Magic: The Gathering
- – /tg/
Magic: The Gathering (also known as Magic or MTG) is a collectible card game created by Richard Garfield, and introduced to neckbeards everywhere in 1993. Despite the amount of RAGE the game has created over the years, it's still going strong. The game is currently in its 25th year of production with a large competitive following, consisting mostly of 40-year-old basement dwellers. Magic, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh make up the three pillars of the paper market, being the three games that generate the most revenue today. Magic is notable for being the first CCG of all time, granddaddy of all Card Games, and its influence can be seen in almost every CCG since. It also has fucktons of fluff that is surprisingly fucking intricate and deep.
Originally, the game really had no story, except that the two players represented wizards who were beating the shit out of each other for control of a plane, which is fantasy-speak for an entire universe within a multiverse called Dominia, where you would sometimes find a world full of angels or a copypasta of what white people think the Middle East was like once upon a time. Within a few months of the game's release, the "Antiquites" expansion set was released, depicting the story of a war between two brothers, Urza and Mishra, and introducing Phyrexia as
bootleg Apokolips a cosmic antagonist manipulating things from the shadows. This kicked off an extremely long and convoluted plotline that was supposed to officially end with the "Apocalypse" expansion pack, but which WotC keeps dredging up and continuing because they haven't had a good, original idea since the Rath cycle. There have been a few side-plots along the way, but nobody really ever gave a shit about them because they sucked. The game was also broken as fuck as even back then R&D had no idea what the fuck they were doing; most decks consisted of a combination of Black Lotus, Channel and Fireball for plenty of turn 1 kills, cards were wordy as fuck and the art was between trippy and butt ugly.
The Urza/Weatherlight/Rath/Phyrexia SagaEdit
The beginning of this story is depicted in the prequel novel "The Thran". In this novel, a bunch of people (the eponymous Thran) are becoming sick and they have no idea why. Yawgmoth, a healer, eventually figures out that it's because they're wearing radioactive jewelry. He develops a crush on a girl, but she friendzones him, so he decides to surgically implant tons of radioactive jewelry into her boyfriend. The story ends with the Thran getting sick of his shit and banishing him to an empty plane, Phyrexia, where he sets up shop and starts using his knowledge of radioactive jewelry to start building an army of greasy steampunk zombies.
Fast-forward a few thousand years, to the events of the novel "The Brothers' War". Two young brothers, Urza and Mishra, go exploring in the Caves of Koilos and find a couple of magic rocks, the Mightstone and the Meekstone. Urza keeps the Mightstone and Mishra gets the Meekstone. Because the mightstone is bigger and better, Mishra spends most of his life suffering from Magic Stone Envy. Fast-forward maybe another 20 years. In a clever ripoff of "The Princess and the Pea", a king decides that he will only allow his daughter to marry a man who can lift a huge-ass piece of rock that no one can actually lift. Urza shows up and builds a humongous mecha that easily moves the rock. The king decides that this is good enough and lets them marry. However, the marriage is a disaster because it turns out that building humongous mecha and maintaining romantic relationships are two extremely different skill sets. Blah blah blah, war breaks out between the two brothers, entire continents are pillaged and despoiled as a result of the war, and Urza eventually wins by nuking half of the goddamn planet with a plot device called a Golgothian Sylex. The Sylex Blast turned Urza into a Planeswalker, guaranteeing that he'd continue to fuck up the entire multiverse with his drama for eons to come.
The ensuing nuclear winter was depicted in the expansion packs "The Dark", "Fallen Empires", "Ice Age", and "Alliances". Nobody really knows or cares about this part of the story, because they aren't about the Almighty Urza Christ, Peace Be Unto Him. Urza's adventures during this time are depicted in the novel "Planeswalker", where he decides to wage a one-man war against the Phyrexians, who he blames for turning Mishra into a robot. He starts by launching a LITERAL one-man attack against Phyrexia, where he gets ROFLPWN3D but manages to pick up a sexy female Phyrexian sidekick named Xantcha. Realizing that the successful destruction of Phyrexia would require him to be less of a dick and learn how to make allies, the two of them go to places like Shiv, Tolaria, and Serra's realm, which never ends well for the inhabitants of those places because the Phyrexians are constantly following him and fucking up everything everywhere he goes. He eventually decides that the key to victory will be to make a bunch of extremely powerful plot devices, which he calls the "Legacy Weapon", whose actual functions and purposes would be decided by whichever unfortunate authors got stuck with writing the end of this story. Some components of the Legacy included the flying ship Weatherlight and the silver golem Karn. He also bred an army of super-soldiers that he called the Metathran. These events are depicted in the novels "Time Streams" and "Bloodlines"
Eventually, the Weatherlight came to be crewed by a bunch of people who basically had no clue who Urza or the Phyrexians were, or what the Legacy was, or really anything that was mentioned in the above paragraph, because all of that shit was made up retroactively. In the anthology book "Rath and Storm", Sisay, the hot black chick who somehow became the Weatherlight's captain despite knowing nothing about it, has been kidnapped, and the rest of the crew, led by Gerrard Capashen, must hop from continent to continent, looking for clues to her whereabouts and picking up random hitch-hikers as they go, often for little or no reason. They track her down to the plane of Rath, where everything from the merfolk to the weather is Darker and Edgier. Some shit happens, they succeed in rescuing Sisay, and they also "rescue" someone who they THINK is Takara, daughter of Starke, a double-dealing backstabber that they allowed to come aboard because good is dumb. During their escape, however, they end up leaving two crew members behind: Crovax and Ertai.
