Thursday, May 13, 2010, 3:50 PM
Some time ago, actually it seems ages ago but it wasn't really that long time ago there was a Magic: The Gathering contest. The things we could write about or think about were...
* What is the most fun you've ever had playing Magic?
* How long have you been playing Magic and what keeps you coming back for more?
* How have you helped your Friday Night Magic community evolve?
* Has Magic: The Gathering changed your life for the better?
* How has Magic affected other parts of your life?
* Where is the most unique place you've played Magic?
I tried to write something down.
My Magic Contest
by Jaroslava Stefankova
Twenty four years ago, in a small country in the heart of Europe, a child was born. The child was a really lovely girl, with small slanted eyes and pitch black hair. She grew fast into a beautiful girl with many interests and many questions. At an early age she discovered a world of medieval fantasy and was fascinated by it.
Few years later those who knew her realized that she has a strong passion for games that include miniatures, dice and cards. Odd items, that's for sure. Her schoolmates dispised her and just couldn't understand her. At that time her parents thought that the passion for wargaming, RPGs and TCGs will pass and that she would become more 'girly' later on.
They were wrong.
Now Jaroslava Stefankova, known as S'Tsung will tell us something about her and Magic in her life.
I started playing Magic: The Gathering when The Dark was out. That's long, long time ago (at least for me). That does not mean that I played for all those years without a break. I had breaks for different reasons. Anyway Magic is not the first TCG game I played but it is the only TCG game I'm coming back to.
Let's say two decades ago Richard Garfield tried to develop a game that could be easily taken to conventions (or any other place...) and be played by players from two completely different places of the world. Frankly, I have to say that Garfield managed that even though in some situations the players really might have problems communicating. The game developed became known as Magic: The Gathering.
I would like to make a little digression here. When the rules of the game changed I came to one WotC stand asking the people there if there is a possibility to get a printed version of the current rules. The lady there had to ask me about 5 times till she managed to understand my pronunciation of the word 'rules'. I just can't pronounce anything that contains R and L in the same word. Even though I knew (what my brain considered as "knew") the pre-sixth edition rules I really felt like an idiot asking for a rules' changes. It was the most embarrassing moment of my Magic life ever (well, there are plays that can for sure compete with this but...). Now back to the real communication issue.
Few years ago I moved to Belgium, more precisely to a French speaking part of Belgium. I started attending local school and I did not speak a word in French. Soon, I found out that there are people playing Magic and that maybe I could play with them as well. I already played Magic with foreigners mainly German (and English) speaking people and there were no problems with that.
But you know what happened here? The cards I had were all in English and I only spoke English. The cards people had there were all in French and none of those players could speak a word in English! That's something I wasn't prepared for. For me the cards were new so I had to ask what they do somehow. But I did not understand the explanation nor the text printed on the card. I usually got the meaning more or less right but there was one thing we couldn't agree on...and that is the tap symbol and the word itself 'to tap'.
In English 'tap' has many meanings and I never really cared about the meaning of it in Magic. I needed to find a French equivalent of the word. At that time I started wondering about the meaning of it.
When I used the English word no one understood me. I desperately tried saying 'taper' and everyone started to feel uneasy and started looking at me in a really weird way. 'Taper' was not the right word to say. I had no idea what it meant.
Few months later I found out that this word 'taper' would translate into 'to hit' in English. That would explain the caught offguard looks. At that time I also found out that 'to tap' is 'engager' and to untap is 'degager'. Finding this out got me back into Magic. I was able to translate the text of my cards, understand their cards and play well. All this got me to a different problem. I played more often, was seen more often and do you know what happens when you are the only girl playing Magic at your school/class?
I can't speak for other girls but I can tell you how people treated me at our school.
Everyday a new player came to me and 'challenged' me. Most of the people lost against me and did not want to play against me once again. Sometimes they had to (in a tournament for example). It even went that far that some players bet me for like 30EUR that they would win. And believe me thirty euro was a lot.
