What it’s like for me, as a woman, to play Magic: the Gathering [BIG IMAGES]

I’ve written previously about why I don’t attend official Magic: The Gathering events (tl;dr – stereotype threat is zero fun). Still, I really enjoy sealed booster events! They tend to level the playing field for people with less experience in deck-building (unless someone gets crazy lucky with their packs). It’s also a fun challenge, having a completely random subset of cards and a time limit within which to build a competitive deck – especially since it often forces you to build something that’s outside of your usual comfort zone in terms play style.

So what we’ve started doing is buying a box of boosters and splitting it with friends so we can have our own sealed booster night in the comfort of our own home that is free of randos and dudebros. It’s expensive – even when you split the cost between friends – so we only do it 2-3 times a year. But it’s something my husband and I both enjoy immensely, so we’re happy to splurge occasionally to make it happen.

This past weekend was one of those occasions, as a matter of fact. And as always, I had a tremendous time. But even so, I couldn’t help but be aware of the fact that even while playing with friends, away from the weird males-only atmosphere of a game store or other official tournament venue, the game itself was punching me in the feels, in a very particular “This Game Is Not For You” sort of way. And while I was opening packs and sorting through cards, I found myself repressing a lot of comments and complaints that I wanted to make, because while the friends we were playing with are receptive to feminism and the things that I do, they’re not terribly interested in it – and being That Boring Person Who Only Talks About Feminism has become a big fear of mine these last few years.

And it sucked. I hate that this game I like (and spend money on!) makes me feel crappy, and I doubly hate feeling like I have to censor myself. (And to be clear, I would feel the compulsion to censor myself to a certain degree no matter who I was with. It was just that in that situation, I felt I had to censor a bit more is all.) So I was going to write a description of my internal monologue as the night progressed, but then I thought – hell. A comic would be a lot more illustrative of what I’m talking about. (See what I did there?) It wasn’t my intention to do two comics posts in a row. It just sort of happened that way.

This isn’t a comprehensive post, in that it doesn’t look at art from an entire set as most of my other M:TG posts do. This is just focusing on my reactions to art from the packs my husband and I opened during our sealed booster night. Also, I know the preview shrinks these down pretty small, so if you want more detail, be sure to click through so you can see the art I’m talking about in more detail.

Feels: the Punching (deck-building edition)





Swell of Growth

Bonus: Epilogue

While preparing for this post, I went through our cards one more time to get proper card titles so that I could look up larger versions of the card art online. While doing so, I found one card that I had missed altogether, although I’m really not sure how:


Despite all that, I still had fun, and it’s still something that I plan to do again. But is Magic a hobby that I would encourage other women to try, or plan on introducing my daughter to? Unless they start sucking a whole lot less at women, the answer is a resounding hell no. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got into Magic because my husband played, and I wanted to be able to play with him. But games like Magic live and die by word-of-mouth recruitment, and they certainly won’t get any of that from me.

26 thoughts on “What it’s like for me, as a woman, to play Magic: the Gathering [BIG IMAGES]

  1. My comment is mainly along the lines of “I had no idea the dominant culture(s) of the world of Magic:The Gathering was capable of producing both spandex and lycra. I’d love to know how they explain the world building on that one.” I mean, it probably falls under the Rule of Cool, but quite frankly if you’re making clothes that skin-tight in non-stretch fabrics, you’re looking at clothes which are going to be tearing themselves apart whenever you attempt any violent action. Given stretch fabrics didn’t become common here on Earth until the widespread manufacture of synthetics, something which required a very wide-spread petrochemical industry, one has to wonder how the trick is done on a world where, presumably, technology isn’t The Thing.

    But that’s just me.

      • I think you’re going to have to look at Seek the Wilds again, because her waistline is very unrealistic in comparison to actual waistlines. She’d have to corset for that kind of waist or be incredibly lucky in the genetic lottery to attain that hourglass shape. :/

        I really want to appreciate the card art for Magic but I just can’t really enjoy a lot of these when they’re trying to push women in this little box of “what they should look like”, and a corset is kind of unhealthy.

  2. Have you tried playing other card games? I quit playing Magic due to the expense. Now I’m playing Doomtown Reloaded ECG. Its set in the ‘Weird West’. For the most part the art is pretty good. Unfortunantly one the cards that is a bit questionable (Xiong ‘Wendy’ Cheng) is on the base set box. They did a much better job depicting her the later on the card ‘Faster on the Draw’. Overall, there’s strong female characters (who wear clothing that’s realistic) with a variety of body types. There’s a cohesive story that’s actually interesting (unlike Magic). Mechanics wise, I think game is more engaging and interesting than Magic. I also enjoy the fact that you can get all the cards at a fixed cost, which is nice on my pocket book.

    For tournaments, I’ve found that Doomtown Reloaded attracts an older more mature crowd (late twenties and onword). There’s still only a small number of women who play but the environment is welcoming. Prize support is such that everyone gets something and none of it has a ton of monetary value so you don’t have people playing just to win the prize. (Prizes are alternative art cards, deck tins and playmats).

