Magic: The Gathering – Why I play the game.

Previously on, I showed you how to make and print custom tokens for Magic: The Gathering, and that’s actually one of my most visited pages. Today I’ve got something a bit different to talk about, but the theme is still the same.

It’s something I’ve been asked before, something with an answer that varies from person to person, but the answer for me in particular says a lot about me in particular beyond the scope of the surface question.

Why do I play Magic: The Gathering?

It actually has a lot to do with why my example on MTG custom token making was using Bloodline Keeper \ Lord of Lineage. Sure, the custom token was hilarious, but why did it get made in the first place?

Because the card that uses those tokens was awesome and weird with lots of flavor… but most players thought it was crap.

That, my dear readers, is a perfect storm of appeal for me when it comes to a MTG card. It usually means the cards are cheap to buy, and there’s challenge in proving their worth. And hoo boy, the theme on that card is so flavorful it’s juicy.

See, I’m some strange mix of Johnny and Vorthos with a bit of Timmy thrown in. (Those names are psychographic profiles.) I like doing weird stuff but it has to have flavor. I can’t just throw together a deck of good cards, I have to have ones that make sense thematically, and it has to be one that I’ve built myself. I want it to have some style, and while I like to win that’s not as important as playing the game my way.

If that seems like a counter productive attitude, you’re probably a Spike.


Let me put it a different way. If you’re a sports fan, how fun would it be to see your favorite baseball team do nothing but kick perfect field goals with so much ease they don’t even bounce the ball to other players? If they won every time and it was never a close match, why bother watching?

It’s much more interesting when it’s the bottom of the ninth and they’ve got only one basket left to make to win the superbowl. Even if they don’t win, you’ll still be talking about how epic the game was.

And that’s because there’s excitement in the game. The goal is to win, but it has to be fun getting there.

For me, I’ll enjoy games where I put up a good fight in surprising ways just as much as the ones where I win. I take gambles, make reckless plays that might lose terribly or win surprisingly. I don’t just want to say I took my opponent down 5 points each turn for four turns,  I want to say that one time I hit for 20 points in one turn… with a vampire lord and his gang of flying purple muppets.


So that’s flair and style, but what about cost and challenge?

A big part of playing for me is using underdogs, going up against $200 decks with a $20 deck. I like taking something someone overlooked or dismissed and proving it has worth.

It’s an easy thing for a player with a crap deck to bitterly say that winning is easy when you’ve got expensive cards. And while there is some truth to that, cost is only part of why a deck is crap or not.

Since Magic: The Gathering is a collectable card game, having some cards cost $100 while some cost $0.01 comes with the territory. Obviously powerful cards are more popular and are more expensive to buy on the secondary market. A deck full of expensive cards is going to be powerful, and while it will be challenging to play against other expensive decks… using it against cheap decks is like bringing a bull elephant to a knife fight.

Me? I like fighting bull elephants.


What does your deck say about you?


~Matt Booker

7 thoughts on “Magic: The Gathering – Why I play the game.

  1. This. This right up there with my reasons why I play. I started out as a Timmy, and quickly shifted to a Vorthos with a little bit of Timmy and Johnny on the side….if I build a deck, it has to be fun, and it has to be flavorful…the whole tourney aspect just isn’t for me. If I build a Squirrel/Insect deck (and I have), it’s not about game-winning combos, it’s about the potential to swarm my Planeswalker rival with an army of tiny bitey critters. Having the story background element of your Planeswalker avatar ‘collecting’ spells/creatures that strike their fancy/style is also appealing. It’s all about the flavor….mm, yummy!

  2. Let me introduce you to my Goblin, Thallid, and Vampire decks. Oh, and my Black/White deck with balancing cards for each side. And my three color Legends deck made just because I liked the Legends expansion.

    I’m definitely in it for theme and flavor. Occasionally, that manages to give me a win, but usually not so much. But, man, when the stars align and that ridiculous token generating machine (or whatever, but I do like those) kicks in, it’s so cool that it makes up for getting shellacked in those other matches.

    As an aside, most of the Magic I’ve been playing lately is draft. You lose the flavor idea, but you gain balance, because nobody can bring some crazily tuned super expensive deck to the table; you’re all using the same card pool. I really dislike the whole thousand dollar tournament deck mentality. (And who wants to win all the time, anyway? How boring is that?)

  3. Both of you are awesome. :D

    And Heli, I like the idea of draft more than I like the cost of it. I know that sounds strange coming from me when I just said I like to play in Standard Format tournaments… but cheap underdogs vs expensive decks is part of the fun for me.

    Also, MP and 3rd Party TFs ain’t cheap, and I’d rather have plastic crack than cardboard crack. XD

    Although, I guess if you’re good enough at draft then you only really need to spend the initial investment, and you can use your winnings to buy into more drafts. Hmmm. Well played, Heli, well played.

    ~Matt Booker

  4. And both of you should check back on Friday. I think you’re going to really enjoy the next post. :D

    I should probably also mention that when I say I play in FNM, my local shop is teeming with really great players, including one pro player. If I want to bring something flavorful and cheap, it’s got to be able to compete. So it’s like watching Vorthos swimming with sharks.

    I… get my ass kicked a lot. But it’s fun! Lol.

    ~Matt Booker

  5. “Also, MP and 3rd Party TFs ain’t cheap, and I’d rather have plastic crack than cardboard crack. XD” -Matt

    I have to agree, which is why I haven’t bought any Magic for a while. I started playing back when Revised was new, stayed in for a while, got out, and then got dragged back in by a friend, but I’ve fallen back out. Third party Transformers are definitely a harsh mistress. Plus, draft tends to go until about 11 at night, and I’m old.

  6. I played in high school, and then I got back into playing again during Ravnica. That was actually the first time I started going to tournaments, and a friend and I drove over a half an hour just to get to the shop.

    I played every now and then after that, but didn’t really buy much at all, and it was just casual.

    Then my wife and I saw Innistrad. That set is so far up my alley, it’s easily my favorite. We bought some cards and built some decks, and I started going to FNM at my local card shop, Underdark Comics and Games.

    Then Return to Ravnica came out, and Orzhov just wasn’t as cool as it was in the original set. I was so invested in Innistrad, it caused apathy for the new set, which is pretty much why I stopped playing after the first Ravnica.

    I’m interested in taking a look at Theros, though.

    ~Matt Booker

  7. I should also mention, I’m kind of a hermit and going to FNM is a way to make sure I get some social interaction with IRL friends. :)

    ~Matt Booker

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