Tapping that for Green: A Brief Introduction

Roughly eight years ago, I was spending a week at a small summer camp in northern Connecticut. I remember swimming in an exceptionally pristine lake, and hiking well- worn trails through the green gloom of a small pine forest. I remember ingesting barely edible camp food, messing around with a group of friends, and staying up late into the night, reading with a lantern and swatting at the insects that swarmed around the light. There is much about my time at camp that I cherish, but one memory in particular seems to flicker through my thoughts more often than the rest.

Wednesday was hot. When I crawled out of my tent early in the morning, the air was heavy and cloying, desperately humid. After breakfast, standing in the sun for more than a few seconds was unbearable, and the entire camp was sweating. Only the people who were swimming were comfortable, and my friends and I had already been swimming every day that week. We wanted to go hiking, and had planned out a small trek the previous evening. So, despite the heat, we threw some snacks into our back packs, filled up our water bottles, and hiked away from our campsite.

About an hour and a half into the hike, we passed through a large meadow. We were probably only in direct sunlight for five minutes, ten at the most, but as soon as we crossed back into the woods, we were all thoroughly cooked. Grateful for the slight luxury of the forest’s shade, my bunkmate Mike called a break, and everyone else happily agreed. We sat around, munching on snacks and trying not to move too much. Mike finished the water in his bottle, then reached over and hit his friend Brad on the shoulder. “Do you think you can beat me today?”, Mike asked with a smile.

Brad rolled his eyes, told us all something we didn’t know about Mike’s mother, and then said sure. He stood up and walked over to a large fallen tree that was covered in moss, gently rotting away in the summer heat. He straddled the tree, and pulled a towel and a small box out of his back pack. He spread out and towel, and Mike sat down across from him, pulling out a box of his own, then pulling a bundle of cards out of the box. I was intrigued enough to hazard moving again, so I got up and walked over to them. They both clumsily shuffled their cards for a few moments, then balanced them on the log and drew seven cards each. Mike began, dropping a card that featured a mountain landscape and a swirling fireball onto the towel, turning it sideways , and then putting down another card directly above the first. The second card featured a dwarf with a flaming hand, with a box of neatly printed text directly underneath. Mike said go, and Brad drew a card off the top of his pile. I watched Brad put a seascape with a tear drop into play, completely fascinated.

“Can I see that one?”, I asked Mike, pointing to the dwarf wizard. I probably asked that question about thirty times over the next ten minutes, until Mike finally laughed, tossed me his pile of cards , and said, “ Here, you can see all of these. Just give me the card on the top when I ask for it.” I sat there on the forest floor, leafing through the stack of cards, the heat and the hike completely forgotten. Brad and Mike finished their game, and I reluctantly handed Mike’s cards back to him. “Those are awesome. Can you teach me how to play?” I asked them as we began to hike again. For the rest of the journey, Brad, Mike and I lagged at the back of the group. I listened and looked as they showed me cards and talked about the rules and semantics of the game, which was called Magic: the Gathering. We hit a slight snag when they tried to tell me that the land cards that I had seen were not the energy that was needed to summon the dwarf, but that that the mountain itself created red “mana” when it was tapped.

 

“ That fireball under the picture is the red mana.”, Brad said, pointing at the symbol on the mountain that I had noticed earlier. “When you tap it, you turn it sideways, and it generates red mana. You use that mana as energy to fuel everything else that you do.” I didn’t quite understand all of what they were saying, but I had a decent idea. Mike kept explaining the concept of mana to me, until the hike brought us to the lake on which the camp’s waterfront was located. He pointed to the water. “ See that? I’d tap it for some blue mana.” He then pointed back to the forest. “ And that? I’d definitely tap that for some green mana.”

Hello! My name is Christian Sauer, and ever since that day in the woods, I have been a Magic the Gathering player. The cards and the people that I have met while playing those cards have had an enormous impact on my life, and I imagine that they will only continue to do so for quite some time. I have played Magic on and off ever since Brad and Mike taught me , and in the past two years have tried to become a “competitive” player. This means that I started doing what I imagine many of you are doing now- attending more and more local tournaments, planning trips to Grand Prixs and Pro Tour Qualifiers, and reading countless articles about Magic design, Magic strategy, and Magic lifestyle on many different websites. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the aspects of the game and talking about them with friends.

I have no Magic accomplishments to my name. I have never played on the Pro Tour, and I’ve never won a PTQ. I’ve played in one Grand Prix, but didn’t make Day 2. I have, however, been taught by my personal experience with the game, and by the very best players in the world, because I have spent many, many hours reading their articles over the past several years. One of the elements of Magic that I love the most is that the professional players, the people who play the game almost constantly, whose entire livelihoods are based around the game, also write articles about how to play. On top of that, the men and women who create the cards also write articles, detailing their exploits and misadventures along the way. I’ll say it again. The best players in the world right now are also your best teachers, and they take an active role in writing articles about theory and strategy for the benefit of the game. There are precious few games, or, heck, even sports, that can make that claim.

With the knowledge that I have gleaned from my experience with Magic: the Gathering, I am aiming to create a series of articles that emphasize and explain some of the fundamental axioms of gameplay. I will be writing about being aware of resource management, the importance of mana curve, sending and reading signals in draft, and how tempo affects gameplay. I will also be writing about several topics that are not exclusive to Magic: the Gathering- the therapeutic potential of card games and board games, the importance of forming and maintaining a cohesive play group, and the imperative nature of collaboration.

 

I hope that at least one topic in the lists above interests you, because I’m quite excited to have this opportunity! I’m also grateful for the chance to receive constructive feedback on my writing. If you have any suggestions about anything contained in my articles, from writing style to focus to theme, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at Christian.sauer@student.fairfield.edu . If you wish to send me an email, please include “Battlegrounds Gaming” in the topic line.

I will be trying to write at least one article a week for Battlegrounds Gaming over the next four months. I am currently in my senior year of college, however, so there will be weeks when the economic and academic pressures of my life dictate a different usage of my time. I will be devoting all of the time and energy that I can realistically afford to spend on these articles. Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any feedback!