One such person played WUG slivers and he thought he would win. He knew that I played slivers as well even though my variant was far worse than his (I played BRu slivers). I accepted the bet. I knew that he won't be able to kill me (in terms of damage) and I knew that it would be the same on my side. But the fact playing in my favor was that he would be drawing more cards than I would be (even just playset of brainstorms would do this). After a really long stall of the game I would be the one being victorious (at least that's what I thought at that time).
The game started with one of us trying to play a sliver and the other one countering it. Later in the game crystalline made it in play, followed by my crypt sliver. The slivers were coming to the battlefield, gaining abilities of the others and most of the time staring at each other. With each 5 minutes I could see that my opponent was getting more and more nervous. He slowly started to realize that he won't be able to win by reducing my life total to 0. Twenty minutes later his friends came to watch our game as they thought that everything would be decided at that time already. It took another twenty minutes for us to finish. I was patiently waiting for my opponent to draw the last card. He was getting more and more angry and I thought that he would just explode at some point. After he lost the game he gathered all his cards and ran away ignoring both his friends and me. I was left alone with his friends staring at me. They left one by one. Each of them spent some time staring at me for some time before they left (why they stared at me, I have no idea...they already had 20 minutes for that during our game).
A week later this particular 'sliver challenger' came to me with 30EURs and gave them to me. He came alone and asked me not to tell anyone. Many of the previous challengers got just angry and left and I did not go after them reminding them that they owe me something. Most of them were angry and never wanted to talk to me anyway.
This particular player changed all of that. He accepted his loss and accepted me as a player. This changed my position in the school's Magic playing community.
I was introduced to other players playing Legacy (that format was inexistant but I guess you get the idea) and became part of that group. I met nice people and we had so much fun together. With their help in few months time I was able to fluently speak French. Without Magic I still can't imagine that this would ever happen. Thanks to this game and the people around it I managed to pass my first school's exams and to successfully communicate with other people as well.
Sooner or later each player gets to competitive play. Even though I was a star at our school I barely counted for a good player in overall. I tended to play control decks unlike other people. This made it easy for me to win local tournaments. At this time I started going all over Europe to participate in big events. Each time I met knew people, played many interesting games and had fun for the whole weekend (event). I spend a lot of money on traveling costs and cards but it was worth it. Too bad that at GP Prague everything went awry. That is the time when I decided to play competively.
There was a problem that arose ... my cards and albums got stolen.
This is not the first time that my cards got stolen but this time it took all my energy from me and I spend about three days crying because of this. It might seem pretty silly or whatever but it was a really hard blow. Money issue was one thing but the cards had so much higher value to me than you could probably imagine. All the experiences I lived through that were in some way connected with Magic were somehow "stored" in those cards (I'm used to buy cards and keep them). I thought that this would be the end of Magic to me.
My 1st round opponent (an older player having a family already) told me that he would send me a playable deck that I could play with so I wouldn't cease playing. I told him that I would greatly appreciate it. We exchanged Yahoo IM contacts and I gave him my address.
Two weeks later I got a mail containing a deck and a short message with it. I just couldn't believe it. That player kept to his promise and gave a chance to still play Magic even though my cards were who knows where. In between those two GP both held in Prague I haven't played much. I played occasionally and I did not really pay much attention to what's going on in the Magic: The Gathering world.
I started playing once again when 8th edition was announced. I played bit of Onslaught block but not that much. Onslaught block was something unacceptable to me. At first I couldn't grasp the problem I had with it, later I realized that it's a 'all creature set'. Playing all creature decks wasn't my style at all. At one sealed deck though I realized that Zombies and Clerics go well together and that there are many synergies that work together.
8th edition brought a new design and with that many players stopped playing for some time. I was one of the players. When Mirrodin came out I started to hate artifacts. You know, I started playing Magic quite early and artifacts had a completely different meaning. I also read all the Magic books that were published along the game (up to torment). Mirrodin changed all that. Artifacts were no longer what they used to be and the artificial world was too much for me to bear. And a battle in SPACE? I have to admit, that I have no idea about the story in Mirrodin and I was so angry about the set that I never got to that point of finding out something more about it storywise.
