Magic: The Gathering Monday at Blue Gene’s
Everyone has their schtick. For some, it’s music. For others, there’s makeup tutorials. I want to say my thing is being “incredibly charming,” but I imagine most would say “highly disheveled.” It’s my hobby, my M.O. and essentially, “my thing.” Some people are into Magic: The Gathering, a game with a reputation for being somewhat nerdy. When a few of my friends invited me to Blue Gene’s for Monday Night Magic, I went in with nothing but a tacit prejudice. I’m not that into card games—I’ve never even played strip poker—so what was I supposed to expect?
My first impression was, “whoa, there are a lot of people here.” The room was buzzing with energy. From an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a baseball card convention had crashed into a bingo night. There were around 75 people situated in groups of four, sipping on Blue Moons and laying down cards. I don’t know why I thought the crowd would predominately be made of single guys with thick lenses and acne, but I was wrong—well, mostly wrong. People were wearing whatever they felt like. They weren’t there to be seen, they were there to play.
“People were wearing whatever they felt like. They weren’t there to be seen, they were there to play.”
I sat down at a table and asked what was happening. “Just out here casting spells,” someone replied. I asked what they were specifically doing, and instantly realized my mistake. They started detailing what was what, how the cards were interacting, why one of the players was doomed, before other players interrupted to explain different rules to each other … to me, it was spooky action at a distance.
Magic: The Gathering isn’t exactly a fantasy game, though the packs often have fantastical themes. It’s not necessarily mathematical but dice are involved. Some cards have achieved Honus Wagner status while ordinary ones can be lethal. It’s a game of chance and strategy and it has loyal fans all over the world.
From what I was told, the best way to learn is to simply jump in. You don’t have to know how to play ahead of time at Monday Night Magic (though it definitely helps), as there are always people there willing to teach you. New players can buy pre-constructed decks at Oasis Games for around $45–60 dollars each, but if that’s too big of an investment, the hosts at Blue Gene’s bring a few starter decks for beginners to try. Even die-hard fans are learning all the time. Before the game begins, people discuss their decks to make sure they’re relatively matched, pop a Zyn and go choose-their-own-adventure.
Every card played has an impact. You look at what you have, what you can build on, how it can be developed and move forward. Each card comes with its own power and skills—like us, life comes with many interpretations, indeed. Attendants often show up with a few friends, but they tend to intertwine and intermix with other pods. It’s not necessary to know anyone ahead of time; some people only started playing because of these nights. The crowd is made up of people from all over the valley, and it’s an inclusive scene where shy individuals can comfortably meet like-minded strangers.
“I’m very socially awkward—I’m not great at talking to people,” confessed Connor Czapla, who originally founded Monday Night Magic, “but I can sit down at a table with someone and talk about Magic. We don’t have to talk about the weather or anything like that. There’s no awkwardness around it, and a lot of people that play are awkward people. You think that if you got them all in a room, it would be weirder, but it’s actually a nice, safe space for everyone.”
“…a lot of people that play are awkward people. You think that if you got them all in a room, it would be weirder, but it’s actually a nice, safe space for everyone.”
In a word, it was fun, even if the rules still mystified me. I was watching a community organically grow before my eyes. In a city that can appear to be stagnant, I felt like I was surrounded by unique individuals that were creating something new. Now, that’s worth checking out. What else can I say? The stigma of Magic being for geeks is something that still exists, but that’s a wholly irrelevant stereotype. Monday Night Magic is for everyone, from passionate fans to curious spectators. It’s for people to come together, have some drinks and play a game they love. It’s badass. That said, it’s important to keep things in context—there will always be nerds there. After all, as Czapla put it, “there’s at least three losers at every table.”
Check out Magic: The Gathering at Blue Gene’s every Monday from 7–11:55 p.m. for an evening of Magic, free pool and $3 beers.