It was the Friday before school started and rather than drinking into oblivion, endless ranks of nerds, geeks, and dweebs (myself included) gathered to compete in Chico Magic’s midnight Magic: The Gathering tournament celebrating the pre-release of the new set: Gatecrash. 34 teams of two, or “two-headed giants”, competed for the ultimate prize of 44 booster packs, prestige, and first pick of mates (first pick was also last pick.) I paired up randomly with a new player and together we formed the best (named) team: Train Thunder Rock and Roll.
The tournament was a “limited” tournament, meaning players are restricted to using only the six booster packs of fifteen random cards given to build a deck. The excitement the players felt in the moments leading to the card disbursement was like a weird Christmas. One player pronounced “I’ve got a good solid half-chode.”
Though Magic certainly has a stigma of being a nerd’s game, no one there seemed to mind the label. Becky Strong, the owner of Chico Magic, was shocked the first time someone called her a nerd, considering she was a two-sport athlete in college, but she doesn’t find the label offensive. “It’s a different label [now]… it’s a badge of honor. A lot of rich people are nerds and geeks.”
The Magic player is a special, dynamic breed of person. Competitors varied greatly. Some were adorable Michael Cera-esque geeks. Others could probably kick my ass and steal my girlfriend (if I had one). But they all shared something in common. They were all highly intelligent. “Really smart people play this game,” Strong said. One team TTRR matched up against jested that whoever solved the Riemann hypothesis would go first. I thought to myself, “I’m still trying to wean myself off tying my shoes ‘bunny-ears’ style. We’re boned.”
Magic calls for a great deal of luck, especially in limited play where the possibility of receiving crappy cards is high. A bad hand in poker only matters for one pot; a bad deck in Magic sticks for the whole tournament. But it’s not all luck. Magic requires knowledge, foresight, and cunning. Strong recalls one tournament ending when one player bluffed his opponent into forfeiting the game or “scooping” when he had the Magic equivalent of a pair of twos in poker.
As Strong puts it, “A really good player will always do better,” – a lesson I learned when I played my rare and totally badass 4/4 flying angel that gave all my creatures either first strike, lifelink, or vigilance, which is the equivalent of whipping your donger out and making the other team paint a watercolor of it. However, it promptly got exiled from the battlefield by a lowly common sorcery card, leaving me with my weiner in my hands.
In spite of our relative inexperience, Train Thunder Rock and Roll made the Top 8, or semi-finals, giving me a renewed passion for the game and immense satisfaction for kicking ass on the Synthesis’ dime. So much for objective journalism.