I went to the band room before recess ended to grab my trombone and set up my music. My friends usually congregated there to just chill out and talk about the nerdy pursuits of the day, anyway, so I figured I’d go hang out. When I got there, my friends were huddled in a circle on the ground in the back of the classroom. No one had any new pogs or anything, so I couldn’t figure out why they’d be down there.
“Alright Geo, I attack you with my dragon and this goblin.”
“Well my wall of wood blocks your goblin, so I guess I lose five life from the dragon?”
OK, what the heck was going on? They were playing my beloved Dungeons and Dragons, but with cards? I needed this in my life immediately. One player drew mystical energy from two trees and poured his life essence into creating an immense, world-destroying fireball that would have done at least 10d6 damage. The other reached deep into the briny waves to vaporize this spell with their own, and turn it into an oyster whose pearl was formed of that exact energy. There were knights and wizards and elves and everything I pretended to be while reading my Dragonlance novels or playing my Dragon Warrior games on the NES. Yes, even a Dragon, that beast so amazing that the games and novels were named for it.
I needed to see the dragon. It was my favorite creature in the world, and being able to control it myself? Priceless.
My pal pulled out his deck from the starter box he kept it in and let me flip through the cards. I saw mountains and goblins and spells of fire and lightning, and forests and elves and what looked like a tiny embryo in a green sac that apparently really didn’t like black cards. Finally, I got to it: the majestic beast of legend and lore. The art was stunning; it looked just like it had flown in from a module.
Except…what was it called? Really? Shivan Dragon. With an N. My whole life, I’d been mocked for my name, and seen it tortured and spelled infinite different ways, and here it was, my favorite monster in the universe, and it was my name misspelled! Come on!
Well, if Red was going to wreck my name? So be it. I would do everything in my power to thwart this monster’s plans. I turned to Geo and asked, “What are the enemies of the dragons and mountains?” He replied that blue and white were, the lands of angels and controlling magics and mind games. Wizards, huh? Alright, I’m in. Geo told me that if I gave him 25 bucks or something, he’d make me a deck. I somehow finagled my parents into giving me money (8th grade, remember. Not exactly rolling in the cash here.) and, as promised, Geo gave me a blue and white deck, with cards from all through Magic’s long and storied year and a half of history, stretching from Unlimited to The Dark. Water Elementals and Wall of Swords, Counterspells and Control Magics. It was mostly commons and uncommons, and it didn’t matter because I was completely in love.
Reader, decades later I can safely look back and tell you that I am not, by nature, a blue-white control player. I love turning cards sideways, swinging into the red zone, and leaving it all on the table on my turn. But by God, I was so infuriated at the complete degradation and disrespect of my name that I did not play Red for fifteen years. But here I was, drawn to the cold and blustery Tundra by fate and by hate, and I made the most of it. Serendib Efreets and Mahamoti Djinns took to the skies to blast right by those Craw Wurms and Goblin Raiders that could only look up as I effortlessly skipped over them to destroy their masters. Lightning Bolts were caught in my spell blasts. Forces of Nature became farming implements with the slightest hint of the mana of the sweeping fields of grass and wheat. And the deck itself, a mystic spellbook with a jeweled back hiding the mysteries inside.
Magic was it, the D&D that I always wanted but never had time for. Instead of reading about wizards, I WAS the wizard. I got to be Raistlin with his quiet chants and mind-altering spells. I inhabited Mickey Mouse of Fantasia, controlling the waves to do my command. I was a mage, and I carried my spellbook everywhere I went.
Our conversations immediately changed. Pogs were left by the wayside; Sega Genesii and Super Nindendosen grew layers of dust. All that mattered was figuring out if you had the right Circles of Protection for Jeff’s insane Mana Flare mana burn deck, or praying that you didn’t accidentally stumble into Nick’s land destruction/Black Vise nonsense. We pored over Scryes and InQuests like they were the scriptures. Some of my friends even got college scholarships from the new Junior Pro Tour thing. It was a heady time.
We were not good players, mostly, but that didn’t matter when the power of the Multiverse was at our fingertips. Magic was exactly the right game for the right time, after D&D had started to decline but before video games really captured the minds and hearts of youth. For those of us looking to escape the difficulties of our daily lives, Magic gave us the ability to not just be good, but to be the greatest. All we had to do was tap a few lands, and call forth the power that was in us all along.
Shivam’s First Deck
4 Mahamoti Djinn
2 Serra Angel
2 Wall of Swords
4 Prodigal Sorcerer
2 Water Elemental
2 Sea Serpent
1 Wall of Water
1 Air Elemental
4 Benalish Hero
2 Ghost Ship
1 Wall of Air
2 White Knight
Do you remember your first deck? Drop us a line at @Card_Kingdom!
Header image: “Shivan Dragon” by Donato Giancola