I hoped for a better set and at that time I had no idea that the new block is going to be Kamigawa. In December (it was in winter for sure at least) local stores and places where tournaments were held we could see posters and promo materials for Kamigawa. Something was wrong...No other set than Kamigawa got so much promo material than this one. Why? I tried to ignore it for a long time but the word Kamigawa (spirit river) was just bugging me. Japanese inspired fantasy world looked attractive to many but to me it felt even worse than Mirrodin.
And it was. I kept playing Magic till prerelease of Kamigawa and than I had a really hard time deciding if I want to follow the format or not. I decided not to after release of Betrayers of Kamigawa.
Betrayers of Kamigawa allowed me to experience one funny moment though.
There weren't many places where you could buy singles. Actually there were two places I knew about. The first place was in the capital and the probability of getting something there if you weren't there first was minimal. In the second place the chances were higher because the shop was really badly placed. At that time the place was on the outskirts of the city. The only way how to get there on foot was via a highway (or more precisely the fields next to it).
You know, there is one card that everyone wanted - Umezawa's Jitte. The only way to get it was to get to the shop first in person or open it in a booster. Many choose the first option. I was one of the first people the got up in the morning and took the train there. I walked to the highway and then I spotted something unusual. There in the distance on the field I could see little groups heading in the same direction. I joined them and when we reached our destination we found out that only few lucky people got the chance to buy this card.
A day later, back at school it looked that people would kill for a Jitte. For a while, even players who owned the card did not play with it at school as they were really afraid of the aggressivity of their opponents.
Nowadays getting cards is easy, at least in the Czech Republic. I can't speak for our Slovakian neighbors. I just go and order the cards from local store. But 7 years ago it was much more difficult to get hold of good cards and the prices I was getting cards for the current format were like 3 times higher than the prices in the US.
Ravnica was my draft period. I just loved Ravnica and enjoyed it as much as I could. At this period a new game store (the one I go to buy cards today) was being opened. I was drafting there but usually got paired against players like Jakub Slemr or Adam Koska. Well, I admit that my standings in those drafts were really bad but I learned something. Adam showed me that I should not give up when I see that my chances are close to zero of winning. The chance of winning is always there even though it's not probable.
Not so long time ago I played against WW with my UW control. My only chance of turning the game was drawing plains and day of judgment on my turn and playing it. I was ready to give up but I knew that I still have the chance to get both DoJ and plains card even though the probability was pretty low (especially with one DoJ already played and other one being in the deck somewhere). Anyway I had treasure hunt in my hand and I did not even want to play it...My opponent told me to do so though, so I tapped my two lands and played it. First card shown was plains (I raised an eyebrow). The other card was to my surprise - Day of Judgment. I won the game later. I guess you would call me lucky if you would saw it.
There's one more funny story about not giving up even everything seems to be lost. I played Zombie Tribal highlander (it's actually more of a control but anyway) My opponent played Desolation Angel with kicker cost destroying all lands. I had sensei's divining top in play and I knew that the first two cards I would draw would be 2 swamps. The third card was Twisted Abomination. My only chance of winning the game was playing Diabolic edict (or any other edict) on my 4th round otherwise I would die. The only possibility I had was to swamp cycle to shuffle my library and draw an edict (there was chainer's edict and diabolict edict in the deck) and play it. What is the probablity of drawing that card in 100 card deck when the card is there only in one copy? I don't know the exact value but I would say the probability is low. I gave up this game, but I tried to swamp cycle and show the card. I shuffled my library, put it down on the table, I took the top card and turned it over...
...Diabolic Edict. If I wouldn't give up I would have sensei's diving top, 5 life and 4 mana producing sources compared to my opponent's 1 land. That game state does not look that bad does it?
Now it's time to move on.
Planar Chaos prerelease was something I just couldn't stand. I was convinced that cards can't just change their colors. Damnation just showed me otherwise. Mana Tithe? Even better.
I'm not a social person. I usually don't talk much and I hardly initiate a conversation. One morning I went to school (University). I was outside of class room and heard three people talk about what they got in their pool at Planar Chaos sealed deck. Few minutes later a dispute about Magic and colors in the the game started. I just couldn't stand that and came to them and started with "Damnation". They all heard that and turned around with surprised looks on their faces. I don't really remember much after that (except that we even played Magic during the upcoming class) but I was so upset about that set that it made me speak first and actually join a conversation I would not normally join at all.
