I was reading a post over on the MTG Salvation forums about opening your first MTG pack, and while I do not recall my exact first pack, the thought of my first exposure to MTG came to my mind. It's not really something I think about that often, but I decided to write about it.
In 8th grade, I was a young, pimply-faced young man who's voice was as squeaky as a wooden floor. I was into RPG video games like Betrayal at Krondor and Arena: The Elder Scrolls. At school, there were students that played a strange card game in the empty halls and quiet corners during lunchtime. They sat on the floor, backs hunched, peering down at funny looking cards with pictures on them. The students would move the cards around, point at things, and talk about the game even after it had ended.
Not many people talked to those students. They were the nerds and dorks, the outcasts that wore faded heavy metal shirts, had shaggy hair, and brought sack lunches from home. Other students would make fun of them as they walked by. Only losers would play a card game at school, right? I didn't look or act like those students at all, but the game they played intrigued me. How did it play? What did the pictures and text mean? How did you win?
One day, I walked up to a group of them and watched them play. They didn't look up from their games or stop the conversation, but I am sure they sensed me standing there, looking like I was the outsider. I asked one of them what game they were playing.
"Magic," he told me.
"How do you play?" I inquired.
From then on, I was hooked. I had no understanding of the game as he explained it to me, but the cards seemed so interesting and cool as he walked me through a turn. Attacking, defending, and casting spells seemed to be the main focus of the game. Some cards seemed more powerful than others, and when they would hit the floor, one player would smile while the other would swear. Every player had a different looking deck, with different colors. I knew I had to buy some cards and learn how to play.
I can't recall which specific packs/sets I purchased, but I know I had some Chronicles, Homelands, 4th Ed, and Ice Age. One of my favorite cards was Dakkon Blackblade. The card art by Richard Kane Ferguson was superb. It was as if I could feel the power of the "Summon Legend." Of course Dakkon Blackblade sucked (still does), but I didn't know it!
After a few weeks, most of my friends were hooked on Magic, too. We would play at home and at school. Eventually, we sat with the outcast kids and played as long as we could before, during, and after school. We didn't care about labels or what people thought. The game was fun, and the people who played it were smart and friendly; certainly not "losers." Besides, this was a game that we played.
I played Magic until the end of Tempest block. It was my last year of high school and the game had become less important, less relevant. As college dreams loomed on the horizon, I put my cards in boxes, where they collected dust for over a decade. Over the years, my friends and I would still play in the occasional booster draft. While at school, I played in a couple drafts just to see if I could still play. It was always fun to ask my opponent what a certain ability meant, genuinely looking like a total scrub, and then getting 2nd place in the draft.
Magic is like riding a bicycle, I think. Once you get it, you get it. The sets and cards may change, but deep down, underneath the colors and flavor text, the rules of the game stay the same. The most important rule, I think, is to have fun, and be willing to explain the game to someone who might be an outsider.