I often think back to my neighborhood growing up as a really fun place with a lot of kids around my same age. In the summer of 1994 I was 13 and living in Franklin, TN and playing a lot of sports with the group of kids in my neighborhood. We would play basketball for hours at a time and one friend eventually said, lets go to the twins house and play Magic. I had collected sports cards, comics, comic cards and action figures up to this point and was heavily into my Marvel and X-Men series of comic card collecting.
The twins were Matt and Ben and they would gather a groups of neighborhood kids at their home and have big Magic games. I remember sitting down in a circle and given a deck of cards. I had never played Magic before and I remember looking at a Giant Growth, Fireball, Kird Ape and a few others cards and thinking how cool these cards looked. I remember finishing the game and going to another friends house and looking through his stack of cards and thinking how cool cards like Royal Assassin and Lord of the Pit looked.
I wanted to get into Magic but we didn’t have a store locally that carried the game. There were two smaller comic shops in Franklin; Outer Limits and Pegasus. Outer Limits was right by my house and became my hangout through my teenage years but early on in Magic, they would sell out instantly. I remember someone trading their Hulk 181, first appearance of Wolverin, for a box of Unlimited. Pegasus was a small store in downtown Franklin that barely carried Magic, would sell out quickly and didn’t have enough space for a table in the store. The owner would play on the floor with groups of kids that would come in and wanted to learn how to play. There was a sports card store on the other side of town that started to carry Magic. I remember walking in and seeing packs of The Dark and my friend telling me the set wasn’t worth the cost and just buy 3rd edition. I didn’t buy anything.
I continued to borrow friends decks to play Magic with kids in the neighborhood. Around Christmas I remember seeing Magic for the first time at Toys “R” Us after Fallen Empires had released. That was my first pack of Magic. Little did I know that it would be the first of many as well as a year later buying my first box of Star Wars CCG from that same Toys “R” Us and another addiction was formed. My friend scolded me for buying Fallen Empires, telling me how terrible the set was. I was just happy to have some of my own cards finally.
I remember buying more Fallen Empires and buying a lot of 4th Edition when it released in April of 95. A store opened in Nashville (just off the freeway at 3408 West End Ave, I can’t remember the store name for the life of me) that was specifically a game center to play Magic and sell singles at bellow what we thought was market price. We only had our local in town stores to compare pricing to and the store in Nashville priced everything around half what we were paying locally. Around this same time Scrye and Inquest were getting to be big in our area. I remember looking at Inquest #5 and memorizing the price guide.
I had been huge into sports cards and I knew Beckett magazines back and forth but Magic actually let you do something with your cards instead of just storing and collecting them. They had a use and the prices were more than just if a player had a good season, it was based on how well that card was useful in play.
Two neighborhood friends attended their first tournament in Nashville at the game center. They played a two headed giant and were so upset that the people they were playing had “Two thousand dollar decks. They must have spent a months paycheck to get those decks. I just have the ones my lawn mowing money can scrap together.”
Ice Age was a big thing among our neighborhood group of players. We were all around 14, were getting some of our own money for the first time and the twins were saving up to split a box. I remember seeing Jesters Cap and Icy Manipulator for the first time. Our neighborhood group of players had expanded to around twelve kids and we would hold our own tournaments. That winter we had around 10 snow days off from school which meant it would be another tournament day. Winner got to choose one card at random from the losing players deck.
By the time Ice Age released, Outer Limits had a gaming area and had moved comics to the outer walls of the store. I remember trading tons of comics just to get a starter of Ice Age. Starters were everywhere, boosters were not. The Cool Springs Mall in Franklin had a small store we called Tom’s that started out as a small stand in the middle of the mall. The store became a big Magic playing area. I played in the Ice Age release event that had over 100 people and I remember thinking how cool of an experience this was.
Some of our neighborhood group were able to go to a store in Nashville and pick up a lot of Antiquities, Legends and Arabian Nights just after Ice Age was released. This power influx for their decks gave them an unfair advantage and combined with some of the kids getting jobs, playing sports or starting to like girls, our neighborhood group started to break apart. Outer Limits or Tom’s became the places to go to play cards, no longer just in friends living rooms and dining room tables.
By this time other card games were coming out and I was starting to play Overpower, Middle Earth, Star Wars and eventually Star Trek once First Contact released. I was heavy into Magic upon the release of Alliances. I was working at Kroger’s as a bagger and spent all I could on Alliances. I remember the first Inquest that had Alliances previews and then price guides. I soaked that up. Alliances quickly disappeared from the market and on a family trip to Atlanta I was able to find a lot of Alliances that I quickly bought and opened. I had 4 Force of Wills I opened from the pack that I kept up through college where I sold them for money for text books.
After Alliances my love for Magic faded. Yes Mirage and then Visions were cool but I was going into my sophomore year of high school and I didn’t want to be that kid playing Magic during lunch. I was more interested in work, girls, school, sports, etc. that Magic fell off. I got much more into Star Wars and Star Trek gaming around this time and focused mainly on those and only kept Magic as something to play when that was all that was available.
To me this was the golden age of card games. It was at a certain time in my life with an industry that was growing quickly. The internet wasn’t a thing yet and local stores were everything. Alliances holds a special place in my heart because of the memories I have attached to it.
I miss those times but have a lot of other great things going on that continue to drive me in life. I really enjoy going through older CCGs because they remind me of these teenage years. I love pulling orders and thinking about how the person getting these cards will have flashbacks to the good times in their lives. They will be fulfilling a lifetime dream of finishing off that set or building the deck they have always wanted to have.
What brought you into gaming? What are some of your favorite memories that stick out to you today?