Category: magic the gathering

When Hobbies Attack

I collect Magic the Gathering cards. Any long-time reader knows this. In fact, I collect quite a few of them. In January 2017, I bought around 100,000 of the things with plans to go through them, add a few to my collection, and sell the rest at a profit. I bought another 35,000 or so with the same plan. And in the intervening time, I chipped away at the collection, organizing it by set and by color and then alphabetically.

In many ways, I’ve enjoyed it. I find organizing things relaxing, strangely enough. (Probably one of the reasons I’m a librarian.) And it was a lot of fun to find cards stuffed away in that collection that were worth money. You come across seven $10 cards at once, and it feels kind of like you were mining for gold and it paid off.

But at the same time, 135,000 cards take up a lot of floor space, and Denisa’s patience is not infinite. I finally decided it was time to try to sell some of the cards and free up space. It takes time to go through organized cards and pick out the valuable ones, however. Hours later, I had my package all ready: $400 of cards in one batch, and $150 in another, going to a different vendor.

For the first bit, I felt inordinately pleased with myself. I was, after all, selling the cards for more than I’d paid for them, and that’s even after having taken out a bunch for my own collection. Mission successful! My card catalog is nicely stocked, and I did it all while turning a profit.

But then I did a bit of math. 1.5 years of work. Say an average of . . . 3 hours a week on it? That’s 234 hours. I “made” $550 for 234 hours’ of work. That’s an hourly rate of $2.35.

Let’s just say that I make significantly more than $2.35/hour at my current job.

Basically, I realized that I’ve still been approaching my hobby as if I’m a starving college student. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy going through cards and organizing them. But after doing all of this, I’m just not convinced the approach I was taking is the one I want to be taking long-term. I’m only through half the collection, and I think I’ll just skim through the rest to find any cards I need, and then sell it off quickly, just to clear the extra cards out of my house.

Space is worth money too, after all. Right?

In any case, it’s a new lesson learned. Any hobbies you’ve discovered changing your approach to as time goes by?


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Thoughts on Magic the Gathering: Arena

I’ve been in the alpha and beta test of MTG: Arena since last year. I’ve played about 5 games or so each day, on average. So I’m by no means a power player, but I’ve played enough to get a good feel of the game. For context, I’ve been playing Magic regularly since around 2010. I started just with tabletop, then went to my first prerelease with Avacyn Restored, in 2012. Since then, I’ve gravitated to being primarily a drafter. I have multiple commander decks and play that from time to time, but I try to get in at least one draft a week. I’ve played some standard, but while I enjoy the games, I dislike having to pay so much to get a deck I feel can compete against other decks.

However, I played Duels of the Planeswalkers extensively, followed by a ton of Magic: Duels. I had pretty much every card unlocked in Duels, to give you an idea of where I was with that. I loved being able to play Magic against other people for essentially free. I never spent any money on Duels. I earned all the cards by in-game play, and I could make any deck I wanted to, for free.

I’ve played some MTGO (Magic the Gathering Online), but again, the price tag turned me away. It’s not that I’m unwilling to spend money on Magic. I have two cubes (pauper and semi-powered), but paying money for digital cards isn’t nearly as appealing. So that hasn’t really been an avenue I’ve explored.

So I think I’m a fairly big target for the audience of Arena, Magic’s latest foray into the digital realm. I’ve followed the fan discussion boards, and I’ve been surprised at the amount of whining coming from many fan sectors. The biggest complaint at the moment is the economy. They feel it’s too expensive to get new cards. At the moment, buying a pack of 8 cards costs 1000 coins. You can get around 1000 coins each day by playing matches and completing quests, so you can get a pack every day. Each pack has a mythic or rare, two uncommons, and five commons.

The complaint is that to build tier 1 decks takes too many mythic and rare cards, and it’ll take too long to get there. Some fans are saying the game will be a colossal failure because of this imbalance. To which I say, “Whatever.”

