Widening Your Horizons
There are multiple very good trading card games on the market right now. I’ve always been a big proponent of expanding your TCG horizons by learning to play and getting competitive at those games. Like an NFL linebacker learning ballet, learning these other TCGs will make you a better Magic player. So this week I want to talk about some of the other TCG’s I’ve been playing and how they’ve advanced my Magic capabilities.
Let’s start with the only game that’s ever been a real competitor for Magic outside of Japan. Pokémon. The Pokémon TCG is a whole separate monster from the video games and the shows and the comics. I will say for the record I haven’t played Pokémon competitively for several years, but I just finished putting a new standard deck together with the rotation coming up on April 14th.
In case you live in a cave and have never seen anything Pokémon before, here’s a crash course. You have small little pocket monsters that can evolve into bigger, nastier threats. In the TCG you use energy cards to power your attacks by attaching them to your Pokémon. At the start of the game you put out six prize cards and every time you K.O. one of your opponents Pokémon you take some number of prize cards depending on how powerful the Pokemon you K.O’d was. When you claim your sixth prize card you win the game. This goes both ways, when you play your more powerful Pokemon you put yourself at risk of your opponent getting extra prize cards.
In that vein the aspect of Magic I think you get the biggest boost in by playing Pokemon is risk management. Knowing when and how to push your luck, how to read the board to intuit what is in your opponent’s hand, and knowing what your lines of play and outs are. Those are the things that set apart the very good Pokémon players and are something you can put directly towards your Magic game.
For the main part of this article I want to talk about the Digimon TCG. For me, personally, Digimon is the game I think has the most skills that are applicable directly to Magic. When you ask a Magic player what their least favorite thing in Magic is, almost all of them will get to Mana Screw eventually. While I think Mana Screw is an important and necessary part of the game, making it so the underdog can win sometimes being just one reason why, most players I’ve spoken with think the game would be better without the possibility of Mana Screw in the game at all. Digimon handles this in a nice way.
In Digimon your resource is Memory. Below is a Memory Gauge,
It starts at zero and ticks up to ten on either side of the gauge. When you
play a Digimon you pay some amount of memory, let's say you are playing this Agumon, in the top left of the card there are two costs. A play cost and a Digivolve cost (the Digivolution cost doesn’t matter here so we will ignore it for now). To play this card from your hand into your battle area it costs three memory, so if you play him that way you would move the marker three spots up the gauge. If it ever ticks above zero on your opponent's side of the gauge your turn is over and it is now their turn.
Then they have however much memory you gave them, plus however much they want to give you for your turn. They could give you one memory, or they could give you ten if they felt like playing something very powerful. This push and pull dictates the play of every game of Digimon. Some decks try to choke their opponents out by only giving them one memory a turn, while others don’t care how much memory they give because their individual card quality is so high.
Managing this resource is the single strongest aspect of the entire game of Digimon. Because of this, sequencing your turns in the proper order becomes the most important part of becoming a good Digimon player. Becoming proficient at keeping my board states in order and sequencing my turns properly has made it easier for me to play some of the more complicated Magic decks that are super dependent on sequencing. My success with decks like Titan, Yawgmoth, and Grixis Midrange in standard have all been improved by becoming proficient in Digimon. Digimon is easy to get started with as a new player, with starter decks available at just $12.
I’ve not played Yu-Gi-Oh in over a decade and I know that the game is very different now than it was then. That being said, the one thing that game did teach me as I got better at it was how important testing new decklists is until you have a smooth list that has all the cards you could need. So many Yu-Gi-Oh lists are built around one-ofs and very specific card interactions that taking that ethos to a game like Magic can give you the edge you need when you start to deck build in Limited as well as eternal formats.
There are a million games that you can play to widen your horizons and add the skills you learn to your Magic repertoire. Drafting games like Sushi Go, or games like Sentinels of the Multiverse can help your Limited game by giving you another lens to look at the draft through.
Learning games like Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40K will make you a more well rounded gamer. While these games might not have anything specific I can point to and say “I am better because of this”, learning new tactical games and gaining new experiences will expand what resources you can draw on.
What do you think? Are there any games that you’ve played that you think lines up well with a particular Magic skill? Let me know what kind of games you play besides Magic.