Why I Quit Magic: The Gathering

Day six of the 7 Day Feel Good Blogging Challenge asks for a personal post. I don’t often share personal things here on my blog, but I think my experience with playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is both personal and still fits with the geeky theme of The Triangular Room.

My obsession with MTG started with admiring the art on some of my hubby’s old cards, and soon led to playing weekly at a nearby Friday Night Magic tournament. These tournaments were fairly competitive, and I’m not a competitive person, losing all the time to people who can afford to buy the best cards for their decks was frustrating. This led to needing to buy more cards in order to actually win any games, and soon we were spending a lot of money just trying to keep up.

If you’ve never played Magic: The Gathering, it’s a trading card game. Cards are sold in blind packs, which encourages players to trade or sell to other players in order to get the cards they want. New card sets are released every few months, and older cards rotate out of the popular format called ‘Standard’. This format is one of the most commonly played, but it requires players to keep up with the current meta-game and have the right cards in order to stay competitive. Popular and powerful cards are sold individually for a lot of money – in some cases hundreds of dollars.

Magic: The Gathering cards

In order to keep up with other players, you end up on a never-ending treadmill of buying new cards. I can’t even begin to fathom just how much money we must have spent on cards over the few years that hubby and I played the game. The cost factor also started getting worse when the Rand (South Africa’s currency) got weaker and weaker. To put this in perspective, when we started playing MTG, the exchange rate was around R7 for a US Dollar, and it is now R14 for a US Dollar. This affected the cost of the cards considerably as card values are dollar-based.

Then there was the time factor. Besides playing at tournaments, which range from several hours to a whole day (or more!) in length, practising with your deck is essential if you want to keep up with the pack. I was a pretty good player (I actually won a couple of tournaments), but spending almost every Friday night playing the game AND finding time to practise during the week was just too much.

It was my first really big tournament that started to put me off the game, however. Besides the cost and the time, I really didn’t like the competitive aspect of large tournaments. I had originally set out to have fun while playing MTG, but spending an entire day playing against opponents who were way more serious about the game than I was just didn’t work for me. After my second big tournament, I knew competitive MTG wasn’t for me.

Deathpact Angel

These larger tournaments also exposed me to something else I really didn’t like. Our weekly tournaments were relatively small and the participants were primarily regulars, so there were a lot of great people at those regular Friday games. There were rarely other women in attendance, and often those who did attend were there to watch rather than play. In the large tournaments, however, the male to female ratio got even worse – something I’m used to in many of my hobbies. This wasn’t a problem though. What was a problem were the handful of men who clearly were not used to playing against women. They weren’t happy when they lost to me, a girl, and they were patronising when they beat me. These players were in the minority, but it was just another nail in the MTG coffin for me.

In the end, hubby and I decided to keep some of our decks for a casual format called ‘Commander’, and I kept a file of cards with great art. We sold off the rest of our collection to other players. We didn’t make back anything near what we spent, but it was better than letting the cards gather dust. Since we’ve stopped playing, we have so much more time and money for other hobbies – I never would have been able to run a regular Pathfinder game while still playing Magic.

I feel it’s worth mentioning that I really enjoy Magic: The Gathering. It’s a fun game that gives the brain a good workout, and is a geeky hobby that encourages face to face interaction. It’s also highly addictive, and potentially very expensive, both in time and in money. I do miss it sometimes, especially opening up shiny new cards, but I think giving it up was the right thing to do for me.

Awesome angel images by Jason Chan.

Abigail Holden

Gamer, geek, LEGO fanatic. I also love Pathfinder RPG, The Sims, cross stitching, crochet and sci-fi and fantasy movies, games & books. And animals.

13 thoughts on “Why I Quit Magic: The Gathering

  • 20th July 2017 at 11:18 pm
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    The only fun part of Magic is drafting and playing Commander or Cube with friends.

