By Michael Mac Callum
Imagine walking into your favorite card shop for a local trading card game tournament. You see some of the same people as usual, your typical play group. Wow, there’s a large turnout today; usually there are around eight people, but this time there are 14.
This was the scene at Lefty’s Sport Cards in Millbrae, California on Sept. 22, starting at 10 a.m. and ranging until 1 p.m.
You play a few games against your first opponent. Narrowly, you lose the first one, and then you win by a large amount on the second game. The set is best of three; you have one game left. You again very narrowly lose, and you go on to your second opponent
You do this two more times; most games are very close, and, at the end, the shop owner asks who won and what the score was. You earn three packs, but the event isn’t over yet; people begin to pull out binders and show each other their cards for trade. You trade a few low value cards for a high value and fairly rare card, a solid trade.
Now, imagine you are at a Magic the Gathering World Championship; thousands of dollars are at stake. The game is going slow, and the odds are tipping into the opponent’s favor until you draw just the right card to land the last fatal blow.
This is what happens every year at Trading Card Game tournaments around the globe. Trading Card Games (also known as TCGs) are games where two players duel using decks of collectable cards which all have unique effects. Some popular trading card games you might have heard of would be Magic the Gathering Yu-Gi-Oh or Cardfight Vanguard.
Trading card games are based on luck, deckbuilding, memory and timing, but a lot of the fun is in the community surrounding it, which has been described positively by many. Magic the Gathering Grand Prix competitor Collin Mo said that he feels the TCG community is a “warm and welcoming environment” and that it is “easy to just join in.”
For many people, TCGs are just a hobby. For instance: Shasta senior Luke Kyi, a six-year Cardfight Vanguard player, said he only really plays for fun, not tournaments. But playing as just a hobby isn’t all that is offered; quite a few people play trading card games at a competitive level, or at least want to pursue a competitive level. One of those people include Shasta senior Pius Loo.
When asked whether Loo would consider playing trading card games on a competitive level, he responded, “I would, but I feel like my decks, in all games, are kind of inferior to the meta.” The meta is defined as what decks are currently “tournament viable” and, while you could technically play whatever deck you had at the moment, certain decks are significantly better than others due to either being good against a lot of the other strong decks or just good synergies between powerful cards. This is a problem that some TCG players face because most of the game isn’t just playing — it is the outside planning of deck construction, the consideration of other decks your opponents may bring and knowing how your decks fares against those.
However, those who invest the time have often found themselves a lot of success. One example would be Shasta senior Jason Agbunag, who has been playing Yu-Gi-Oh since second grade. Agbunag once made it to the Yu-Gi-Oh World Tournament, the largest tournament that Yu-Gi-Oh offers.
But trading card games can often have even more of an impact than just competitive play. As described by Mo, who has participated in the Magic the Gathering Grand Prix event, one of the largest Magic the Gathering tournaments there is, explains that trading card games taught him quite a bit of math and language skills as well as how to take things slowly. He explained, “There’s not too much pressure to make a decision, so it teaches you how to consider your decision and consider the process in which you want to navigate — let’s say — a complicated board state or determine how you want to build your deck.”
In the end, according to Loo and Moyrong, all TCGs are about: collecting cards, dueling others and making “big brain plays.”
Featured Image (at the top of this post): Two players mid-match at a Magic the Gathering tournament. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Mac Callum