Every day is magical at Most Excellent Gaming on Enfield Street, as an old favorite card game is experiencing resurgence in popularity.
On the heels of its 20th anniversary, Magic: The Gathering, produced by Wizards of the Coasts draws dozens of players to the gaming and comic store for tournaments and free play.
In this age of electronic gaming, Magic players are “unplugged,” using decks consisting of 60 or more cards from a selection of thousands produced over the years. Infinite variations and combinations of decks are possible leading to unique gaming experiences with each session.
The basic premise of the game is a duel between wizards, who use magic spells, summon creatures, and employ ancient artifacts in an attempt to dispatch their opponent wizard. Drawing on five different types of land, mountains, forests, swamps, plains, and islands to power five corresponding “colors of magic,” each with specific strengths and weaknesses, the players attempt to serve up combinations of cards to gain the advantage.
The game is not very difficult to learn. Most Excellent owner Mason Allen said there is usually someone on his staff ready and willing to teach new players the game on any given afternoon. But with nearly 20 years worth of card sets, each one playable in the game, the complexity of games can be staggering.
The popularity of Magic represents a reversal of fortunes for the game, according to Allen. Being in the comics and collectibles business for 18 years, he has seen the fortunes of the game rise and fall.
“It was probably at an all-time low four years ago, but it has gotten really popular again in the last two years,” he said.
Allen believes the transition of players from other popular card games, including Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh, as they get older and are seeking more complicated strategies accounts for the resurgent popularity of Magic.
While any two players can compete against one another, Most Excellent is a registered location for organized play sponsored by the makers of the game.
With hundreds of sites throughout the world, Magic being an international gaming phenomenon, players earn ratings based on sanctioned game play, similar to chess ratings. Many tournaments with high-level prizes are played throughout the world, and there is a Magic World Championship played in November or December each year for top ranking players.
Most Excellent Gaming runs several tournaments every month in a variety of play formats and judges for the tournaments must complete an examination administered by Wizards of the Coast to insure proper adjudication of rules questions during the tournament. With some tournaments drawing more than 70 participants, the competition can be fierce.
In addition to Most Excellent Gaming, Matt's Sports Cards and Comics on Elm Street also offers sanctioned play in Enfield.
Some of the older cards in the game, long out of print, command very high prices.
“The Black Lotus (an extremely rare early card from the original Magic set) sells for $5000,” Allen said.
Most of the current cards in the set are less valuable, though some tournament quality cards can fetch over $20 per card.
Players acquire cards in packs with a random selection similar to baseball cards and trade with other players to acquire the spells they want for their decks.
Over the years, the game has been praised by parent groups for its ability to help players develop social and mental skills. The game has won numerous awards for its game mechanics including an early award by Mensa.
Several area schools have Magic clubs according to Allen, and the game seems to have been embraced as a positive influence. Magic proves that a game need not be on a computer, console, or social network to draw rabid players.