The next three books and expansion packs, collectively called the "Masquerade Cycle", all take place during the same time frame but in different locations. "Mercadian Masques" follows the crew of the Weatherlight, who find themselves in an unknown plane called Mercadia, and who must figure out how to get back to their home plane, Dominaria (not to be confused with Dominia). This is also where "Takara" is, in fact, revealed to be Volrath, the Evincar of Rath, who manages to do absolutely nothing of importance in Mercadia and must find a way back to Rath. "Nemesis" follows the adventures of Crovax and Ertai after they are left behind. To make a long story short, they both turn to the dark side, and Crovax is appointed the new Evincar of Rath by Ertai's hot new Phyrexian girlfriend, Belbe, who dies immediately afterward. Volrath is also executed upon his return. "Prophecy", the third book and expansion pack in the cycle, was about overpriced cards that totally fucking sucked and a story that no one gave a shit about because it had nothing to do with anything else that was happening at the time, and can be safely ignored.
The Invasion cycle - Invasion, Planeshift, and Apocalypse - depicted the long-awaited Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria. Urza, the Weatherlight crew, the Elder Dragon Legends, over 9000 different kinds of Kavu, and everyone else came together to fight back against the endless army of greasy steampunk zombies. This resulted in the deaths of most major characters, the destruction of Phyrexia, and the transformation of Karn into a Planeswalker.
After that came the Odyssey and Onslaught cycles, which took place on Dominaria 200 years after the Phyrexian invasion. These stories sucked ass and depicted no events of major importance, except for the Mirari, which was Karn's
bootleg One Ring space probe that became retroactively important in a weak attempt at continuity, and the resurrection of the Slivers, a creature type from the Rath cycle that had proven insanely popular.
Then came a strange phase in MtG history, where WotC would alternate between unsuccessful attempts to dredge up the past and unsuccessful attempts to create new planes and stories that were worth giving a fuck about. Kamigawa block deserves a special shout-out here, as it didn't sell worth shit because it was a low-power block sandwiched between two blocks of solid cheese. There's also a very, very small chance of ever coming back here according to an article written by Mark Rosewater titled "Rabiah Scale Part 1", where he explains that while Kamigawa is the least popular plane, there is a very vocal minority that loves it.
Dominaria was revisited in "Time Spiral" when WotC, realizing that something was amiss, decided that the only way they could get people to care about the story again was to bring back the old Weatherlight crew, which in turn required time travel. The "Time Spiral" cycle also gave WotC an excuse to bring back Slivers AGAIN. Then came "Scars of Mirrodin", which took a formerly original plane and storyline and shoehorned the Dominaria/Phyrexia storyline into it. This was about the point where the "Mending" happened, which changed the fluff of the story and marked a major change in storytelling since Wizards acknowledged that Time Spiral didn't actually make people start caring about the story again.
You are a Planeswalker, a wizard with near-limitless potential. One out of one million intelligent lifeforms carry the potential of becoming a Planeswalker, called the Spark. The vast majority of those live out their lives without even knowing of their potential. But a very small number of those, again one out of a million becomes far more. After a traumatizing experience or a moment of supreme clarity the Spark ignites, giving the being power beyond nearly anything in the Multiverse.
A Planeswalker has several abilities. First it can travel between the Planes of the Multiverse through the Blind Eternities, the space between Planes in which they drift. Second they have great skill with channeling and using mana to cast spells and summon creatures. The Planeswalkers of old could do even more: they were gestalt forms of will, and could shapechange into anything they want. This also rendered them near indestructible, with their forms being easily replaceable. They were also nigh-immortal, the only thing posing a serious threat to a Planeswalker was another Planeswalker.
The old Planeswalkers were akin to gods, and continued to be so until roughly 4,000 years after the ascension of Urza. Dominaria, the Nexus of the Multiverse had become something of a shithole because of various aforementioned plotlines having royally screwed up the plane and rifts in time began to appear. After the sacrifices of many Planeswalkers these rifts were sealed in the Mending, an event that changed Planeswalkers for good. No longer gods amongst mortals, they were reduced to the power of mortal casters. They also lost their shapechanging and immortality, something that vexed many surviving Planeswalkers. Some like Nicol Bolas fought with tooth and nail to reobtain their powers, some like Liliana Vess made pacts with powerful creatures to be more powerful, and some like Sorin Markov accepted their loss. Then again Sorin's a vampire and so is naturally damn near immortal anyway, so his loss was rather less significant than others.
This era has six blocks so far:
- Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, a plane that turns from bright upbeat British fairy-tale with facist Elves to a grim and gloomy spirit world filled with all sorts of nasties.
- The Alara block details the attempt of Nicol Bolas to slam five parts of a fractured plane together and feast on the released energy to make himself a god again: the slamming is a success but he fails when he is beaten by Ajani Goldmane.
- Zendikar is Australia on steroids and Call of Cthulhu; everything can and will try to kill you. On this world rested the Eldrazi, a race of non-beings that can unmake anything with a touch. Freed by the machinations of, once again, Nicol Bolas. They are fighting Gideon Jura who beat one to death with his bare hands.
- Scars of Mirrodin returns to, wait for it, Mirrodin, which is conquered and compleated by Phyrexia. Whoops. They currently have a spy amongst their ranks; Tezzeret, who was sent there by, you guessed it, Nicol Bolas.
