The Top 10 Reasons You Should Play Magic: the Gathering

Ryan Normandin
August 28, 2017

There comes a time in every Magic player’s life when a friend asks them some hard questions. Why are you never free on Friday nights? Why is your wallet always empty? Why do you incessantly flick all card-shaped objects? This friend may not realize it, but they’ve just given you permission to not just explain Magic, but indoctrinate encourage them to start playing as well! But, as my late uncle once said before attempting sword-swallowing, if you mess up, you don’t get a second chance. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the most compelling reasons to take up cardboard crack.

  1. Stave off your intellectual insecurities

Were you the kid in high school whose major source of exercise was raising your hand, seizing every opportunity to prove that you were smarter than everyone else? Was your self-worth directly correlated with your GPA? In the absence of a metric comparing your intellectual prowess with those around you, do you constantly question whether you’re smart enough?

Question yourself no more! Magic is a game of both luck and skill, which is the perfect way to validate your intellect. Doing well? You’re a master strategist; not even Jon Finkel would’ve seen the line you took. Countering your own spell to trigger Prowess for that last point of damage? Brilliant. If there were a Nobel Prize for this game, you would’ve earned it right alongside that gorgeous foil FNM token.

Doing poorly? Don’t worry, Magic has plenty of built-in excuses. You lost, but your play was still correct, and you were brilliant for making it. To suggest otherwise is simply results-based thinking, which is basically equivalent to believing that the Earth is flat. Or perhaps you lost due to variance. Your opponent’s Modern Jund deck simply top-decked better than your Affinity deck after establishing control of the game. Nothing you could’ve done. And if someone suggests that you’re misusing/misunderstanding these ideas… well… that’s kind of the point.

Finally, you get to assert your intellectual superiority whenever someone sees you playing in public and asks, “Oh, are you playing Yugioh?”

“Please, Sir/Madame,” you reply, flicking your cards loudly and vigorously, pretending not to notice that you dropped one on the floor. “This is actually Magic: the Gathering, a cross between the strategy of chess and the bluffing and hidden information of poker. Yugioh, in this metaphor, would be Checkers.” Pause here and let them soak in just how incredible this game must be, and how incredible you must be for not only understanding and playing it, but for flicking your cards that fast.

“And besides,” you should add coolly, with a slight smile. “Yugioh is a children’s card game. Magic is thirteen and up.” (If you go in this direction, make sure that you are/can pass as 13+ and that the group of eleven-year-olds that you lose to every week is out of sight.)

  1. It is, health-wise, the safest addiction

As an intellectual sport, Magic tends to attract college students, engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, bankers etc. As long as you’re a non-teacher from this category, you’re probably tired of having your wallet weighed down by lots of disposable income. As many have documented, it’s only too easy to attempt to alleviate this problem via drugs, gambling, prostitutes, or, worst of all, the collection of art. Magic provides a way for you to instead channel your funds to a scrappy little company with an inability to write good halfway-decent software. ‘Why do this?’ you might ask. Well, Magic can provide the same fun of addiction without the downsides of death, STD’s, and having to defend to friends why a white canvas with blue paint splattered on it counts as “art.” Might you still end up broke? Sure. But you’ll never truly be homeless, as home is where the heart is: in your deckbox.  

  1. Math skillz

Most Magic cards have numbers on them somewhere, and that can only mean one thing: math. But before you remember how scarring doing your taxes was, there’s good news! The math required in this game is up to you! At the most basic level, you’ll need to be able to add and subtract quickly and easily. With today’s caliber of young people, this requirement makes it easy to see why the game is recommended for ages thirteen and up.

Suppose, however, that you’ve graduated high school, and have (probably) become a master of the good ol’ plus and minus. You’re looking to flex those math muscles, maybe lift something heavier than arithmetic. Well luckily, Magic involves basic probability! You can try to estimate the odds of drawing a specific answer or how likely it is that your opponent “has it.” Just beware: while these numbers may, on average, look similar when calculated, you need to remember that’s just the theory. In practice, your opponent always has it and your out is guaranteed to be in the bottom six cards of your deck.

The final level of math is left to the true masters. If you’re tired of building your manabase, your curve, and your ideological positions based on feelings instead of facts, it’s time to embrace the hypergeometric probability distribution. In practice, this just means that you look up Frank Karsten’s latest article and read the answers to all your questions off some pretty tables he made. But the really valuable reason to learn those words is so that, when people ask your thoughts on their own manabase, breakfast choices, or dating prospects, you can frown slightly, shake your head, and say, “According to my calculations with the hypergeometric probability distribution, your manabase sucks, Froot Loops are not actually fruit, and Veronica is cheating on you with your best friend.”

