Journey to Nowhere #2 – Stages of Magic

Denial – “Magic’s not for me.”

I have a friend that’s a self-proclaimed geek. She enjoys fantasy, board games (of the Settlers of Cataan variety), and D&D. However, she refuses to even try Magic, as it “crosses her geek threshold”.

She is not alone in this. Magic has some fairly negative stigmas attached to it (one of which is being a “Magic player”, which itself has some fairly negative stigmas attached). There are a lot of people out there that would, on the surface, appear as if they would enjoy Magic. But they hold off. They are resistant.

Maybe you were like this. Maybe it took some pretty insistent nagging from a friend to get you to even consider trying. Maybe your friend is like this.

Whatever the reason, there are a lot of people that don’t want to try Magic because they don’t want to like playing Magic.

Anger – “Why are you guys always playing that stupid card game?”

It can be pretty frustrating watching your friends enjoying themselves without you. Even if you don’t want to be doing what they’re doing, you at least want to have fun with them.

“Hey guys, why don’t we go watch a movie? Or throw in a video game? Out to the bar? Anyone? . . . Bueller?”

. . . I just dated myself with that joke, didn’t I?

And then there’s the goading and pushing, trying to get you to at least give the game a chance. It gets obnoxious after a while.

Bargaining – “I’ll try it one if you stop bothering me about it.”

As they say, the first one is free.

Magic is a really fun game. It’s also a very complex game, and there are numerous aspects to it beyond the game itself. As such, you have to know how to package and present things to successfully hook a potential new player.

As they also say, know your audience.

Some people enjoy competition. Others enjoy puzzles. Still others enjoy flavor. I know I’ve gotten more people interested in the game via the artwork and themes than with any other method.

However, one bit of warning: it is very easy to overwhelm the potential new player. Sure, explaining the difference between an instant and a sorcery is fine, but explaining to them that you want to wait until the end of your opponent’s turn to play their instants (. . . except when you don’t) may be a bit much to start off with. Things like that can lead to frustration and . . .

Depression – “This game is too complicated. I’ll never be good at it. Why bother?”

One thing that I’ve noticed of most Magic players – by default, we are an intelligent lot. As such, we pick up things fairly easily, and we tend to become better than average fairly quickly.

Magic is one of those things were you cannot expect to be good from the beginning. There are a lot of rules and a lot of nuances. There are also a lot people better than you playing the game. In fact, Magic is one of those endeavors where people will repeatedly (and correctly) tell you that you are not as good as you think you are, and in all probability, you are simply bad.

This can be a rather disheartening environment to find yourself, especially if you do consider yourself to be intelligent. While winning isn’t everything for a lot of people, it’s pretty rough for everyone to repeatedly not get things right. That can be am infuriatingly common occurrence when you’re just starting Magic.

But, with all those challenges comes the opportunity to overcome them: that first combat trick you pull off; that perfectly timed kill spell; that time you attack for exactsies.

They feel so good. Good enough to where you want to see if you can do it again.

Acceptance – “Wanna play a game of Magic?”

Magic is satisfying on so many levels. Whether you’re a competitor that enjoys a contest of skill, or a mad inventor that tries to piece together wonderful contraptions, or just someone that enjoys sharing stories with their cards amongst friends, Magic can accommodate you.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, it oftentimes just has some prickly barriers to entry.

What’s also great/horrible about Magic, is that this cycle is never ending. Sometimes you’ll loop between a few stages; sometimes you’ll complete full circuits. Part of accepting where you are is the realization that you will have to begin anew.

Maybe this diatribe sounds familiar:

“I only lost because I drew nine lands in a row.”

“Bullshoy! I’m the better player! Stupid lucksack.”

“I only need a burn spell to win. Any burn spell. Come on, deck . . .”

“I can’t seem to win, no matter what deck I play. I should just give up.”

“. . . Hey, can you help me figure out how I can get better?”

Or maybe . . .

“You only beat me because you drew the one card that’s good against my deck.”

“That’s so lame. I hate control decks. They’re boring and unfun.”

“Try playing me with a different deck and we’ll see how the game goes.”

“None of my decks ever work. I’m done trying to make new ones.”

“I have an idea for a deck. Can you help me figure out some good cards to go with it?”

My personal experience is that the majority of people vacillate between the first three stages, and repeat that particular loop. It’s only when they make it to the fifth stage do they start progressing as a Magic player.

This is something that I feel applies to both the competitive and casual crowd.

They both can refuse to believe that something applies to them.

They both can feel persecuted.

They both can try to create situations to match what they want to believe.

They both can struggle with inadequacy.

They both can realize that they can be better.

What stage are you at?

About WombyMTG

Dan "Womby" Hoang has been playing Magic on and off for way too long. Unfortunately, not long enough to have been able to hoard a set of power or dual lands. He does still have his Revised Birds of Paradise - the first playset of rares he ever traded for.

Posted on April 14, 2011, in Articles, Journey to Nowhere and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. So, I actually do not have any friends that play magic. I work full time and have a family. Actually, what I said is not entirely true. My daughter in kindergarten and I play, but we don’t get very competitive. I’m not really able to spend time slinging spells across a poker table at the local card shop when I have so many responsibilities at home. However, I embrace the fact that it is a fun hobby that my wife tolerates and let’s me spend a reasonable amount of money on. With that in mind, the magic players I interact with most are the readers on this site and especially Ertais Lament. You all are really like my local card shop since I don’t have one right now. I guess that’s why I spend so much time on these sites. Besides, everyone is courteous and friendly. Oh, and I think if I was going to introduce someone to magic I would have them read one of the entries from Ertais championship matches or let them borrow a Planeswalker preconstructed deck to play against the other.

  2. It’s amazing how much Magic can be part of our lives, even when we don’t get the chance to play any actual games. I fully agree: these sites are some of the best ways for people to “talk shop” when they can’t be around other players.

    Ertai’s site is an awesome place for figuring out which precons are good to start people off with. I may write an article about it, but each time I got my (at the time) girlfriends into Magic was by building a set of custom duel decks. They were both two color (usually W/G and U/B), singleton, and had only creatures and sorceries. As they got used to the game and the decks, I would slowly tweak them to include artifacts, instants, enchantments, etc.

  3. These articles really resonate with me. I personally don’t know a lot of Magic players, so often I end up teaching people to play, and their cycle can go like this. Too bad they never get past Denial sometimes, and Depression is the most common stumbling block.

  4. The trick is finding the aspect of Magic that each knew player can grasp onto and make their own. Though, even this still isn’t easy. There’s also a lot of cultivation involved in helping them guide their way through the rough parts of getting into the game.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles!

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