- Innistrad is a world of East-European gothic horror where vampires and werewolves run business. It is one of the best sets ever with stuff like double-faced cards, monsters that get stronger when they die and awesome flavor. At the end of the block the Helvault, a prison for lots of demons, was destroyed. Releasing its contents. This was done by... no not Nicol Bolas. Not this time. It was Liliana Vess, who wanted to kill a demon, Griselbrand, that was trapped inside to get out of a faustian bargain she made with him. Incidentally (as far as Liliana Vess is concerned), this world was going to shit because the angel Avacyn was trapped inside the Helvault too and she was released along side the demons.
- Then there is a Return to Ravnica, where the Guilds have picked up business once again for the time being, eventually they run a world-wide maze to see who gets to take control of the city. Jace Beleran wins by becoming the guildpact (I'm as confused as you).
- Finally there is Theros with the awesome flavor of Innistrad but with Greek mythology and awesome mechanics to represent it. Oh and Elspeth is there.
This era also set off a new wave of core sets: after every Block was new core set with a year in it, staring in Magic 2010 to Magic Origins (released July 2015) and adding a few new cards every series. This era also introduced Planeswalkers as cards: a new permanent type that functions as a crossover between a player, a legendary creature and an enchantment. The game currently takes place in that era, where Planeswalkers have begun to rise in large numbers with the Multiverse's infinite secrets and powers at their feet. Here you decide what you will be.
The Two-Block ParadigmEdit
This system officially started in Battle for Zendikar. How to deal with the 3rd set in a block had long been a thorn in the side of Magic R&D. To fix this they decided to simply stop making 3 set blocks. Core sets would no longer be released and a Block would consist of 2 sets. Usually the first set would be large and the second set small. There would be 2 blocks per year (those years being October-September). Of course, draft structure will be different as well.
Also there is a big shift in story telling. The creative team actually knows what is going to happen quite a bit in advance (compared to before this shift) which, should provide us benefits like better foreshadowing and less retcons. Each set contains five official (although in practice, probably more unofficial) cards that show events in the story deemed important. The official ones are called "spotlight cards" and can be identified by the planeswalker symbol watermark. The story will be across multiple platforms such as cards in the set, Uncharted Realms, Duels of the Planeswalkers, ect... Each block is still on a different plane than the blocks surrounding it, which of course means the creative team is building an average of 2 worlds per year (arguably less so in the cases when returning to a mtg world we've been to before). (Consider that the people who made Avatar spent five years building that one setting. This can't possibly end badly.).
There have been some growing pains and because WotC works so far in advance, it takes a while before we get the benefits of the lessons learned applying to Magic players (unless the lesson is to ban cards, in which case, if WotC is correct, Magic players as a whole are getting the better of 2 bad options). So don't be surprised if Standard for the next few sets will suck  (as defined by it being bad, or it being okay, but only because WotC banned some cards, hurting players that bought a playset of those cards).
As if to make it hurt more, lately there has been tons of mistakes being made including but not limited to:
- Not testing whether a set with Dual Lands and lands that can search for them will lead to four color decks (breaking the point of having you chose between so many colors)
- Shorting (then increasing) the time a set rotates out, which has Battle for Zendikar be still in rotation for much more then it should have been in, while having the set after be taken out for a much shorter time.
- Having to ban four card in short succession, not because of how generally overpowered they were like the bans of old, but instead because they never printed any good answers to them.
- Missing an infinite combo, which dominated standard until it was banned.
Most of the story thus-far involves The Gatewatch, a group a Planeswalkers who have taken oaths to keep the multiverse safe from existential threats. Nobody likes them and they got pimp slapped by Nicol Bolas.
The Three and One ModelEdit
Whoops, turns out removing the primary source of deck staples and support cards was a bad idea after all. The block concept is out the door under this model, with a core set in the summer and three large sets in the fall, winter, and spring that will each be drafted separately. The first large set under the new model dropped in the spring of 2018 and returned to Dominaria, while the first new core set was released in the summer of 2018. The "new plane every block" policy is also gone, as is the idea of having a "Masterpiece Series" (aka literal cardboard lottery) with every block; Wizards is going to be making the game stay on each plane exactly as long as they feel like, and only releasing lottery rares when they "have something amazing." So probably still every other set to prop up box sales. The Fall set was titled Guilds of Ravnica, in which we returned to Ravnica. Following up on this was Ravnica Allegiance and the final set of the block, War of the Spark will launch in the Spring. Note that War of the Spark has been described as being "about Ravnica, but not about the guilds." According to recent news, it is going to be a very Planeswalker heavy set, with 36 different Planeswalkers in the set, some of which are getting their first Planeswalker cards here! In addition, every single pack of War of the Spark comes with a Planeswalker card, similar to Dominaria, which had a Legendary in every pack. This is great news if you're a fan of the Superfriends deck archetype, but worrying for everyone else. Based on the results of Mark Rosewater's twitter poll, you shouldn't be too surprised to see non-everygreen, non-deciduous carry over from one world to the next (although based on the comments to that poll, they might use such freedom sparingly) . But because WotC works so far in the future, we probably won't see them do that for a while.
Read the announcement here: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/metamorphosis-2-0-2017-06-12
With the end of the "Masters" series of products, WoTC has introduced a new supplemental set, called Modern Horizons, releasing in the Summer. Like the name implies, the set is made for the Modern Format, completely skipping Standard rotation and featuring mostly completely brand new cards, with no reprints from the current Modern format. The cards that aren't new are upshifted from Legacy. If you are a Modern player, you have reasons to be excited and worried, as the lack of reprints means that rare and powerful cards like Liliana of the Veil will continue to grow in price as the supply continues to dwindle. However, with brand new cards coming out, you might not need Liliana of the Veil anymore, depending on how much they power up the set. Either way, investors and players alike look onward to what spoiler season brings us.