Without spending any money, I’ve build a basic Red Deck Wins deck that I went 7-2 with last night in “Quick Constructed.” That’s a format where you pay 500 coins to enter and then win prizes based on how many wins you can get before you get 3 losses. (It maxes out at 7 wins, at which point you get 1000 coins plus three cards, which will be at least 2 uncommons and 1 rare, maybe better. I won two mythics and a rare for my 7 wins.) Yes, I’m an experienced player, but my deck wasn’t full of just mythics and rares. (Though it had plenty: 4 Hazorets, 4 Earthshaker Kenras, 3 Rampaging Ferocidons, 1 Rekindling Phoenix. So 5 mythics and 7 rares, give or take.)

With that basic deck, I can earn more coins the same way I did yesterday. For 5000 coins, I’ll be able to draft soon. With each draft, I’ll get 3 packs of 14 cards, plus 1-3 8 card packs as prizes, plus more currency to spend. Do I prefer to play RDW each game? No. But I’m certainly willing to play a bit of it to earn cards so I can start fleshing out my collection and working my way to other decks I can play and enjoy. Also, since the game only supports best of 1 matches right now (remember: still in beta!), I feel RDW is the best way to take advantage of the format. You’re incentivized to get matches done quickly each day so you can max your wins. But that’s just a stage for me. I’ll get beyond that to where I have decks good enough to compete with other archetypes.

In other words, I think I’ll be able to play Magic for free, online, whenever I want to, with a great interface, and minimal issues. This is fantastic. The game is miles better than Duels. It’s responsive and intuitive (for the most part). Yes, it still has bugs. It’s in beta test. It’s only available on PC at the moment, but there are plans for Mac and phones to be supported in the future.

The longest I ever wait to play a match, even with this smaller pool, is about 15 seconds. It’s true that sometimes those matches are unbalanced. I’ll be up against someone with a much better deck, or a much worse deck. But that comes with the territory of having a smaller pool of players since it’s still in beta.

I honestly don’t understand some segments of the player community at times. It’s as if they expect a game to be fully fleshed out and comparable to other games that have been refined for years. And then when their suggestions aren’t immediately incorporated, they freak out. Most of the criticism I’ve seen levied at the game has been baseless or overblown. The game is still being refined, but I see a lot of promise to it.

So if you have a PC and can score an invite to the beta, I encourage you to check it out. I’ve loved my time with the game so far, and I can’t wait for the drafting to begin later this week.

If you have any questions about the game, I’d be happy to answer them.


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Librarian Badge of Honor

I’ll admit it: I’ve been longing for a card catalog for at least five years or so. Denisa bought me a small one (6 drawers) a year or so ago, and that was a good step, but I wanted the real deal. A full, free standing card catalog like you’d find in an old-school library. But they don’t come cheap these days. People have figured out they’re awesome pieces of furniture, great for storing any number of things.

Like, say . . . Magic the Gathering cards.

(You know you might have a problem when you’ve got so many cards that you start looking for a professional storage solution to house them.)

Last night, I’m pleased to say that dream came true. I’m the proud new owner of a beautiful old solid oak card catalog, complete with 30 (count them: thirty) drawers. It sitting next to my side table in my bedroom even as I write this.

Getting it proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.

It’s a solid piece, three and a half feet tall, three feet wide, and a foot and a half deep. A friend with a trailer was generous enough to drive out with me to pick the catalog up. Denisa had work and a parent/teacher conference, so I took the kids along for the ride. All told, we were underway for about three hours getting it and taking it home.

And that catalog is solid. It was like moving a brick, but without any easy way to hold onto it. Getting it up onto my porch, through the front door, back through the kitchen, into the mud room, up the stairs to the addition, through the hall to the bedroom, and across the room to the corner was no small undertaking. I pulled a few muscles in my leg that are still recovering. It’s a good thing I’ve been lifting weights at lunch, let’s just leave it at that. (And I think my friend is still on speaking terms with me, but I can’t 100% confirm that. He’ll probably be less willing to help me move furniture in the future. Unless I’m doing something lighter, like a piano.)

