Philip Shippy — Staff Writer
Every Saturday night at 7 p.m., a group of students from different backgrounds walk up the stairs to the Kuyper loft, roll out their card mats, bring out their decks, and sit together to play a game that was the first of its kind. Magic: the Gathering Club is a testament to the idea that no matter how different you are from another person, a shared interest can bring you together.
Magic: the Gathering (MtG) was released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, a company also responsible for the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. MtG is special in the gaming world; it was the very first trading card game, a genre where players face off against each other using a deck of cards chosen from each player’s own personal collection. For instance, while MtG has produced over 24,000 unique cards in nearly 30 years, most formats of MtG use decks that only require 40-100 cards. Players must come to the table with cards that all work well together to have a chance at winning, which requires thought before and during the game.
While many different trading card games exists, such as the Pokémon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Hearthstone, Magic: the Gathering is one of the most popular with over 12 million players across the globe, including a few on Dordt’s campus. Walter Black, a super-senior football player, leads the MtG Club that meets in the Kuyper loft, having played the game for years.
“I was about a senior/junior of high school, and my best friend got into it, and he kind of convinced me to play a couple games with him,” Black said. “I kind of lightly got into it, and then once at college, that’s when I really dived into it.”
While MtG does have an online version, called Magic: the Gathering Arena, Black said he strongly prefers playing in person, and the other club members agreed. They enjoyed the social element of the game that couldn’t be replicated by Arena.
The main format the club plays is called Commander. It involves building a 100-card deck with mostly unique cards and facing off against two to four other players. Black explained this format using the popular board game Risk as an example. Although the rules of MtG differ from the rules of Risk, it is an apt metaphor.
“Think of yourself as a country, and you’re just building up resources,” Black said.
But instead of the resources being hordes of army men that march across territories until one player has conquered the world, they’re fantasy characters and creatures that duke it out until all the other players’ health counters have reached zero.
The game is ever evolving because Wizards of the Coast releases new sets of cards every two to three months. Players can get their hands on new cards either by buying Booster Packs for around $5 which contain 12 to 15 cards per pack, or by buying individual cards whose prices vary wildly. For the Commander format, players can also buy pre-made decks of 100 cards for around $30.
At Dordt’s Magic club, however, many of the current members have multiple decks, so if someone came without any cards, the members are glad to hand them a deck, explain how to play, and jump right in.
“I think something that a lot of people get wrong about Magic is the people that are there, ‘cause when they think of it they think of usually people that aren’t exactly in the in-crowd, so to speak.” Black said. “There’s plenty of athletes that are in it, myself included… The last club president was a basketball manager, as well. We get a variety of people, and it really makes for some interesting friendships that you wouldn’t really expect.”