I was lucky enough to get a change to play a couple of hands against a friend yesterday, and it felt really good to be playing Magic again. It's probably been about two years since I played against another human being.
It's weird how being away from something for so long, then coming back, can give you a whole new perspective. I'd never really noticed, until just recently, how luck-based Magic: the Gathering is. I mean, like everyone, I'd experienced the frustration of being "mana-screwed" (for the uninitiated: you have to draw and play "land" cards in order to cast spells, but sometimes, after a shuffle, those land cards will clump at the bottom of the deck, rendering you unable to do anything while your opponent kills you unabated), but I'm not talking about an amateurish "I lost because I didn't draw the right cards" mindset.
No, I realize that except for certain extreme circumstances, when I lose, it's almost certainly because I played poorly. It's one of those getting older things, where you realize that despite how much you love a particular hobby, you've plateaued at "mediocre," and will likely never get to be world class, or even especially good. However, I've come to realize that while my failures are largely attributable to poor decisions, my successes owe a lot to the luck of the draw.
For example, of the three games I played against Andorxor yesterday, I lost two, primarily because I took too many risks with my blocking. The game I won went down something like this "oh look, a card that makes a creature indestructible" . . . Next turn: "oh look, a card that redirects all damage dealt to me to an enchanted creature." Yes, there is a certain species of skill that comes in realizing the potential of those two effects to stack, but when you literally can never take damage from anything, the rest of the game basically wins itself.
The big mystery here is why I am so okay with this luck-based gameplay when similar mechanics in other games drive me absolutely batty. As far as I can tell, the answer boils down to essential human irrationality. I'm okay with the chance element in the table-top game because there's a lot you can do to mitigate chance in the course of deck-building. You play the odds, adding creatures and spells of a wide variety of mana costs, so that you are likely to have at least a few playable cards, regardless of how many lands you draw, and you build in more than one way to win, so that if your big combo doesn't come up, you can lean on your backup plan to save the day (although I may be a little weird this way, because I hate winning with my back-up plan almost as much as I hate losing). So, though chance may rule when it comes to the actual duel, if you've done the legwork beforehand, you can nudge chance into your corner.
Of course, in the video game, all the decks are preconstructed, so you can't do any of that preparation. Chance cannot be influenced. So, I shouldn't really like it in the same way that I like the table-top version. However, the video game reminds me of the card game, and that is enough to give me a good feeling, even if my favorite part of the card game is absent by deliberate design. Like I said, basic human irrationality. This thing looks like a thing I enjoy, thus I enjoy it, because things that look like things I like, I like.