But it’s home now, and I get to fill it with all manner of things when I get home today. All my Magic cards for starters. After that, I’m not sure. Maybe some arts and crafts? They’re just so handy. All those deep drawers, ready to bring order to pretty much anything you’ve got.

And for those of you wondering how I’m going to organize my cards, it’ll be chronologically by set, then by color. I can fit two rows of cards in each drawer, so 60 rows total. I’m hoping to get a rough estimate on how many cards I have at the moment as I put them away. Then when the other half of my collection (that I bought from a friend) comes up to join me from where it’s resting in Pennsylvania at the moment, it will all be together in one place at last.

I think I have a good long while before I’ll need a second catalog.

Let’s hope so, at any rate . . .

Here’s a pic:


Hearthstone Review: Free Computer Card Game Greatness

I love me some card games. I’m also a big fan of computer games. And last but not least, I’m a huge fan of free. Put them all together in one big glossy well-produced package, and you’ve got one happy Bryce. That’s just what it looks like Blizzard is up to right now in Hearthstone, a new free-to-play card game that just went to open Beta. (What does that mean? It means the real game isn’t released just yet, but you can play it in the test phase. They might make some tweaks to it, but you still get access early.)

I downloaded the game . . . Wednesday? I think that was the day. In any case, I’ve had a chance to put it through some test runs, and I have to say I’m very impressed, and the fellow gamers I’ve spoken to have been impressed, too.

This is a virtual collectible card game–like Magic the Gathering, except without the cardboard. You start by picking one of 9 different heroes. Each hero has a different unique ability and a selection of cards that only that hero can use. There are other cards that anyone can put in their deck. You create a deck based on the cards available to you, and you play against another person who’s done the same thing. The goal is to reduce the other person’s life total to 0 from 30. First person dead, loses.

Hearthstone is a pretty streamlined game. It’s not got near the learning curve of Magic the Gathering. Blizzard’s made a great tutorial that you play to begin the game, and by the end of it you should have the basics down pretty well. Of course, since this is a collectible card game, your deck can only be as good as the cards you own for it. But unlike Magic, Hearthstone lets you unlock cards, earn “money” to purchase them, or even craft cards on your own. Basically, you can play for free, although the option to skip the unlocking via paying money is always there.

Some things that I love about the game so far:

  • Ease of finding other players to play against–The game will set up a match for you at any time, against real players, and it usually takes no more than a minute or so. (I haven’t tried it late at night yet, but I’ve tried it at lunch, and it’s been easy then, so I can’t imagine it would be worse at night.)
  • The games are fast and fun. There’s some strategy involved, but it’s mainly just playing a game and having a good time.
  • There are “Quests” you can do to earn in-game currency. Beat a certain number of opponents. Kill a certain number of minions. That kind of thing. It’s a good way to always feel like you’re accomplishing something. Once you earn 100 gold, you can buy a new pack of 5 randomized cards. For 150, you can gain entry to
  • The Arena–sort of like drafting, you’re presented with a series of three cards to pick from. You take one and move on to the next selection. Once you’ve done that 30 times, you have a deck. You then use that deck to play against other people who have done the same thing. You can play with that deck until you get 12 wins or 3 losses–whichever happens first. You get rewards based on your number of wins. Worst case, you get a pack. Best case, you get FABULOUS PRIZES. So basically you’re paying 50 gold more to play a bunch and be in a more level playing field.
  • Spit and polish–This is a Blizzard game, and that means it’s really slick. You can play on PC or Mac. The graphics are great, the interface is intuitive–it’s a fantastic playing experience.