Each player starts with a life total of 20, it is the goal of the game to reduce your opponent's life to 0 or less. Occasionally a player's goal will involve winning through some other win condition (i.e. making the opponent draw when no cards remain in their library, give the opponent 10 or more poison counters, card specific win conditions, or dealing commander damage). Each player takes a turn until only one player is left in the game. There have been many revisions to the rules since the game's release with mixed reactions from fans, but the general gist is the same.
- Mana - Mana is the magical resource of the game, it is what you commonly use to play cards. Mana you have drawn from a source is kept in your mana pool, waiting for you to spend it. However, at the end of each phase and each step in a turn, your mana pool is emptied, so there's no saving up by constantly draining your lands. There used to be a rule called Mana Burn, in which if you didn't use all the mana you had in your mana pool you would take damage, loosing 1 life for each unspent mana. It did a few good things, like give Mana Drain a draw back, but ultimately R&D decided Magic was better off without it.
- Spell - Spells are any card that is currently on the stack.
- The Stack - This, children, is where almost all the real bullshit occurs. The stack is where almost any effect other than those that produce mana go to wait to resolve. whenever an effect (such as playing a card, activating an ability of an artifact or creature, etc.) goes on the stack, all the players in the game receive priority in turn order to respond. When a player has priority, no other player can act. When something is on the stack, only effects that are played at instant speed may be added to the stack, such as other abilities or instants themselves. You never have to put anything on the stack when you have priority, it just gives you the ability to respond to another players move if you choose. Effects on the stack resolve from the one to be put on last resolving first, this means that whenever you respond to your opponents move with, your response will always take effect before his move.
For example if your opponent casts a spell to destroy one of your creatures in play, and you have the appropriate amount of mana to play a counter spell, you can tap your lands and add your counter spell to the stack, targeting your opponents destruction spell. When the stack resolves, your counter spell will be the last effect on the stack, and as such will resolve first, countering your opponents spell and saving your creature. Note that your opponent also receives priority again when you play the counter spell, meaning that it'll be possible for him to add a new spell to kill your creature after you have played the counter spell, meaning he'll kill your creature anyway. But then again, you'll receive priority again as well, and so on and so on.
- Tap - Tapping is the act of turning a card 90 degrees, this is done to indicate that the card has been exhausted. You tap a land when you draw mana from it, you tap a creature to attack with it, and many abilities of creatures or artifacts require that you tap the card as well. Wizards of the Coast owns a patent on this mechanic, and they used it to run most other CCGs out of business. That is why Legend of the Five Rings used to cause players to lose honor every time they accidentally said "tap" instead of "bow."
- Ability - Abilities are found in a permanent's text field. Abilities can be either activated or triggered abilities. An activated ability is noted for having a cost followed by a colon followed by the effect of the ability. For example, "Tap : Draw a card, then discard a card ." Triggered abilities however, will be added to the stack whenever a certain condition is met, for example "Whenever you gain 1 life, draw a card". A triggered ability can be triggered as many times as the condition for it is met, and an activated ability can be activated as many times as you can possibly pay the cost.
- Hand - No, not that hand, stupid. Your hand of cards. You can normally only have 7 cards in your hand when your turn ends (any more than that are usually discarded), and your hand of cards is kept so your opponent can't see it. You start the game with a hand of 7 cards, and you draw 1 card each turn, there are cards that let you draw more cards however.
- Library - You library is your deck of cards, it must contain no less than 60 cards, and it is often ideal to not include more than 60 cards either. It also may not contain more than four copies of the same card. If you are asked to draw a card and you cannot because there are no more cards left in your library, you lose the game (or win, if you have Laboratory Maniac out), just as if you had hit 0 life.
- Graveyard - This is where used sorceries, instants and destroyed cards go. Some cards are able to return cards from here, but normally they just stay dead. This is a place of magic and wonder for any deck that runs revive. Until someone plays Samurai of the Pale Curtain...
- Exile - A super duper Special Snowflake Graveyard where things that aren't intended to ever be returned go. Used to be called "Removed from the Game", it was created so that you couldn't use a Resurrection sorcery on something you used Swords to Plowshares on. Naturally things got stupid when WotC started making cards that could bring cards back from exile.
Structure of a turnEdit
The first step in a turn is the untap step, here all the cards in play that are tapped are untapped. The next step is your upkeep, nothing happens here by default, it is only in place for some cards to trigger different effects at the start of your turn.
After your upkeep is your draw step, here you simply draw a card from the top of your library.
Next is your first main phase, here you can play any spells that are played at sorcery speed, this is things such as artifacts, creatures, enchantments, planeswalkers, land (lands are weird, playing them doesn't use the stack and as such can't be responded to, so one could make the case that in some ways they are faster than instants, also lands can NEVER be "PLAYED" when it is not your turn where as other things considered sorcery speed can be instant speed through things like Flash). and sorceries themselves.
After your first main phase is your combat phase, this is broken up into several subphases itself. The first thing to happen is that you declare any creatures you want to attack to attack by tapping them, you opponent is then given the choice of blocking your creatures. Only an untapped creature can block, and a creature can only participate in one block each combat. However, several creatures can be picked to block the same creature at once, meaning that it is possible to 'gang up' on attackers in order to kill them. When creatures are in combat with each other they will deal each other damage at the same time, meaning that two 1/1's will kill each other at the same time. In the case of multiple creatures blocking one creature, the attacker assigns the damage that his creature would deal out to the blocking creatures as he wishes, for example a 2/2 blocked by two 1/1's could deal 1 damage to both creatures and kill them both.
