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CardShark Content - Matthew Smith (5/27/2003)

Easter Sunday, the door slams and I’m not home. The Sun lazily slides in through the half-covered storm window. A dull chatter whirs from somewhere upstairs as the fish tank I bought for my wife two years ago churns gallon after gallon of water. A squeak from the machine on my desk, a faint grinding sound from the platters on the hard drive as they toil away, endlessly. From outside a car passes by. A Honda, a four speed, or so…

Enter Smith family. Door swings open, happy faces bounce into the living room and conversation rings off the walls of the once silent room. These Smith’s have doled out justice to this Easter day. The men return from golf and the women return from shopping. Easter as it should be. But wait—wrong day. Wrong feeling. Wrong story.

Saturday night, day before Easter Sunday and I’m perched precariously at the computer station. I’ve just tuned a “secret” multi-player deck that I’m anxious to try out when the phone rings. The phone rarely rings for this man.

The wife beckons and I approach the phone, warily. On the other line is a recognizable voice.

“Hey,” says the voice.
“Hey,” I reply.
“You know who this is?” says voice.
“Of course I do, Joe”
“You wanna roleplay?”
“Sure, when?”
“It’s 11:30 at night,” I groan.

I hate being the people’s bitch.

Joe is my cousin, but even more, he’s what you wouldn’t consider him to be. He’s a jock, he’s a pretty boy, he gets ladies, and he has friends with money. Money can buy you happiness. I’ve seen it done.

I’m informed that I’ll be accommodating seven tonight as I host a magical evening of third edition dungeons and dragons—and that scares me. Seven is a tall drink. Seven preps is the Pacific.

Back to 94, Anywhere U.S.A, middle of Senior year in High School. Football or Art? After school trip to hobby shop or fishing pond? Which group of friends do I eat lunch with?

Find yourself. Find yourself fast before you discover it’s not you.

I have no need to play fantasy games. I have friends who have money. I get ladies. I’m a jock.

I am a closet nerd.

I’m torn, really. I need to follow my herd. This is High School. I mean, what’s life after High School? I eat and die sports, girls, clothing, and popularity—or I should. I should do those things. On the other hand, why bother? Why not take the laughs, hang out with the freaks, enjoy my last year despite what “they” think? If money is the root of all evil, why are all the freaks miserable? What sort of moral justice lies underneath?

I like the world of fantasy; so much so that I’ve exposed the parasite to another of the group. I nurtured Joe since a tender age, and shown him the wonders of fantasy. I’ve exposed the underbelly of the beast, and today was my day to strike.

Back to Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, and back to the telephone conversation.

“Any experience out of the bunch?” I ask.
“Well, Chad plays computer games,” replies Joe.
I’ve got him then.
“And I told the others that it’s the best game they’ll ever play,” Joe states—I’ve taught him well.
“Okay, I can whip something up quick. I’ll be over in an hour.”

Intimidating is the only word I can use to describe this task. I’ve got to put on my best show. No use wearing the faded X-men t-shirt; I’ve got to follow the herd again. I’ve got to follow the herd, so they can follow me. Time to slick back the hair, grab the faded jeans that are in style, sport the brand name. Appearance will be one important piece, but my slang will be detrimental. “Tech” is out. “Sup kid”, is in. A flurry of dice, pencils, handbooks, “I won’t stay out late,” and I’m gone.

I am Moses. I am Lewis & Clark. I am a fantasy pimp.

The white Eclipse rolls to a stop just at the corner of the three-story house. The pools in the back, but I’m going to the front door. Enter Moses, fantasy pimp.


The room fades black. My point of view gets higher, my head decreases until I’m standing as tall as the wooden desk chair. The night’s cool breeze tickles the back of my neck as I stand naked amidst seven High schoolers as stated in the contract. They are staring at a married, 27 year old, out of the closet nerd—and I can’t read their reactions.

“How’s it going man?”
“Hey sup.”
“Is this your cousin? Hey man.”

Phase one complete with minimal loss of integrity. The pencils are thrown down and the dice come out. Char
CharSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Adam Rex
Char deals 4 damage to target creature or player and 2 damage to you.
acters get made and rules get explained. Lives are created, indifferently. For now. These are virgin gamers—gambling with ideas they hold in their minds. It’s difficult for them to create an original life when there own is borrowed.

Brief backgrounds are laid out and then the golden rule. Golden Rule #1: I will not interfere with your play. This is not real, but it has “real like” repercussions. You are the master of your destiny.

It’s time to start another campaign. Put a world into motion. Joe helps with the prodding and poking, but some of these preps aren’t doing to bad. I open the floor a bit to see how they can handle the pressure and they amaze themselves with their creativity. It grows. They begin to reach out, go to other rooms for secret chat and work with one another. And then it happens. A battle has begun and our heroes face an army of Goblins. I call for immediate attention and they all stand up. They stand to attention and form their ranks. They imitate their every move, shouting commands to their fellow players, explaining how they deal their death blows, and give themselves the dialect they’ve watched on television—the same dialect they’ve always wanted. Tonight they let high school go. Tonight they are back in grade school, back when they were racing through the fields with toy pistols. Back when lives difficult decisions were always solved with eeny meeny miny moe.

I’m amazed. I’ve not done much to warrant this type of behavior. It’s happened, and by no means is it by my doing. I merely opened the avenue and gave them a car, they drove through fantasy lane. But wait…the phone rings—it’s a girlfriend. I hear chit chat, and then the explanation.

“I told her I was playing a game.”
“Good, we can’t let them know,” replies the group.
“Yeah, I wear corduroy,” I remark, stifled.
Still jocks, still Highschoolers, and still closet nerds.

And into the night we head, gaming hard until the sun rises. I really have to go, despite the petition from the group. A heartfelt thanks is issued, along with a, “We have got to do this again.” I may not have conquered the beast, but I’m slowly gaining ground.

This might not sound like your story, and you might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, I’ll bet he had it hard, having to decide between fantasy and friends,” but it dominated my life, and countless other lives I’m sure, for four years of High School. Some of us are not born nerds—we have to earn it. Besides, can you claim to be Moses, the fantasy pimp? What have YOU done for Magic lately?


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