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Magic Afoot at Hi De Ho
By Ann K. Williams
July 10, 2012 -- If you think you'll only find comic books at Hi De Ho, think again -- there's Magic in the store.
Magic the Gathering, that is. It's the first collectible card game according to wikipedia, created in the early '90's a few years before the rise of Pokemon.
The game's been enjoying a renaissance since its online manifestation caught on a few years ago.
Saturday morning the store on Lincoln Boulevard was the busy hub of a weekend-long 2013 deck pre-release party, with players facing off, their spell-casting wizards vying for control of “The Planes,” as the lands represented on the cards are called.
Some had been playing Magic until midnight the night before, said Saleem, the store's owner. “It's been booming online,” he said, but that's not enough for these players.
“People want to play it with touch and feel cards,” he said. “You need people to talk to. It's a social game.”
The store's reaching out to younger players, Saleem said. Hi De Ho offers instruction for newcomers and a growing community of competitors.
Saturday's crowd seemed to bear out his claim.
Players as young as eleven mixed with fans who'd been hooked back in the 90's and were coming back to their favorite game. Ten card tables set up throughout the cavernous 4,000 square foot store were filling up.
Riley, who'd just graduated from fifth grade was there with his dad, John. They both sported longish ringleted hair, Riley's blond, John's dark, and Riley was wearing his soccer shirt. Riley's dad has transformed from a soccer dad to a Magic dad, ferrying his son, who's been playing Magic for a year, to the fantasy games.
“He wants to play in tournaments,” said John. As for himself, he didn't need an “addiction,” he said with a laugh.
Justin “V for victorious” was setting out his cards at the next table – last names seemed to be left at the door with this crowd. Buff in a tight black T-shirt, Justin was coy about his age, only saying that he'd played the game in high school when it first came out and had returned to it after it's recent surge in popularity.
He enjoys what he calls the “customizability” of the game.
“You build a strategy by selecting cards,” Justin said. “It's always growing, they're always printing new cards. It doesn't stay the same. Every set is a new plane and you can mix and match sets....You create your own style.”
Which seems to be what makes Magic such a winner for the store – besides the community it creates, new cards and related paraphernalia are continually being released.
“The decks are randomized, it's how they make money,” said Dexter, a local ninth-grader. “You have to buy more to get all the cards.”
While the players were selecting their cards, Saleem and his employee September were setting up a computer to track the games, tying them into a program that links players at other locations.
I asked September for a quick tutorial. The only girl in the place, she was fashionable in purple and green tinted hair, her Hi De Ho T-shirt artfully cut and knotted at the sides.
“Anybody can learn Magic in ten minutes,” she said, but “it takes a long time to master” the game.
For starters, you either buy a pre-made deck or create your own by buying your own cards. Most players do a combination of both, she said.
“People really get into it, they do a lot of research,” said September. There are deck list and strategy groups online.
The players' decks don't match, she said. That's what make it fun, you never know what's in your opponent's deck so each game develops its own strategy.
September drew seven cards and played “plane” or land cards, in this case, mountains, to set up an area in which her wizards could cast their spells. “It's a little mini-battlefield with cards” she said.
Then you go after your opponent. You start off with 20 life points, said September. When you're down to zero, you've lost.
From the looks of things in the room, it seemed like the game can take a pretty long time.
Food for the long haul was set out. Next to the game-play mats showing scenes from Magic, it looked kind of like snack time in elementary school, only the snacks were more on the mature side – iced mocha, a can of mixed nuts.
As Saleem set out his own cards – he plays too – more customers drifted in. Some of them were there to check out the comics
Saleem said the store “fully supports” independent artists.
Their comics have to be “professionally presented, professionally done,” he said. The art can't be “too abstract to look at,” and it can't be poorly done.
“We look the merits of content, at visual appeal. If it looks good you'll open it,” said Saleem.
There's going to be a signing at 11a.m. this coming Wednesday by Omar Spahi, who wrote and published his first book, XenoGlyphs.
“People still come in here asking for the Supply Sergeant,” said September. “We only have the superheroes.”
For game times and store hours, see hidehocomics.com.
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