Magic: The Gathering

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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]

Magic card back.jpg

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 15,000 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 four 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 an 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] High demand led to a second Beta print run two months later, followed by a rebranded Unlimited Edition.

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. The seventieth expansion, Shadows over Innistrad, was released in April 2016.

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. Fears that a new update will finally "kill" the game are common.[21][22] Despite this, the game has flourished, with repeated statements that the most recent large set has become the best-selling set of all time.[23][24]

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.[25][26] Additionally, since 2008, Wizards of the Coast has devoted efforts to acquiring new players.[27] Such efforts include a shift in game design to mitigate complexity creep, structured play opportunities to introduce women gamers to Magic [28], and in-game representation of women[29][30] and minorities[31][32][33].

The "Color Wheel". © Wizards of the Coast.

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 ratings 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, his or her 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 4 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 played with constructed decks, made by the players before they arrive at 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.[34]
  • 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.[35]
  • 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 cardpool in this format is much smaller compared to either legacy, or vintage. The cardpool in this format encompasses all set 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 8 players, and is given 3 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.
  • In Sealed deck is a common format used at prerelease tournaments. Everyone is given the same amount of product, e.g. 6 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 sealed deck, the skill is making the best out of what you're given.[36]

Conventions[edit | edit source]

Magic is yearly featured at several conventions:

Online[edit | edit source]

WotC's online convention, Uncon, features several tournaments and contests. [37]

Awards[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Richard Garfield. (March 12, 2013.) "The Creation of Magic: The Gathering", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  2. Michael G. Ryan. (June 01, 2009.) "A Magic History of Time", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  3. Monty Ashley. (September 14, 2011.) "World Records", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  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", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  6. Jeff Cunningham. (June 30, 2007.) "Playing the Game", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  7. Jeff Cunningham. (August 04, 2007.) "Lessons Learned", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  8. Gatherer search for rules text containing a period. Excludes basic lands and vanilla creatures.[1] Retrieved May 19 2015.
  9. Sam Stoddard. (March 22, 2013.) "The Nature of Secrecy", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  10. Sam Stoddard. (October 24, 2014.) “Hidden Information”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater. (July 27, 2009.) "Decisions, Decisions, Part I", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  12. Mark Rosewater. (August 10, 2009.) "Decisions, Decisions, Part II", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  13. Sam Stoddard. (September 13, 2013.) "Decisions, Decisions", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  14. Reid Duke. (August 11, 2014.) “What is Magic?”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Mark Rosewater. (June 05, 2006.) "As Good As It Gets", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  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", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  19. Mark Rosewater. (May 30, 2011.) “Mana Action”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Monty Ashley. (January 23, 2013.) "Twenty Years Ago", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  21. Dan Gray. (June 01, 2009.) "Simple Rules are the Holy Grail of Magic", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  22. Mark Rosewater. (August 05, 2013.) "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  23. Mark Rosewater. (August 17, 2013.) "For years, Mirrodin...", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  24. Mark Rosewater. (August 18, 2014.) “State of Design 2014”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Mark Rosewater. (June 05, 2006.) "As Good As It Gets", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  26. Mark Rosewater. (March 02, 2009.) "Magic Design Seminar: Looking Within", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  27. Mark Rosewater. (March 03, 2008.) "Assume the Acquisition", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  28. Jennifer Robles. (December 11, 2012.) "The LPS and Creating Play Groups", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  29. Mark Rosewater. (April 17, 2012.) "Re: your latest..", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  30. Mark Rosewater. (February 12, 2015.) "Do you guys...", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  31. James Wyatt. (Jan 28, 2015.) “The Truth of Names”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Doug Beyer. (September 12, 2014.) "This got asked to Maro...", A Voice for Vorthos, Tumblr.
  33. Doug Beyer. (September 15, 2013.) "Are the Guardians of Meletis...", A Voice for Vorthos, Tumblr.
  34. Wizards of the Coast. (April 28, 2014.)Block Format Deck Construction
  35. Wizards of the Coast. (April 28, 2014.) Standard Format Deck Construction Block Format Deck Construction
  36. Mark Rosewater. (July 09, 2007.) "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  37. Magic Arcana. (September 18, 2003.) "Uncon 2003 Prize Sketches", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]
  38. Magic Arcana. (November 12, 2003.) "Magic: The Gathering Inducted into Games Magazine Hall of Fame", Daily MTG,, Wizards of the Coast. [dead link]

External links[edit | edit source]