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So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
By Aaron "Istanbul" Swersky
Magic is, at its core, a game.

A game is something you can play with friends. If you win, that's fine. If you lose, that's fine. But it doesn't really matter, because it's just a game.

I have fond memories of hanging out with my friends at our little lunch table in high school, playing our decks. Oh, we knew the basic rules: no more than 4 of any card except for basic land, the few bannings that existed (this was 1994), and we obeyed them. But there was no 'tech.' There were no 'netdecks.' We just did what we did. Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost. Occasionally, one of us would stumble across a neat combo...but they were seldom game-breaking, just a neat trick we found.

Magic isn't a game anymore.

These days, there are people who do nothing with their free time but spend time trying to combine the latest cards into the most viable netdeck imaginable.

These days, every deck is the same. Every...single...deck. If someone shows me their opening hand, I can almost recite their decklist at them. Even among so-called 'casual' players, there are two kinds of decks: netdecks, and the kind that lose.

These days, the game isn't played for fun. Tournaments are plagued by snide, nasty kids (ranging in age from five years old to upper teenage levels, and beyond), who will tell you that there are two kinds of cards: cards that are optimal in a Tier 1 tournament deck, and cards that suck. There IS no in-between.

When I first started playing Magic, I did what I do with every hobby I have. I swore that if it ever got to the point where it wasn't fun anymore, where I spent more time stressing about it than I do enjoying it, I would quit.

I quit.

Oh, I'm not selling my cards, don't get me wrong. There's always the chance, slim as it may be, that the tournament scene will falter, and people will go back to enjoying Magic as a game, and not a life-or-death struggle that decides their fate, their honor, and their reputation.

I'm not even going to stop buying cards. I've always been a player/collector, and I've got no reason to stop collecting. My goal of one-of-every-card remains strong, and I intend to see it through.

But I've decided to stop playing Magic.

You see, I'm a casual player at heart. Oh, sure, I've tried to make tournament-worthy decks simply to avoid the sneers and derisive remarks of those around me...but every time I try anything even *remotely* innovative, those sneers come back in force. And I've found that, simply put, there is no more casual scene. Not anywhere.

Not even at the CPA, I fear. There's a sense of community, to be sure. But every other conversation I hear is how to handle Blastoderm, what to do about Counter-Rebel, fascinating new tech, and the like. Even at the CPA, any innovation is immediately squashed as substandard; not because it's been tested by those that do the squashing, simply because it's new, and therefore bad. They're synonymous, now...you have to win a PTQ with a new deck for it to be acknowledged as anything other than random garbage.

Well, I'm tired of it. I'm going to stop playing for about six months, at the very least. There simply isn't anything for me in this game anymore; I don't see smiles at tournaments, just paranoia and disdain. I don't pick up casual games with friends, because none of my friends understand the concept.

I'll probably still stop by the CPA...I like chatting with people (you know, being friendly), and while playing has lost its appeal, coming up with the occasional decklist is still amusing. And I know enough about the rules to help out extensively in that regard.

But there's no more game left in Magic.

- Istanbul
All comments, compliments, and ideas welcome
All flames, jeers, and insults cheerfully ignored

Read More Articles by Aaron "Istanbul" Swersky!

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