The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 2, 2013

Joe Hadsall: Life lessons learned from collectible card game

JOPLIN, Mo. — I will always be a card flopper at heart.

Back in the '90s, gamers were divided into two groups: Dice chuckers and card floppers. The dice chuckers stuck to role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, with complicated character sheets and largely long, unproductive gaming sessions.

For about five years in the '90s, I was a religious, rabid player of Magic: The Gathering -- a card flopper. I loved the game's fantasy themes but appreciated its fast action, out-of-the-box play and intricate strategy. I had a pretty large collection of cards, from massive, bulky sets of common cards to prized-possession rarities with collectible black borders.

I spent a lot of time playing the game in various ways: by myself through experimenting with different deck ideas and card combinations, and with others in tournaments, leagues and simple Saturday-night sessions.

In fact, the best thing that ever happened to me happened because of Magic. I used to replenish my collection at a comic book store in Springfield, where the redhead behind the Magic counter looked at my cards and reviewed trading and resale options.

That redhead is now known as The Lovely Paula Hadsall. She wasn't a Hadsall back then, but she was still lovely, and that was the first of many times life would nudge us together. We didn't get married until five years ago, but I'm so glad we finally figured out that we really should stick together.

When I stop to think about it, I realize that this game, which has grown each year since I stopped playing, has taught me much about life. I don't have any cards now, but I do have these gifts, which are well-played:

How to appreciate visual and graphic art. Almost half of each card is dedicated to a fanciful work of some sort. I really didn't care about art until Magic -- I quickly developed some favorite artists and looked forward to seeing their work in future expansions.

How to appreciate well-placed literary references. The first editions of Magic featured flavor text from works such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Coleridge and "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. The pairing awoke an interest to rediscover some great fiction.

Cheapskates are always happier with their purchases. Many of my Magic friends bought booster packs in alarming quantities, hoping to get several rare power cards.

I never did that. I bought smaller bunches in more regular intervals. Every once in a while, I'd hit pay dirt and get a rare card I really wanted. But most of the time, I got stuff that I knew I'd never use.

But because I played with many others, I knew someone would want them. That gave me the opportunity to put into practice the words of a master...

Dale Carnegie was right about helping people get what they want. If people get what they want, then I get what I want, and we both walk away happy. There is nothing as bonding as a good trade, and nothing as souring as a bad trade.

Among my circles, I got the reputation of being Santa Claus, because when trading, I'd remember what cards other players wanted, trade for those cards, then take that new treasure to trade with the person who really wanted it. All the while my collection grew slowly and steadily, without having to spend big bucks on more boosters.

I learned how to play poker better. I didn't pick up Texas Hold 'em until years after I played Magic. But I applied plenty to my poker game, including how to read people, change strategies and mask my own hand. I'm no card shark, but at least I'm hard to knock out.

Losing a well-played game is better than winning a terrible game. In other words, Magic really taught me the value of enjoying a game for what it is.

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