Why I Play Magic: The Gathering

Nate takes us on a stroll down memory lane, and drops a hot new-ish decklist!!!

A few months back the MIT technology[1] review posted an article based on a study published in a peer review journal at Cornell University[2]. I will save you the scientific mumbo jumbo, the articles are linked below, but the conclusion that the researchers came up with is that Magic the Gathering it the most complex game going today. This has to do with that fact that a winning strategy in Magic cannot be computed. I will be honest with you, I barely understand what either of those articles mean, even after reading them multiple times. What I can tell you is these articles hit at the very core of the reason I play Magic the Gathering.

I have been playing card games since I was a little kid. I come from a long line of card sharks and was taught how to play Pinochle by my grandparents before I went to grade school. Never heard of it, well no one has unless you're over 60 or have done hard time so don’t feel bad. Instead of heading down the path of pool halls and underground gambling I took the more noble, and nerdy, path of local game stores and friends’ basements. I began playing Magic in 2000 during my freshman year in high school. I had previously played Pokémon but once I got to high school, I didn’t have time for that kid stuff anymore, I had graduated to a more grown-up game, and little did I know, I was right.

I instantly took to control decks making blue and black my favorite colors from the beginning. I took such great joy in countering spells and destroying the creatures my opponents would play. I have been a degenerate magic player from the very beginning, and this is why the article struck home so much. I play Magic because I love card games but the true deep-seeded reason, I play Magic is that I like the feeling of being smarter than my opponent. Always staying one step ahead of the person sitting across from me gives me that feeling more than anything else.

Mark Rosewater has stated that Magic is a puzzle game and WotC gives you the pieces of the puzzle. It is up to you to figure out how those puzzle pieces fit together. If I figure out the puzzle faster and more efficiently than my opponent, then I must be smarter right…….?

RIGHT! I know you’re saying that there is no way that I can win every game and having such a large ego must lead me to be very salty after losing. The answer to this question is no, I also enjoy finding the line I missed or the misplay I made that caused my ultimate defeat. As a true degenerate Magic player, I can contribute all the other losses to mana screw, mana flood, and just a bad random number generator. The best thing about the article is that it takes even more pressure off myself because if a computer cannot play perfect how the hell am I supposed to.

On theme of what I have spent the last 500 words blabbering about I have for you a deck revolving around a 16,000 year old dragon known for his vast intelligence, Niv-Mizzet Parun. Niv-Mizzet was one of the most played cards this past summer and I know I had a lot of fun drawing cards and machine gunning down creatures and life totals alike.

This deck also features another card I believe is underappreciated, Ral-Izzet Viceroy. I was sure that this card was going to take over for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria after rotation. So far, I have been very wrong, but the new Magic year is young and there are bans coming soon so who knows. This deck revolves around controlling the early game with cards like shock and flame sweep, while trying to take over the late game with the dragon wizard himself.

Improbable alliance is a card that I believe can make this deck viable giving us another win condition and clogging up the board. I am going to be honest with you, a lot of real-life stuff has been happening this week and I have not had a lot of time to grind Arena. I will give an update in the future to let you know what I think needs to be added or removed from the deck. I am also not sure this is the correct shell for our dragon wizard either. I believe a Jeskai version may be more correct, but I might build that in a future article. As always let me know in the comments what I can do to improve the deck. Take this deck list and article as an opportunity for you to prove that I am not nearly as smart as I think I am.


[1] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613489/magic-the-gathering-is-officially-the-worlds-most-complex-game/

[2] https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.09828


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