Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mourning The Death Of The Starter Pack.

I first started playing Magic: The Gathering all the way back in 1993. The
current set at the time was called unlimited, but revised was just being
released. And when I rushed out to buy my first cards, it was two starter packs that
I picked up. When you bought cards back then you only had two options: a 15 card
booster that came with no lands, or a starter. The starters were wonderful, they
came with a little card sized rulebook(yes the rules fit on a little pocket
booklet back then), and 60 cards including lands for about 8 bucks. They were
unbeatable for beginners or building a collection of cards on a budget. Sadly, I
am told they quit producing starters years ago.

For me, the starter pack has been a preferred option when I was able to afford to
buy cards, you could get a nice assortment of cards and you got a perfect little
box to carry a deck in. One of my favorite things though was how well it lent
itself to sealed deck tournaments. You could buy into a evening of fun at a
local store for the price of a starter usually or so and then have loads of fun
playing other players. No matter the skill or how vast their collection you were on
a more even footing, and even if you lost every match you got to keep your

I have seen many changes over the years, especially when I played regularly. The
subtle slow change in atmosphere and flavor as editions passed like ages of a
long history. Some parts I never cared for, some sets I never liked the feel of,
and some changes I still puzzle over. But the death of the Starter pains me, it
even has gotten me to thinking about a number of things.

For example; it's common knowledge that I have never had a great deal of
resources at my disposal to buy cards. Unlike some of my peers who I would watch
order entire boxes at each set's launch, I only managed an occasional pack or
two. There was once I got a box on clearance at our local store but it was
really cheap(ridiculously so). So for me, like some others out there, I never played with these
fabled decks littered with cards like the 'power nine.' I always made do with
whatever I had or could trade for which often amounted to cards some sneered

You wanna know something though? I can't count the number of times seasoned
players have scoffed at my decks, at cards they saw when they were younger and
regarded as junk and found themselves cursing my name. Have I routinely bested
those I played with enough to be considered some unbeatable player of legend;
far from it. I have never won a tournament, not even finished in the top 3 or
so. There are some dear friends and family members to this day I don't think I
have ever legitimately beaten. But I have had countless hours of fun playing,
and more than my share of surprise victories.

In my opinion, some sets may lack a certain value, some cards may even have a
limited scope to their worth, but very few can actually be called worthless. I
sold my cards years ago to a dear friends parents for Christmas so they could
give them to him as a gift. It was really the only way they could afford to get
him some cards of his own. Awhile later I was dying to play again and some of my
own friends jestingly took mercy on me and donated stacks of common cards to me.
I made good use of them as I built decks to play with, some of which actually
made them scratch their heads and review their previous thoughts on some cards. Others still mockingly laugh at me anytime they see a Kird Ape(You know who you are!), or a dwarf deck.

But since the death of the starter, and this is merely my own conjecture at this
point, it seems like the more modern players have a highly skewed view. It is
almost seems like if the cards aren't the current trendy combo's or your deck isn't
built similar to some pro's ideal build that your not a skilled player. The
current methodology sounds like players are expected to buy entire boxes of
cards to devour for the cream of the crop rares and then discard the rest as
fodder. This idea never set well with me then and still doesn't now. As a old
player thinking to try and pick up some of the newer cards(as finances permit) I
was hoping to start with a *shock-shock* starter or two. Boosters are fine for
some stuff but the limited number of cards never appealed to me. And now with
these new 'fat packs' I think they have something similar to starters but way
too expensive.

So, I guess if you'll excuse me I'll spend a moment of silence to mourn the
death of a classic part of Magic's culture and history. Perhaps I'll use it to
ponder just what kids put their cards in these days... We used to be quite
inventive ourselves, is this generation lacking ingenuity as well?