    Everything else, I just don’t really get. The blocks change so fast, that Standard format requires you to spend at least a couple grand every year or so just to keep up. Vintage requires so many RIDICULOUS cards that the games aren’t even that fun (and a real vintage deck can cost, easily, 10k these days). In fact, when I played Vintage back in the day, it was basically whoever got their black lotus 1st turn won. There are a multitude of other formats – but they are less popular. Much less, in some cases.

    I started, from what I recall, during Revised or 4th edition. At that time, the game was relatively new so people played much more lax decks, and usually no one cared about winning. In fact, it was considered cool to play a dumber deck that had funny combos or fringe strategies etc.

    Now the game is super competitive, due to the money/reward aspect (which Wizards, btw, have decreased tremendously in the past few years making it almost worthless to be a pro player).

    The cards now all look the same – the art is always realistic. If you look at the old cards, they had character. No more. Now they simply hire concept artists – which makes every card look like concept art for a video game. I don’t mind it too much, but its vastly inferior to the past where they had oil painters, figure artists, abstract artists, etc. My bet is that they can spend half of what they did for concept art (drawn on a computer), than they had to in the past – but of course, the reward money goes down, and the cards get somehow more expensive every year.

    The new mechanisms introduced in new blocks are getting increasingly ridiculous, and at the same time, boring. Creatures are apparently different now – as they cost next to NOTHING especially for green, which already has so much mana boost, that its insane. In early Magic (almost an entirely different game), if a creature was larger than a 3/3, it actually cost a ton to play it. In fact, most large creatures were rare just because they were large. Now we got 2/2’s for 1, 3/3 (actually 4/3) for 2, 4/4’s for 3, 5/5s for 4. And the worst part is, every year, the sacrifices one has to make for dropping a 4/3 turn 2 becomes less and less – it used to require tons of life, sacrificing other creatures, basically REAL detriments that forcefully balanced the game. Now its….discard a card?

    The modes of play are also getting redundant. I remember when decking (getting rid of the opponents deck as the main win strategy) first came to fruition in I believe Ravnica (it was a very very fringe strategy before). Now every block has to somehow incorporate decking, which took away the fun of this fringe strategy. They also have to incorporate the red burn spell strategy, green/white creature army, green/red beatdown, and blue/black control. Every time, its these same strategies, and there is little room to come up with unique combos as the sets are designed in this strict manner.

    In addition, colors have begun to bleed all over the place. White has nearly the same amount of creature removal as black and red these days. Why? White was NEVER meant to have tons of creature removal – it usually got 1 rare that exiled, or aura’s that imprisoned creatures, but now its all of the above plus 2 Swords to Plowshares, instant auras that exile creatures, 2 or 3 imprisons, etc. Even green now has become a pain with the whole ‘fight’ concept, that is simply ANOTHER removal spell. In fact, when you begin to look at the big picture, magic simply becomes a milieu of creatures and removal spells, with a spattering of control and draw type cards in all colors. The distinctions grow less and less. I’m just waiting for the day blue starts to get some form of creature removal. They starting tampering with the +X/-X, and thankfully let that go, because the day blue gets removal is the day I leave Magic permanently.

    And I wouldn’t mind it so much if at least there was some rotation on these clear archetypes. But there isn’t.

    I can see the frustration in the player base too. Games used to be close, most matches went to the third game. Now its either you steamroll or get steamrolled. Sometimes ill just concede or see someone else concede turn 4. Especially if the opponent drops a creature every turn for the first few turns and you miss a land or have no creatures till turn 3, a very likely scenario unfortunately.

    This accelerated playstyle has a huge drawback: its exacerbates Magic’s already known problem of bad opening hands. A bad opening hand in Magic has become a much larger factor in whether or not you will be able to pull off a win. In fact, I started keeping tallies a few years ago and sure enough, if I see a mulligan, the opponents chance of winning drops by a full 20%. 2 mulligans, and its over 50%. Its so bad I routinely get cussed out by players, who take out their frustrations on me. I always tell them I’ve lost just as many times and that its a common problem with recent blocks being so fast that even if you can recover, its usually too late.

