A Magickal Gathering

Magic The Gathering. As someone who dips in and out of the hobby every so often I remain intrigued by what options a collectable card game format might present for those with an interest in creating novel ritual tools. After all, if there are occultists among us who claim success when working with blatantly fictional entities such as Cthulhu or Nurgle, then looking to other fantasy worlds for inspiration becomes a viable exercise as well.

The rules are deceptively simple at first glance. You are a Planeswalker, a magickian of extreme power who battles others of your kind for fame, recognition, or simply shits and giggles. Every game requires at least two custom decks of cards, each individual playing piece representing a different creature, sorcery or item of equipment. The overall idea is to kill your opponent and anything else they control that gets in the way while you do so, but victory at any cost is not the be all and end all of the wider hobby.

As is to be expected of a game that has been consistently rotating in new content for over twenty five years, a wide pool of potential spell cards has formed. Some of these sell for hundreds, of not thousands of pounds, though this is in all honesty rather rare. Early cards such as Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall are but two examples of this inflated value, while the aftermarket for certain ultra rare modern examples remains strong too.

The cards themselves are sold in blind booster packs, with only a single rare and occasional foil coated extra guaranteed per purchase. The fact that many of these are considered to be next to worthless in competitive play leads to some intriguing cards being resold for strikingly reasonable prices, a fact that will make the following occult techniques all the more cost effective for the non player to try out if they are on a tighter budget.

You see even the most common examples remain useful to those looking to perform some real magick while in the shuffle. Small and easy to carry, entire stacks can be used as a colourful alternative to regular sigil paper. And if the mass transit system in your city has partnered with a free morning newspaper, adding a card to each of these before they reach the commuters is a great way to disseminate a little oddity among the uninitiated too.

For those of you who have an interest in creating tulpas, but lack the visualisation skills to coalesce your mental effort into something workable, the artwork showcased on the numerous creature cards can be a massive help. It is far easier to birth such an entity when the psychic energy of hundreds of thousands of individual players has already seeded the collective unconscious with its existence, after all.

And if you find yourself drawn to actually start playing then that is even better, as this inevitably leads to many more options for the aspiring magus to explore. For example, those with a working knowledge of the game system can further expand upon the sigil paper idea above by hunting down specific cards that are related to the desired outcome through flavour text or backstory. Once enough of these are charged they become a form of linked or fractal sigil, creating a whole deck of handy visual spells for use as and when the need arises.

Whether the cards are empowered through ritualistic means or simply used to trigger memetic thought patterns already encoded within the subconscious mind is purely down to personal taste. Regardless, at that point every game played with the correctly charged deck becomes a mini ritual all of its own, whether your opponent is in on the trick or not. Sacralising the mundane was never so easy, or quite as much fun. And it need not stop with simple memetics of course.

Entire thought experiments designed to create elaborate ritual spaces within the magickian’s subconscious, in a way not dissimilar to the Cthonos Rite, can be fuelled by the land cards that form the backbone of the game system. This creates a network of associated locations for use on the imaginative plane, each a tulpa in its own right. Even better, the majority of these geographical pieces are printed in such abundance that they resell for a few pennies at most and can be bought in bulk on eBay for the price of a brand new booster pack.

Cards have been accepted as a divination focus for centuries, and entire schools of mysticism have grown up around their use. No matter how many people have explored such items in an occult context many more have played games like Magic The Gathering, and when reality is reduced to a numbers game the bigger team always wins. This is a point that bares remembering, especially for those who wish to dabble in the information model while using the attention of others as a source of power.