Magic the Gathering

It might be for you

Friday night, 6 p.m., Dewey Hall, room 132: It’s where the Magic happens.

This is the meeting place of a club dedicated to playing Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game that has been around since 1993 and has steadily gained popularity over the years. It simulates one-on-one battle through the use of cards that represent spells or fantastical creatures, and depending on the format or your opponent’s skill level, requires varying amounts of skill and luck to come away victorious.

You may have seen flyers on bulletin boards around campus to promote the club — it’s always open to new members.

“We have a very welcoming community,” said Siobhàn Anderson, an experienced Magic player and former councilmember of the club. “[New players] might actually be overwhelmed at first, the amount of times we’re like, ‘Come on, come play, don’t be shy.’”

According to councilmember and co-founder Sawyer Judkins’ estimation, the club has an average of 12 to 20 regular players. “We have tournaments every week,” he said. “You need eight [people] to fire a three-round tournament… We rarely ever have to not fire one off. A lot of times people just show up.”

The tournaments themselves change each week, based on the format that’s been chosen. “It’s not just, you have the cards, you play them,” Judkins said. “There’s a bunch of different formats, which take groups of cards from different sets and time periods and put them together in certain chunks.”

With these possible variations in game play, it makes sense that avid players might have a multitude of cards at their disposal. Anderson quickly tallied her total to be 280 in decks, plus extra cards.

However, after a long moment of thought and the help of a calculator, Judkins replied with a rather more intimidating number: “9600, at least,” she said. “I have more sitting on my table that I haven’t sorted and I just bought… 81 packs with 15 cards each… I have a lot.”

The more experienced players in the club are generally willing to lend out a deck or two from their extensive collections if it means initiating a new player into the group. “We have a lot of players on campus who have decks specifically designed for teaching,” Judkins said.

But being taught doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll learn. “You have to be pretty motivated to want to learn how to play,” he said. “If you’re being forced to play it doesn’t really work. That’s my biggest thing: If someone’s interested, they should be interested.” The emphasis lay heavily on his last two words, attesting to his sincerity.

“I think that some people don’t understand the club from the outside,” Anderson said, referring to negative comments and misconceptions about the club. “I have heard some things… People being like, ‘Really? Magic? Isn’t that for elementary schoolers?’”

Judkins agreed that his experience with such comments was similar. “All I hear is people being like, ‘Heh, Magic. You guys are a bunch of nerds,’” he said. “And whatever. I don’t care. We don’t care. We’re playing what we enjoy.”

In addition to its weekly games, the club has participated in an entirely different sort of magic: the magic of Christmas. As community service last year, the club collected donations for Lamoille County’s Toys for Tots organization. “One of our members brought in this giant teddy bear for his donation,” Anderson said. “I brought it in and dropped it off, and there was this little girl going, ‘Ahhhhh!’… So that was really cool, to be able to see this little girl, and the parents actually came up and thanked me personally for it.”

Judkins and Anderson said that they would like to continue the fundraiser this year, with better advertising to hopefully attract more donations.

At its core, though, the club is really about having fun and getting an opportunity to spend time with like-minded people.

“We…provide people who are interested in playing, or do play, a safe environment to be able to play and not feel judged for what they enjoy doing,” Judkins said. “People know that every Friday, Dewey 132, they can show up at six and just be able to be there, have a fun time, and not worry about who’s going to be watching.”

Anderson also added a word to the women: “Even if you’re a girl and you think, ‘Oh, this is a guy-dominant club,’ it kind of used to be but now it’s pretty good. About 25 percent of our players are female, so… Girls, feel free to come on by.”