Any unblocked creatures will deal their damage to the opponent.
Once all damage has been assigned, the clean up step follows, where all creatures that have taken lethal damage will be sent to their owner's graveyards.
After combat you have your second main phase, where you can do exactly the same as in the first.
After the second main phase, you have the end of turn step, pretty much the same deal as with the upkeep, nothing really happens here unless a card says so. Lastly, after your end of turn step, you discard down to the maximum hand size if you have exceeded it, so if you for example have 9 cards in hand, you will have to discard 2 of them to meet the required of 7.
Types of cardsEdit
The game of Magic contains several different supertypes of cards:
- Lands - Lands are the player's most basic resource and they are tapped to allow the player to play their other cards that have a mana cost. You can normally play only one land from your hand per turn. Example of a non-basic Land card.
- Basic - A supertype currently found only on land cards. There are formerly five, now six basic lands: Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest and (the only addition) Wastes. A deck can contain any number of the same basic card. Example of a basic Land card.
- Creatures - Creatures are the players soldiers and guardians, they primarily participate in combat, although as with all things in Magic, there are many exceptions this. Creatures have many subtypes, these are commonly referred to as creature types, most creatures have a race and a profession creature type, for example "Creature - Human Warrior". Creatures have a toughness and a power score, portrayed as P/T on the bottom right corner of the card. Power determines the amount of damage the creature can cause in combat whereas toughness is how much damage it can take before it is destroyed. Damage assigned to a creature is cleared at the end of each turn, meaning that if a creature isn't killed by the amount of damage it has sustained, it'll return to its full toughness at the end of the turn. This means that the same creature will often participate in several combat steps before it is finally killed. Damage assigned to players however, is never healed by any other means than other cards that give the player an amount of life upon being played. Example of a Creature card.
- Enchantments - These are raw magic that you create, they can do all different kinds of things, and generally have a constant effect on the game, until they are destroyed by your opponent. There are global and local variants of enchantments, the local being a subtype called auras, these are attached to other cards in play to enhance them or weaken them. A lot of competitive players dislike auras since they are destroyed if their 'host' is destroyed, meaning that it is easier for your opponent to make a lot of you cards obsolete by destroying one card. Example of a positive Enchantment card. Example of a harmful Enchantment card
- Sorceries - Sorceries are spells that you can only cast on your own turn, and when nothing is on the stack, they'll have some kind of immediate effect on the game, but they are not persistent like enchantments. This means that it is common for sorceries to simply just destroy something else in play or to give a temporary boost to a creature or something like that. The more massive destructive effects in the game are commonly found in sorceries, such as globally destroying all lands or creatures in play. Example of a Sorcery card.
- Instants - Just like sorceries, however an instant can also be played in an opponent's turn, they'll often do the same as sorceries, but stuff like counter magic, that is a spell that prevents your opponent's spell from resolving, are only instants. Example of an Instant card.
- Artifacts - All kinds of magic items, like a staff or some other kind of stuff. Normally this is stuff used by the player himself, but some artifacts, known as Equipment, can be equipped by the player's creatures, making them work like auras, only they do not need a 'host' to be in play, and as such are a lot more persistent than auras. Some artifacts are also creatures, this is stuff like golems or other kinds of magical constructs. Artifact are generally colorless, with some exceptions, so almost all of them are suitable for any deck. Example of an Artifact card. Example of an equipment card.
- Legendary - Much like Basic, Legendary only appears together with another supertype. If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards. Legendary cards are often stuff like characters from the plot line of Magic, or somehow else very special things like specific places in the case of legendary lands. Example of a Legendary card.
- Tribal - A newcomer among the supertypes, a Tribal card lets a noncreature card have creature types. For example, a card that would allow you to destroy a goblin card would work on any goblin creature, as well as a Tribal Enchantment - Goblin. Sadly the "Tribal" card type is unlikely to be printed on new cards. Example of a Tribal card.
- Planeswalker - Another newcomer, a Planeswalker is similar to an enchantment. Planeswalkers come into play with a certain amount of loyalty counters on them. Once per turn a planeswalker can use one of its activated abilities during his main phase whenever he may play a sorcery, either adding or subtracting the indicated amount of counters. As of War of the Spark in spring 2019, they can also have static or triggered abilities like other permanents. A planeswalker can be targeted for either spells or abilities that deal damage, and can be targeted in an attack phase like a player. For each damage a planeswalker takes, instead remove that many loyalty counters. If a planeswalker has no loyalty counters left on it, it is destroyed. All planeswalkers are legendary, so if a player controls two planeswalkers that share a name, that player chooses one of them and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards. This was changed from what was called the "planeswalker uniqueness rule", which meant you couldn't have two different cards representing the same dude. Lore-wise this made sense, but has been sacrificed for gameplay reasons. Planeswalkers can do some really awesome shit, such as create 5 4/4 dragons or force your opponent to mill 20 cards from their library. Keeping one alive can be a royal pain in the ass. Example of a Planeswalker card.
Colors of MagicEdit
As well as having different types of cards, the game of Magic has five different colors to choose from when building a deck. It is important to have the appropriate type of land for the color of magic that you are playing with, since no basic land except a mountain can produce red mana, which is needed to play red spells. Certain effects are associated with certain colors, and only rarely if ever appear in the others - this is to ensure that the colors feel different to play, and that there is a point of having different colors in the first place. For a more thorough examination of the colors of Magic and their relationships with each other see Color Pie.
