My Love / Hate Relationship with Magic the Gathering

On Sunday, I attended my first Magic the Gathering pre-release for the Ravnica Allegiance expansion. Me, my brother, and my two friends from college met up at the coffee / game store I occasionally work at. I played terribly at this pre-release because I didn’t win a single match. Honestly, I was slightly embarrassed having to turn in my score card saying I lost eight matches. The worker at the game shop even made a comment and was giving me sympathy which made me feel worse. This is what prompted my post describing in detail my love / hate relationship with Magic the Gathering. 

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I started playing Magic the Gathering in 2003 when my uncle taught me and my brother how to play. I became obsessed with the mechanics of the cards, the art on each card and the story behind each set. I even had a Magic the Gathering birthday where I received a hand picked deck and played Magic all day. This teaching didn’t stick as I gave up the game a year later because I became focused on other things. Ten years later, I was in college and an ex-boyfriend of mine had been playing Magic more often with his friends. I decided then I would try again and re-learn how to play.

One thing that was different when learning Magic in 2013 was realizing how toxic the Magic the Gathering community can be. I had played against players who were specifically targeting me because I was the only woman in the group. I had players where if I was winning, they would “scoop” or draw from the match instead of allowing the game to finish. I had players be condescending towards me if I was losing and telling me I had “a lot to learn” if I ever wanted to win against them. The toxicity I experienced became exhausting to deal with.

It led to several times where I would play Magic more often and then go breaks without playing. I became discouraged at times based on who I had played with recently. I don’t want to give up a hobby based on my experiences within the community, but it’s hard not to. I will say, my brother and my two friends never made me feel embarrassed because I hadn’t won a game. They were friendly to me and my brother wants to sit down and play more games with me and offer strategy advice which I would find beneficial.

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My specific goals involving Magic the Gathering is to play more! I can only get better as a player if I play more games. I also downloaded Magic the Gathering arena which is an online format of the game where you play against players in real time. This way even if I can’t get in a physical game at a game shop, I can play at the comfort of my own home. Finally, I discovered an all female Magic group that plays at various game stores in Minneapolis. I’m hoping this will be a judgement free place to learn more about the game without the harassment I had experienced in the past.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the game if you ever played. Specifically if you have experienced harassment in this community, let me know in the comments below.

23 thoughts on “My Love / Hate Relationship with Magic the Gathering

  1. My brother taught me how to play when I was young, but I fell off it once he did since he was the only one I would play with. I remember it being pretty fun, though!


  2. I’ve never actually played Magic the Gathering, but I’ve had similar experiences to you, with regards to being looked down on because I’m a woman, playing ‘a man’s game’, or ‘not experienced enough’ to play with the big boys. It’s very difficult to get anyone to take you seriously really, and I’m not just talking about men. I’ve found that a lot of people would rather stick their noses up than help someone out or offer advice. They’d rather make fun of someone than lend a hand. It really sucks, but there are occasionally some people who will go out of their way to encourage you, and I’ve been lucky enough to find a few of those so I hope you do to. An all female group is a great start.

    Emma |


  3. I played for a few years a long time ago, during the Fallen Empires set, and then again during the Odyssey and Onslaught sets. In both cases it was fun for a while, but I found the cost to be a bit of a deterrent for me. Many games felt heavily influenced by how much one was willing to spend to acquire good cards, and time to learn the different cards that were out there, so that one could recognize what were critical cards for a given player’s deck.
    I like the idea of the game, but soon found that I preferred games like Dominion, Ascension, Smashup, and other titles where players draft from a communal pool, and there isn’t as much emphasis on regularly purchasing new sets.
    I am sorry to hear that others discouraged you from playing. I’m always struck by how short-sighted many players can be. I’ve seen instances where that kind of behavior leads to veterans struggling to find others to play with, and eventually the local community contracts and falls apart.
    But if you enjoy the game then hopefully you can find others who are more welcoming, or start your own circle of players.


    • I completely agree with your point in the sense of purchasing super expensive cards. I find it rather difficult for me to spend that much money on my deck because I’m not “super” into Magic. That’s been a deal breaker for me creating a hugely powerful deck because I’m not willing to spend a lot of money on cards. That being said, I’m trying not to give up on this game because of the way I have been treated in the past. Thank you so much for your thoughts! I really appreciated reading through them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a love/hate relationship with Magic. I enjoy the game but it does take a lot of time and money to play the game well. You have to always be play testing to learn the nuances of the meta and be spending money to keep up as the meta shifts. As a result, I only play casual 60-card and commander now. I don’t have the time or money right now to invest more heavily.