Alara block. Tricky, tricky. Remember my hate towards artifacts? Alara deepened that even more at first. I came with my deck playing 4x terror and I just could not believe the fact that during a single game I couldn't even target a single creature. The creature seemed white, but someone noted that it's also an artifact. Then I saw a blue creature .. but that silly strix was also an ARTIFACT! I have to say that colored artifacts were a pain for me. I was struggling with colored artifacts for some time till one draft.
I opened a first booster and the rare inside was Tezzeret the Seeker. I picked that even though I did NOT want to play anything with artifacts. (Un)fortunately the second pick was Master of Etherium. With these two cards I decided to be picking esper artifact creatures and in the end it all worked. I recognized colored artifacts and normal creatures but I still hated artifacts. I did not want to draft that once again.
Next week's draft looked almost the same though. I opened another Tezzeret. That was weird. So I started picking artifacts. In my second booster I got Master Transmuter so I picked her. I thought I would not be able to use her much but in the end 'infinite' blocker was good (especially with damages on stack). I won the draft and these nice cards were in my album for some time till I decided to build a regular t2 deck. I build a funny Transmuter deck and fell in love with it. Nowadays I like artifacts and the mechanics that came with it. There are still artifacts I just can't count as artifacts ... like all the weapons/equipments but well... what can I do.
You know everyone can probably imagine Bloodbraid elf with a sledge hammer. But how about Birds of paradise "wielding" that weapon? It's just funny to imagine that. But I have a better scenario. Has your Baneslayer Angel ever got hit by a mountain for 9 damage? Or Jace?
Zendikar brought a new mechanics - primarily landfall. This even though seeming simple can get tricky in some situations. I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for years and some things (especially when I'm tired) are automatic for me. Playing a land was automatic for me. But in Zendikar problem arose. I played BR aggro control deck that included bloodghasts and volcanic fallouts. Once I was playing and I was thinking 'I'll play Volcanic Fallout, then attack with bloodghast as the path will be clear'. My problem was that the first thing I did was playing a land card. All I could do is just swear and try not doing that again. Too bad that this happened to me once again in a tournament. Because of this I was 2 damage behind and couldn't kill my opponent. He was at 1 life when I lost the game. That particular attack with bloodghast would get me into top 8 that day (out of 72 or something like that). The worst thing is that my judgment of the situation was correct. My plan as well worked too (would have worked), but I forgot to pay attention to that land in my hand. A new lesson was learned and I had to reevaluate my point of view on land cards. They became the part of the game and became really important in some situations.
This way I get to something that was happening to me really often but I just can't understand how this could be happening so often to me. At that time I was playing UWR Planeswalker deck (t2) and Zoo (ext). All this decks contained many fetchlands. At local FNM I played with my UWR deck and I had 2:0 at that time. In the third round something went wrong. I needed to draw something that would help me turn the game, I played Mind Spring for 5 which resulted in 5 lands drawn. 3 of those lands were fetch lands. I played one, sacrificed it and drew a land. I played another fetched land and once again drew a land. I decided to play the last fetchland as well but it all ended up in me drawing arid mesa. The people standing behind me saw my luck and when I drew the last card all started to laugh. That did not really add to my self confidence. I threw the mesa on the table. It reached my opponent with quite some force hitting him in the process. He was kind and gave me the card back. I lost my nerves. But I accepted the fact that this can happen.
Few days later it was time to try my luck in extended.
