Opinion | The enchantment of Magic: The Gathering

Students should try out Magic: the Gathering as a way to connect with people during the COVID-19 pandemic

Signe Nettum, Opinions Contributor

I was introduced to the complicated world of Magic: The Gathering right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, it seemed like an over-the-top card battling game with different formats and confusing rules. I had about a handful of in-person battles before I left the University of Iowa campus to return home, and I was crushed every single time.

Explaining how to play the game would take almost a whole afternoon — trust me, I went through it — so I will leave it to YouTube videos and tutorials.

Instead of throwing in the towel once distance separated me from my friends, I turned to the online community. Magic: The Gathering Arena, an online version of the game, came out during the pandemic. The virtual version allowed players to fill the hole Friday Night Magic tournaments left when local gaming stores closed during the pandemic.

The online version is a great way for newcomers to learn about Magic: The Gathering through tutorials, artificial intelligence fights, and hints during player versus player combat. As an avid player myself, I learned many confusing mechanics through the platform and can now say that I hold my own against other players.

While it’s not the same as interacting with people in person and having a back-and-forth banter, it’s something to relieve the lack of interaction with other players that both newcomers and veterans can enjoy.

The virtual game contains all known Magic cards that have been printed. Instead of forking over a hundred dollars — or even thousands — a player can spend a free wildcard to use a rare card without having to break their bank. Creating a physical deck — one that wins — can put a player out at least a hundred dollars, and that is if they find the cards they are looking for. Magic: The Gathering Arena is something casual players can use without having to pay anything.

I played online all throughout 2020 and into 2021 as I waited for game stores to open back up.

When I came back to campus this fall, I immediately set out to find the nearest store that sold cards in hopes that it would have in-person gatherings as restrictions loosened around campus. I found Critical Hit Games, located on South Linn Street downtown Iowa City

Critical Hit Games has Friday Night Magic starting at 6 p.m. with a standard format, which is a 60-card deck. Masks are required for purchasing items. If you want to play, you must provide proof of vaccination and wear a mask.

“We opened up in-person battles in late May after consulting with our community,” Owner Chance Kirchhof said. “We’re now getting almost the same number of people we had pre-lockdown. People wanted a community, and we provided a place for them.”

Whether you are sticking to the computer version or heading out to the nearest local game store to meet new people, Magic: The Gathering is a fantastic card game that provides new opportunities for people isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic to interact with others and participate in card games.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.