“What do you say to the country of people who just are bewildered?”
“Um, read the manual.”
Erica Heilman, host of Rumble Strip Vermont, posted an episode last night, titled Magic: The Gathering, in which she explores the game of Magic: the Gathering through the eyes of players at the Book Garden in Montpelier during the weekly Friday Night Magic hours. Erica’s son plays Magic, and this episode is like getting to peek through the eyes of someone peeking into the hobby. I love the thoughtful, reflective answers Erica gets to her questions, from interviewees of all ages.
As a bonus, you can also listen to Erica’s son try to teach her how to play Magic in this raw audio clip. I think I can hear them both smiling throughout, which is good, because they get into a bit of a loop about what lands are good for, and why anyone would ever tap them.
Ever since the hubbub of a Magic collector pulling a Black Lotus from a sealed Alpha starter deck live on camera hit last week, I’ve found his YouTube channel, openboosters, curiously fascinating. I wasn’t a big Magic player and my era was the end of Revised to the deflated party balloon launch that was Homelands — and I never really grokked the strategy of the game and deckbuilding like most players did — but I knew the cards of the time pretty well thanks to InQuest printing their text at the back of every issue.
Watching this fellow crack open packs feels like a vicarious pleasure. I didn’t do much pack-cracking — never bought a box, or part of one, only one and two boosters at a time — so getting to see it through his eyes, and having the benefit of his knowledge about which card is the rare, and which are fun cards to play, is gratifying. I remember knowing many of those card names and art, but didn’t get to experience them in play. Now I can have the best of seeing cards in “person” for the first time, and the flush of fond memories, even if they aren’t mine.
From time to time, I’ve wished there were a way to go back to the early days of Magic, when you had just the core set at the time, with its Power Nine and other ridiculousness, and just play that era of the game, without necessarily having to track down cards of absurd rarity and value. Picture a Chronicles-like throwback covering the entire core set.
For now, I’ll keep watching openboosters. He’s got to hit on a Kird Ape at some point, right?
 And hold no illusions about any joy to be gleaned from such activities, having once lost my mind and bought a dozen or more Illuminati: New World Order starter decks.
Amid all the hubbub of the Carnage book posting on Monday, I didn’t get the chance to relay some other doings. Carnagecast posted a new episode as well: Shuffle Up and Deal. Ray and I talk about card games, mostly.
Ray’s a Magic man for a long time running. I got out at Homelands, because it was just that terrible, by all accounts. He informs me on the Elder Dragon / Commander format, and I carefully pick the moments where I ask him to expand on something.
I get to talk about as openly about Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game as I’ve ever gotten to without feeling the burning pity of someone who likes something else better.
And you know, after we recorded this episode, I did teach Ray Call of Cthulhu, and sent him on his way with Romance of the Nine Empires. I got to see the truly glory of the explorer Roald Ellsworth, bouncing in and out of play with Ultima Thule. Ray found that one. It was pretty cool to see in action.