Introduction – What is “super casual”?

I love the game of Magic, but I’ve never had the resources to be more than the most casual of players. I was introduced to Magic while in graduate school, and graduate students do not have a lot of disposable income (or time for that matter – at least the serious ones don’t). My first Magic purchase was an old “tournament pack” for VIth Edition (back when the borders of core sets were still white), that I picked up for less than retail at a flea-market. I also had a friend with a large collection of cards who gave me a binder full of cards going back to Revised Edition to help me get started deck building (there may even have been some Alpha or Beta cards in that collection – just commons though, although there was an Urza Block Yawgmoth’s Will in the binder that I still have). I played for a few years (Invasion Block and Odyssey Block) with a core group of friends, fairly regularly, until I graduated. What pushed me towards “retiring” was my frustration at being unable to compete with some of my friends (I think one of them even had some Moxes) who had more powerful (read: too expensive) cards. I don’t claim that I was better than them (in fact, Magic’s ability to reveal my weakness at game strategy was probably another contributing factor in my “retirement.”), just that it was frustrating to lose to cards that I could never even hope to own. That, plus the fact that I could see an unending cycle of new cards coming out with each new set spiraling out of control, made me think it best to avoid the financial and temporal pitfall that Magic represents. I figured I’d dredge up my puny collection someday and play some casual Magic with my kids.

That is essentially what happened. When I started teaching my kids to play, however, I couldn’t help but start checking out the latest set of cards, which happened to be the Magic 2011 core set. I bought the starter/theme decks, started playing regularly with my kids, started reading magicthegathering.com again, which led to me other Magic strategy sites, and now I’m right back in the thick of things. But I still don’t have a lot of money to spend on my hobby. With a whole house full of players all drawing from the same pool of cards, however, there is less frustration, and more balance to the play (and when I lose, I lose to another deck of my own creation). We have slowly added a bit to my collection, although even now, my collection only fills about 7 boxes (500 count?), plus two 2” binders, plus about 30 decks, including pre-cons (Duel Decks, Archenemy, etc.).

The question is, what do I spend my limited resources on? Well, I have to say that the online singles market has developed quite a bit while I was away from the game. Sure, you can buy any card you want nowadays, but we’re still talking about little pieces of cardboard, some of which are worth more than whole booster box (take a bow, Jace, the Mind Sculptor). If I’m not careful, I could find myself in serious trouble with some seriously overpriced cardstock. But I have also grown quite disillusioned with booster packs. It just feels like gambling (and like gambling, it is more losing than winning). Too many cards are packed into those booster packs for limited (drafting or sealed-deck) tournaments, which not even I would think of putting into a constructed deck, and when a booster pack has a “dud rare”, it’s really disappointing. So, I cap myself at $4.00 for any single card – in my view, no card is worth more than the booster pack it came in – and I allow myself to proxy four copies of any card I bought for over $1. There are some cards I will just never own, but I still get to play with some when I proxy up a tournament deck to test against. Even if I got an expensive card in one of the few booster packs I buy, I would probably just sell it to help fund my habit (I did this recently with a Mox Opal). There’s still a lot of fun to be had with Magic even without the “best” cards.

I would probably be defined as a Timmy in the world of Magic psychographics. I do love an obviously powerful card with a very splashy effect. But, I also love to pull off a cool combo during a game and build decks with synergy front-and-center. And, even though I’ve never played in a sanctioned Magic tournament (I don’t even have a DCI number), I am an avid follower of the tournament scene and sometimes dream of building the ultimate budget rogue deck vs. the current metagame to come out of nowhere and win a big tournament. So, I dabble in all three of the psychographics (Timmy, Johnny, and Spike), as I suspect many others do too. My favorite card is Coalition Victory, and I want to win with five creatures of different colors (not just one five-color creature).

This triple psychographic, coupled with very limited resources, is how I define and plan to use “super casual” on this blog. I’ll be going through each new set looking for the fun “build around me” cards, especially the ones that aren’t likely to see tournament play; I’ll be brewing up theme decks and even thematic tournaments; and I’ll be commenting on the tournament scene, then proxying up some of the best decks and trying to beat them with my super casual brews.

Let me close with a short list of the currently overpriced cards that I really want:

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