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Notes on Magic: The Gathering

I started playing Magic around the time that Fallen Empires came out. We played multiplayer games for ante back then – you would put the first three cards from the top of your deck into the pot and the winner would usually take all. I remember stacking my deck so that I wouldn't lose my lands since we couldn't get enough of them out of booster packs.

After coming back to the game, a lot has changed. Certain heavily-vetted decks have come to dominate the tournament scene, where better access to information has eliminated all but the most successful strategies. Today's players largely seek to pilot a winning deck better than their opponents, who also bring a well-defined list of cards to the table. In fact, original decks that demonstrate any ability to play competitively against the established archetypes are known as "rogue" decks.

However, what's even more regimented than the winning strategies (and this has always been true) are the players themselves. Magic's head designer once summed this up in an iconic article entitled Timmy, Johnny, and Spike that forever defined a nomenclature for the players we've all encountered. By definition, I am a classic Johnny:

Johnny is the creative gamer to whom Magic is a form of self-expression. Johnny likes to win, but he wants to win with style. It's very important to Johnny that he win on his own terms. As such, it's important to Johnny that he's using his own deck. Playing Magic is an opportunity for Johnny to show off his creativity.

Johnny likes a challenge. Johnny enjoys winning with cards that no one else wants to use. He likes making decks that win in innovative ways. What sets Johnny apart from the other profiles is that Johnny enjoys deckbuilding as much as (or more than) he enjoys playing. Johnny loves the cool interactions of the cards. He loves combo decks. Johnny is happiest when he's exploring uncharted territory.

Like Timmy, Johnny cares more about the quality of his wins than the quantity. For example, let's say Johnny builds a new deck that has a neat but difficult way to win. He plays ten games and manages to get his deck to do its thing… once. Johnny walks away happy.

For the average player, deckbuilding is a reckless appeal to creativity that's unlikely to pay off. Most viable strategies have already been discovered. New cards are quickly evaluated for their usefulness, typically in circumventing one of Magic's imposed limitations in concert with other cards. These mechanics power the top-tier decks in Magic, and their effectiveness is enough to inspire bitter nostalgia for Magic's bygone eras.

That's why some sense of protest has accompanied my own efforts to continue deckbuilding. Without further discussion, I present the deck that I've been playing for a while now:

I will follow up with a full primer after the next big tournament, but the point of this deck is to cast Armageddon with Land Equilibrium in play. If successful, opponents can't get more land into play unless I drop one first. This often ends with us both flipping cards into our graveyard until I can find enough non-land mana sources to cast a win condition. It may not unseat Miracles but I think it's the deck that Legacy deserves. More to come.

1 thought on “Notes on Magic: The Gathering

  1. Leon

    Old but gold, I like the form you write about deckbuilding: "For the average player, deck building is a reckless appeal to creativity that's unlikely to pay off". Unfortunately, I discovered that I am the average player lol


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