Whether just for fun or serious competition, Aury Friedman of The Fastest Dog believes the complex world of Magic can foster new levels of critical thinking and strategizing among the games’ players while they cast spells and launch attacks and counter-attacks with their creatures of fantasy.
Friedman, whose computer store is located beside Quiznos on West Church Street, hosts game nights at his shop on Friday nights for both newbies to the game of Magic and for avid, long-time players. Each game of Magic, according to Wikipedia, represents a battle between mighty wizards, known as planeswalkers, who employ the magical spells, items and fantastic creatures depicted on individual Magic cards to defeat their opponents.
For the over age 40 crowd think Dungeons and Dragons with more cards and more complex rules.
“It’s a lot of focus and a lot of concentration and figuring out how you’re going to make your moves,” Friedman said. “It’s a lot of analyzing and being prepared. It’s really very complicated. The players study this game like some people study sports.”
Magic was developed in 1993 by Richard Garfield and quickly became a sensation among gamers. Friedman said it peaked then went quiet again before again seeing resurgence over the past five years. There are currently around 12 million players worldwide.
Players begin games with 20 “life points” and lose points when he or she is dealt “damage” by being attacked with creatures or when spells or other cards cause them to lose life. When a player has no more “life points” the game ends.
Friedman said most of his Friday night players are aged 13 and up but he also has kids who are 7, 8, and 9 years old who come out and play.
As with any game, some play just for fun while others get highly competitive, entering competitions where hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake. Some people, Friedman said, simply enjoy collecting and trading the artistically styled cards.
“Players use a lot of math in their heads,” Friedman said. “It’s a lot of math and strategy and analysis. Often times, games of Magic depend more upon what a player doesn’t know than what has already been played on the board. Magic helps you learn to strategize, thinking of all the possible outcomes for a given situation and their implications.”
At The Fastest Dog, a 15-card pack is $3.59 and players build different decks for different scenarios of play.
“Many people will have six different decks for six different scenarios,” he said. “Most kids will have a set of angels or demons. There are also angel decks and elf decks.”
Friedman said many people enjoy the artwork on the cards, collecting vintage and rare ones. Most cards are flat but some are foil cards that enhance the art that feature pictures of beautiful forests, plains and swamps to wizards and angels, among others.
Magic cards range in price from a .25 deck-starting card to ultra-exclusive cards that can reap devastation on your opponent. For $200 you could buy the $200 Shivan Dragon card that, when Magic first started back in 1993, was the best of the best when it came to a powerful game-winning creature. If money was no object, gamers could add the Black Lotus card to their arsenal for a mere $2,400. This card adds 3 mana of any single color of the gamers choice to their mana pool. A rare card, the Black Lotus was last printed 20 years ago.
New Magic expansion cards are issued a few times a year and each expansion allows gamers new ways of defeating their opponents.
“You could characterize this as a very advanced version of Bridge,” said John Walters of Quiznos who keeps his store open late for the Friday night gamers to have extra room. “Magic is like the Super Mario Brothers version of Bridge. You can compare it to the New York Times Crossword or chess. We stay open so kids can come and play and eat for cheap and it keeps them out of the Ingles parking lot.”
Adults, teens and younger kids have been participating in the Friday night event.
“This game attracts a wide variety of people and you’re not stereotyped,” Walters said.
Friedman said the game encourages social growth by bringing people together in small or very large groups and creates a sense of camaraderie. Friedman said gaming nights provide a safe place for the kids to play and be away from harmful influences that may exist out on the streets.