Magic vs. The Gathering: Having a Hobby in a Competitive Card Game

In the last month, WotC made it very clear of the direction they want to take with Magic: the Gathering. MTG Arena is in open beta with the marketing and promotion of some kind of new sliced bread factory, proving the casual audience is where money is best spent. At least, that’s what I thought up until today.

#MTGUMA is still blowing up on Twitter right now, since the 3rd November when people started receiving some interesting apologies in the mail to now where the price of each box has been released.

People who had trouble buying Mythic Edition flooded the internet today with images of gorgeous super-art cards from a collection with the acronym UMA and a unique symbol. More information will be revealed Monday at! #MTG #MTGUMA

These cards were given out to a select group of people who complained to WotC after the Mythic Edition fiasco, where as predicted, the Hasbro Toy Shop website crashed almost immediately and people who had waited until the minute it was released could not get their hands on this limited edition Guilds of Ravnica booster box. That business decision is long since forgotten as people gush over extended art Through the Breach and Tasigur, the Golden Fang.

And many more, you can check the full spoiler of “box toppers” at

Now at a whooping $500+AUD price tag you may be asking “Why would WotC put all the effort into pushing MagicFest and MTG Arena when they are just going to release a product that casual Magic players won’t buy”. Unfortunately for you, my friend, this product was exactly made for casual players, just the ones with lots of money. Professional Magic players will usually have a pool of cards between them and make deck/card choices dependent on what they think will stand a chance against the field. It’s the people at your FNM who have been playing Jund for 6 years to moderate success who are looking to get the premium version of each card.

My recommendation if you want to buy a box is to split one with your friends and share the promo card equal ways – if your friend wants the promo Liliana of the Veil, they will have to buy out everyone else’s share of that card. If nobody wants it then it is sold and everyone gets a cut. Whichever way you decide to enjoy this product please remember to thank WotC staff through prayer as this seems to be a pretty cool step in the right direction, despite it’s high price tag.

Sharing pretty art as always helped close the divide between people who take the game seriously and people who are just playing for fun, something that may help break the ice when you are sitting across the table from your opponent. A unique experience to people in the hobby world, casual players can be found at a GP main event and serious players can still be found in the side events. This does mean that when sleeving up your favourite decks for a weekend away, you will have to prepare for something no-one really tells you about: your opponent may have a different idea in how they have fun playing Magic. An easy way to understand one of these differences is asking “How do you feel about Blood Moon”

Screenshot_2018-07-19 Blood Moon, Ninth Edition Foil (9ED) Price History

This card is unlike any other card because it represents a specific audience: people who like locking out their opponent, people who like punishing greedy decks, people who think Magic is a “zero-sum Game”. Defined by Wikipedia, “A zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.” Basically, the more fun I am having = the less fun you are having. I asked Twitter if they thought Magic was a zero-sum game, and the results surprised me.

Besides proving the fact that I can only get 38 people to look at my tweets, these results surmise that about one third of people who play Magic believe that if they are having fun, their opponent is not. I can imagine why anyone would feel that when you “um and ah” over an interesting mull to six in the dark just to have your opponent chuckle, muttering a line from a terrible Sonic the Hedgehog Deviant Art creation before casting a turn-one Blood Moon. If you have played Legacy before you would somewhat be used to this because if you’re not interested in tight lines, thick stacks and gaining incremental advantage based on skill, there are plenty of different options for you. Decks like RB Reanimator, Big Red and Belcher don’t really care whether or not you want to play interactive games, they are just here to win or lose in the first few turns.

This strategy goes hand in hand with white border cards, mismatched printings and other methods of adding insult to injury. Trust me, I know this more than most because playing a hand with a turn 1 Griselbrand with Unmask back up is exciting, but having your opponent cringe at the sight of your deck the whole way through your turn has its own level of satisfaction.

I don’t know why it makes us happy, perhaps it’s a doubling down on your opponents expected disappointment in you for not playing an interactive deck. For whatever reason my card choices is a good way to break the ice with my opponent and hopefully enjoy the time we have designated to each other.

Casual players will differ from serious players because “doing cool things in magic” or “memeing your opponent” is not usually a consideration for people who mainly want to win their match, with having fun as a symptom of winning. This can make Magic a highly volatile hobby, and needs to be played with your opponents in mind. So next time you whip out your own Blood Moon or white border basics in a competitive setting, read the room and your opponent. Then, if you can be sure your opponent won’t take it the wrong way, hit the sickest dab the world has ever seen.

We’re all in this crazy game together, have the most fun you can have and respect your opponents!

– Angus McKay – Going to GP Melbourne soon to whip out some Blood Moons

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