Magic moves online

By JOSEPH R. THOMPSON  |  May 10, 2006

Other card shops felt the lift too. Paul Kane, the proprietor of Don’s Sport Cards, was skeptical about the amount of space the Magic cards took up when he was considering buying the sport card store in 2004. “Come to find out it’s the most solid thing in here, though,” says Kane. “[Magic sales are] very, very steady.” The shop mainly focuses on selling sport cards, like boxing, baseball, and hockey and card collecting paraphernalia like protective cases and price guides. But on the western wall of the store, behind the counter, a four-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling shelf is devoted to Magic: The Gathering. And, visible from the retail floor, several stacks of boxes filled with unopened foil packs of Magic cards wait in the storage room to replenish the display.

While most sport cards release one set a year, the Magic and other cards based on the game model are different — since they don’t have a season or draft picks to determine their subjects, card makers can release new cards at will. WoC releases up to four different sets a year and sanctions various types of tournaments which phase out older cards and requires players who want to compete to have the latest, most up-to-date sets. And, the online version also continues this model by excluding any cards that haven’t been reprinted with each new release. “Baseball will sell year-round but the other sports have their seasons: Racing is starting now so racing is picking up and football is slowing down,” says Kane. “But, with Magic and non-sport cards, those are year round. They don’t have a season.”

Back to the players . . .
There is also a tactile-social aspect to Magic: The Gathering, which may be the cause for the cool reception of the online version here. At The Keep, Thacker says he’s only known a couple of customers who have tried the game. “I don’t think they enjoyed it initially,” says Thacker. “I don’t think they enjoyed buying booster packs online and then waiting to trade their cards in and come through the mail.” And beyond the time delay, Thacker believes the online version undermines the basic reason why people play a card game. “The whole point a game is the human interaction that you have, especially something like cards that have been around for like what, 1500 years probably?” says Thacker. “I understand that you can play Magic Online and do duels with other people play for ante and all that kind of stuff but you’re still losing the ability to look at somebody in the face, know who your opponent is and play with a friend. I don’t think online gaming will replace that kind of interaction.”

However, while really learning your opponent can be difficult in an online game, they do have a place in the gaming world and are here to stay. “I have four gaming machines back here hooked up with a guy playing World of Warcraft and I’m playing City Heroes,” says Thacker. “I am sure that traditional games, miniature games will, and are, seeing a downturn and until some kind of status quo happens and the computer gaming world will get humdrum again.”

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Where to buy Magic cards
Don’s Sports Cards Center | 578 Brighton Ave, Portland | 207.772.0625 |

The Keep | 124 Maine Street, Brunswick | 207.729.9255 |

Weekend Anime | 4 Westbrook Common, Westbrook | 207.591.7070 |

Where to play Magic games
Weekend Anime | 4 Westbrook Common, Westbrook | 207.591.7070 |

Crossroad Games | 152 US Rte 1, Scarborough | 207.883.2700 | 15 Fort Hill Rd, Standish | 207.642.2612 |

Magic terms
ANTE: A bet, usually of a card, placed at the beginning of a game or tournament, which the winner gets to keep.

DRAFT: When each player in a game opens a set number of packs and takes one card and then passes them around, taking cards from other people’s packs. This continues until all players have constructed a deck for game play.

FOIL OR BOOSTER PACK: A pack of 15 random cards wrapped in foil that sell for an average of $3.50 per pack. These include 11 common cards, 3 uncommon cards and 1 rare.

THEME OR STARTER DECK: A pre-constructed deck ready for game play of about 40 cards; this deck includes a variety of lands, spells, and creatures.

Find out more on the game at