    Draft is still better than pre-built deck formats IMO, just because it requires a LOT more skill, especially in deckbuilding. Pre-built decks…you can find the best online in under 10s. Its not that you cant create your own, you definitely can. But chances are, they wont be as good as the ones the pros are playing. After watching for years, you’ll begin to see the same type of decks emerge over and over again with minor tweaks based on what cards have been banned and what cards have been added. I never found it fun playing against these decks. Usually, it comes down to which decks can pull off the odd win against their ‘nemesis’ deck, like can the agro deck pull off the win from the control deck (which usually amounts to the agro deck not seeing a wrath of god during gameplay or playing a threat without an opposing counterspell).

    Reply
    • 24th July 2017 at 8:28 pm
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      Thank you for your comment. The only cards we’ve kept are a few Commander decks for casual games.

      It’s disheartening to hear how the state of the game seems to have deteriorated since I stopped playing. Seems it was for the best!

      Reply
  • 30th November 2016 at 1:01 am
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    I quit a little bit ago, and it was one of the better decisions of my life. I could go on about how the game is stagnant, about how creature creep has made it all about opening and playing the right cards at the right time and not about building a synergistic deck, about how I prefer slower formats, or how I think Mark Rosewater is one of the most overrated designers in any industry with a grotesque slobbery, lispy parody of a voice and an offputting cult of personality, or how the game’s pay to play/legalized gambling for kids model makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t have to.

    Really, I quit because the community is toxic and the game was making me a worse human being. I started out going to local stores, and that was decent, but then I had the misfortune to download MTGO. Not only is the client the worst video game experience I’ve ever had, crappy UI, disconnections leading to autopicks, cards not working properly, and all for a ridiculous price tag, but every person I encountered was worse than the last. Salty, bitter, angry, trolling, sexist, racist, vulgar, profane man-children, almost the entire lot. I kept at it for a few years because I was good enough to ‘go infinite’, or at least only put in $20 every couple of months, but the community took its toll on my psyche.

    I’m tired of scammers, tired of sexist trolls that insist women can’t hack it in a fantasy cardboard game, I’m tired of running into broken mythics (especially Planeswalkers), tired of curveouts and bad beats and boring game states. I’m sick of turning two drops sideways. At least I was. Now it’s been three months, and I haven’t missed much.

    It’s a well-designed basegame with too much DLC and patches that totally altered the feel of the game. I’ve drafted every set, love some, hate many, many more, and I feel like I’ll never capture the positive feelings I once had. Hasbro is an evil company that exploits children. WotC is barely functional and exploits its fanbase. Mark Rosewater is one of the biggest self-satisfied douches in world history.

    Taataa Magic. It’s been real.

    Reply
    • 30th November 2016 at 8:41 am
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      Thanks for your comment! I never tried MTGO, but by the sounds of it, that was a good thing!

      It’s been quite a long while since I quit now, and I still haven’t had the urge to start again. I’ve found deck building card games like Marvel Legendary, DC Deck Builder, Star Realms and Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn work well when I feel like playing something similar to Magic.

      Reply
  • 24th September 2015 at 7:07 pm
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    I loved MTG a few years ago and still enjoy playing the odd game. That being said however I feel exactly the same. I’ve kept one or 2 decks I really enjoy playing and gave the rest away to others who were trying to get in to the game more than I ever would.

    The last real blocks I enjoyed and actively spent a metric $#@! ton of money on were Kamigawa and Ravnica. I also spent a bit on the timespiral block for the Slivers 🙂

    I never really got in to the competitive scene though. I had a crowd I hung out with and we’d play various formats depending on who was available and how many we were.

