Different Experiences with Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft

Oestrus wrote an interesting post about
Why Women Are Seen Different in Magic the Gathering Compared To World of Warcraft I enjoyed the comments, but as I was writing, I realized it made more sense to blog this.

I'm assuming all readers come with a WoW perspective, but not necessarily with any MtG experience.

I wanted to discuss some of the differences between MtG and Wow, and there are many differences and these can dramatically change the experience, irrespective of gender.The perspective I'd like to explore is how different an experience can be with friends. Many of WoW players will understand how different WoW is with a guild vs a pug. That support network can be critical in how far and how long someone plays their game.

A typical MtG experience supposes a small group of IRL friends that play FNM somewhat regularly that will on occasion dabble at a higher level, attempting the occasional PTQ. I think I need to explain...

FNM is "Friday Night Magic", which is typically hosted at a game store that sells MtG cards. Cost is low, maybe $5. It occurs under competitive rules and usually qualifies as a "Sanctioned Event". Even if you don't win, you're accumulating competitive points. Most FNMs I've seen have between 12 and 50 people.

Other Sanctioned Events include "Prerelease" or "Release" events, which typically cost more because you're buying cards. The competitive level isn't much higher than a FNM, but it is usually larger, at least it has been for me.

The next step up is the PTQ or "Pro Tour Qualifier". Actually there can be other events with other abbreviations, but the experience should be comparable. Not all the FNMplayers are ready for these events. The cost isn't really that much higher, but the size and level of competition is. Folks at a PTQ mean business. There are professionals. The size of these tournaments can be huge and some folks travel quite far to compete.

So now let's examine how someone gets involved in WoW. Wait! I'm supposing all readers play WoW. Y'all know how folks get started. Y'all know how levelling up, running dungeons and sinking more and more time into the game works. You can understand how some folks never get past the newbie stage and how finding the right guild makes all the difference in enjoying the end-game. Typically you have far more friends you've played WoW with that you've not actually met IRL.

A common MtG entry supposes a IRL friend lending a deck, playing casually a bit before attending something like a FNM. The next hurdle is purchasing cards, which means a starter deck and then a few improving cards, but avoiding the chase rares, so let's call it $40. If you've had fun and enjoyed playing with these friends, you're more willing to invest another $100 over the next couple months at which point you'll not be a newbie, but also not a big winner.

So I've mentioned two points where many newcomers are lost: (1) those without encouraging friends that make the entry fun enough, (2) those that haven't had enough fun to justify a bigger investment of real money. Some will continue to play very casually without spending more, but just with friends. My daughter is happy to play with her boyfriend and her brother when it's friends, but she has no interest in playing competitively. She enjoys the social side, intrigued enough by the intellectual exercise of building a deck, but not interested in spending the time or money going further. She's perfectly willing to support her boyfriend's interests and is willing to be slightly bored going to a PTQ and watching, but wouldn't play herself. She's also a casual WoW playerthat has levelled a toon to max, but has never raided while the BF has raided since Vanilla.

I don't have any facts about how many females are lost at these two stages, but I also know many males are, too. Is it a higher percentage? Are the reasons the same? I am willing to speculate that the support circle of friends and their enthusiasm for the game is a significant factor. These friendships are all IRL and here Joe's brother being a butt-head can mean total loss of interest because you'll be seeing him at FNM while you might be able to /ignore the worst guildmate. Guilds reform, but the distance to another FNM is usually prohibitive.

Still looking anecdotally and without facts, the FNM scene for me has changed in the last ten years. Well, it wasn't called FNM ten years ago, but even 3 years ago the occasional female was rare. Last year the FNM regulars included 25% females that were serious and most playersknew not to underestimate them. They all had invested hundred of dollars in their decks, but I wasn't seeing all of them at PTQs. They enjoyed the competition, but not all were taking it to the next level. However, at least two were and doing better than I did when I was pushing it.

This next level of investment assumes a lot more time, preparation and practice. They spend a lot more time with the others that also are interested. It's a level my son and his best friend play. They'll travel a couple hour to compete. As Oestrus pointed out, you'll find female names in those "Top Eight" tournament reports.

However, none of this answers the question of Why or How Women are Seen Different. Both worlds are heavily filled with Male Gamer Geeks.

When a new female player shows up at a FNM, the boys always get excited. They'll believe they are polite and encouraging, not realizing the attitude is condescending. They're always shocked when the new female beats them the first time. And yet, there are more competitive female players now than before. And most are better players than me. I mention that because our Ratings at Sanctioned Events are objective measures that can be easily compared and is far more meaningful than Gear Scores.

It occurs to me that "Game Face" is different. In WoW I've only played female alts. I suppose now Mogging can be part of your presentation, but that's still kinda new.  Playing at a FNM means folks are more likely to read your tells from the familiarity. A PTQ allows you to "Present" differently. What you wear, what box you keep your deck it, the accessories you bring are all part of your presentation. Players will draw conclusions about the balding old guy with the bright pink box with Cutesy Anime Princesses. More than once I've lured folks into thinking I'm a Timmy before realizing there might be a Spike inside. However, this doesn't work at FNM. These folks know me too well.

I'm just going to let folks guess what Timmy and Spike mean by context. I will mention that in the past I've taken MtG far more seriously than I've taken WoW.

I thinking I've rambled on enough for today.


  1. It's always easier to be a jerk on the internet—in real life finding new people to share your hobby tends to be a positive thing, so they're on their best behavior. *grin*

    Some of my best memories from college came from playing MtG with friends at the local shop, which luckily already had several female players by the time I joined in. But as things shifted towards 'who can buy the best deck' my group of friends moved to playing by ourselves. We came up with so many house rules variations on the basic game that I doubt I remember the real rules anymore. *grin* But when I left college, I also wandered out of the hobby.

    I've stuck my nose in a few times since then, but since my stash it 95% 3rd Ed. cards (and a smattering of later expansions) and I'd imagine most of them aren't tournament friendly anymore. Heck, I doubt I'd even understand a tenth of the current mechanics, much less be able to play effectively. *sighs* I need to form a retro MtG group or something… :P

    (Guesses: Timmy makes me think of the Prodigal Sorcerer (yay for Tim decks!), but for Spike I'm just coming up with the Vampire from BtVS and/or the little purple dragon from MLP? >.<;; )

  2. Apparently Timmy wasn't named for Tim, but that association is strong. I bet most of us think of him. Timmy is the type player that sees some big creature and thinks "Cool!" Johnny is the type of player that enjoys winning in some innovative, tricky way. Spike wants to win, irrespective of the method.


    WoW Raiders have slightly different profiles. There are more than one kind of elitest jerk, after all.

    Since playing with friends is such an important part of MtG, almost all of us play by "House Rules" with friends. Wizards of the Coast now supports several formats, such as "Multiplayer", which my son and his friends play most often. There are also "Two-Headed Giant", "Tribal" and even "Elder Dragon Highlander".

    The rules have changed some, but mostly in the direction of "Intuitive". They've worked at making the text on cards much, much cleaner. Having played in the past, picking up the rules now would be much easier than adjusting to spec changes after an expansion!