----- Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 15:34:53 -0500 To: Crossover general mail reflector From: Andy Hickmott Subject: Free Magic cards The nice people at WotC have generously given us a box of Visions booster packs. I'm going to be splitting them up among all who want them. If you'd like some of them, send me mail by Wednesday evening and you'll get your slice. --Andy -----
For those of you who have no connections to the world of gaming, Magic: the Gathering (or M:tG) is the first, best known, and most profitable collectable card game (or CCG). This means that it's an exceptions-based game (That means it's got a simple set of core rules, and game pieces that modify those rules; the interaction of the exceptions is what makes the game interesting. Cosmic Encounters is an example of an exceptions-based game that isn't a CCG.) with the game pieces (cards) sold as collectables. You don't have to own a full set of cards to play, just enough to build a playable deck (minimum of 60 cards). Of course, the more cards you own, the more options you have in building your deck. Really dedicated players spend huge amounts of time and money "tuning" decks that can only be beaten by the decks of other folks who have spent huge amounts of time and money. A Magic starter pack (80 cards) costs about US$8, and a booster pack (8-15 cards, with a higher concentration of rare cards) costs about US$2. (I'm being approximate, because the prices, and the number of cards in a booster pack, have changed over time.) The game started with about 300 cards, and has swelled tremendously as new expansion sets have been released. I've lost track even of how many expansions there have been. "Visions" is one of the latest ones.
I was introduced to Magic shortly after it first came out, in the summer of 1993. Kevin Maroney had acquired four starter packs, and asked Andy and me up to his place to try the game out. We opened up three of them, and played with "untuned" decks, straight out of the boxes. It was fun, but we immediately saw the potential for spending lots of money, and decided that it wasn't that much fun. A month or two later, I was at the San Francisco Worldcon, and Wizards of the Coast (or WotC, the publishers of Magic) had a booth in the dealer's area. They were out of boosters, but I bought three starter packs on a whim. That was all I was ever able to get of the "alpha" set, the first printing of the original card set. Worldcon runs for five days; on each of those days, the WotC booth ran out of cards and had to have more overnighted from their office in Seattle. This should have been a warning.
A few months later, the "beta" printing was released. It was three times the size of the alpha printing, and sold out faster. This pattern was to repeat for the next few expansion sets -- Each successive set had a larger print run, and sold out faster. People were buying whole display boxes at once, at a cost of well over US$100 each! "People" includes me, by the way. I've got a couple of thousand cards sitting in my study, sorted by type and color.
And WotC kept changing the rules. See, CCGs have an intrinsic problem: they're essentially impossible to fully playtest, due to the astronimcal number of potential card combinations. Making matters worse, the initial set had some badly designed cards. There were poorly phrased rules, and some cards that were just too damn powerful. Some of the more powerful cards were deleted from later editions of the game, and are forbidden from most kinds of tournament play. The minimum number of cards in a deck was raised to 60 from the original limit of 40. (Yes, minimum. In Magic, having a small deck is a good thing; it allows you to better predict what cards you're going to draw.) A limit was established of no more than four copies of any one card (except basic land cards) in a deck. New rulings on how to play certain cards were uploaded to the net every few days. I just got sick of the game. I was tired of having to keep track of a huge number of new cards, of spending more and more money, of learning this week's new rules interpretation. It became less like a game and more like studying the Talmud. So I stopped buying new cards, and after a while I stopped playing with my old ones. I never got around to selling them, though.
So a few months ago, some folks in the office started a Magic league. League play eliminated some of the problems of general play: Each player starts with a certain number of cards, and is limited to those cards; they have to be kept separate from his general collection. The only way to get more cards is to trade within the league, or to beat another league player and win ante. I decided not to get involved.
Then, Andy sent me the above email. I figured I might as well take a share; it would be nice seeing what some of the new cards looked like. So I sent my response:
----- Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 14:40:58 -0400 To: Andy Hickmott From: Avram Grumer Subject: Re: Free Magic cards At 4:34 PM -0400 3/18/97, Andy Hickmott wrote: >If you'd like some of them, send me mail >by Wednesday evening and you'll get your slice. Yo! -----
So now I've got five packs of "Visions" boosters in my knapsack, and I'm starting to feel nostalgic for the game. The boosters aren't for use in the league, but buying in to the league would only cost about US$20, and I would be unable to spend any more on it. I'm going to give it serious thought in another month or so. (I'm going to spend the next month being frugal; I owe Uncle Sam more than I thought I would this year.)
I wound up not entering the league. I've still got a whole bunch of M:tG cards. I should probably sell them, but I missed out on the chance to do that at maximum value.
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