- White - This is the mostly goody-two-shoes or zealously genocidal, censoring and totalitarian (be it communist, or possibly other types of extreme) of the color pie, white often prevents damage to creatures and restore life to players. It excels with instant, sorceries, and enchantments that get rid off opposing creatures, with one of their main schticks being that they remove creatures from the game rather than sending them to the graveyard. They also have a tendency to have powerful creature-enchantments to buff their creatures or prevent their opponents' creatures from attacking or blocking. It is most notable for having the most non-damage boardwipes in the game. Among its older cards are cards that create life-gain win conditions. It has a general philosophy of having a large amount of small creatures instead of a few big ones. Fitting this, White contains most of the cards that interact positively with equipment, generally by tutoring it. White embodies law, order, community, healing, and light. White is the color most like and yet completely different from Black, both being absolute for entirely different reasons. The symbol for White is a sun. The white lands are plains. White's characters are either heroic and otherwise benevolent individuals such as Ajani Goldmane, Elspeth Tirel and Commodore Guff, or fanatical assholes like Konda and Elesh Norn.
- Blue - Blue is the color of logic, thought, observation, prescience, and arcane magic. It is the best color at things like countermagic, drawing cards, and using minor trickery to be a general pain in the butt. These things make blue the most effective color when used on its own, and the most hated by other players because blue played right will keep them from doing anything with their counter cards and will never run out of them, and blue players have a tendency to complain when WotC tries to do something to balance the counter spells. Thankfully, blue's creatures tend to the least effective at killing the opponent, in terms of strength and abilities, and blue also lacks the ability to deal with things if it can't counter them. Of course, Blue makes up for that by having the most cards that allow you take control of an opponent's creature (All the colors have some, having the most in the following order: Blue, Red, Black, Green, and White with exactly 1). Blue has many cards that interact with artifacts, and this combines with Blue's weak (at least combat-wise) creatures to encourage it to use artifact creatures, which generally focus on combat. Blue is generally the opposite of Red, similar to reason and emotion, and likewise have elements of each other. Thus, the two will generally make the most scientific and steampunk decks when put together. Blue concerns itself with such things as logic, water, science, knowledge, divination, time, and air. The Blue symbol is a drop of water. The Blue lands are islands. Blue's most foremost Planeswalkers include Jace Beleren, Tezzeret and Bo Levar.
- Black - Black is the more diabolical of the colors, in brooding desire for any of the following, not necessarily exclusive of each other: independence in an oppressive world, inordinate wealth, immortality, godhood, control of others, vengeance, veneration of evil, world conquest, by any means. It is the color of self-interest, individuality, moral relativism, and devil's bargains. It often has the ability to emulate other colors to a lesser degree... for a cost. The more powerful black creatures sometimes turn on their player. It also contains lots of abilities that require sacrificing creatures, forcing the opponent to sacrifice creatures, killing opposing creatures, and the best discard abilities. As an intentional weakness, Black lacks any significant artifact or enchantment kill. Black contains such things as sickness, destruction, necromancy, death, murder, blood rituals, assassination, crime, torture, darkness, and corruption. A skull is the symbol for Black. The black lands are swamps. Black is the color most like and yet completely different from White, both being absolute for entirely different reasons. Fitting this, Black and White have many cards that are mirrors of each other, starting from the original set's Black Knight and White Knight. Black has spawned many infamous Planeswalkers such as Leshrac, the Walker of the Night; Tevesh Szat, the Doom of Fools; Liliana Vess and Nicol Bolas (well he's actually multi-colored, but the center of his shard is black), the Eternal Serpent and (ex)Lord of the Blind Eternities. In addition, it has a few heroic characters such as Sorin Markov and Toshiro Umezawa, proving that it is not inherently evil.
- Red - Red is the color of passion, freedom, and rage. Red contains some of the more self-destructive cards of the colors, but the power of the effects usually make up for it. Many of Red's spells focus on directly damaging the opponent, which players call "burn spells", and in fact it's completely viable to run a Red deck with no creatures and just burn spells. Red is generally the opposite of Blue, similar to emotion and reason, and likewise have elements of each other. Thus, the two generally make the most scientific decks and steampunk decks when put together. The domain of Red is such things as speed, destruction, fire, angry mobs (green and white have a fair and smaller share of these), lightning, dragons, and recklessness. Red's symbol is a ball of fire. The red land is a mountain. Some of Red's most famous Planeswalkers are Jaya Ballard, Lord Windgrace of Urborg and Chandra Nalaar.
- Green - Green associates itself with nature and the cycle of life, growth, exploration of the wilds, and brute strength. It usually has the most powerful and straight-forward creatures, which also have the best ratio of power and toughness for the mana cost. Green contains cards that can increase the strength of your creatures, cards that give you more mana more quickly and give you access to the other colors of mana, and cards that let you create and profit from large numbers of small creatures or small numbers of very large creatures. Green is the least common color run on its own because it needs to use small easy to kill creatures to get shit done, but is commonly put in other decks as a side color. The Green symbol is a tree. The green land is a forest. Green's famous Planeswalkers include Garruk Wildspeaker, Nissa Revane, Kristina of the Woods and Freyalise.
- Colorless - Colourless (Grey) mana is composed of two things: non magic-artificial creations including some robots and laser cannons, and Cthuhloids. Mana of any color can be used for colorless mana costs. This is useful to ease the stress of colored mana requirements in multicoloured decks, and making cards that can fit in decks of any color - Artifacts and Artifact Creatures are usually colorless. Instant and Sorcery effects are virtually never colorless with only 8 printed, all from Zendikar. Artificial creatures cannot become Planeswalkers (but this does not stop them from trying to become them, as Memnarch has demonstrated), but they can inherit or obtain the power somehow: Karn the silver golem is as far as known the only one to have done so. The only other colorless planeswalker is Ugin, who's basically Magic Buddha because he's so enlightened that he's transcended the five colors.
