(Editor’s Note: Being a fiction writer, sometimes all that comes out of my fingers when I write is prose that just meanders for a while. Elmore Leonard explained that the term is called “hooptedoodle” and sprung from John Steinbeck’s book Sweet Thursday (fixed). It’s a non-sense word that doesn’t mean anything; the author is just going to write a while for fun. This is one of those times. Some of you might like this, others will think I’m wasting your time and for that I apologize. You may skip this post, and I wouldn’t be hurt. This isn’t required reading by any means, but I wanted to get this Magic-related story down. – MtGCP)
I was intrigued by the mid-20’s man lounging in the chair infront of me; his constantly smiling toothy grin, the wool-knit cap covering his matted hair, the eyes that lit up whenever he played a card. He came up in the middle of a game of EDH I was engaged with another player who he happened to know. Asking us if we wanted to buy any cards, he started to pull out his boxes. He had decks upon decks that he was proud to show us.
This was his Angel deck.
This was his Dragon deck.
This was his counterspell deck with unblockable creatures.
This was the deck his friends didn’t like him playing because it had the purple atog in it.
While the cards were worn from gameplay (most of them unsleeved), it wasn’t because they were just thrown around his room haphazardly; they were loved. They were shuffled over and over again from the kitchen table games he played with family and friends. Today, the cards were trying to get him a little extra money. While looking through them, nothing interested me but the other player bought a couple of older cards he couldn’t find for trade around here. The man was obviously a little sad to see the pieces of cardboard go, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be replaced.
As we continued to play our EDH game he took a look at my General: a Japanese Vorosh, the Hunter (Don’t worry 99EDH fans, you’ll get the sweet decklist soon enough. One word: Landfall). He examined it for a minute, he said he hadn’t see the card before; said it was pretty cool. A turn later, my opponent was facing 14 4/4 beast tokens with a +1/+1 counter on them and he couldn’t find any outs in his deck. We all laughed at how this happened (the link will be here when I write about the deck), and the man with the heavily shuffled cards started to put his stuff away. My original opponent had to leave after our game and the stranger asked if I wanted to play. Of course I did, it was Magic.
After looking through my backpack, I realized that the only non-EDH deck I had on me was my States deck (Everyone Knows You Never Go Full Bant) I still happened to carry around. I asked if he didn’t mind if some of my cards were in Japanese. “Not at all, if you know what they do.” Smiling, I acknowledged that some people don’t like to play with those cards of cards. He didn’t care.
We introduced ourselves; his name was Mike. As we shuffled up our decks he told me about the different ways that they play sometimes, some of the usual variants that I’ve heard the more casual crowd plays. I allowed him to go first as I was feeling bad about what I had in my deck, more tuned to a tournament setting. He laid down his first land and passed the turn to me.
“It’s your upkeep, Battlemage.”
It took me by surprise as most players say “Go” or “I’m done” or “You’re turn.” The one world caught me off-guard: Battlemage. But it wasn’t just the first turn, every time he passed priority at the end of the turn it was the same thing.
“It’s your upkeep, Battlemage.”
After a few turns I had a Rhox War Monx on the table and had swung once, he played a Broodmate Dragon, using one of my extra cards as a token for the 4/4 red flyer. The next turn, I played my Baneslayer Angel, and it turned into a wall.
The most expensive wall ever.
At a stalemate, as we talked. Mike told me that he and his father play Magic every so often. In fact, it was his brother that got him into the game a while ago. “Since the beginning,” he told me. I could picture the three of them sitting around the table, drinking a beer, slinging cards and laughing the whole time. He showed me one of his favorite dragons, a foil Rimescale Dragon. We talked about what actually happens when you cast Lim-Dul’s Vault and I showed him the current wording on my Blackberry. “Yeah, that card is too good, they should ban it,” he tossed the idea around.
After I played Captured Sunlight into a Jace, he admired the card. “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Cascade was one of those new keywords that he hadn’t had too much experience with; he knew he had to get a couple of those kind of spells. We both drew a card. “You know why I say battlemage, it’s because of those guys,” he said, pointing at Jace. “We’re no longer really Planeswalkers, so battlemage works pretty well.” I smiled.
I asked him if he’d ever played Elder Dragon Highlander; he shook his head no. Smiling even greater I told him I’d think he’d love it, and would show him after our game. He asked me if I played any tournaments. Sometimes. “You ever win any big ones?” Naw, FNM every once in a while and some small stuff. “I haven’t played any tournaments before and was thinking of entering in one of them sometime.” I told him that the store we were playing near did FNMs. “Really? Then maybe I’ll have to cut my decks down to fit sixty cards.”
“It’s your upkeep, Battlemage.”
Turns later he played a Brilliant Ultimatum: two lands, a Bringer of the Blue Dawn, Hellkite Overlord and a Predator Dragon. He took the pile with a land and the Blue bringer which took me a little by surprise. A few turns later, he played Clarion Ultimatum and then I found myself facing down a few more dragons and a another Bringer. All I had was my expensive wall and my hand full of removal. He was still scared of my Baneslayer and after realizing that he was drawing 5 cards a turn, I knew what I had to do: Use Jace’s ultimate.
My deck was geared toward tackling more tournament tuned decks, not ones that had a Brilliant Ultimatum go get a Hellkite Overlord. It was fun letting my Angel fly overheard, watching the Dragons circle knowing she could pick them off one by one. I knew it wouldn’t be gentlemenly to wipe a board clean full of creatures. Plus, it was just a bunch of answers, no threats. Once I would finally get that threat, then Judgement Day would be upon hand.
Though after a few times of each of us drawing cards from Jace, and the Blue Bringers helping him (with assistance from a few Graceful Adepts) he finally laid down his alpha strike: Predatory Focus. I smiled and folded, and we bumped fists. “Good game.” Good game.
I showed him one of my EDH decks that I had with me and explained the rules. His eyes lit up when I explained that a Legendary Creature is a General. “That’s so cool.” He got the concept of it quickly and was really excited. “I gotta show my brother and father about this.” I wrote down Elder Dragon Highlander and my EDH blog for him to use as a reference whenever he gets the itch to plan. He grabbed his stuff and had to take off. Sitting there for a minute, I couldn’t help but smile.
The next day I happened to go by the store as they were finishing a triple ZEN draft and I saw him, playing in that small tournament. I smiled as I don’t know if he always did this or if it was because of my suggestion, but it was good to see him again. He came over after and asked how I was doing and glad that he met me and other various small talk including bragging to his friend that he beat me yesterday. After we talked for a minute, he went to go get his prize for his place in the draft: one pack. He opened a foil Iona, Shield of Emeria. He smiled that toothy grin as we all were amazed at his pull. “This is going in my Angel deck.”
Don’t worry, that one’s sleeved.