Magic: The Gathering

Magic is the world's first and most successful trading card game. Players take the role of great wizards who battle each other with spells and creatures, represented by the cards in their decks. Very fun to play, a little sad to watch.

Nothing in this picture has anything to do with Magic.

Just The Facts

  1. Magic essentially established the trading card game genre, and remains the most successful game of its kind after more than fifteen years.
  2. Magic's creator, Richard Garfield, is an actual mathematician. This may be why his game is still interesting and expanding, while most knock-offs fizzled and died.
  3. Magic is directly responsible for its publishers, Wizards of the Coast, becoming the world's leading company in hobby gaming.
  4. By targeting both gambling addicts and compulsive collectors, Magic has drained some people's savings faster than any drug habit.
  5. Magic tournaments have actually been shown on ESPN2. No shitting.

Cracked on Magic: The Gathering

All the excitement of chess, with all the intensity of card collecting!

Magic is essentially a wizards' duel, represented by the cards you play.  Each player uses a deck built from their own collection to assemble their power base, then use that power to summon fantasy creatures to fight each other and blast away with spells.  Unlike D&D, most players don't show up in costume or play in character, which is probably why nobody's accused it of endorsing witchcraft and corrupting the minds of the young.  The Pokemon card game wouldn't be so fortunate.

A relatively simple game at its core, the over-twenty thousand cards that have been printed - almost all of which have some unique rule-bending quirk - have resulted in a set of comprehensive rules and errata that reads like a federal tax code.  Yet somehow, thirteen-year olds can figure it out, making the rest of us feel bad and look bad.

The Colors of Magic

Decisions, decisions...

One of the better parts of Magic is the notion of dividing spells into five colors, each of which have their own general strengths and flaws.  Figuring out which colors to use in your deck is pretty much the core of any strategy.

White: Professional armies team up to steamroll your enemies while making new rules for everyone to obey, but a lack of initiative can leave you twiddling your thumbs.

Blue: Use information and deception to avoid direct conflict and fuck up how your opponents' spells work. Screw up your countermoves though, and your soft face and belly are ripe for a beating.

Black: Sacrifice your soul, your sanity, and the lives of your minions for forbidden power. Let it get out of control, and it'll ruin you without anybody else having to do anything.

Red: Go balls to the wall, wrecking the other guy's shit before he knows what happened, preferably using cool exploding things.  Red runs out of gas quick though, so it has to win either now or never.

Green: Whip out bigger things than the other guy and smack him around with them. Just don't be surprised if he manages to shame you with his superior finesse.

The Players of Magic

The Mecca of lonely unwashed white male basement-dwellers the world over.

The stereotypical Magic player is a white American male, between the ages of 14-25. Like most stereotypes, this is firmly grounded in reality. In addition, they tend to be smelly and unhygenic, and some can be real dicks about their trading card game. While this last bit isn't universally true - plenty of players are good sports and have active lives with lucrative, honorable careers - there are still those grown adults who throw hissyfits when an opponent who's out of the running refuses to concede a match, or who cheat by "accidentally" dropping one or two of your cards under the table while cutting your deck.

But seriously, about the smell? More than one article on tournament preparation has strongly encouraged participants to shower prior to the event. Apparently, a good number of these people actually do need reminders.

While Magic has been produced worldwide, the professional scene was dominated by Americans and some western Europeans until recently, with Japanese players cutting a swath through white dominance of the game, proving once again that the Japanese are just plain better at everything we create.