The tabletop game of the year 2020 should not be a surprise. I don’t remember if I gave it away in the last article, but I suppose I did by omission. Chris and I have recently shown an interest in Commander. Those who frequent the page know by now that I play Magic the Gathering Arena nearly daily.
Heck, I even diligently posted notable card articles throughout the year. Continued to buy sets (including far too many cards of Zendikar Rising) in spite of the fact that I haven’t played paper Magic the Gathering in at least a year. So, yes, if you have read the page at all, it will come as no surprise that Magic the Gathering is our tabletop game of the year 2020.
Similar to the mobile game of the year article, I will present the top 5 reasons for the choice. While I could give 10 or even 20 reasons, I will keep it at 5 (7, tops!)
#5 – Commander
I’ve been saying for several months now that I’m a Commander player who never played Commander. Sure, I goldfished a deck here and there on xMage. But, I never got into a regular playgroup and Chris and I never really dabbled in the format all that much. The closest we got was a few games of Tiny Leaders a few years ago.
That all changed last month. Well, not all of it. I still haven’t played a game of paper Commander. I goldfished each one of my decks that I now own. How do I own decks, you might ask. I’m glad you did. I purchased a Commander gift box from Channel Fireball that contained two of the prebuilt decks and some other goodies.
Then, I bought a super epic mega bundle of Zendikar rising that contained two other decks. I’ve already told this story. For those of you who haven’t read that post, the short story is that I now own 3 Commander decks. Chris, perhaps inspired by my purchase and definitely inspired by the cool cards in the set, bought a box of Commander Legends. He’s built a couple of decks, too. Now, we wait the time that we can get together and play and record.
#4 – Nostalgia
Regular readers of the page know that I’m not much of a nostalgia guy in general. I often scoffed in my teenage years when they kept trying to make Woodstock work again. I cackled audibly when the last one flamed out in violence. Talk about missing the point.
Nerd nostalgia, on the other hand, always works on me. Chris said something the other day about Commander feeling like when he first started playing the game with his buddy. I don’t have that same feeling yet with Commander. However, there are times that I’ll see a card in Legacy or Vintage and it will take me back to my freshman year in college when I learned how to play the game by borrowing a friend’s deck. So, like comics, as long as there is that attachment, I’ll keep coming back for more.
#3 – Finally a Viable Digital Alternative
Chris adamantly fights against our digital overlords. I stood by his side for as long as I could before finally caving last year. I’m now all in with the next generation consoles. I mean, if I can get the latest tech for 400 or 500 bucks? I’m wiling to trade off the physical medium. They mostly just take up space in my closets at this point. I don’t have a room like Chris does to show off the artwork.
How does this relate to Magic the Gathering? Well, my longest holdout against digital was our favorite collectible card game. MTGO still required real currency to buy digital cards. The economy of the game was the exact same but you didn’t get to keep the cards if the servers ended up getting shut down. xMage costs nothing. However, you have access to all cards. It’s great for messing around with limited strategies, but feels stupid for any type of constructed since there’s rarely any jank.
MTGA fixed that with the wild card system. I can buy cards with gold that I gain by playing the game and finishing quests. Most cards that I can’t find, I can craft using wild cards. No actual money is needed to play the game. Best of all, there is plenty of jank. Disclaimer: I have spent money on the game, though. I told you I’m all in.
#2 – Kids
Kids are usually higher on my lists. However, similar to Dungeons and Dragons, I haven’t been able to hook the older boys on Magic the Gathering. Liam prefers Pokemon. Once upon a time, Aiden played Yu Gi Oh and as recently as a couple of months ago, he organized the cards again. So, while I don’t consider them completely lost causes, it has been a struggle to get them interested.
Quinn, on the other hand, loves Magic. Christine calls him my little buddy and it’s not far from the truth. He and I have even played the board games Arena of the Planeswalkers on more than one occasion. Every now and then, he takes out his dinosaur deck that he created to tinker with it a bit. Part of the reason I stay in the game is to keep his interest until he’s old enough to play with some strategery.
#1 – The Game is Just Healthy Right Now
Many, including myself, have decried the power level of the game. However, having played MTGA repeatedly over the last year and a half, I can say that the power level of Standard and Historic are right about where they want them. You get to play with powerful cards, but you don’t often get blown out in games.
I joked earlier that I swear at the game and that’s not entirely untrue. I do still get frustrated by the perpetual issues of mana screw or flood. But, those games are honestly few and far between. Plus, the developers have gone a long way to trying to fix them with new ideas like higher conditional fetches and flip lands.
Of course, oldbies will argue that the game is completely different from when they played. This always progresses to the game is not as much fun as when they played. I argue this is part of the health of a game that lasted over 25 years. You want to play old school? By all means, do it. Let us poorer nerds have our overpowered Standard so we can pretend we’re as cool as you.
Hopefully I’ve made my case for Magic the Gathering as our tabletop game of the year 2020. While there have been times that I thought I might stop collecting, I’ve always come back. I’m glad that I did. The game is fun. It has a vibrant and growing community. Next year, they are releasing a set based on Dungeons and Dragons. What more could I ask for?