By September 28, 2009

A Magic Gathering

I played in the Magic: the Gathering pre-release tournament yesterday for Zendikar, the latest set in the old and wildly popular collectible card game. The event was held at Richmond Comix. There was a larger pre-release event at the Richmond Convention Center on Saturday; attendance was estimated at about three hundred folks. However, going to the more personal event at Richmond Comix reminded me why I started (and re-started) playing Magic in the first place: the people I met and having fun.

I grew up playing games with my family and friends. The lessons I learned playing Monopoly, chess, Charades, and any number of games translate well as I aged. Sportsmanship (both winning and losing with honor), critical thinking, timing, diplomacy (still working on that one), reading analysis and comprehension, and a host of other things become second nature to someone as they transition from “someone who plays games” to a “gamer.” Questions like “what is the best way(s) to win this game?” blurs into “what is the best way to get this project done on time and on budget?”

It was great seeing a bunch of familiar faces on Sunday and meeting some new people, too. The environment at Richmond Comix encourages people of all ages and experience to come play. I was pleased to see Weapon X, the eleven year-old son of the manager, playing along side a gentleman old enough to have a teenage son … who incidentally was playing alongside his father today. Family bonding around a gaming table is still alive and well.

As far as the actual Zendikar pre-release went, I had a very nice time. I didn’t do so well in the main event, but I did win one of the secondary draft events, beating a pool of seven other players. It felt nice basically take several months off and then come in again and play well.

The set itself is interesting. It’s almost too intricate for me. I identified much more strongly with the M10 set, the release before this one. M10 is very similar to the style of Magic I used to play in college: put out big creatures or a horde of small ones and start bashing face. Toss in a bunch of nifty spells and you have yourself hours of gaming around the kitchen table.

Zendikar has a bunch of fun mechanics that aren’t in M10, like traps and landfall. These mechanics trigger if certain conditions are met. For example, I was caught in a trap today that was triggered when I attacked with more than three units at once. The result of the trap: my biggest creature took lethal damage, and it changed the course of the game. Landfall is a secondary effect that happens when you play a land, something that happens as a normal course of play.

I really like the landfall mechanic, or at least its varied implementation in Zendikar. Most of the time the creatures with landfall are pretty good all on their own, and the landfall effect just gives them a boost. Take, for example, my MVP of the draft yesterday:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/7720-2/SurrakarMarauder.jpg

A creature with two power and one toughness with a casting cost of two is pretty good to begin with. The landfall ability means he can only be blocked by artifact creatures (I only saw two in play the whole day) or creatures that share his color – in this case, black.

Most of my opponents today did not play black, so every time I played a land (nearly every turn), my little marauder walked across the table for at least two points against my opponent.

All in all, it was a really nice day back. Playing today reminded me of sitting in my small, four-bedroom house in college and running silly deck after silly deck against my friends.

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