Magic: The Gathering is a huge game that's all about player expression. With tens of thousands of cards, a near-infinite number of decks to make, and dozens of formats to play them in, no two Magic players enjoy the game the same way.
Despite being so different in how we play, we're also eerily similar in our bad habits and quirks. It doesn't matter if you've been playing for 30 years or 30 minutes, there are a few things that every Magic player can relate to.
5 Maths Is For Whoever Isn't Me
One of the biggest unwritten rules of Magic: The Gathering is this: maths is for blockers. Unless I'm the blocker, then the attacker can deal with it.
For some reason, being in the heat of combat makes basic understanding of all numbers melt away. Working out which creatures are attacking, how much damage they're dealing, resolving all those attack triggers, and accounting for things like first strike, double strike, and trample is enough to make anybody's brain boggle. The best way to handle it is to just let anyone who isn't you deal with it.
Sometimes this backfires, and the table discovers everyone is as equally bad at maths and the whole game falls apart. That's fine, that doesn't matter; as long as you're not the one trying to work out how much damage 50 1/1s buffed +3/+0 and given trample will deal, it's a game well-played.
4 Shuffle Your Commander Into Your Deck
You've finally put together your new Commander deck. It is a melding of art and engineering even the finest of German car manufacturers could only hope to match. You shuffle up, ready to play, and disaster strikes.
Your commander, the head honcho of the deck you devoted so much time and money to, has vanished. Has it fallen on the floor? Nope. Maybe it's still in the deck box? Not here either. And then the fear hits you, as the reality of the situation sets in. You've shuffled your commander into your deck.
It's too late, there's nothing to be done. You must pull apart the deck and go through every card one by one until that precious legendary creature has been found. Your opponents are sat across from you, rolling their eyes at your ineptitude. The sweat on your palms makes your grip slippery. It feels like hours have passed; how does it take this long to look through 100 cards?
At last, you find it. The penultimate card, in the same plebian sleeve as the rest of your deck. As you awkwardly apologise for the delay, put your commander to the side, and reshuffle, you swear to yourself you'll never let this happen again. As soon as you get home, that commander is going into a differently coloured sleeve to help it stand out.
3 Use Anything To Hand As A Token
Despite them coming in almost every booster pack, you'll never have the right token when you need it. Did you just make a 3/3 Beast creature token? Too bad, you've only got elves, spirits, and pangolins in your box.
And so, you do what any respectable Magic player does, and panics. You scrabble around for anything you can find, grabbing sweet wrappers, toothpicks, and dice before slamming them onto the battlefield and saying the immortal words "just pretend that's a Beast". Your opponent watches you with a look of vague disgust, completely ignoring their own battlefield of Werther's Originals and pennies.
You know you should come better prepared, and maybe get some of those dry-wipe flashcards. But writing is hard, and that old train ticket in your pocket is right there.
2 Constantly Flicking Your Cards
Sitting through your opponent's turn can be a patience-testing ordeal, especially when you're sat with the hand you know is going to win you the game. Looking at your phone in a game is bad manners, which leaves awkwardly flicking around the cards in your hand as the only piece of entertainment available to you.
You remember reading somewhere that pros like to shuffle their hands to avoid letting their opponent know if the card they just played is the one they drew that turn. You're not thinking anywhere near as strategically as them, you just like the flthwip noise the cards make and the way they glide around in those sleeves.
From across the table, you look like a genius planning every move five turns ahead. "Oh god", they think, "why're they lining their cards up like that? What horrible combos are they waiting to unleash? How many possible permutations of play have they accounted for?" The answer, of course, is "none". You have a hand of seven lands and an attention span that barely lasts longer than the DuckTales theme tune.
1 Forgetting What Your Own Cards Do
"Oh… hang on."
It's a phrase everyone who has ever played Magic has uttered. You're so close to victory, reading to close the trap and seal your opponents' fate, when you decide to just check your battlefield for any possible stumbling blocks. And then you notice your favourite card, the one you've been running in decks for years, doesn't actually do what you thought it does.
Maybe it's a sneaky "this ability triggers once per turn", or what you thought was an instant turns out to be a sorcery. Maybe today is the day you learn the difference between hexproof and shroud, or you forget that you've had a mandatory trigger in play for half the game.
In a split second, the entire game becomes a mess of trying to rectify the problems you've made up to now. You try and work out how long you've been messing this card up and how the game would've gone, until you come to the horrific conclusion that there's no fixing it. The only thing you can do is move on, and your victory suddenly feels hollow.
Curse you, Sphinx of the Second Sun.
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