  1. Finger dexterity

While playing Magic for long periods of time can result in the atrophy of most of your muscle mass, there is one exception: your fingers. After playing for a couple months, your fingers will begin to surprise you. You won’t drop objects anymore. Your writing and typing will become fast and flawless. You’ll surprise yourself when, at a dinner party, you pick up a guitar and serenade the guests with ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ despite having never even touched an instrument before.

Don’t believe me? Find video footage of Sam Black playing Magic and look at his hands. His fingers are nimble and quick, light but firm. They dance across the boardstate like Olympic skaters, tapping permanents and shuffling cards with the ease that only comes after thousands of hours of practice. His fingers have become long and slender, moving with inhuman dexterity, but neigh, they are simply masters at their craft. Gaze and weep, for this is beauty unshackled.

  1. Scratch your gambling itch while circumventing gambling laws

Maybe gambling is your thing! If you’re on Wall St, then ignore this section: gambling with other people’s money and then watching the economy come crashing down by your own hand has got to satisfy that itch to roll the dice. But if you’re not on Wall St, you have to actually deal with something they’re quite unfamiliar with: regulations. Luckily, Wizards of the Coast has ensured that their game, which is a game of chance that sometimes requires players to take risky actions in the hope of a desired result – you know, the definition of gambling – is able to be legally considered not gambling. I’m pretty sure this is the same trick they used with Magic Online; while MTGO certainly can’t count as real software, it seems to legally qualify.

  1. Take on the role of a mighty planeswalker

Magic also has quite the compelling backstory. There’s an angsty guy with abs, an angsty teen with a hood, two angsty girls in a will-they-won’t-they romance, and an angsty senior citizen who is into the hoodie kid despite him being about 100 years younger. As a player of this game, you can pretend that you are one of these angsty travelers of the Multiverse battling another angsty wizard. You engage in an epic duel with your enemy, casting powerful spells and summoning mighty beasts, only able to be stopped by a spilled drink or a slight breeze. So remember: play indoors, and no drinks on the tables!

  1. Become a connoisseur of basements

We’ve all seen a basement or two in our day. Some finished, some unfinished. Some converted into game rooms, some festering in moisture, giving birth to strange, multicolored molds. As you begin to play more Magic and visit new game stores, you will get to see more basements in a year than most people will see in their entire lives. One week, you’ll see spacious basements with good ventilation, and the next, crammed basements in which not a single person would live if a fire ever broke out. You might think this is a silly reason to play the game, but players regularly engage in discussions over which basements were their favorites, and it’s only natural to develop a bit of a soft spot for this architecturally important but aesthetically undervalued room.

  1. Become a connoisseur of convention centers

If you thought basements were fun, then, boy, do I have a treat for you! If you begin to play on the competitive circuit at Grands Prix, you’ll get to travel to convention centers all over the country! From the open, wall-less marvel of Honolulu and the gorgeous waterfall-lined path beneath the convention center of Pittsburgh to the convention centers in the heart of beautiful Boston drug-infested Worcester and mighty New York City the pride of our country, New Jersey, you’ll find something for you! But then you’ll probably forget, as all these convention centers look pretty much the same from the inside, where you’re spending around 24 hours over the course of the weekend, exchanging enormous sums of cash for undercooked hot dogs and massive amounts of cheesy bread sold as “pizza,” all with extra cholesterol. I’m not sure where I was going with this, but if you like convention centers, you’ll love Magic: the Gathering!

  1. The community

Even when you’re not physically playing Magic, there’s so much Magic to be engaged in: articles written by people who are good at Magic, but have no experience or qualifications in writing; videos showcasing budget decks which immediately become not-budget decks; a secondary market where wannabe stock brokers test their mettle, attempting to turn the $200 they invested in Crested Sunmare into $800 so that they can feel good about themselves, but never actually go through the horrible amount of work and eBay fees it would take to resell 200 copies of a card. There’s truly something for everyone!

            And that’s it! You might’ve noticed that there were only nine reasons here, whereas I promised ten in the title. I lied. Regardless, utilizing some mixture of these nine reasons is a failsafe way to lure an unsuspecting friend into a life of financial hardship, convention centers, and, despite my making fun of it, what is truly the greatest game and community in the world.

Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin.