August 8th, 2012 / 8:01 am
I Like __ A Lot

Magic & Writing & Me

I started playing Magic in the fall of 1994, when I arrived at college, and when the game was only a year old. My then girlfriend got me into it, in a reverse of a common geek stereotype. (I knew several female Magic players in college.) I quit playing four years later, right before graduation, selling off all of my cards (including a Timetwister!), but I’ve continued to vicariously follow the game since. I rarely play, but I did draft some of Ravnica Block (so awesome), and just last week I played in a M13 draft while visiting friends in Philadelphia. I lost in the first round, 0–2—I’m a terrible player, very out of practice—although later I did win a thee-person game of Commander, over dinner at a diner, where I played this deck. (In the M13 draft, I went Blue-Green, and had a decent deck, but very few ways to interact with my opponents’ creatures, and was done in by a Vampire Nighthawk—such a sick card! Although, in my defense, in the second game, I was forced to mull to 5, then never got a third land—and I think I still could have actually won, had my play been tighter….)

Back to vicariousness. I read Mark Rosewater’s “Making Magic” column every Monday (or Sunday night), and watch every video that Luis Scott-Vargas posts online. (He’s hands down my favorite player of all time, and I can’t wait until he gets elected into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame next year. Speaking of which: congratulations to Pat Chapin for making it in this year!) What can I say? Magic is fun and insanely complex; I like games and I like obsessive analysis. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s fantasy-based, one of my lifelong loves. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount about design and aesthetics by talking and reading about the game. (Rosewater’s weekly column is responsible for at least half of that.)

I joke sometimes that I’d like to write a regular column about the game, despite not really ever playing (“the non-player’s perspective”). I’ve already written a few Magic-related articles, focusing on ways the game intersects with writing:

I also sometimes toy with the idea of editing an anthology of Magic-based writing. Perhaps a collection of links to such pieces, since most of them are probably already online? For example, Blake’s post “Magic the Gathering: Fear, Crumble, Lifetap.” (If you know of more, please let me know!)

P.S. I led with Kird Ape because it’s my favorite card ever. I’m a Spike, and my first competitive deck was Red-Green.

P.P.S. Sometimes I dream about organizing a small-press Magic tournament. Perhaps at AWP Boston? (Want in?)

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  1. abysmal

      I’ve found the feeling of writing poetry to be very similar to that of constructing a magic deck, in many ways. The marginal satisfaction of removing a redundant line really seems to parallel trimming down a deck for me. 

      I kind of got fed up with the game though (Delver netdecks and intolerable neckbeards) and right now I’m moving on to “Warmachine”, which seems distantly related to Magic in many ways.

  2. A D Jameson

      They’re both formal activities (or can be). Synergy is everything.

      I don’t really play, just observe. So I’ve seen others complain about Delver, but haven’t experienced its terror. Still, is it as bad as Bloodbraid Elf? Or Jace the Mind Sculptor?

  3. Molum Haggis

      I always liked this piece on Hobart, originally it was on Star City without footnotes, but the footnotes really make it.

      There could be interesting parallels drawn to different types of players/play styles/formats and literary genre.  Also possibly the experimental vs the traditional/established and its reception in both communities.

  4. A D Jameson


  5. A D Jameson


  6. A D Jameson

      I read another essay by Mike Alber, also in Hobart (the “Games” issue). He sent it to me some time ago; thanks for reminding me of it!

  7. A D Jameson

      I read another essay by Mike Alber, also in Hobart (the “Games” issue). He sent it to me some time ago; thanks for reminding me of it!

  8. Alexander Lumans

      I love that essay Alber had in Hobart (“Magic: the Essay”). Especially the parts where he interprets real people in his life into cards themselves, flavor text and all. So smart. I’ve used the essay when I taught Composition courses.

  9. Trey

      def not as bad as JTMS. I don’t know specifically about other people (although I think one of the main complaints is that it’s repetitive, and another big one [although possibly unfair] is that the deck pilots itself) but one frustration that I feel and that I think some others feel is that Maro has repeatedly said that blue should be last in creatures, yet it gets one of the most powerful and competitive creatures in standard, and at common to boot. compounding this is that although people have pointed out to him this apparent contradiction on numerous occasions on his tumblr ( he justifies it by saying that while green gets the best creatures (allegedly) and creatures that are outright good, blue *can* have good creatures, but only a “build-around-me” type creature, much like Delver of Secrets needs a deck composed of many instants and sorceries. the obvious counterargument is that it’s not exactly a stretch to create a deck that is primarily instants and sorceries in blue, and that this is essentially not a drawback and how you would be building a blue deck anyway, so it just hands blue an insanely costed creature for nothing. rosewater seems blind to this, insists that building around delver is enough of a drawback. and the back and forth continues.

      anyway, I’ve said it before but I love magic and I try to secretly work magic cards into my poems from time to time (I mentioned some time ago in a comment on another of your posts about mtg that I wrote a poem called Time Walk, and I’ve just recently been messing with some lines that mention a “wide-mouthed lord of extinction,” re:

  10. Trey

      suddenly this post seems like showing off, but I wish it didn’t

  11. A D Jameson

      I don’t read it that way! Please feel free to point me toward those poems…

      Delver definitely seems too strong for blue. I remember when Flying Men was cut from the core set, for being too strong!

  12. Trey

      how nice of you! many of these secret magic poems are unpublished, but I did just recently have a broadside put out by Thrush Press and the poem was originally titled “Eater of Days” but I adjusted it to something slightly different, not entirely out of fear but I would be lying if I said there was no fear:

  13. A D Jameson
  14. lxin774