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Memories on the World of Magic: The Gathering


  • Memories on the World of Magic: The Gathering

    Magic: The Gathering Card BacksI was introduced to Magic: The Gathering in Spring of 1995…and as I remember it, that was within just a few weeks of the end of the Revised ("3rd") Edition. I'd missed Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark…and the then-current expansion was Fallen Empires.

    I was there for the arrival of 4th Edition, and the first new expansion I was there for was Ice Age. Shortly after, we got Chronicles, and I remember that the card I most wanted from that set was Chromium--the Elder Dragon. (Which I got in my first purchase of several boosters!) Those gave way to Homelands, which was the first/only set I ever got to get an entire booster box--I remember getting that as a Christmas present that year.

    I remember the release of Alliances, and Mirage…and remember being aware of Visions and then even Weatherlight…though as I recall it, I only got a few boosters of Alliances, and I think only a "starter deck" and a couple boosters of Mirage. (After that, my next cards were obtained through purchasing 10-cent common cards after the fact, to go with a couple of pre-constructed decks I'd bought (one for Tempest, one for Urza's Saga). These likely included Weatherlight, Visions, and whatever other sets had come out, but I'll get to that later).

    Magic: The Gathering NovelsI also remember some of the initial novels of Magic: The Gathering--particularly Arena and the "trilogy" of Whispering Woods/Shattered Chains/Final Sacrifice; Perhaps they weren't a trilogy in the sense of being branded as parts 1/2/3 or such, but they continued off one another and progressed the story as a trilogy. And it was that ongoing story and continuity that I especially enjoyed. I also remember the early comics, published by Acclaim (under their Armada imprint)--stuff like The Shadow Mage, Ice Age on the World of Magic: The Gathering, as well as comics for Fallen Empires, Antiquities War and a number of specials and such based on other sets or even particular cards (Nightmare, Fallen Angel, and Serra Angel come to mind).

    That summer was--if you'll pardon my acknowledging the initially unintended pun--a magical time for me. There were the card sets, there were comics, there were novels; I got to play the game casually with friends and occasionally at a store. The combination of enjoying the game, following the comics, reading novels, getting a couple of magazines (Inquest and Wizards of the Coast's own The Duelist) and so on made for an exciting, immersive experience.

    Unfortunately, the excitement and enjoyment of those first few months had largely faded by the following summer, hence basically only "dabbling" in Alliances and Mirage. I'd also--due to my friends group--shifted to another game, Spellfire (which to this day I hold as criminally under-rated, as it greatly improved with each release and came into its own right as it was getting canceled, after starting as a weak, pale shade of Magic).

    Magic: The Gathering ComicsThe entire realm of "collectible card games" (CCGs) or "trading card games" (TCGs) was still quite new, and there were so very many of the things that popped up trying to cash in on the "Magic model." I personally attempted to dabble in Doomtrooper (based on Mutant Chronicles) and Wyvern (a game of dragons and treasure), and was aware of many others (that I won't list and/or have roughly faded in memory) over the last 20+ years.

    Several years later, though, I came across a new book at the library: The Brothers' War. It was a new Magic: The Gathering novel, by Jeff Grubb. I remember digging the cover, and generally enjoying the book quite a bit. By that time, I'd read the "core" Dragonlance novels by Margaret Weis andTracy Hickman, and found that to be a favorite series, with far more depth to its world and continuity than the initial Magic novels. But this new Magic novel was less "fantasy tie-in" to the game and more the story of the game (such that it would be easy to see the cards as being based on the novel rather than the novel from the cards).

    I read it, enjoyed it, and life moved on. The next year, I wound up getting another novel--Planeswalker (the next in the sequence)--and enjoyed that one so much that I dove into the novel series, loving the rich story that brought the game to life in a way nothing else--even actually playing the game--had for me. Thanks to this "return" to the story/world of Magic, I dabbled with the cards again that next summer (2000); this was when I wound up with the 10-cent commons and pre-constructed decks.

    15 Magic: The Gathering cardsThe next year or so saw the release of Rath and Storm, Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, and Prophecy, and I believe it was Summer 2001 that Invasion hit, and essentially served as--along with Planeshift and Apocalypse--the culmination of the entirety of Magic: The Gathering's story up to that point. The very world all these stories had been set on was rocked to its core, impacted and transformed completely by events of the "Invasion Block." (I would say that what Avengers: Infinity War is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe now is what Invasion was to Magic then, at least story-wise).

    Unfortunately, with the story after all that going to new territory (setting and tonally), I stopped reading and it all went to the back burner in my life for a number of years.

    In late 2008, a friend got me to revisit the game briefly with an online version (Magic: The Gathering Online), and with the then-recent Time Spiral stuff, I also realized the novels were revisiting the main world all those stories I'd so lived was set on--Dominaria. So I ended up reading the Time Spiral novel that dealt with centuries-later consequences of some stuff that happened during that Invasion series, and even involved a villainous Nicol Bolas, which thrilled me, as here was a portrayal of an Elder Dragon in a way that seemed fitting for an Elder Dragon. Yet, life got in the way again, and I never got around to reading Planar Chaos or Future Sight, though I've since decided I really want to get back to those (an idea at war with whether or not I'll make the time to go back through the entire series of novels first or not).

    Magic: The Gathering novels on a shelfNearly a full decade after reading Time Spiral, I've once again found myself drawn back to the world(s) of Magic. I'd been impressed with art that I saw; I'd been noticing new sorts of packaged editions of the cards in stores like Target and Walmart that I found out were pre-constructed decks based around specific planeswalker characters; then for the heck of it--perhaps for old time's sake--I decided to splurge and buy a boxed set that seemed designed as its own game. Then I decided to buy several booster packs to see if that experience was like I remembered. Then on finding out there was a new set to be released within the week--where the story once more was returning to the original world of Dominaria, with the set named Dominaria, I found myself reading up on the game as it stands via the official site; listening to a lot of podcasts about the making of the game from the point of view of employees of Wizards of the Coast, watching numerous videos on YouTube about the game, and I think I'm on the cusp of checking out the weekly official events of Friday Night Magic at a local game store.

    But ultimately, when I look back across it all--Magic's 25 years, and specifically my 23 1/2 years of experiencing the brand myself--I find that it's the story that I've been most drawn to. There's also the vast quantity of art and imagery that goes with the story, and that's also something I've quite enjoyed. Funny, in a way, that it's taken writing all this to make the connection in my head: story and art working together to draw me into a rich fictional world that's lasted over two decades and seems ready to head into the 30-year range. Comics are story and art, that work together, and I've been drawn into numerous fictional worlds, some that have lasted over half a century.

    • Craig Reade
      Craig Reade commented
      Editing a comment
      I never got into Magic the Gathering... my CCG of choice ended up being the original Star Trek CCG. I dabbled in a few others, but nothing else ever came close to that level of spending. I remember how exciting it was to finally get a Future Enterprise, or how much I spent on that damned Kivas Fajo Collection...
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