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Gabriel Showers Introduction by Gabriel Showers
Hello. My name is Gabriel Showers. I'm 26 and I have been playing magic since about 1996. It is my favorite game, as evidenced by the numerous reviews I have posted on this site over the past few years. As my reviews got more and more complex, often containing decklists and detailed explanation of card interaction, I took it upon myself to ask the moderator of The Wizard's Cupboard about writing articles for the site, and so now here those articles begin. As I plan to write articles on a semi-regular basis on all subjects MTG related for this site, I feel as though that I should use this first article to provide some background, to present my MTG pedigree and explain my take on the game.

For the past year or so, I have found part-time weekend work in a shop called Collector's Realm 3 on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, that sells Magic The Gathering trading cards, as well as many other collectibles and novelties. Recently, the owner of Collector's Realm 3 (or CR3) has supported an in-store 'beat the champ' promotional challenge, with yours truly as the champion and defender of the realm. The entry is free with stepping foot in the place, the format is Vintage, no proxies, 1 game (a complete match would take to long, and the single game eliminates the need for a sideboard). You beat me in that game and you win a free booster pack of your choice. If I win, well, you can always re-challenge me next weekend. It's a strange, somewhat unique promotion for a hole-in-the-wall, dusty pit of a place crammed full of amazing items and long-forgotten relics, and I would recommend to anyone ever visiting Berkeley to dig around in this curious archive for a bit.

I moved to Berkeley a few years ago. I grew up in Hayward (just south of Oakland). I entered high school just as Magic was gaining it's popularity, and luckily a games and comic shop opened in the shopping center near my family's house at just the right time, giving me access to many of the amazing cards my friends had already amassed. I would play with these friends in the school library after class, or at least I did, until the school sought to ban the game. It was a Catholic highschool, and being caught in the possession the old-school art of Demonic Tutor and Unholy
Strength were enough to get one detention, if not suspension. Entire decks were confiscated and destroyed, and the magic scene at the school was forced underground.

I, however, rebelled. There were a few ways one could in the situation, and continuing to play magic outside of school was one of the more fulfilling and healthy options. Another was Punk Rock. I am a proud Magic punk, and for me the two subcultures seem to complement each other nicely. I don't spike up my dreadlocked mohawk for going to Friday Night Magic drafts (if I'm not at a show Friday night), but I do have a tattoo of the symbol in the top left-hand corner of Mark Tedin's art for Lord of the Pit on my arm. My first experiences with Berkeley were punk rock shows at 924 Gilman St, and now, several years later, I am happy to find that both the Punk scene and the Magic scene have flourished here. Since, as a teen, I was first introduced to the amazing culture of Berkeley, I wished to become a part of it, and now I get paid on weekends to play magic on Telegraph Avenue, often times using that money to go to a punk show afterwards. strange how things work out.

I mostly play casual Magic with various groups of friends in Oakland and San Jose, although for the past year or so I have been delving into other formats, such as Standard and the little-known 5 Color format. I have well over 70 constructed decks, and I have found myself attending drafts on a more regular basis as of late. I am also a collector of Magic oddities, such as promo cards, oversized cards, foreign cards and misprints. I haven't played online magic (typing is the majority of my computer skills), though I do occasionally enjoy an older video game called Shandalar, which is worth checking out if you are into weird and wacky old-school Magic stuff.

I am something of a fantasy goober, or a Vorthos, if you are familiar with the Jimmy/Johnny/Spike/Vorthos philosophies of Magic. One of my favorite movies is an animated fantasy epic called The Flight Of Dragons which, if you have not seen and play magic, I must strongly recommend, as there are some amazing parallels between the two. I've even been teaching myself to cover the theme song of that movie on my guitar (Yes I play guitar too). I am also a very big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore novels.

Just today, I received my first ever piece of the Power Nine in the mail, a Mox Jet, which I ordered online, from this very site. My Vothosian side now feels justified in writing full-length articles on Magic, as though somehow owning a Power Nine card validates my Magic knowledge to the point that I can portray myself as an expert on the game in articles such as this. Still, when it comes down to it, I am a casual player, and although I believe I can hold my own in many varied formats, I prefer to get together with old friends around someone's kitchen table and play for hours on end without the pressure of prize structures, rare drafting and DCI ratings.

One of my favorite new casual formats, which will often come as a finale to a long night of gaming, is the several-hundred-card Party Deck. It is a singular deck I constructed from which all players draw, and containing some of the most slighted, unplayed cards in the game. Un-set cards and color-hosers abound, and cards like Jinxed Choker, Measure of Wickedness, and Touch and Go are groan-inducing bombs. It's a great way to use cards that would otherwise just be taking up space in some box somewhere. The rules vary, but one that has tended to stick is that you can cycle any card with more than 1 colored mana in it's casting cost at any time for free. This helps prevent mana-screw and helps to fill a shared graveyard with Gotcha and Flashback cards. The games tend to last a long time, but are amazingly fun and balanced (especially when Phyrexian Librarian has been on the table for a few turns).

To me, that's what casual play is all about- using Magic cards to have fun in wacky new ways with friends old and new. I will write about other formats, my focus will be on fun ideas for the casual gamer. I plan on revisiting odd theme decks of old and examining the possibilities opened
with each new set release. I only hope that my experiences expressed in these articles will make your kitchen table a more enjoyable, magical place, and every now and then provide you with insights you can take with you to the draft or tournament.

For the Love of the Game, From the Casual Fringe,
Gabriel Showers
This article was published on Monday December 04, 2006.
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