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Mana Pool: Friday Night Magic
This summer, I've gotten into Magic: The Gathering. For my birthday, my beautiful fiancee bought me a 2013 Magic: The Gathering Starter Set, with tons of cards inside. I've even bought a few boosters and a starter deck. It's sad that I'm all into it now and not before, having seen people play outside in middle school, college, and knowing I have friends and family far away who are into it now.
So, for a new player with limited choices, finding a local Friday Night Magic location was the ideal solution. For those who don't know, Friday Night Magic is an event hobby shops hold in which players come for different types of Magic games and compete against one another. Winners receive promo cards or booster packs and get to earn points on the online score board Wizard has set up. I knew I had no chance of winning having never done this before, but I had four goals;
- Learn from experienced players
- Get to play with a standard, self made deck.
- Play limited booster draft
- Have fun
So, I got a ride with a local player who was going to the coming FNM and began my first adventure playing Magic cards in a defined setting.
The first event was Standard Constructed. This is a basic type of play where you build a deck of up to sixty cards and duke it out with other players. Now, I don't have tons of cards, so my strategies were limited. I have plenty of different cards, but not a lot of duplicates, so I didn't have the ability to build a deck around just one card. I tried building a deck of vampires, using black and red cards, but it seemed thrown together. Truthfully, I was up for a long time the night before, working on decks, shuffling and dealing myself cards to see how often I could get a good hand.
My final choice revolved around customizing an Intro Deck, in this case . I took a few cards out I didn't like and added some I thought would help it reach it's goals faster. The plan was to attack from the skies and boost the tokens I would create. I removed the red cards and added white, hoping to complement the strong cards better. Depths of Power
Playing the deck, however, proved to be a sad affair. I was absolutely demolished. My first game was against a guy who hasn't missed a FNM in years and I was glowing "newbie". He was friendly enough, but my deck was hopeless. I had taken out too much mana while putting the deck together and in the game I had no chance to play anything. That was basically the theme of the night for me and my deck; no mana, no game. So, I lost terribly in my first Standard.
What I Learned
Throughout these matches I learned a few things that would help me for the night and beyond. I needed to forget all the strategies I learned from my Pokemon cards I used when I was younger. Mana is my friends and if I ignore it's importance when building a deck, I will be ruined.
But I also learned how to play, both better and faster. It didn't take me long to understand I had to announce all my moves and be quicker during a tournament. I was shaky at points, always wanting to be faster than I was, even if it caused some mistakes. Mainly, I learned that being friendly is the best tactic, otherwise the one you're beating may harbor ill will upon you. Since I was constantly losing, it was nice to play against others who were nice to the new guy.
Limited Draft is the addicting type of tournament play. Eight players receive three booster packs, open one and pick a card. Then, they pass the pack to the next person and pick a card from the one just given to them, though now it has one less than before, continuing until all the booster packs are opened. You then have to build a deck from the cards you've opened and compete against the others.
Right away, I could tell I was going to get overwhelmed fast. Others there knew what to take, what to give and how to tell what others are taking. I was trying to strategize but I was all over the place. I ended up settling on a green and red creature deck, but I had also taken blue and black cards because I had forgotten some of the cards I had drafted! If "new guy" had a smell, I'd be reeking of it! Still, I managed to put together a deck quickly and went into the fight hoping against hope.
To my surprise and joy, I won my first match up, going 2-0 right off the bat. While this put me in a happy place, it wasn't made to last. The other players beat me down fast, though I did much better than in Standard and seemed to be getting the gist of the speed. I forgot to play certain cards once or twice, which may have cost me, but it was all a learning experience. I won the door prize, coming in seventh because someone had left during the tournament.
What I Learned
Limited is addicting and intense, but tons of fun when things are going well. If I was to play again, I think what I learned during my first FNM would be a great boon to me. Consistency in color, focus of mana value and setting my theme quickly are all the lessons given to me that night. In fact, losing Standard taught me to build more mana, which I used in Limited and that lesson saved me from full embarrassment.
I also learned that people take Magic and the tournament play extremely serious. Some are just there for the fun of it, and I just like the adrenaline rush that comes with the challenge, but others are there to win and get the top spots. While everyone was generally nice to me, there were arguments in the room that made me wonder if I'd really fit in. I'm not sure I could ever take the tournament as seriously as some of them, but I'm still not that good. If I had skill and was going in, I could imagine getting angry at others for making mistakes. It's interesting and may keep me from going head first into a life of MTG. Time will tell.
The Night's Recap
Goal one was to learn from more experience players, which happened. I learned how certain cards worked, how the mana base is built, how to play more focused and how to handle tournaments.
Goal two was to play with my custom deck, which I did and was demolished. Still, I'm now more excited to make a new deck and to see how it fairs, especially with everything I learned and the new cards that came from Limited.
Goal three was to play Limited and it was fun. It's scary, because it's could be compared to gambling and I'm someone with an addictive personality, so I'll have to be careful. But once every so often would be okay.
Goal four was to have fun, which I did, especially once I got some pizza to fuel my night. While Standard wasn't a blast and left me feeling down, Limited was a good time. Someone lent me a deck to play Commander at the end and that was a whole new world for me. I left, tired, but satisfied, wanted to try again. While some people may be more into it than me, it doesn't mean I can't find a place in the tournament.
I'm glad I went and it's only given me more fuel for my MTG inner-fire. I'm going to make a new deck and go back, ready for more punishment. If you're new, I'd definitely suggest something more casual first, as FNM can be a lot to take in right away. But as my only option for real, one-on-one play, it's a good time.