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Of Teachers, Teaching, and Magical Fun
By David Zadok Stroud
These past two days have found me on the road with the entirety of my Senior class, driving around Oregon in a Ďlast-year-of-high-schoolí trip, along with three of my teachers. It was a long, grueling trip with minimal sleep, and conversations that at times bordered on the gruesomely explicit. But itís all in a dayís work, given the nerdy school I attend.

It was a great trip. I spent most of the time hanging out with my wonderful girlfriend, but I donít think Iíll bother talking about that here. Rather, Iíll talk about one of my teachers, Mr. Hamilton. Iíve had a grand total of two classes with Hamilton in my years at this high school, but heís been a wonderful friend and teacher, and is easily one of the most intelligent people Iíve had the pleasure of speaking to in my life.

Hereís the kicker. (No Invasion-based pun intended, not extra mana required.)

He plays Magic.

Well, he does now. The school was informed of this only at the very beginning of this year, which means the resident Magic players havenít had a ton to go about the requisite process of beating him for each Ď-2í written on a test yet. But we will soon. And, for the first time, I had the chance to play against him on this journey. We only got around to playing very, very late at night (~11:00), but we set up for a five player game as soon as the chance arose, between myself, Hamilton, and three other good friends of mine (Sean, Slick, and Zack).

Iíll get into how the game went in a moment, but I must say, this was a wonderful thing to see. Iíve played Magic since early Revised, and I have never had the chance to play someone so much older than I, or someone who I have such unquestionable respect for. And yaí know what? Heís good. Heís new, and still makes a lot of mistakes (he hadnít caught onto the idea of casting spells and effects at the end of another playerís turn until we played), but he catches on fast, and is doing his best to learn the cards. Now, I know a lot of older people who play through their writings online, email, messages boards, and the card shop I go to, but playing with Hamilton was like playing a whole new game.

I canít remember becoming aware of casting spells at turnís end myself, that wasÖ So, so long ago for me. Iíve taught a few players to play before, but never the entire game; I taught them the rules, handed them some cards, and pointed them at some great sources to read to learn how to play better. Never have I played someone so new to the game, and had so much fun.

The game started out fairly slowly, with only a few light drops from Hamiltonís G/B deck (filled with Tranquility-esques, removal, and weenies, and Craw Wurms), one of which proceeded to attack each of the other players for two, leaving everyone at 18 except Hamilton. My own Rising Waters deck developed quickly enough, dropping BoPs, Eyes, a Port, and then a Waters that was countered by Sean. Zack and Slick both were playing fairly impassive decks, just kinda sitting passively by. My Waterfront Bouncer kept every major threat from hitting me too hard.

About eight turns into the game, I got my Waters into play (Sean failed to counter based on the fact that he had no less than 3 Ports in play). Sean used his Port advantage to proceed to keep Zack from any usable mana for the remainder of the game, while I used mine to keep Slick from his mana. Hamilton ceased to be much of a threat thanks to my Bouncer and Seanís larger creatures, so the game stalemated with only three real players, and two people without enough mana to cast anything of note. After enough time had passed, I began attacking Slick with a pair of Blastoderms and a Mungha Wurm, finishing him off in short time. Sean, in the meanwhile, attacked Zack several times, but didn't kill him off.

Eventually, the game reached a point where Hamilton had to make a choice between Sean and I. If he attacked me, I would die and Sean would probably win the game. If he attacked Sean, he killed Sean off, and I would probably win while Sean tried to deal with his new foe. Hamilton chose to attack me, and my tapped Bouncer was unable to deal with the creatures he threw my way. Bam, Iím gone. About six turns later, Sean went infinite with a late game Turnabout/Stroke/Stroke/Soldevi Digger combo designed solely as a kill method.

The game lasted nearly two hours, non-stop. If Hamilton hadnít been playing, and another random guy in his place, it would have taken maybe forty-five. This was mainly due to the fact that Hamilton is still at a stage where he barely recognizes the sets cards are from, let along all the effects a card can have. He spent a good portion of the ride back home looking through my decks card by card, and pulling out cards that he thought would work well together. He went through a Brawler deck I have built ( had built, Red decks hate me, so I took it apart), and pulled out Brawlers, Idol, and Citadel of Pain. In other words, he nailed the deckís central theme.

I spent a while doing my best to explain synergy, card interactions, and mana curve, and still more time just discussing random rules issues and ideas. It was great fun. Yeah, heís still completely new to the game.

But I had fun anyway.

Moral? See if any of the people around you might be interested in playing the game, and teach them. I have enough extra Destiny commons to be able to hand off four of each to Hamilton without question. And Iím doing my best to explain cards and effects to him, and Magic theories such as card advantage, EoT effects, Waylay abuse, combos, and synergy. Why is this such a Good Thingô?

Hint: Itís not because itís important to bring new players into the game. Well, actually, thatís a great reason, and a really Good Thingô, but itís not what I was thinking of.

Because it got me back to roots. As I sat there, helping explain end of turn castings and stackings, I realized how much in this game I take for granted. When you tap a land, how much did you have to think about it? Did you consider that the card had to be rotated, or did you just do it? When you cast Whispers of the Muse, do you have to consider whether to cast it at the end of your opponentís turn or during your own? I doubt it.

But by going back, and teaching what Iíve learned, Iím rediscovering that brilliance, those first theories and realizations. Itís fun as hell, too! So, next time someone walks up to you and asks for a game, and then plays Mossdog, Craw Wurm, or some other random cards against you, after you beat them, stick around for a few minutes. If youíve got some extra commons, hand Ďem over. And help them, teach them anything you think they might need to understand.

Itís more fun than it sounds.

--Zadok001, aka Greater Good fanatic (zad001@hotmail.com)
Casual Playerís Alliance Founder
ďWe have more sprouts than they have hands.Ē

----------David Zadok Stroud
ďsdrawkcab dootsrednu tub sdrawrof devil si efiL.Ē

zad001@hotmail.com

Read More Articles by David Zadok Stroud!

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