out of every play, but instead about putting something fearsome on to the table and watching as it does its utmost to dominate play. When the game is new, there’s no need for optimising each and every move, but there is a need to come away with a striking image burned into the mind, a memory to smoulder and stimulate a return to Magic when it is next possible. Dragon Boy goes to sleep dreaming of the games won with an army of beasts blocking out the sun, and wakes wanting to play again.
Of course, Dragon Boy will graduate. He will be helped by everyone he plays against, and at some point someone will sit him down and explain the advantage that is to be gained by adding Lightning Bolt to his deck, or Seething Song. The Dragon to other stuff ratio will be altered to something a little more reasonable, and maybe he’ll be inspired by it all to build a second deck which is Standard legal to bring to FNM; something with Stormbreath Dragon as a finisher.
Until that time though, let him be a child. Let him have mastery of the skies and the thrill of winning games by smashing through for five or more damage a turn. Make his day better by trading him a foil Shivan Dragon, or prerelease Forgestoker Dragon and then sit him down opposite you, play him and watch as he drops his jaw when he sees the absolute power of your mono-blue Day of the Dragons / Misthollow Griffin deck.