What's your favorite thing about Magic?
Lee Sharpe: My favorite thing about playing Magic is the fun, exciting, and strategically interesting games. What's more fun than swinging in with huge creatures, drafting a really strong and efficient deck, or resolving a Warp World in the middle of an EDH game? However, I imagine anyone who plays finds Magic's game play enjoyable, so I guess I'll answer with what my favorite thing is on a more meta and intellectual level. Trying again—
My favorite thing about Magic is that it's a large attempt to define a perfect mathematical model using English words. Think about how hard that is. We have to redefine English words with everyday meanings (like, say, "destroy") and give them Magic meanings ("destroying a permanent means to move that permanent from the in-play zone to its owner's graveyard"). Also, there's a good challenge behind trying to take things that people understand colloquially, like replacing one action with another action or preventing damage, and digging deep down into the nitty-gritty details of having a system that defines the scope of "events" to be replaced, and has a way to process competing or compatible replacement effects. And I haven't even gotten to dependencies or continuous effect layering yet. It's a challenge to come up with crazy bizarre scenarios that cause the game to do bizarre stuff that was never anticipated and doesn't make sense! (You know, use a Vesuvan Shapeshifter to turn a Licid face down while it's still an Aura. That kind of thing.)
Of course, the model isn't perfect. (I recall having had arguments about what the words "choose", "each", and even "with" mean on a card, because sometimes English isn't as precise as we like, particularly when the text has to fit on a Magic card at a readable font). But, the quest to make it increasingly so is a lot of fun to me, both as a Magic Online game server developer and member of the Magic templating team (which finalizes card and Oracle wordings), I'm fortunate enough to get to examine this on a daily basis. It's also really cool to look at a card and see how a clever template makes the card more awesome, especially when things just get to sound cool (like "Tar Fiend").
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