Magic Perspectives – Never a Borrower… by Crispin Bateman

Magic Perspectives – Dragon Boy by Crispin Bateman

For those of you who are unaware, I used to write a rather spiffing article series on collecting Magic cards for another website somewhere. The reason I used to do so was because for over twenty years, I’ve had a love for the little pieces of cardboard which goes beyond simply shuffling them together for a game, but holding on to them to look at and go ‘oooooh’ a lot. Collecting is a fun hobby and I can heartily recommend it, but it does present one small “problem”:

Collectors have all the cards.

“But Crispin, this is a good thing!” I hear you say, nay shout. Some of you might be jumping up from your seat in shock. How can having all the cards be a problem of any kind, small or otherwise? The answer is simple: because there are always plenty of people wanting to borrow them.

If you will indulge me a little this week, I’d like to write this Magic Perspectives from two perspectives:

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In the blue corner (look how I can change the colour of the text!) is the Borrower. He’s probably a very nice guy, after all, no one is going to lend cards to someone who is a bit of a git. He likes to play tournament Magic and wants to be able to shuffle stuff up for any event, no matter the format. A Legacy Grand Prix somewhere in Europe? He’s there. Modern PTQ? Off he goes. Thing is, the Borrower doesn’t have any cards of his own, well, not many. He has a few things that came from all those limited events but he relies on his skills as a negotiator and charming friend to gather together all the cardboard he needs for a tournament.

In the green corner (I don’t like red text, it’s used for links…) is the Lender. The Lender is probably (although not always) less of a player than the Borrower. He enjoys all the cards in Magic for a variety of reasons, from play value, through artwork and sometimes simply because they are hard to get. He’s got everything; the Power Nine, a set of Modern Masters in foil, and enough copies of the fetch lands that he doesn’t really need them to be reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. What’s more, he likes being helpful and being good to his friends. He’s trusting and an all round good egg.

The Lender

The tournament is in a week. On a relaxed Sunday evening, the Lender sits at his computer bumbling about as people do. Suddenly, there’s a bleep and in the corner of the screen something flashes. It’s a message, staple of modern-day communication. Ah, yes, the Lender would happily just rest in his treasure chamber of cards were it not for instant messaging.

“Hey dude!”

It’s the Borrower of course. He’s nice and polite, happy to give a greeting to start his conversation. He’s done this many times before and knows that respect and courtesy is key. A smile appears on the Lender’s face; for a moment he thinks his friend just wants to chat and he’s always willing to indulge.

“Hi. How are you?” comes the reply.

It’s a line said in innocence, and the chat begins. The Borrower is a master and can sense the Lender’s desire for a little small talk before the main event. They discuss a few things; Magic, of course, but also girlfriends and work. The Lender knows it is coming, the Borrower knows he must say it, and soon the conversation is relaxed enough to let it happen.

“I really want to play BUG at the Grand Prix, but I’m missing a few bits. I was wondering if you could help me out with them.”

The Legacy Grand Prix. The Lender was only peripherally aware it was coming up, but a few thoughts and his memory is jogged. This one is in Paris, so not too unreasonable to assume a few of the English crowd are going to put the effort in to do the trip, and of course the Borrower will be one of them.

“What bits?” the Lender asks.

It’s a dumb question. He already knows the answer; probably twelve dual lands worth over £1000 for the set, the best in original fetch lands and then the pricy staples. Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, Jace, the Mind Sculptor – it all depends on exactly what type of BUG deck, but there’s no chance of the cards being simple uncommons. Are Force of Will and Wasteland ‘simple uncommons’?

The list comes back, and of course it is extensive. There are 75 cards in a full Magic deck and there are 64 on this list of ‘cards to borrow’. Of course the Lender has them all. They’ve danced this dance before. Words are exchanged, promises and assurances are made and before an hour has passed, they leave the conversation, each understanding the role they must play.

It doesn’t end there. The Lender pulls himself away from what he was doing and walks over to his collection; beautifully sorted and in good order. It takes hours of his life to keep the cards like this, making sure that he doesn’t have piles of unsorted rares scattered around the house. He pulls out a folder which contains his spare dual lands and starts to take cards out and put them aside for his Borrower friend. It’s not a small job – occasionally one or two of the cards are not where they are meant to be and he has to fish them out of a deck he was hoping to play that coming FNM, or worse, dig through places they might have been put incorrectly. An hour or more passes before he is done and a little pile of sleeved treasures is by his side, the price of a decent car in a small plastic box ready to be entrusted to another and driven out of the country. He goes to bed a little later than he planned, but he’s happy; if he’s honest, going through the cards filled him with a warm glow, and he was sensible enough to note where they should return.

The Borrower

The perfect opponent!

The tournament is in a week, he has nothing to play and it’s already Sunday afternoon. What’s the meta like at the moment? What fits his play style? It’s over two hours of lists, brief conversations with other tournament regulars and poorly written articles before he’s decided on a deck. Thirty minutes to scribble the card names onto bits of paper and sleeve them over the last test deck (God, that one was rubbish!) and he’s ready for some goldfishing. Thankfully, it all works out. What’s the time? 10pm? What happened to the day?

How many of the cards does he actually have anyway? Six excluding the few basic land. Great. A week to go and he needs pretty much the entire deck. There’s only one person who’ll be able to lend it all to him in a single go – hope the Lender is awake.

He is! And logged on! Beautiful.

“Hey dude!”

A reply pretty much straight away means the Borrower can relax. For a while he chats about friendly things; the Lender’s new girlfriend and such like. Then he looks at the clock; must get to the point!

“I really want to play BUG at the Grand Prix, but I’m missing a few bits. I was wondering if you could help me out with them.”

Yes, there’s a Legacy Grand Prix in Paris. How can he not know that? Everyone is talking about it. Never mind, at least that means he isn’t going and using his cards himself (and that no one else is hitting him for some… yet!). He’s going to freak about the list, but what can the Borrower do? Just cut and paste it into the message box and cross fingers.

The Lender’s sigh is almost audible. Oops.

The Borrower makes his promises. Of course he is going to look after the cards. Of course he’ll replace anything that gets damaged or lost and will play the whole deck in double sleeves. And to sweeten the deal, he’ll give the Lender something cool if he wins or does well. That’s just good form, and the Borrower is proud of his good form. He’ll have the cards ready for FNM. Friday?! That’s not fast enough. The Borrower offers to go pick them up, but the Lender’s a nice guy and offers to meet him somewhere centrally the next day. All done. Perfect.

Now the Borrower can sleep. He’d probably better buy some new sleeves; another fiver in the tournament expenses list. God, Magic is an expensive hobby.

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The title of my article is from the famous quote “Never a borrower nor a lender be”. It’s from Hamlet, said by Polonius to his son Laertes and is also the same speech from which we get “This above all: to thine own self be true,” (who said you never learned anything from a Magic article?). Honestly though, I don’t really subscribe to the thought. In my mind, Magic cards are there to be played with and if you happen to be in the position of the Lender with cards sitting on shelves and in boxes and never used, then somewhere along the line you’ve missed the point of them. So do lend your cards to Borrowers (at least the ones you know well). Give them the joy of being able to have what they need to play the game they way they like to; it doesn’t hurt.

To the Borrowers I say, please remember the effort the Lender goes through to provide you with his cards. It seems like a small thing, but to dig the cards from a collection and then painstakingly put them back afterwards is not insignificant. Occasionally buying him a drink goes a long way to showing your respect and always remember to share your prize pool; it is good form, after all.


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