Friday Night Magic (Part 3)

In the first related post I talked about why I enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering.  In the second post we did a quick rundown of gameplay and talked a little bit about why different creatures have different value.  In this last post we’ll talk about some of the strategy (the fun stuff) beyond just sending creatures to attack your opponent.

Before we get there, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Wizards of the Coast does a great job of walking you through the basics of Magic here.  If you want to learn it all from the source this is the place to go.  While I learned from my sons and from playing (at Spanky’s Card Shop – a great, clean place to get your game on) you can get a feel for the core of the game by checking out the videos and demos you’ll find at this link.

Now on to the fun.

There are six major types of cards you’ll run across in a Magic game:

  • Land.  These simple cards are the most powerful thing you can control – no land means no mana; no mana means no spells; no spells means no damage to your opponent; no damage to your opponent means you can’t win.  You can play one of these per turn (unless a particular spell gives you the ability to play more).
  • Creatures.  These are the heart and soul of a typical Magic battle.  Orcs, drakes, vampires, wizards, zombies, treefolk – anything you can imagine you can probably find.  Some are weak (like the Duskhunter Bat on the right), some are strong and some can vary based on different factors (check out Malignus up there at the top of the post for an example).  You cast the spell (you have to “summon” the creatures, paying the mana cost at the top right of each card) then plan on how you’re going to throw your army at your opponent.  You can play as many as you want of these on your turn (provided you have the mana), but only on your turn unless the card tells you otherwise.
  • Artifacts.  Think of these as magic items (I know, imagine that – MAGIC items in MAGIC; who would’ve thunk?).  It might be a standalone item (like a statue or a tomb), a piece of equipment you attach to a creature or even a creature itself.  These items typically give you some benefit, like additional power or extra mana or something like that.  The right artifact can make or break a game – I know, because usually I’ve been on the breaking side of them.  These can only be cast on your turn unless the card says otherwise, but you can cast as many as you have the mana for.
  • Sorceries.  These are spells that can do anything you can imagine.  Want to steal one of your opponent’s spells?  There’s a card for that.  How about buffing up your creatures?  There’s a card for that.  How about creating creatures?  Yup – there’s one for that, too.  And it’s not just limited to affecting creatures; there are sorceries you can cast that let you draw cards (or force your opponent to discard them), destroy your opponent’s lands (or let you search your library for some of your own), return your opponent’s creatures to their hand (or seriously reduce their power) and just about anything in-between.  As long as you can support the mana cost you can cast as many of these as you want on your turn.
  • Enchantments.  Enchantments can affect creatures, you or your opponents.  Things like Curse of the Pierced Heart deal damage to your opponent; Cathar’s Crusade (and similar) can buff up your creatures; cards like Defang (a favorite) limit the ability of your opponent’s creatures;  spells like Arcana Melee help you make better use of your limited mana.  Enchantments come in all shapes and sizes and can do almost anything you can dream of (and even some that you can’t), including win the game for you.  Enchantments can be cast only on your turn (unless otherwise noted), but you can cast as many as you’ve got mana for.
  • Instants.  My favorites.  Imagine being able to wipe out your opponents entire army with one spell.  Or giving your already-buff creature twice as much power.  Or preventing your opponent from being able to finish casting his game-ending creature.  All instants.  Want to kill that obnoxious green bear that keeps draining your life?  Murder it.  Need to do damage to your opponent’s entire army?  Aggravate them.  Need to save your skin from the massive onslaught you just had launched at you?  Cast Fog.  The beauty of instant spells is that not only can you cast as many as you want (provided you’ve got the mana to support them) but you can cast them anytime.  Your turn or your opponent’s turn; doesn’t matter.  Instant spells can easily be the deciding factor in a game; one well-timed Tragic Slip can wipe out most any creature your opponent can throw at you, and leave the battlefield wide open for you to conquer.  I rely heavily on Instant cards to win games.

And technically there are even more types of cards, but that covers the basics.  If you know how to use these types effectively you can generally win, especially in a draft match.

As you can see there’s a lot of complexity that you can add to your game in an effort to win it.  Not just the type of cards but the color mana you need and the timing of those cards is key.  Playing Banners Raised a turn later than Thatcher Revolt isn’t going to have nearly the same impact.  Drawing Mana Leak isn’t going to do you much good if you’re playing a green/black deck.  And Dual Casting is worthless if you don’t have any sorcery or instant spells to duplicate.

Or you could go simple – play all creatures of a single color.  Or something in between.  There’s really no practical limit to how you play Magic – it’s all about your style and what cards you’ve got available.

But no matter what it’s a blast.  The only time I haven’t had fun playing Magic is when I got frustrated that I was losing.  Which is the allure of playing at Spanky’s – not only is the place clean and bright but Spanky and Kevin know their stuff, and the vast majority of the people there are not just fun to play against (even when they’re killing you) but they’re helpful.  Compare that to the other place I’ve played a tournament at where some of my opponents were criticizing (not helpfully, either) my choices as though I were a veteran player – even though it was only the second time I’d played Magic – and you can see why many of my Friday nights are spent off 99th and Holmes.

So there you have it – in about 4,000 words why Friday Night Magic at Spanky’s Card Shop is good times, all the time.  I hope to see you out there one Friday night!

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