What We Learned—What We Taught (April 1)

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

This week was a learning week for many people. The lessons began last weekend, with gusto, when our very own Hunter managed to rattle off eight straight match wins on day one of Grand Prix: Pittsburgh, after opening the day with two losses, en route to his 56th place finish overall. Class continued on Tuesday when Zach Barash’s new column debuted, on the theme of leveling up your game. The school-week culminated this Saturday, a week after Hunter’s stellar run, at Twenty Sided Store where they hosted International Tabletop Day and I had the privilege to help teach someone how to play Magic.

As you may recall, I hung up my planes-walking shoes just over two months ago, at the end of January. Since then, I only put them back on once, to play in the midnight pre-release of Gatecrash at the store. Then, at Tabletop day something interesting happened. I was playing a game of Ticket to Ride with some local gamers when Zach Barash started his “Learn to Play Magic” session, which was aimed at beginners. Unfortunately, Zach had two problems. First, he had an odd number of participants and the idea was to have them pair off to play games. Second, one of the nine planeswalkers-in-training was a little more advanced and had come with some friends who wanted to learn.

Zach came around the store asking if anyone could lend a hand. I dusted off my Armadillo Cloak and offered up my semi-retired services. I sat down across from 16-year-old Anthony who had a long cardboard box of Magic cards he had acquired and a black & white Exalted deck he had put together. I asked him to tell me a little bit about his background as a Magic player and learned that he mostly played at school with his friends and one of their teachers who also played Magic and even let them play in class. He liked the game a lot and also played Duels of the Planeswalkers on his Playstation 3. This made him very excited and was why he wanted to build an Exalted deck. He was saving up to buy a Sublime Archangel and was curious if I knew where he could purchase a copy of Archenemy Schemes, like in the video game.

Ah, to be young again. My own background in Magic was very different from Anthony’s. I started playing much earlier in life, at the age of 11, and really only played with my younger brother and my neighbor. The only cards I had were gifts from my parents and my other family members. A few years later I did start playing in school and by the time I was nearing the end of my high school days I was playing occasionally at a local gaming store. I never had a lot of the access that Anthony has. A teacher willing to support a community of Magic players in their classroom is invaluable to both the student’s social growth and to the game, though not necessarily their education but that’s a different topic. Also, having stores like Twenty Sided which are incredibly supportive of young players is a boon to the community’s growth.

I digress, as I would like to finish talking about my hour-long private lesson with Anthony. It has been, to the best of my recollection, nearly ten years since I actually taught anyone anything about Magic. When I was in College, I did so regularly, as I was an officer in our school’s gaming society and teaching Magic was simply a responsibility of that post (along with teaching every other game we had in our collection). Once I graduated and committed more to playing competitively, I mostly surrounded myself with other competitive players. Everyone who was in my circles knew (mostly) what they were doing.

Sharing some of my vast experience with Anthony was a lot more fun than I anticipated. Originally I was just looking to get away from the Ticket to Ride game (which I was doing awfully in) and honestly, I didn’t think a high-school kid would be that thrilled to grind some Wizards of the Coast pre-made decks against a guy about to turn 30 who didn’t even play Magic anymore. But he didn’t care and he was thrilled to play Magic, because that’s what he likes to do. We played a couple games, and I pointed out a few things that he could do to improve his game, mostly around just being more observant and not forgetting about aspects of the board state. Then I asked him if there was anything specific he needed help with and he asked me to teach him how I always knew the best way to block his attacks. I set up some blocking puzzles for him and helped him through them. Then we wrapped up and I wished him well and went off to play another game.

Before he left, Anthony thanked me for helping him out. It was a really great experience, and helped teach me a valuable lesson about remembering to have fun when gaming. I’m not going to get back into Magic anytime soon. It still isn’t a priority in my life. I’m thrilled for my friends when they play and do well, and I’m always glad to talk about the game with them, but I have other things that need my attention these days and the time in my life when I would wake up before 5AM to catch a ride to a Grand Prix or PTQ are behind me. But, if I ever do pick it up again (likely at the Dragon’s Maze pre-release) then I hope to keep the lesson I learned from Anthony (and Zach and Hunter), to have fun and enjoy the game, closer to me than I used to when I played competitively.

The Quick Hits

  • Wizards will have a new column highlighting Commander run weekly. Just for the record, we already have that here at HotC. [The Mothership]
  • Enchantment edged out Land, narrowly, for You Make the Card. I wonder if it will be blue? (Spoiler: Yes) [YMTC4]
  • The most important thing I learned from this week’s 20 Tweets column was that someone follows the HotC Twitter Feed. [LegitMTG]
  • Here’s the same information we had about Dragon’s Maze pre-releases last week, but more official. [Magic Arcana]
  • TCGPlayer is picking up the State Championships mantle and returning the event to twice-annually. Good job! [TCGPlayer]
  • Abe Sargent kicks off part one of his four-part series highlighting the top-100 cards for multiplayer. I have a feeling Stasis didn’t make the cut. [Gathering Magic]
  • In keeping with my tradition of only linking tournament reports from friend-of-the-blog Anthony Lowry, here’s his latest. [TCGPlayer]
  • This week on Who to Follow, Jason Alt tells you who is gonna break the big Magic news on Twitter. [Who to Follow]
  • Natasha Harrington dives deep into the world of complexity and how our minds break things down. It’s a very meta article. [Gathering Magic]
  • Here’s a poem. About Magic. Just read it. [LegitMTG]
  • Don’t trust what I live-tweeted last weekend? Here’s the full video of the PAX East Magic Panel. [DailyMTG]
  • I wasn’t the only one who had a productive school-week. Jackie Lee learned a few things as well. [TCGPlayer]
  • “The Festival of Old is designed as one of the most skill-testing formats ever.” Good luck with that. [MTGO]

Wallpaper of the Week

How can you not love the art for Deathpact Angel? This wallpaper really impressed me. That’s all I need to say.

Grade: A-

The Week Ahead

Today is April Fools’ Day. I can’t wait to find out what my brother has in store for our mother this year.

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  1. […] crowded and noisy room, while grabbing several available friends to help at random times (check out Rich’s article for his experience). In short, this is not what I usually do, or have ever […]



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