    The community can be a tough one too. It is very male dominated and unfortunately there are a decent handful of bad apples (in my experience). My husband and I actually met at FNM, yet I’ve been questioned many times at larger tournaments in a way that signifies I only play because of X male figure (rather that it being my personal interest first). It’s really frustrating at times. I’m lucky that I became good friends with a handful of players at my LGS and we would often go to tournaments together, so at least I felt like I had some support network despite the other poor male figures present.


    • First of all, how awesome that you met your partner from Friday Night Magic. That’s amazing ❤ As for your thoughts.. I have felt that way before. For example if me and my brother are at the game store, it's always assumed I'm there because my brother is interested, not because I am. I usually only play commander too because I don't want to drop a lot of money into the sets. I also like plane chase as well because it changes the world in which players play on and that makes it a bit more even. I have never attended a tournament, but I probably never will.


  5. I’ve played Magic for a long time. I feel I have very strong grasp of the cards, strategies and interactions. I see people (of all genders) make mistakes/involved in teaching moments. However, I’m also a guy so it’s very difficult to act on the teachable moments with a non guy because there is not a great way to do it with out looking like a toxic jerk/mansplainer. So I will always default to not saying anything in those situations.

    Would I love to help someone get better? Absolutely. Am I willing to make that person feel uncomfortable doing it? Not a chance.

    And you know me, my intentions are never to degrade anyone… But we also know it isn’t the intentions that matter, it’s the perceptions and how the other person untimely feels is what matters.


    • Thanks for your thoughtful response Dan! I think it’s all about communicating with someone and asking if they need help and they say yes, then great. If they say no, then no. For the record: None of my experiences are applied to you. It has been from other experiences way before I ever came to River Quest!


      • Oh I didn’t take it as directed to me or RQ! So, with that… is there any thing I can do to help you be a better Magic player??


    • Hey! Pleasure to meet you. I will say I have found some male presenting players who have stuck up for me on more than one occasion. Also have you heard of Autumn Burschett? They are the first non binary person to win a MtG tournament. Look them up!

      As far as toxicity, I’m not going to lie, I do have my fair share of awful players, however, I have met some wonderful people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum while playing Magic.

      My advice would be to find gaming groups in your area that are safe spaces. That’s a great place to start.

      Thank you for the comment! I hope to keep chatting with you soon.


  6. this is an insightful article, as its not often we see a real life impact the game can have on a person, let alone a female player. I can totally relate to going to the event drafts for sets, and completely bombing at them as well. (I am no good at drafts yet I’m a glutton for punishment, as I still go every time.) and often times being the only female playing in a format, and playing a less “feminine” color. (I play mostly casual modern format, with mostly black, or black heavy decks.) but its good that you still enjoy what the game has to offer and even found a female group to play with. I do hope you keep your hobby alive and know that you are not alone in this endeavor.


  7. I’ve played MtG for a few years, and I’ve noticed this, especially witnessing some insecure guys scooping when facing women. It’s like they’ve either got a bad deck, or they’re just pathetic. There was one woman I played against in the War of the Spark pre-release, and she was rather grateful for playing against her as if it was a serious tournament (There were a couple of missed triggers and misplays, but I would rather teach someone the game properly instead of cheesing it and letting them fix their play. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t elaborate into why things wouldn’t work and whatnot). She was so grateful that she offered to make an alter of one of my legendary creatures for Commander. I politely declined, as I’d rather pay someone for their talents, time and materials. The community can most certainly be toxic. For female players, new players, and anybody that seems to be struggling. It sucks. This is in all gaming communities it seems.


    • Thank you for your comment. It seems that you have also witnessed some of this toxicity I had been referring to. I will say, I do think it’s gotten better as I have been navigating what I believe are safe spaces for me to be a female gamer. I won’t let that stop me from playing Magic, but it does put a damper on my experience.


  8. A couple of months later here 🙂

    I’m a guy, a manly guy. But I’m also in my 40’s and am very laid back in my game play. I no longer play at my gamestore because even the commander groups are too full of spike players. Mostly younger people who want to win and only have fun if they’re winning. I play with a guy who’s as casual as me and we’d both rather lose a commander game than shut it down with an unstoppable combo. I just created a dino deck headed by Zacama. I played it 3 times and then changed the commander, as once Zacama came out it just wasn’t fun.

    So, all of that just to say hang in there and find some people who play for fun. Those kind of groups make it totally worth it.


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