First round, I started keeping a hand with 3 fetchlands. I played and sacrificed all of them and my following draws were - fetchland, fetchland, fetchland. The fourth card drawn was a land. In the second round I played against some unfortunate player playing control (have no idea what he played all I saw were lands and some counters). I mulled to 5 because of too many lands in previous hands. I kept a hand with Wild Nacatl and Jitte, the rest being lands. I played nacatl in turn one and hoped it would be enough to win. Jitte managed to end up in game too which quickened the game. All the draws that followed were lands (on both sides obviously). I wasn't happy after round 2 but I had 2:0 so I shouldn't be that unhappy. Anyway in round 3 I thought that my draws would change from 'land followed by land'. I was mistaken. My hand looked fine but I did not expect to draw 8 fetchlands in a row! I played one, saced one and drew another one. In the end it was me who dealt myself 12 damage. My opponent needed to deal just 8 damage and it took him ages to deal it. I would kill myself earlier than my opponent would come up what to do with his cards on his hand (he was probably wondering if mana giving cards would win him the game). Anyway in the second game I sided some counters and meddling mages. I won the second game somehow - a miracle. In the third game it was once again fetchland into fetchland draw. Most of the players already finished their games at that time so they moved to our table to watch us. That wasn't good.
With each land I was more and more angry and with 8th land I was already furious. I really wondered what my opponent had on his hand as he kept like 3-4 cards all the time. My opponent wasn't able to kill me with the first two Demigods of Revenge so I decided to play Meddling Mage no matter what fate would await him and I named Demigod of Revenge counting that I would be dead in the upcoming turn anyway. This did not happen though to my surprise. I should have been dead already. Both our decks should be able to win both games in ten minutes not take 50 minutes! I would give anything for my opponent to draw anything and kill me in that turn. He simply said 'go'. This scenario repeated itself twice. So I attacked each turn with my lonely meddling mage backed up with like 12 lands or something... In my head I thought 'in my deck there should not be that many lands left so I really should draw SOMETHING else finally'. I drew Jitte (the most unlikely card) and equipped it. Another attack and meddling mage was still alive? People behind me started to wonder if I would not be able to win the game after all. All I needed was two more attacks. I did not count to attack even once...nor twice or three times in a row! Opposite I saw the players standing behind my opponent. Their faces were pretty grim. My opponent's turn started. He drew a card. The audience behind him completely changed their look. They seemed to brighten and lit the darkened area we were playing at. I knew that all the counters on my Jitte would not save me (one more counter would).
In the fourth round I was ready to give up if something like this should happen. Some 'intelligent' player who just came in was standing next to me and did not understand why I just played dual lands CIPT instead of fetchlands. At that time I really wanted to stand up and tell him how my previous three rounds looked like and I would even tell him that thinning out my deck would not be worth it either. I was tired of shuffling my library and drawing a fetchland that day. After all my final standing brought me one booster. And you know what I opened? Marsh Flats. That day I wasn't happy to see that card at all even in a just opened booster.
Now tell me is this possible? Has this happened to anyone in a 4 round tournament? I played 12 fetchlands and 10 other lands. We can agree on the probability of drawing a fetchland probably. But what is the probability of drawing it after you take a land card out and you shuffle your library? What is the probability of this happening 4 times in a row? 8 times in a row? The probabilities probably work right but when something like this happens to you, you highly doubt it.
I play Magic for most of my life and I don't regret it. There were difficult times and good ones. But even those times when people treated me really badly turned out to be good for something. As a girl, being the only one at a tournament many people thought of me lowly. They thought that playing against me is an auto-win. After the first game, many realized that they will have to try hard to beat me. And watching those players sweat and swear felt good. But on the other hand this comes to the same as them underestimating me. Many of these players counted my cards, were giving me questions about information that is not considered free and such. It was pretty uncomfortable to play against such opponents.
I also got into many situations where male players were trying to teach me the game or to tell me something like 'few years ago it was different and it was like this and this'. Many underestimated me just for my look. Many of those think that I can't be older than 15 years old. Last year before the nationals many people were playing FNMs anywhere they could and that is how I encountered good players at such tournaments. One of such people played against me and lost the game. He knew one of my newly found friends and came to him. He proclaimed something like 'Hell, that little 15 years old girl beat me'. My friend just replied with 'THAT little girl plays magic for more than 14 years already, just for your information'. You should have seen his face at that moment. He froze and looked pretty bewildered for a while. He was probably trying to figure out my age and just couldn't solve that equation.
Now 15 years of playing this game I got to the point that I bought a game store and I decided to run it. I always wanted a game store or a club where TCGs and board games could be played. Now it is up to me and my friend to do as much as we can to run this place. A whole new story will begin now.