    If you want to check out the cards dtdb [dot] co has all the cards. For more information there’s AEG’s website and most of the community is active on a Facebook group.

    • On a similar note, I would recommend Android: Netrunner, which has pretty great representation and non-oversexualised women and the fixed-cost approach of Doomtown, along with (imho) more engaging and interesting gameplay.

      Alternately, have you considered playing draft nights with the (presumably decently large) collections of cards you’ve picked up from the booster boxes you’ve already bought? You lose the satisfaction of opening booster packs, sadly, but as well as being much easier on the wallet you could go through your collection in advance and skim out the worst offenders.

      • I have heard good things about Android: Netrunner but I have yet to play it. There’s always lines for anything Fantasy Flight related at GenCon and there’s so much other stuff to see and try there without lines. At this point, my limiting factor is my time so I’m just going to stick to one card game at a time.

        I like to play card games competitively so while story/art are nice bonuses but I’ll play whatever deck I think is the best even if the deck flavor is not my favorite. With Magic the cost to have the top constructed deck is just way to much for me to justify (even though now I have the disposable income to afford it if I wanted to). It feels weird to be playing a deck that are “worth” several hundred dollars. I prefer to have my hobbies to be worth the less than what I paid for them.

        I’ve done a lot of drafting and it’s ok IMO, if I’m going to play any Magic it’s generally EDH/Commander. If I’m interested in doing something similar to drafting I usually play a deckbuilding game like Dominion.

    • You get that the trend of male artists and/or art directors illustrating women this way is problematic, right? Powerful women being illustrated is super awesome, I am all for that, but why can’t they have pants? Like, for serious? When you showcase power + scantily-clad on a consistent basis, you’re sending a message to your audience that women have to dress and act a certain way in order to be powerful, which is shit they get ALL THE TIME in mainstream media already, I don’t think they want to experience that in their hobbies too. I think that sucks, I think it’s wrong, and that no one should have to live with that.

    • See what I mean?

      Look at this – you aren’t even interested in having any kind of a reasonable dialogue. You are convinced that you are correct, that I am not, and therefore no respect is required for my viewpoint.

      You’re the worst kind of person. I have never treated anyone like this; if it’s about ‘privilege’, then know that I extend that same privilege vested in my white skin to anyone who exists, be they male, female, trans or fluid; white, brown, black, or albino.

      In short, you’re being seriously disrespectful to a fellow human being. I suppose pointing that out is ‘sealioning’. I rather think you’ve missed the point of life itself.

      • As a man (and yes, I speak as a man as well, but it’s surprising how much you pick up if you listen to women), you have no concept of what it’s like to have virtually every little bit of media tailored to someone else’s desires. So much of your commentary is ‘well, couldn’t men be offended or upset by this, that or the other?’ Well, sure, but they AREN’T. The only times I have ever heard men complain about portrayals of male characters is as a response to women who are upset, and it shows up those complaints for what they really are: small, miserable men who don’t actually care about the issue they’re discussing, and are simply trying to deny or mimimise women’s views.

        As for respect: fuck you. You’re not owed respect. You are not owed a reasonable dialogue. You are not owed a place to air your views. This is wundergeek’s place, and if she wants to keep it free from people like you, then that’s her prerogative.


        • [comment removed]

          [I’m going to let the previous comment stay, because Curtis knocked it out of the park. But you can have fun being blocked, asshat]

          • http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ESA_EF_2014.pdf – first result I found, from a highly reputable source, puts the proportion of female gamers at 48%. This is not an overwhelming male majority, as much as some men seem to want to pretend it is. This is damn near equal. And the romance novel point just doesn’t compare; I have no problems with romance novels, or games like Leisure Suit Larry, or porn, because in them the sexuality is the point. In the most well-known fantasy CCG in the world? Not so much.

            You know, I am willing to take my point about respect specifically back. You’re right; I should respect any fellow human being, and I do, by default. It’s just that your initial barrage of posts made me lose all respect for you, hence my slightly misguided statement above.

            I stand by “You are not owed reasonable dialogue”, though. This is a post that was made about something that made the writer feel bad and that she wanted to talk about, and is not an invitation to jump in and pick a fight. And that is why comments get replaced with amusing pictures.

  3. … I want a Fake Geek Girl t-shirt.

    If you want a palate-cleanser after all that, check this out: http://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/War-Zone-Damocles-Kauyon-EN

    Yes, that is a woman in powered armour kicking the crap out of a goddamned Space Marine. On the cover of an official Warhammer 40,000 product. She murders one of their Chapter Masters in the actual story, too.

    40k is messed up in all sorts of ways, and there are very few of their books or model kits I can actually recommend. (I feel bad for Sisters of Battle fans.) But in this months-long Tau release window I’ve gotten to see all sorts of good female representation. The basic Fire Warriors troops now come with an unarmoured female head option, there’s a female pilot piece for the new Ghostkeel battlesuit, there are painting guides for nonsexualized female characters wearing the same armour as the men, and the characters mentioned in the fluff often have female pronouns.

