My Favorite Trading Card Games
April 8, 2018
I don't know what it is about trading card games, but I get obsessed with them. I've traded and collected so many over the years.
Pokemon was my first trading card game. I was sort of a Pokemon hipster, I knew about the Gameboy games in 2nd grade, before it was cool. Then, in 3rd grade, a classmate brought a binder of Pokemon cards to school. He was suddenly the coolest kid on the playground, and everyone got obsessed with Pokemon that year, myself included. My favorite shirt to wear that year had Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Pikachu on it. I felt so cool wearing that at school. I don't really know why Pokemon cards were so popular. It might have been the pictures on the cards, they were all super rad. My favorites were Oddish and Gloom-they looked like they were drawn on a computer. Maybe it was because as kids played the Gameboy games, they became attached to certain Pokemon, and liked seeing them on cards. Maybe it was popular because of the bragging rights that came with getting a shiny rare card. Maybe it was just the fun of collecting something. But it definitely wasn't the actual Pokemon trading card game. Out of all of my friends who collected, NONE of them actually knew how to play. I read the rules online and played with my mom. My memories of the game itself was that it was complicated, with damage counters and prize cards, weaknesses and strengths against certain colors, and SO MANY ENERGY CARDS. Everyone hated getting energies in packs because if you didn't play the game (which nobody did), they were a waste of a card.
Then in 4th grade, Pokemon suddenly wasn't cool anymore. I was still a huge fan, and had pre-ordered Pokemon Silver Version the previous summer, and still wore Pokemon shirts to school, but I was sad that it wasn't cool anymore. So overall, Pokemon was awesome, and the cards were too, but the game never took off.
Yu-Gi-Oh was a weird one. Even as a kid, I always thought it seemed like something for little kids. But some friends introduced me to the card game, and it was fun playing, even though unlike Pokemon, the characters on the cards were kind of unknown creatures, there was no video game to go along with it. A lot of the neighborhood kids had decks, and we played all the time. However, we made up our own rules, but it was still really fun. Eventually, I learned the real rules, and it was even more fun that way. Some neighborhood kids stopped playing when we started using the real rules, which is understandable- you have to sacrifice your cards to play the big, strong dragon cards everybody liked. Then Yu-Gi-Oh fizzled out, at least in my neighborhood. Sometimes I wonder if more kids played then actually let on, because I was in junior high at the time, and no junior high student wants to admit they are into a nerdy card game.
After a neighbor kid's mom learned that some of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards were called "magic cards", she took them away, so they started playing a game called Duel Masters instead. Initially, I thought it was a lame Yu-Gi-Oh knockoff, as Yu-Gi-Oh was still the king of the neighborhood. But my brother got the Duel Masters starter pack, and it turned out to be really fun! The game itself was night and day different from Yu-Gi-Oh. Games were quick, simple, and there was no need for pencil and paper. Yet there was still a lot of strategy to the game, and making a competitive deck was a LOT of fun. I loved playing Duel Masters. Sadly, I was in junior high and high school when it was popular, so of course, it was hard to find friends who played, as teenagers start to think card games are lame.
I would later find out that Duel Masters was basically a variation of Magic: The Gathering aimed at a younger age group. I personally think Duel Masters is the better game. The worst part of any Magic game is not having enough "land" cards. This ruins the game for both the player without land, and the opponent, because it isn't fun beating someone who just can't draw land cards. Duel Masters fixes this by avoiding land cards altogether. It is also a simpler game. Creatures just have one number for their strength, rather than two like in Magic. And Duel Masters's other great feature is "shield" cards. In magic, each player starts with twenty life points. First person to lose them, loses the game. In Duel Masters, each player sets out five shield cards. If your opponent attacks you, your shield "dies", and goes into your hand. This means that players getting attacked, and most likely losing, suddenly get a boost to get them back in the game. It makes the game more balanced, and gives worse players a better chance...making it more fun.
Magic: The Gathering
After graduating college, a friend introduced me to Magic. After playing Duel Masters, Magic felt like the same game, but more complex, so I picked up the rules quickly. Magic has been around since 1993, so there are TONS of Magic cards, and Magic players. I like making simple, weird decks. A mill-deck is my favorite, because it is fun trying to deplete an opponents deck. I also like creature themed decks, and have rat, spider, and merfolk themed decks. I went to a pre-release tournament a few months ago which was a lot of fun, and still play randomly with friends. However, it is so similar to Duel Masters, that I always wish we were playing actual Duel Masters. Magic to me feels like RC Cola. It is good, and very similar to Coke, but it just isn't the real thing.
I've always liked trading card games. I have the best memories of collecting Pokemon cards, but the game wasn't very fun. And Duel Masters is my favorite game to play. My perfect card game would be a mix of the two- fun to collect, and simple and fun to play too. Magic is all I play anymore, and it is fun, but I always wish it could be as simple as Duel Masters.