- As of Battle for Zendikar, colorless has its own land type, which is Waste, and its own symbol, which is a grey four-pointed star. This specifically-colorless mana is used primarily for the Eldrazi, which are the freaky babies of Cthulu and Galactus. The Eldrazi are so ancient that they precede the planes and color itself. Yeah, that's right, they're older than even the game and fluff itself can even comprehend.
It is possible to build decks that are a mix of more than one color - in fact there are many spells that require anything from two to five different colors of mana to play. It is however not advisable to have more than 3 colours in a single deck unless you know what you are doing, since it'll begin to become a problem to get access to all the different colours of mana you need during play. This means you'll be left with a hand full of cards you can't play, and a table full of lands you have no use for - not a good position to be in. The full extreme of this is to have all five colors in your deck, which is something referred to as WUBRG (after the letters for each color). Unless (and even when) you know exactly what you're doing and built a deck around the concept, WUBRG is very difficult to play.
The developers of Magic have put out their 3 archetypes of players:
- Timmy/Tammy - The player who just wants to experience something cool, something you can tell stories about. Often it's through casting gigantic creatures and game-changing spells, not caring that they're frequently too expensive to be much good at winning the game. Social gamers or even griefers can also be considered a type of Timmy; after all, the story you're telling doesn't always have to be about the game itself.
- Johnny/Jenny - A combo player, these are the guys who'll spend days looking through cards to find a bizarre combo of cards that makes them win the game if they can pull it off. They often end up building decks that don't participate in the game itself, and are more oriented on getting their combo into play, turning the game into a sort of solitaire.
- Spike - The competitive player of the bunch. They'll build decks to win and only play to win, their fun is in winning, and sometimes turn the game into an obnoxious competition, even outside of tournaments. Needless to say, they're highly disliked at social games when they even bother showing up outside of a competitive setting, even when they mean no harm. On the other hand, it also means that their decks are made to work effectively and will win more often than not. That isn't to say Spike will put up with everything just to win. For example, some Spikes might hate it when only a few strategies are viable, or conversely when too many are viable and it's impossible to prepare against them all.
The three archetypes mix and match, meaning that it is possible to be a Johnny-Timmy player, aiming to make some kind of combo that'll give you a million life and an army of 100/100 creatures or some other kind of stupid nonsense.
Recently, it has come to light that there are 2 more pseudo-archetypes, though these aren't really archetypes proper. The types here are on a separate axis than the aforementioned three. They are as follows:
- Vorthos - Vorthoi care about flavour and the story part of the game. They'll build a deck that re-enacts the forces Urza rallied to fight the Phyrexians. Fluff is of key importance in the mind of a Vorthos. Stories, art, flavor text, and block novels are all things that a Vorthos focuses on. As a result, it can be considered to be a close relative of the Timmy, with the emphasis on "cool things" being replaced by a stronger focus on fluff-accuracy. As a result, their decks tend to vary wildly in their efficacy.
- Mel - On the opposite side of this spectrum lies Mel. Mels love to deconstruct the rules, and find out why things tick. A Mel will base a deck on shit like banding that average players don't pay attention to, or some sub-clause of an obscure part of the comprehensive rules. They differ from the typical munchkin in that they love reading the logs and development process of various cards and learning what led to a given rule being changed or the rationale behind said rule change, rather than simply exploiting said rules for its own sake. They're similar to Johnnies/Jennies in their eccentric hacker spirit.
It should be noted that a Vorthos-Mel is probably a philosopher. Spike-Johnnies/-Jennies are sometimes great gaming partners for Johnny-Timmys, since one is a competitive combo user, and the other is a combo user who is in it for fun, and one or both of will either have a lot of respect for the opponents' combo, or be quite irritated that it interrupted theirs. Johnny-/Jenny-Vorthos-Mels will have the most difficult time putting together a deck they can play at all, let alone one that can be viable in a tournament setting, but those that do so find it highly rewarding when they make it work for them.
Building a DeckEdit
Alright so you've read this article, looked at a few cards, maybe even gotten yourself a few booster packs or a hand-me-down collection. What now?
The process of deckbuilding can, at first, seem like an extremely difficult one, and in many ways it is. You have possibly hundreds of variables to consider depending on what you're building for and thousands of cards to sort through to find the best ones for the job.
But before you overwhelm yourself, look at what you have in your stuff and find a card you like. It doesn't even have to be a powerful one, just something that catches your eye and gets the gears turning. For this example, we'll use something flashy yet robust, the card Fireball. A classic design and very easy to find, Fireball is a card that can generate truly explosive results and kill your opponent in one shot. Awesome! What now?
Well, let's think of what we want to do here. Let's say in this case we want to use Fireball as our win-condition. For this, we'll need obviously Red Mana to cast it, but also additional Mana to make it lethal. So now we're going to look for things that feed into that concept; making more Mana for a bigger Fireball. This is the process referred to as focusing the deck, and is essential to building a successful one. The more streamlined and tight your focus is, the more of a chance the deck will do what you want it to do. Trying to do too many things at once will leave you lacking in all of them, so it's usually better to have a strong theme to accomplish your Plan A.
