Karate Kid

The Cruel Tutelage of Pat Morita, or: How I Learned To Play Magic the Gathering.

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  • When I was a kid in 1987, I saw The Karate Kid for the first time and like every other boy my age I wanted to learn karate. I was under the impression that you could just walk into any dojo and find Pat Morita waiting to take you under his wing and teach you how to perform the perfect crane kick. I assumed that in no time I would be out on the streets standing up to bullies and winning the hearts of my peers. What I didn’t know at that young age was the old adage about making an assumption and how it does nothing more than “make an ass out of you and me.”

    In my case, that meant getting my ass kicked. Well, not so much my ass really, but my chest when I ran into the business end of a roundhouse kick. I was certainly not the best around. Apparently, a lot more waxing on and waxing off was needed before I would be ready to fight.

    Your friends will be grateful.

    Two years ago when I started playing Magic: The Gathering, I found myself in a similar situation. My friend Lenny had come by with a briefcase filled with twenty decks and over the course of one breezy summer afternoon, he completely sold me on Magic. The gameplay seemed easy enough, or at least Len made it look easy, so I assumed I could just walk into his dojo and become an instant master. I once again rushed headfirst and foolishly into battle only to end up getting pummeled. However, I refused to give up and game after game I rose to his challenges only to be cut down repeatedly. I lacked discipline and I knew this must change.

    More recently, discipline for me came in the form of Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers on Steam. Duels is a point-and-click game that walks you

    through every aspect of playing Magic before it allows you to run. Veteran players will be able to dive right in, but for the novice Duels provides a panic-free environment to learn and grow as a player. The game serves as your sensei, making sure you not only know what you are doing but why you are doing it. It will not allow you to do anything out of sequence or play anything out of turn. You really learn about the cards and what they do.

    The real world application of this lesson is almost priceless: You will not only build better decks but can finally stop asking, “Hey, what does that card do?” during your opponents’ main phase. Your friends will be grateful.

    After a few sessions of gameplay I may not have been able to catch a fly with chopsticks, but I had finally moved beyond cleaning the dojo. My next and probably most important lesson came in the form of Challenges. This is a secondary game that offers you only one move in which to defeat your opponent. Every single choice you make is necessary to achieve a decisive victory, and through these challenges I discovered some new and interesting ways to think about offensive strategy. These strategies have become paramount to my continued success both in and out of the game. I was finally ready to face my aggressors with confidence and not fumble through my every move.

    The other day I stumbled across an internet trailer for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012. New decks, puzzle challenges and a multiplayer “Archenemy” mode—I was immediately psyched. The game’s release date on Steam is June 15, 2011. If you are looking for a good jumping on point for Magic, this is it.

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    Follow @JohnMiserable on Twitter, he promises not to “sweep the leg.”

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