Today, I wanted to discuss one of my other frequent gaming activities, Magic: The Gathering Online. I played on and off for a while, but recently got my buddy interested in it due to the relatively small investment it took.
We both puttered around with cards provided by the starter pack plus the five dollar expansion box. It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of good back and forth concepts that we dueled with. Then, though, he took some of the “free” currency we’d been provided and started to trade for more cards to strengthen his deck.
Thus began the arms race.
Because his decks were now universally stronger, I felt I had to go shore up the flagging levies of my own decks. I traded here and there, finding some excellent cards to make my decks competitive again. Throughout this, we joked back and forth, exchanged names of good vendors, and kept it all light and friendly, so while the arms race escalated, the politics seemed friendly.
A few days later, I noticed he had a new crop of rare cards. Some of the rares he’d found were absolutely ridiculous. I asked how he’d procured so many, and he let me in on the name of a vendor who was selling 20 for a buck. When I got there, that deal had passed, but I knew I had to peruse to keep up with him, so I did. I bought a few here and there, and our decks mostly equalized again.
This has gone on a lot since then, and we’ve found that the more we do this, the more our decks win due to a single rare card coming up. We’ve termed these situations “Uncle Nickelpockets” (from moneybags, but the rares were 5 cents apiece). We’ve also gotten a lot more terse about losing to ridiculous rares.
The thing is, we still laugh about our own hypocrisy. He complains about my “Uncle Nickelpockets” wins, and I bitch and moan about his. Throughout it all, we laugh and have good, fun games.
It’s interesting, though, because in a “normal” game (we virtually never play against anyone else), the wins would often come down to whoever had the most rares. It’s a sad state of affairs, really, and neither of us have any desire to play in any formal, competitive venues because of that. When we play our casual, friendly games, we always make sure we’re both happy with our hands, or we just agree to restart. In a tourney, you could never do this; restarting would mean elimination. To add to that the likelihood that the most “well-nickeled” person likely comes out on top would just add more frustration.
That said, M:TGO is good about the cost issue; it offers “pauper” tournaments in which you’re only allowed to use “common” quality cards. I like that concept; it seems pretty egalitarian. Still, the sheer time it would take to mull through the literally 1000s of commons still translates into an enormous investment. I simply don’t have it in me; my decks I just throw together and then tinker with if they stink. I’m sure the best players’ decks are constructed with a lot of time and research; they don’t come together just by magic (oh yeah).
Stubborn (and feeling clever)