Give Him a Hand

Posted in Arcana on July 24, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast

Warning: Today’s Arcana is not for the faint of heart. If you’re easily upset by injections or finger injuries, you may not want to read!

Kelly Digges, editor of, shares this cautionary tale for people with extensive Magic collections:

Several weeks ago, I noticed that my left thumb hurt... and not just a little. It was a dull, throbbing ache that made normal, everyday tasks—you know, like shuffling Magic decks—difficult and painful. I scheduled an appointment with a hand specialist and didn’t think about it too much further.

The hand specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Yule, MD, told me that I had an inflamed tendon, a pretty common repetitive-motion strain. He laid out my treatment options and made it clear that the safest and most reliable options were either six weeks in a splint or a steroid injection through the tendon, neither of which sounded like a whole lot of fun. I opted for ten seconds of possible agony over six weeks of certain awkwardness, and made an appointment to get the shot.

As I tried not to further abuse my tendon, I noticed something funny: I rarely ever use that thumb. I don’t even hit the space bar with it. How had I managed to get a repetitive-motion injury in the digit I use the least? I was stumped... until a friend of mine asked me to grab some Morningtide and Shadowmoor cards for a casual Rogue deck he was building. I pulled the appropriate box out of my collection, grabbed a stack of cards, and started—you guessed it—thumbing through them. Ouch.

It turns out that when I sort through a stack of cards, I hold it in my left hand and use my left thumb to transfer the cards one by one to my right hand, bending and extending my thumb fully each time, as demonstrated in this astonishingly low-quality video:

Still, though... I don’t sort cards that much, do I? Suddenly, it hit me: Just a few weeks ago—shortly before my symptoms began—I had gone through almost my entire collection in order to build some Elder Dragon Highlander decks. Hours and hours of sorting and stacking, flexing and extending my poor, underused left thumb thousands of times...

That’s right—this is actually a deck-building injury! Let this be a warning to you: when you’re sorting through a big collection, take frequent breaks, switch up your sorting style from time to time, and don’t forget to stretch properly beforehand!

Kelly told Editor in Chief Scott Johns his amusing tale of Magic-related woe prior to getting the injection and asked Scott if he thought it would make a good story for Magic Arcana.

“Sure,” said Scott. “As long as you get video of the needle going in.”

At first everyone assumed Scott was kidding, but he was entirely serious. Kelly thought it was hilarious, so he checked with Dr. Yule to make sure it was okay. It was a pretty weird request, but Dr. Yule agreed, and even helped Kelly line up a good shot when the time came. And so—with fair warning that those who don’t like needles should look away—we present the shot itself:

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