What’s missing so far? The big omission is the ability to play against friends. I’ve got some friends on, and they’ve been on at the same time as I have. But there’s no way to just select them to go head to head–it’s still randomized. That would be a nice switch, though I suppose people could game the system then to just keep beating themselves and unlocking free packs. Surely there’s a workaround, though. (It appears a feature I might not have been able to figure out yet? Or perhaps it was removed temporarily? Not sure–but from what I can see, when it’s available, they just have it be reward-free, which makes sense.)

Other than that, not much. I think the game’s pretty good to go. Once it’s out for iOS, that’ll be even better. Being able to play a slick game like this on computer or my iPad, for free–it would be ideal. Especially if they let your iPad collection and your computer collection be one and the same. But maybe I’m shooting too high now.

In any case, this is a game you should check out. Download it and play it today. Free! What more motivation do you need?

Anyone else already playing? What are your thoughts thus far?


If you’ve been following ze blog for a while. you know that I’m a competitive person. I love playing games, and I love winning those games even more. I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember. Each summer I’d fly out to spend time with my cousins, and we’d play board games and card games into the wee hours of the morning. If there’s one thing I learned during all those games, it’s that your inherent worth as a human being rests primarily on the ability to screw the other team over in Rook as effectively as possible.

And we all know that I take my lessons very seriously.

Another thing you might have seen on Facebook or Twitter is that I’ve started playing Magic the Gathering off and on, competitively. What this means is that I’ll go to an event, buy cards to enter, and then play. If you play well, you get fabulous prizes (more cards) and the adoration and envy of those present. Magic is a complex card game where the rules periodically change every three months or so, and you need to be up on your strategy to do well. The style of Magic I like to play (limited) is one where you don’t even know what kind of cards you’re going to be playing with before you show up, so you have to develop a brand new strategy each time.

I love it. It scratches all sorts of gaming and strategy itches, all at the same time.

I went to another game on Friday, and I managed to go undefeated–4-0. It was a blast. I played against some really strong players, and I played quite well, making few mistakes. It felt great on one hand.

On the other, I don’t recall being so stressed in my life. Ever. And I’m not exaggerating.

I know–that’s pretty sad, isn’t it? That I can get so stressed out over something that’s supposed to be light fun? But I do. My stomach was just roiling, mainly because I wanted to win so bad.

In the days since the game, I’ve reflected on why it was like that, and I’ve come up with a few reasons. First is the obvious-to-everyone-else-no-doubt conclusion that I am just too competitive. I want to win too much, and that’s something I need to work on. I need to be better at not having to be right. Not having to prove I’m a superior gamesman. Because really, isn’t it enough to know I’m a good player and accept the fact that even great players lose? (Plus, when you ditch the nerves, you also inevitably play better, since you can think more clearly.)

But I also noticed that I cared more when my opponents cared more. It was like I was this competition mirror. The more I could sense my opponent was getting invested in the game, the more I wanted to win, which no doubt made my opponent even more invested. It was a vicious cycle, and one I really don’t want to repeat.

The question is, how?

Yes, I could just stop going to the games, but like I said–it’s a format and a game I really enjoy. I bring my son along with me, so we get some together time which is a huge plus. I like it, so I don’t really want to stop it. My hope is that now that I’ve gone 4-0 once–proving to myself that I could–then I won’t be as worried about proving it time and time again. After all, when I go play games with my cousins in Utah these days, my desire to win has actually lessened. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything. They know I’m a good player. I know I’m a good player. And that’s enough. (Plus, no shiny awesome cards are on the line when I play my family . . . )

In a conversation with a good fellow Magic player, he mentioned he has the opposite problem–he doesn’t care enough about winning, and so he doesn’t play to his best abilities each time. So clearly there’s a spectrum of approaches here, and I just need to find the balance between them.

How about you? Are you competitive by nature? Too competitive? Know someone who is? What have you–or they–done to cool down a notch or five? I want to note that I don’t think I’m being a jerk when I play. I hate bad sportsmanship. It’s not that I’m being an obnoxious player. It’s mainly an internal thing. I don’t even know if my opponents know how vested I am in the outcome. So take the problem from that angle.

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