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Tim Stoltzfus on Magic

Stop Playing Magic!
July 18, 2005

     That title have your attention?  I'll explain in a bit, but first a brief introduction for my first column.

     My name is Tim Stoltzfus, I've been involved in Magic in some fashion since the spring of 1994.  That's correct, I had the opportunity to buy Antiquities at retail price off the shelf.  I just missed Arabian Nights, and someday, I'll tell you the story of my box of Legends.  I've gone from being just another player, to playing on a couple Pro Tours, to being pretty intimately involved with the business side of  Magic through a job and, now through the operation of my two stores here in Dallas.  I've also intermittently written about Magic over the years.  If you ever have any comments, suggestions, or ideas, feel free to send them to me at morefuncomics@gmail.com.

      That brings me to the question, why am I here?  I’ve recently picked up the Magic playing baton again, after a couple years of focusing on my businesses almost exclusively.  I keep on top of the scene all the time, but actually playing is a different story entirely.  The urge struck me to jump back into Magic Online a couple weeks ago.  I’ve been having a lot of fun and have some thoughts I want to share with the rest of the Magic world, and I hope that you all will enjoy what I have to say.  I’ll be focusing on many different aspects of Magic.  Some weeks I’ll talk strategy, some weeks it will just be issues and whatever is on my mind.  I’ve been really enjoying Magic lately, in part, because I left the game for a little while. 

     It is easy to get burned out on a game if you play it too much, or focus on it too hard.  The joy that drew you to the game is replaced by cynicism or disappointment, and that’s never good.  Hence, my topic.  Go try another game!

     In my personal experience, I spent a good deal of time the last year or so playing the current “hot” thing that a lot of old-time Magic players have gotten into, poker.  I read several poker books, and put in quite a few hours playing both online and in person.  When I picked up Magic again, I discovered I was playing differently than I had before.  Poker is a game without flavor.  It is a game of numbers, and of the people you are playing against.  It forces you to focus on the behavior of your opponent and on the odds involved in any given play.

     When I sat down to play Magic again, I saw myself looking at situations differently.  Instead of playing like my opponent would always have an answer to what I did, I was more willing to take chances on certain plays.  In Kamigawa Block drafting, for example, I wouldn’t always assume my opponent would have the Ethereal Haze to prevent my alpha strike from winning the game for me.

     Every game out there has different things it focuses on.  Magic is a game with equal parts flavor, creativity, and numbers.  Many of my favorite board games focus on resource management in relation to a certain amount of luck.  I enjoy first person shooter video games because I like trying to figure out tendencies of other players I am playing against.  If I can figure out where you are likely to go on a given map, I will be able to find the spot that allows me to get the drop on you!

     Even if you stick to Magic, try different formats, try different styles of play, to find what you enjoy, or what suits you best.  Focus primarily on Standard play?  Put together a casual deck and give a format like Two-Headed Giant a try.  The thing that amazes me about casual play is the card interactions I never considered, like Goblin Assassin and Warbreak Trumpeter.  These players in casual formats are often very creative and inventive, and they may give you ideas that improve your deckbuilding or playing in general. 

     The point is Magic is a great game, no questions asked.  The fact that I am still playing, and still enjoying it after all these years is proof of that.  However, there’s plenty of other great games, too, and each one can teach you how to become a better player at every game you play.  Playing other games and formats also helps alleviate boredom and keeps you interested in what you do play.



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