Magic the Gathering
I began collecting and playing Magic: the Gathering when I was in fifth grade, almost twenty years ago. The “Block” system either hadn’t started yet or was still in its infancy, and the artwork guidelines had yet to be established. My first few sets were Fourth Edition, Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Chronicles, and Alliances.
My friends got me into the game, and gave me most of my initial cards. My first colors were Red, White, and Green, and I enjoyed playing Healing Salve, Lightning Bolt, Stream of Life, Dragon Whelp, and Serra Angel. When I bought my own cards, I picked up Chronicles when I could because I loved the multicolored Legends.
I played irregularly, and only with my friends, through fifth and sixth grade. I dabbled in other color strategies but remained with Red, White, and Green until middle school.
Middle School Renaissance
I liked building decks more than playing the game. I’ve always been a poor sport, particularly when it comes to competitive games that contain some element of creativity or expression. My decks were often “more interesting” to me than whatever my friends were playing, but that didn’t win me any games.
Homelands and Alliances were major letdowns, and as Chronicles got harder to find and grew pricier with time, I fell out of the card-buying habit. I hated white-bordered cards and refused to get more than a handful of the “core” sets when they came out. Most of my cards had white borders at that point, and I resented them.
Mirage only vaguely interested me, but I really liked Visions. I tried to collect a lot of the set, and I played for the first time against players who weren’t already friends of mine. I built decks of many different color combinations, mostly alternating between Blue-Red creature-less “Counterburn” and mono-green “Elf” decks.
I collected minimal Weatherlight, but I loved the Tempest expansion. I collected more of Tempest than any other single set. I loved playing Slivers, and experimented with several varieties of Sliver decks before settling on a Blue-Green evasion deck focusing on Flying and Trample. I fell out of the game for a long time after Tempest.
High School Revival
I played pickup games of Magic through middle school and high school, but I’d had a significant turnover in friends, and most of the people I was hanging out with didn’t play. My brother continued to collect, and we played on occasion, but I didn’t buy much until my Junior year of high school, with Onslaught.
I collected a lot of elves and built a deck that became somewhat infamous in the circle of Magic players at my high school. I used lots of older Elf cards, and abused the “tribal” mechanics expanded by the Onslaught block. I also collected Legions but stopped collecting much once I graduated from high school in 2003.
My friend Don (who introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons) and I played a lot of interesting games when we would hang out because he had started and stopped collecting Magic before I started. He used even older cards, and more powerful strategies than I had faced, and he had lots of rare cards I had never even seen.
We split a box or two but didn’t collect too many cards. When I moved to Salt Lake in 2006, I stopped playing again for several years.
Online Card Shopping
After experiencing some difficulty in finding and keeping a group of D&D players long enough to form a campaign, I started collecting cards again. My roommate got me into online shopping, and we found some sellers online who specialized in randomized lots of cards. I bought several thousand cards at a time over a few months.
While I amassed a number of cards from older expansions I recognized, I acquired the most cards from the Lorwyn, Shadowmoor, and Shards of Alara blocks, which had many themes I particularly enjoyed. I liked the dual-color cards a great deal, I liked the Welsh-inspired fantasy setting, and I liked the tribal themes.
I built a lot of decks but I didn’t play much, and I stopped picking up new lots after a few months because I was moving out and I’d found a steady D&D group. I also started my webcomic Rumors of War and didn’t devote much time to fiddling around with Magic cards. They went back in their boxes again.
About one month before I got married, my future brother-in-law took me to my first pre-release tournament. I’d played some one-off games with him and hadn’t been to a tournament in any capacity since high school (that didn’t go well, or I might have mentioned it). I placed pretty well in that tournament, which guaranteed I’d go again.
That first pre-release tournament was for Magic 2012, and we went to Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored after that, I don’t collect the cards so much, but I do enjoy the “new expansion” excitement. I missed the Magic 2013 pre-release, but we hit up Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash. I tend to do pretty average overall.
For me, most of the excitement of collecting has faded, and I really only enjoy the first several games with brand-new cards. My brother’s told me that I have “pretty good luck” with pulling rare cards, and I would tend to agree. I still enjoy building decks, and I like the added pressure of a thirty-minute window and a forty-card limit.