My thoughts and experiences playing Magic: the Gathering on Saturday at the Prerelease: Core Set 2020

I came back from an approximately two year hiatus from playing Magic: The Gathering this week at the Greater Memphis Magic Arena, in Memphis Tennessee, when I competed in the pre-release for the core set of 2020 this weekend on July 6, 2019. I won two packs of cards!

In case you are unfamiliar with Magic: a pre-release is a card playing tournament for a set of collectible cards. The game I played is called Magic: The Gathering. Every couple of months, Wizards of the Coast (the company who produces Magic) releases new cards and they become tournament legal as older cards go out of fashion. To learn about the new cards, competitors play a tournament by building a deck with packs of randomly assorted cards (this style is called “Sealed draft”) on the weekend the product is released. It is like an exclusive sneak peek at the cards before the Standard (pre-built decks) tournaments commence.

The “Arena” is Lee’s and my go-to place for our gaming outside of church (That will be another post; we go to a church by gamers for gamers.) We play Magic and our role playing game, Deadlands, here. The Arena has a great community and really cool staff. Lee worked at this tournament behind the counter selling snacks and sorting cards while I played. This job is the kind of thing you just have to be lucky enough to be asked to do by the store owners. There is no application.

Opening and sorting cards for store inventory. Dan left, Lee right

I hadn’t played Magic at a trading card shop in about two years aside from the occasional match here and there. Last week, I opened an account with Magic: The Gathering Arena, an online PC version of the game where you can play against other people or a computer. (The namesake for this edition of the game is coincidently similar to the Greater Memphis Magic Arena.) Like my opponent Devin, from my second match, said, the online game is better for walking a you through all the triggers whilst the analog card game requires one to keep up with all the triggers (events that get triggered as you make other moves, such as “gain a life point if…”). You lose the effects of your triggers if you forget.

I love playing Magic for a lot of reasons. Winning isn’t one of them. Although it feels good to win, it seldom happens to me. So, I lose a lot. But, I get something out of seeing how my and my opponent’s cards work against each other. I celebrate small victories such as a deck working smoothly even though I ran four colors, or getting my favorite card on the battlefield and doing something cool with it.

My absolute favorite thing about playing Magic is the social scene it provides. Because I am used to losing, as the tournament progresses I fall back into the more laid back side of things and get matched with players closer to my skill level, or advanced players who are out of luck. I have met some really cool people through Magic and a lot of the players are pleasant and supportive. I find a lot of people are helpful and give advice after matches. (Some advice is unsolicited, and some appreciated. Take the experience with a grain of salt.)

My first match was against Miguel. He works as a bartender. I was impressed with myself because I got out enough land in every color. I played red, green, blue and black, so that is quite a rainbow of card types tp support. I didn’t do much for half of the game though because my mana was coming slow, but the game picked up and I had enough. My deck felt cohesive and I even had a minor life gain and loss combo with Epicure of Blood and other cards with lifelink. I lost in two games, but had a thoroughly good time.

My faves.

My second match was against Devin. He is a store manager at an oil change place. He recently started playing Magic at the Arena after learning the game through the Xbox. I had some mana problems where I needed just more black to get certain creatures out from my hand. My battlefield didn’t build much leverage because I kept letting my creatures die when I blocked Devin’s attacks. He won in two games.

For the third match I got “the Bye.” This means there was an odd number of players, so someone had to be matched with no one. I won on a technicality. It was a nice break to rest my mind and bother Lee and Dan.

My fourth and final match of the night was with Mary. I was really happy to be matched with her because I don’t get to play with women nearly as often as I do with men. Mary is a psychology student whose goal is to earn a PhD.

This time, I won in two! I won two packs of cards between this match and the Bye.

Some cards I particularly enjoyed playing are:

My deck list looks like this: