Magic: The Gathering

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Magic: The Gathering
Magic card back.jpg

Magic: The Gathering, also Magic or MTG, is a strategy card game created by Richard Garfield in 1993, and published by Wizards of the Coast.[1][2]

Magic holds the title of "Most Played Trading Card Game," and is currently published in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.[3][4] Digitally, the game can be played in Magic Online and MTG Arena.

General[edit | edit source]

Within the game of Magic, each player takes the role of a planeswalker, a powerful, magic-wielding being.[5]

The game is commonly played with two players, but can be played with more. Each player uses their own deck, which may be constructed from cards they previously owned, or from a limited pool of cards at an event. There are several ways of winning the game, the most common being reducing your opponent to 0 life, from a starting total of 20.[6][7]

There are currently more than 20,000 unique Magic cards,[8] to which hundreds are added each year. Cards are sold in a variety of languages and products, including booster packs and preconstructed theme decks.

Magic is a game of hidden information, meaning that each player knows secrets that the other players do not.[9][10] By contrast, some other games, such as chess, expose the entire game state to all players. Being forced to guess from imperfect information, combined with the inherent randomness in the game (such as from shuffling), makes finding perfect or ideal strategies impractical, if not impossible, and tests a variety of cognitive skills.[11][12][13][14] This is compounded by the continual addition of new cards, which forces regular reevaluation of deckbuilding and gameplay strategies, and leads to an ever-shifting metagame as players adapt.

Trading card game[edit | edit source]

Magic is a trading card game, or TCG. While trading cards predate Magic by more than a century, and solitaire games using them date to the 1950s, Magic was the first product to combine randomized, collectible cards with deck-construction and interactive gameplay.[15][16][17]

The colors of Magic[edit | edit source]

Magic recognizes five colors for mechanical purposes: white, blue, black, red, and green. Each card may be any of these colors, or colorless. A card may also be multicolored, and a hybrid subset of multicolored cards offer additional flexibility.

Each color has characteristic strategies, mechanics, and philosophies. These properties derive from commonplace associations with the colors themselves, and from the practical considerations of creating good gameplay. The "color pie", or color wheel, is a mnemonic device and creative tool based on the ring of colored dots on the back of Magic cards. For any particular color, the color pie uses adjacency on that ring to split the other colors into a pair of neighboring allied colors and a more distant pair of enemy colors.[18]

Mana system[edit | edit source]

Mana is the primary resource for playing spells. Mana is typically drawn from lands (like the basic lands Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest) but it can also be generated by non-land permanents and spells. Players choose whatever cards they want. In order for that to work, the game needs some way to make as many cards as possible matter. By making spells have a cost, the designers are able to make different cards important at different parts of the game. Because of this, each card now has a different reason to be considered for a deck. This diversity of card usage is a key factor in making the entire trading card game work.[19]

Card types[edit | edit source]

A card type is a characteristic that each Magic: The Gathering card has. Each card type has its own rules for how they are played. The main card types are: artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker and sorcery. Some objects may have more than one card type (e.g., artifact creature). Additionally, cards may have supertypes or subtypes.

History[edit | edit source]

The first Magic core set, retroactively labelled Alpha, was created by Dr. Richard Garfield, bought by Wizards of the Coast, and released in August 1993.[20][21] High demand led to a second Beta print run two months later, followed by a rebranded Unlimited Edition. When Richard first made the game, he called it Magic. The name was too basic to trademark so the name was changed to Mana Clash.[22] Everyone kept calling it Magic so they looked into what they needed to do to call it Magic. The answer was to add something to it to make it more unique. Richard chose “The Gathering” as a sub name signifying the beginning, as the plan was to keep changing the sub names. The next version would be called Magic: Ice Age.[23][24] This idea was however quickly abandoned.[25]

Arabian Nights, released December 1993, was the first expansion set, consisting of new cards, rather than reprints. The first "cycle" of thematically linked new releases, now known as a block, began with Ice Age. There are now over seventy expansions, Strixhaven: School of Mages being the latest.

The full, official rules for Magic change regularly with the release of new products. Most of these changes simply define and enable new mechanics, though major revisions have occurred infrequently, such as the 6th Edition update in 1999 and the Grand Creature Type Update in 2007. Proclamations that a new update will finally "kill" the game are common.[26][27] Despite this, the game has flourished, with repeated statements that the most recent large set has become the best-selling set of all time.[28][29]

Mark Rosewater attributes the game's success, in part, to three core concepts introduced by Richard Garfield at the game's inception: the trading card game, the color wheel, and the mana system.[15][30] Additionally, since 2008, Wizards of the Coast has devoted efforts to acquiring new players.[31] Such efforts include a shift in game design to mitigate complexity creep, structured play opportunities to introduce women players to Magic,[32] and more in-game representation of women[33][34] and minorities.[35][36][37] In spite of these efforts, the percentage of the player base that identifies as female is currently in the mid-twenties, down from 38% in the recent past.[38]

The color wheel (© Wizards of the Coast)

Esports and tabletop[edit | edit source]

After the successful introduction of MTG Arena in 2018, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro debuted Magic esports in 2019 and started to refer to the original paper game as "tabletop Magic".[39][40]

Jumping the Shark?[edit | edit source]

By 2020, the future of Magic: the Gathering was questioned by the common players. This was in response to many recently-printed cards being banned because of their high percentage of use warping the meta of nearly all formats, and the dizzying amount of products which were targeted towards the "whales" of the game and priced beyond what the average player could and was willing to spend.[41][42][43]

In 2021, the Universes Beyond-series was announced. This allowed for other IP's introduced into the game.

DCI[edit | edit source]

The DCI (formerly, Duelists' Convocation International) is the official sanctioning body for competitive play in Magic: The Gathering. The DCI provides game rules, tournament operating procedures, and other materials to private tournament organizers and players. It also operates a judge certification program to provide consistent rules enforcement and promote fair play. Wizards of the Coast and the DCI control the list of banned and restricted cards, which are considered too strong in particular tournaments.

In order to play in sanctioned events, players must register for a free membership and receive a DCI number. The DCI maintains a global player rating database using the Elo rating system (Planeswalker Points) and members have access to their entire tournament history online. If a member commits frequent or flagrant rules infractions, their membership can be suspended for variable amounts of time depending on the severity, from one month to a lifetime.

Decks and Tournaments[edit | edit source]

Tournament decks in general must have at least 60 cards. A deck may have no more than four copies of an individual card, besides basic lands which it may have any number. If a sideboard is used, it may contain no more than 15 cards.

Constructed[edit | edit source]

Most games of Magic, especially casual ones, are Constructed formats, where the decks are prepared by the players before they arrive at the game. There are also multiple formats that are played with constructed decks in DCI-sanctioned tournaments:

  • In Block Constructed, players may play any unbanned cards from a single block.[44]
  • In the Standard format, players play with a deck of at least 60 cards from the most recent core set, the most recent fully released block, and the block that is currently being released.[45]
  • Vintage is the oldest format in the game, simply because it allows players the ability to use almost any card from any black or white bordered set.
  • In the Legacy format, cards from all sets are playable, though many of the cards which are restricted in vintage are banned in legacy.
  • Modern is currently the newest eternal format in the game and bridges the gap between standard and legacy. The card pool in this format is much smaller compared to Legacy and Vintage. The card pool in this format encompasses all sets from Eighth Edition on.

Limited[edit | edit source]

In the Limited format, players do not play with decks they built ahead of time, but play with decks of cards from sealed booster packs, which are built at the beginning of a limited tournament before play begins. In limited formats, the minimum deck size is 40 cards. Generally, 17-19 lands and 21-23 spells are played, but there is some variance in this aspect. This format is favored by some, as it allows all players, no matter the size of their collection, to have an equal chance at doing well in a tournament.

  • In the Draft format, each participating player is seated around a table, usually of eight players, and is given three sealed booster packs. Each player opens the first of their packs, chooses a card from it, and places the chosen card face down on the table in front of them. The remaining cards in the pack are passed to the left, and players repeat this process with the pack just passed to them until all the cards are chosen. The same is done with the second pack, this time passing to the right, and with the third pack, passing left again. Each player then builds a deck using the 45 cards they chose from the booster packs. Sanctioned drafts can be run with any number of boosters from any set, as long as each drafter receives the same product. The most common drafts are from the most recent block.
  • Sealed Deck is a common format used at prerelease tournaments. In this format, everyone is given the same amount of product (e.g., six booster packs). From that pool of cards, and adding in as many basic land as desired, each player must build a deck of at least 40 cards. Any opened cards not put in the main deck count as part of the sideboard. In a sealed deck, the skill is making the best out of what you're given.[46]

Product slots[edit | edit source]

The line up for regular Magic products is:[47][note 1]

Note[edit | edit source]

  1. All seasons according to the Northern Hemisphere

Conventions[edit | edit source]

Magic is yearly featured at several conventions:

Thse conventions may feature storyline or design panels, Blogatog live, massive Magic (playing with giant Magic cards that are over three feet big),[52] etc.

