Hello everyone, and welcome to The Player’s Club!

My name is C. L. and I’m ridiculously excited to be here at Ideology of Madness writing about one of my greatest passions in life, gaming! When Paul asked me to start writing a gaming column for the site, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been a lifelong gamer and I love everything from tabletop RPGs to video games and everything in between.  Needless to say, this is a subject near and dear to my heart and I always have an opinion or obsession to share.

So, what exactly is The Player’s Club? My vision for the column is to provide you all with reviews, opinion pieces about the state of gaming, previews of upcoming games, and even some retrospective pieces. In short, it’s about all things gaming!

Now that all the introductions are out of the way, let’s get to my current obsession: Magic: The Gathering.

(If you’ve never heard of Magic or don’t know what a collectible card game is all about, you might want to visit Wikipedia and the official Magic site first. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the volume of information out there about the game; it has a very rich history, especially well-documented on the Internet.)

When I mentioned previously that I was a lifelong gamer, one of the games I’ve played the longest is Magic. For over 16 years now, I’ve played the granddaddy of all collectible card games. There were a few gaps where I played little to no Magic, but even then I’d casually keep up with what was going on. In other words, I like to consider myself a bit of veteran at the game and I’ve seen plenty of ups and downs as far as popularity and success are concerned. I mention all of this so you will all understand the weight of the following opinion I am about to express:

The latest core set, Magic 2011, is the best since Unlimited. (For those who aren’t familiar with Magic’s history, Unlimited was released in 1993 and one of the last truly powerful core sets in the game.)

So why is the set so good? First, let’s step back a year to Magic 2010 for a bit of perspective.

Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic, made a decision to start printing their core sets yearly instead of biannually. In addition, they were not simply going to reprint existing cards from their expansion sets but create new cards for the core sets. Ever since the Unlimited core set, cards would rotate out and in, but all the cards had been seen before in another expansion set. While these old core set changes certainly impacted the various formats of the game when they were released, the new model for the core sets would have much more impact on the game’s various formats. (It’s a bit much to get into the details about why, especially for those who might not be familiar with the game, but perhaps I can cover this another time.) Players reacted with varying levels of concern, anger, and excitement as we fans are wont to do. In the end, the changes were a rousing success for the game and for Wizards financially. Magic is at the height of its popularity right now and it owes much of that to M10.

Given the high bar that was set, many people wondered if Magic 2011 could top its predecessor. In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.  M11 delivers on multiple fronts. It has reprints of older, powerful cards that will have a big impact on multiple formats (e.g.: Mana Leak). It has a new cycle of cards (in Magic, a cycle generally refers to a group of cards with a similar theme printed for all 5 colors) that will be very useable in tournament play (the Titans). It even has an old cycle with a modern facelift to improve on the originals (Leylines). It has cards that could provide hints at what to expect in the next Magic expansion set, Scars of Mirrodin (e.g.: Phylactery Lich, Steel Overseer). And to top it all off, the artwork and card design is more spectacular and flavorful than ever. All those features make for an exciting set. As a veteran, I never thought I’d find myself being so excited and intrigued by a core set. Based on what I have seen on various sites and forums, I’m not the only one.

For any of those who are interested in getting in to Magic again or for the first time, I’d highly recommend you do so now. It’s a wonderful time to be a Magic player and I believe that M11 will continue to build on the current wave of popularity and success for the game. Don’t hesitate to ask me anything about the game, veterans and newbies alike!

I hope you enjoyed your stay at The Player’s Club! Next time, I plan on providing an initial review of Starcraft II, which comes out on Tuesday!

C. L. can also be reached on Twitter @clnolen.