    Fun times. I miss it at times but I don’t miss the money sink…

    Reply
    • 24th September 2015 at 9:17 pm
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      I also liked the Ravnica block. One of the recent sets was actually ‘Return to Ravnica’ which had some great cards.

      I think we ended up in the competitive scene because we couldn’t find any casual players, and once we started playing competitively, it kind of snowballed…

      Reply
  • 24th September 2015 at 9:36 am
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    I also used to love playing mtg. What spoiled it for me was the overpowered cards and the pre built decks.the planeswalkers and the overruns. God i hated overrun.
    The games lost their strategy and became all about who draws their game ander first.
    What i loved about the game was digging through a box of basiccommon fifth edition cards,picking out the ones that would support a strategy. The older cards were modest and sincere. They weren’tdesigned to be part of some grand expensive combo pack with ridiculous godlike kaboom.
    I could afford the taboos and bought several planeswalker packs. But i hardly ever played with them. Sniff. I miss magic. I’d actually like to play games with people that only use older common cards.

    Reply
    • 24th September 2015 at 9:38 am
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      Ugh. Gods the auto correct. The typos. I shouldn’t internet first thing in the morning.

      Reply
    • 24th September 2015 at 9:50 am
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      I also enjoyed aspects of the game like deck building, but trying to keep up with people who could simply buy 4 of the most powerful card and have the perfect deck every week was just impossible. It also took the fun out of it, with people simply using deck lists they found online instead of building their own 🙁

      Reply
      • 24th September 2015 at 11:00 am
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        I’d like to add to this: MtG is a really elaborate rock-paper-scissor style game. That means that players that rely on getting some uber deck with expensive cards can be targeted by building specific decks to beat them. Trying to do so with my/your limited pool of cards can be a fun challenge in itself.

        That said, one of my best decks came from completely nowhere. I tried to see what I could come up with that relies on 1-mana commons. There are a few uncommons and currently I think 4 (different) rares as well – but essentially it is a strange little weenie deck. It is extremely resilient and very hard to beat by most strategies. A friend of mine who used to play on the national level in SA played 10 games in succession with it against different decks, and won all of them. He came back to me saying: “It is supposed to suck, it shouldn’t work. But it works. Really well.”

        Ah, found a link to its listing. 2008. Man time flies 🙂
        http://community.wizards.com/forum/casual-decks/threads/1459456

        Reply
        • 24th September 2015 at 11:27 am
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          That’s a cool little deck. You’ve reminded me of the surprised look on my opponent’s face when I managed to beat them with my own weird little white weenie decks – a favourite of mine! Or crazy green trample decks 🙂

          For me, I think I just didn’t have enough time to work out new decks all the time – add that to the generally lengthy weekly tournaments and time needed to practice, and it just became too much.

          Reply
  • 24th September 2015 at 12:02 am
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    I enjoy(ed) MtG myself – though I play a lot rarer these days. I had my own strategy to handle expenditures and cards: I only and bought and play Kamigawa block cards. It’s one of the weakest blocks around, but I loved the Japanese flavor. Also since I specialized heavily, I can pretty much build all Kamigawa based decks – which is enough to stay competitive against casual decks of any block.

    I’m just a little sore that Planeswalker cards where only introduced after Kamigawa (though admittedly, there is a Kamigawa race blue planeswalker card out – a Soratomi lady).

    Maybe I’ll pick up some new cards if MtG ever brings out a “Return to Kamigawa” style block. Unlikely given the lack of popularity of that block.

    Reply
    • 24th September 2015 at 8:49 am
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      Interesting – hubby also loved the Kamigawa block, so we have quite a few cards from back then as well. It’s a pity it wasn’t more popular… the art and some of the mechanics were really cool.

      The Planeswalkers are okay, but I found they get targeted whenever you bring one out, so they often don’t stay around long enough to be worthwhile.

      You never know. There have been a couple of ‘return’ blocks in the last couple of years 🙂

      Reply

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