Online[edit | edit source]

Wizards' online convention, Uncon, featured several tournaments and contests.[53]

Awards[edit | edit source]

  • In 1994, awards from the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for Magic: The Gathering and Legends.
  • Magic is listed on the Games Magazine Hall of Fame.[54]
  • Academy of Adventure Gaming & Design: Best Collectible Card Game of the Year 2015 for Khans of Tarkir.
  • 2019 Toy Hall of Fame inductee.[55]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Richard Garfield (March 12, 2013). "The Creation of Magic: The Gathering". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Michael G. Ryan (June 01, 2009). "A Magic History of Time". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Monty Ashley (September 14, 2011). "World Records". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Wizards of the Coast (November 2, 2015). "Announcing Shadows over Innistrad". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. John Carter (December 25, 2004). "The Original Magic Rulebook". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Jeff Cunningham (June 30, 2007). "Playing the Game". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Jeff Cunningham (August 04, 2007). "Lessons Learned". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Gatherer search for every card type using OR.[1] Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  9. Sam Stoddard (March 22, 2013). "The Nature of Secrecy". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Sam Stoddard (October 24, 2014). "Hidden Information". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (July 27, 2009). "Decisions, Decisions, Part I". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater (August 10, 2009). "Decisions, Decisions, Part II". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Sam Stoddard (September 13, 2013). "Decisions, Decisions". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Reid Duke (August 11, 2014). "What is Magic?". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. a b Mark Rosewater (June 05, 2006). "As Good As It Gets". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. "Trading Card Central - History". Trading Card Central. Retrieved March 23, 2016
  17. unknown, toppcat (2013-03-28), "It's Cott To be Good!". The Topps Archives. Retrieved Match 23 2016.
  18. Mark Rosewater (August 18, 2003). "The Value of Pie". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Rosewater (May 30, 2011). "Mana Action". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Monty Ashley (January 23, 2013). "Twenty Years Ago". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Wizards of the Coast (January 31, 2018). "Magic's 25th Anniversay; 25 Year Timeline",, Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Mark Rosewater (October 22, 2018). "How Trivial". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Wizards of the Coast (October, 2005). "Ask Wizards - October 2005". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Mark Rosewater (March 08, 2015). "What does the titular "Gathering" in MTG mean?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  25. Magic Arcana (August 05, 2002). "Almost a Different Back". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Dan Gray (June 01, 2009). "Simple Rules are the Holy Grail of Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Mark Rosewater (August 17, 2013). "For years, Mirrodin...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  29. Mark Rosewater (August 18, 2014). "State of Design 2014". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Mark Rosewater (March 02, 2009). "Magic Design Seminar: Looking Within". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Mark Rosewater (March 03, 2008). "Assume the Acquisition". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Jennifer Robles (December 11, 2012). "The LPS and Creating Play Groups". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Mark Rosewater (April 17, 2012). "Re: your latest...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  34. Mark Rosewater (February 12, 2015). "Do you guys...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  35. James Wyatt (Jan 28, 2015). "The Truth of Names". Wizards of the Coast.
  36. Doug Beyer (September 12, 2014). "This got asked to Maro...". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  37. Doug Beyer (September 15, 2013). "Are the Guardians of Meletis...". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  38. Mark Rosewater (June 22, 2017). "I think one of the reasons the community argues with you...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  39. Elaine Chase (December 6, 2018). "The Next Chapter for Magic: Esports". Wizards of the Coast.
  40. Mark Rosewater (March 11, 2019). "Where It's At". Wizards of the Coast.
  41. Jacob Willson (May 28, 2020). "This Article is Not For You: Worrying Trends in MtG".
  42. Kendra Smith (September 30, 2020). "The Problem with The Walking Dead Secret Lair".
  43. SaffronOlive (October 2, 2020). "If You Are Not Happy with the State of Magic, Stop Giving Wizards Your Money".
  44. Wizards of the Coast. (April 28, 2014.) Block Format Deck Construction
  45. Wizards of the Coast. (April 28, 2014.) Standard Format Deck Construction Block Format Deck Construction
  46. Mark Rosewater (July 09, 2007). "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered". Wizards of the Coast.
  47. Mark Rosewater (March 21, 2015). "Are there 5 releases a year, with the fifth being a sort of 'other' slot?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  48. a b Mark Rosewater (June 12, 2017). "Metamorphosis 2.0". Wizards of the Coast.
  49. Mark Rosewater (March 10, 2013). "Will there still be a multiplayer set in this slot by default, or could you use it for something else?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  50. Mark Rosewater (July 07, 2014). "Have you already decided on what next year's "summer" special release will be?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  51. Mark Rosewater (July 22, 2017). "I was hoping I could get some trivia on the original commander set.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  52. Mark Rosewater (August 20, 2017). "What is Massive Magic?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  53. Magic Arcana (September 18, 2003). "Uncon 2003 Prize Sketches". Wizards of the Coast.
  54. Magic Arcana (November 12, 2003). "Magic: The Gathering Inducted into Games Magazine Hall of Fame". Wizards of the Coast.
  55. The Strong: National Museum of Play (November 7, 2019). "2019 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductees Announced".
  56. Matt Cavotta (March 27, 2018). "Venturing Outward with the Magic Logo". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]