    The Space Marines toss a few gendered insults at Shadowsun 😛 but no one on her side questions her right to lead the Third Sphere Expansion, or even refers to her gender at all.

    As a hobbyist who got into 40k in the first place because of the Tau being like this in theory, it’s been awesome to see it finally work out in practice. ^^;

  4. I am new to Magic the Gathering. I am also a woman. I did notice the gender thing. It is weird. It is nice to see your perspective on how messed this is. I tend to see sexism come up in youtube videos and online articles. I play MTG Area. So I don’t get sexism firsthand, because it is really easy to hide my real gender in the online game. I do use a female planeswalker as an avater. She is Nissa Revine. I didn’t pick her because she is female. I picked her because she is an elf magician with lots of green. That is cool. The sexism is terrible.

    The worst part of it is claims that it is not natural for women to play Magic. That makes no sense. In terms of nature, the intelligence of the genders of the same, and males tend to have higher physical strength. The natural difference is not an issue. It doesn’t take much physical strength to lift and carry cards. Cards are so light. Even a whole deck is easy to lift. So both genders should handle it well. I used to play the Pokemon card game with physical cards, and I had no trouble with the weight. The real thing needed for magic is intellegence. It takes a lot of thought to use skill and strategy to play magic well. This is also the place where the playing feild is even. A woman naturally has the potential to be a great Magic player. She could even win big tournaments. She just has to put in the effort to learn and practice the game.

    The sexism only makes sense as a consruct of society. I am obsessed with fantasy. The fantasy aspect of Magic is what drew me into the game. I also like to use complex strategy to play. I am a fantasy nerd. This game seems to be right up my ally. So I get into the fandom. I still consider myself to be a noob. Having the sexism there is jarring. I think people assume that females shouldn’t play Magic because of stereotypes. It is not like Magic has pink as one of its colors. The pink would probably have a bunch of pink princesses, ponies, fairies and the like. Magic does not do this, because it doesn’t fit in with the aesthetic they are going for. The closest to this would be the Throne Eldraine set. Even that is heavily modified with a purple color in order to fit in with the rest of the game. I am a tomboy. I am starting to wonder if it is easy for a female to become a tomboy. Most things are male dominated. If a woman likes something that doesn’t have to do with house keeping, than boom they are a tomboy. Men get to do all the fun great stuff. It is not fair. I would like to play a fantasy card game in peace, without sexist dudes harassing me. It is also just a card game. It simulates a fight, but it is not that violent. So it is easy for women to get in. There should be no sexism around the card game, and that is enough. It doesn’t need a huge change in the aesthetics or mechanics to draw women in. I don’t get into girly stuff very much because it is so boring. The only exception is princesses and ponies. I think those are the exceptions, because they fit well in fantasy. Fashion is boring. Housework is really boring. Despite being a woman, I am horrendous at house work. It is best not to tell me to go to the kitchen, because I would accidently burn the house down. I am exaggerating on the burning though.

    I like the art style of Magic the Gathering. Contrary to the stereotype, my favorite color is green. When I play Magic, my favorite magic color is blue. It is because I like the philosophy and mechanics of blue magic. Ironically I am not into green magic as much. I like the art style for a wonderful blending of fantasy things with a realistic rendering and anatomy. Having the women being scantily clad is a problem though. That should be fixed. The art style is good overall, but it can still be a problem. Women are sexualized way too much. It is horrible. I think it should be limited to porn. By porn, I mean the X rated stuff. Porn is geared to a male audience, but at it is a bit more egalitarian. Both genders are naked and sexualized. In the mainstream females are sexualized a lot. I am so sick of it. Males are sexualized too. However it a lot less common. It tends to occur in nich things that are geared toward women. The best thing that comes to my mind is romance stories. It is tiresome to enjoy mainstream media and have sexy ladies shoved down my throat. Sex is not on my mind. Since Magic is focused on fantasy and combat, it shouldn’t have sexy stuff. I actually found a great compromize in Ral Zarek. He is the planswalker I use in my main deck. Ral is a very attractive guy. I think he’s cute, and I enjoy that part. Ral is also modest. He wears his wizardly outfit, and he doesn’t show off his body. That is great for those that don’t want to see his body for whatever reason. Ral is a male character, so I don’t think he was supposed to be sexy. The depiction of him is good, because it focuses more on his electric magic ability rather than on his looks. This is just the way female characters should be depicted. They can still be pretty, which the fan boy like. they can also be modest, so they don’t turn off the women. It is also important to focus more on the internal strengths and qualities of the female as opposed to her looks. There are a lot of female characters in the games. There are even female planeswalkers, like Nissa. That is great. I reccomend to do further with the political correctness. If anybody whines about “SJW” than that is too bad. That is their problem, and not the problem of the game.

Comments are closed.