Magic The Gathering as Literature, part 1 (introduction)

Posted by @ 3:48 pm on September 2nd, 2011

Jon Finkel (seated left) plays Patrick Chapin (seated right) in a feature match at Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011.

Part 2 | Part 3

Hello! I’m new here.

I am in Philadelphia, attending a professional Magic: The Gathering tournament (Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011). The event runs through Sunday, and throughout the weekend, I’ll be posting updates “from the floor,” so to speak. I’m currently sitting in the pressroom (I have a press pass!) alongside a few other reporters; they’re busy Tweeting and posting about the current tournament standings, what the format looks like, which cards and decks are proving the best. It’s high stakes stuff—one of four invitational tournaments held annually around the world (the last two were in Paris and Nagoya; the next will be in December in San Francisco), with a top prize of $40,000.

All of which, I think, should interest even those who know nothing about the game. Here’s why:

My plan is to focus on how this thing is a literary experience. Magic involves a tremendous amount of reading: in addition to the cards themselves (which include tons of specialized keywords and other terminology), many of the game’s participants generate dozens of articles each day—more writing than any one person could possibly hope to read. This past week alone saw a flurry of articles that reached as far as The Washington Post and The Atlantic concerning one star player and his experiences with OK Cupid. (Yes, Jon Finkel is here; I just watched him play a key match against another popular Magic celebrity, Patrick Chapin. Finkel won.) In addition, players have over the past eighteen years developed a literary culture to discuss not only the game and its strategies and events, but continuously evolving slang and trends and theories. I’ll be discussing all that, and more.

Stay tuned!

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