Sunday, May 19, 2013

Magic Is Making Me Weirdly Nostalgic

It's weird, but I've had a hankering lately to get back into Magic: The Gathering. I got out of it in the mid-90s (somewhere around the release of 'Tempest', when I realized that my completist urges, my retail job, and WotC's release schedule made for a very bad combination) but the closure of 'City of Heroes' has made me long for tabletop gaming once again, and so I decided that I could get back into it on a limited basis. So I bought ten bucks worth of commons, a stack of basic lands...and I was surprised to discover that something I thought would be timeless was anything but.

There are no Llanowar Elves in the latest edition. No Fireballs, no Lightning Bolts, no Counterspells or Prodigal Sorcerers. No Terror or Pestilence, no Disenchant or Circle of Protection...somewhere in the intervening decade or so, the decision that there were certain "indispensable" cards that would carry over from one edition to the next (of course, they're not called "editions" anymore, they're "core sets") went by the wayside. Even the rules changed--no more Interrupts, no more burying creatures, and many mechanics I'm already familiar with like "Walls" and "Can block creature with flying" and "remove from the game" got codewords like "Defender" and "Reach" and "Exile".

It's a little bit weird to me. I'd always known Magic was putting out new sets while I was away, but somehow I always assumed that getting back into the game would just be a case of shaking off the rust and refamiliarizing myself with the cards. Now I find out that it's like learning a whole new game all over again. This isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong--I learn new games all the time. But an experience I thought would be like coming back home has turned out to be a visit to a whole new place, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Maybe this is just what getting old feels like. Any day now I'll start talking about how back in my day, when you tapped too many lands in one turn, it actually hurt you! And we liked it! Then I'll start longing for Shivan Dragons and they'll put me in a home.

Or not. Maybe I'll embrace this strange new world where you can have planeswalker buddies and there are sometimes two spells to a card. Who knows? Either way, I'm determined not to let completism get the better of me this time. Magic might be a new game, it might be a familiar game...but it's a game. Not a collection. Not for me, at least.


Jugularjosh said...

I hear you. I was really into our local Magic scene for much of the 90s. I sold my good stuff to finance a move out of state, but kept on to some cards that weren't really worth anything.

About three years ago, I went to a Magic night at a local store and played against a kid. Odds were pretty good that I'd been playing Magic longer than he'd been alive.

We had almost no overlap in my cards. I didn't have anything newer than the Urza Block and he didn't have anything older than two years back. As you said, those iconic staple cards (Disenchant, man!) had long gone the way of the dodo.

Every time one of us played something, the other had to scrutinize the card at some length. It was kind of awkward, even more than playing cards with a twelve-year olds normally is.

Since then however, I've been buying 4 x C/UC playsets off Ebay. (Four each of all the commons and uncommons in a set) They generally sell for comparatively cheap and they let you get a good impression of the feel of the set. That might be an avenue to explore if you want to ease back into Magic.

Bael said...

I feel the same way about the newer versions of D&D. I have a truly ridiculous pile of 1st and 2nd edition stuff, and it isn't remotely the same game as what you find on the shelves now. I've even given up on the Forgotten Realms campaign books, the only thing I really bought for 3rd edition, since I really enjoyed the setting. I got out of the CCG race years ago when I realized bankroll was more important than strategy and game play