So focusing, we need a way to make Mana for our Fireball. Land is of course the most basic way of generating Mana, so we should play more lands to make more Mana! Right? Well perhaps, but by filling up the deck with too much land, we're not going to be drawing any spells. Too little though, and we won't be able to cast the spells that we draw. Finding that balance is another key part of deckbuilding and takes a lot of time to get the right feel for it. In general though, your deck should contain 24 lands, adding in 1 or 2 for a slower deck with big mana threats, and removing 1 to 3 for a faster more aggressive deck.
In this case let's start with 24 lands, and 4 Fireballs. We have 28 cards, so we need 32 more to make a legal deck. Since we want the greatest chance of drawing the cards we need as possible, we won't exceed 60 cards here. In most cases in fact, you should never play more than 60 cards. Every card you add is keeping you one card away from drawing the one you really need. A common mistake for many new players is to just keep piling on cards until they make some 78 card monstrosity, don't do this. Treat 60 as the minimum and maximum for every deck you make, it will make your deck faster and more consistent. So what will we add into those 32 slots?
We have Mana to cast a Fireball that can deal up to 23 damage at once, which is lethal, but would require every land in our deck to do so. Sounds kinda slow, right? So what can we do to speed it up? Since we're playing a Red deck, we should start by looking at the options Red has to generate more Mana. Red has access to a few Ritual cards, which can make mana fairly quickly but only in single shots. This means that to make this path work we'd need a lot of these Rituals, and to get lucky by drawing enough of them to make a lethal Fireball. Not the most efficient option, but it can work! Our other obvious option in Red is Artifacts that generate mana. We can play something as small as a Fire Diamond, or something big like a Gilded Lotus. These also feed into each other, but come with the downside of clogging up our deck when we have enough mana to make a lethal Fireball. So a step in the right direction, since this mana is renewable, but still not quite as fast as what we need. But we're out of options in Red, what now?
Now we look at our other colors, of course! The best place to start is to look at the color wheel on the back of a Magic card. Notice the arrangement of the colors on the wheel. Any color that is adjacent to another on the wheel is "allied" with that color, which is to say that they work well together. Red is allied with Green and Black. Many Black cards let you draw cards or even search your deck for specific ones, which could be helpful for the deck to find the cards it needs when it needs them, but since Green has some of that too now and since Black is more about making little aggressive dudes, killing things, bringing things back from the dead and giant demons, let's skip it and look at Green.
Green is the color of nature, and as such has cards that revolve around the generation of mana. Perfect for our goal, and once you start looking you'll notice that green has a ton of cards that are dedicated to making more mana. They come in two flavors; abilities that put mana in the pool, and cards that pull lands from the deck itself. But which flavor do we need? In this case, the ones that pull lands from the deck itself are the ones that we want. This is because they thin our deck out, eliminating lands and reducing our chances at not being able to draw spells. Afterall, what good is having tons of mana if you have nothing to cast with it? Some common options in this slot are Rampant Growth and Cultivate, so we'll add 4 of each to the deck.
Now we have 4 Fireballs, 4 Rampant Growths, 4 Cultivates, and 24 lands. We have 36 cards and need 24 more. Since we still have space, we can add some of those cards that add mana to our pool. Elves tend to be very, very good at this, so we can rock a tribal theme with these guys to generate a lot of mana very quickly. Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystics, and Elvish Archdruid are easy to find solid slots in this section. With 4 of each in play at once we can generate a potential 4+4+(16x4) mana per turn. Quite lethal for casting a Fireball. So let's add 4 of each!
Now we have 4 Fireballs, 4 Rampant Growths, 4 Cultivates, 4 Llanowar Elves, 4 Elvish Mystics, 4 Elvish Archdruids, and 24 lands. We have 52 cards and need 8 more. Wow, that was fast, suddenly we have only 8 spaces left! This is where we add the extra utility stuff to get our deck fully streamlined, and since we absolutely need to draw our Fireballs to win, we should add spells that draw cards. Sadly this is neither Green nor Red's strong suit, but we do have a few choices.
Since we're already ramping lands out of the deck, we might not need a powerful draw engine anyway. A solid option in Green for straight card draw is Harmonize, but it clocks in at 4 mana. If we get a good start, this is nothing though, so we can rock 4 of these guys with not too much worry. Now we have 4 slots left, so how do we top it off? Well, we do have a lot of Elves, why not add in Elvish Visionary? 4 of her gets us to 60!
Now you have a deck that is streamlined to win off Fireball, but can also win by playing a ton of Elves and beating face! A Plan A that just so happens to have a solid Plan B! By playing with the deck you'll probably start to find it could use some fine tuning to beat what you play against, but what matters here is that we have a solid foundation to build from. When making tweaks, be sure to keep the central idea of the deck in mind. And of course, keep practicing making decks and test them to see what works for you.
Magic has only had two single player video games. One by Microprose which was really nice and, naturally since WotC sucks, is unobtainable (legally) anymore. It uses exclusively the 4th Edition card set, plus a dozen or so "Astral" cards created specifically for the computer game, with mechanics that could never work with paper cards in real life. It's technically called Magic: The Gathering, but everyone calls it Shandalar after the plane it takes place on. Shandalar (the plane) has since appeared in fluff a few times. There's also a Dreamcast game which isn't bad... if you can read Japanese since it was never translated.
If you don't want to play singleplayer all the time, there is Magic: the Gathering Online, which is the "official" way of playing Magic online, made back in 2002. It's survived all the way until today thanks to the expansive set selection and differing formats. However, the burden of continually updating ancient code from the 2000s is, as you can imagine, quite tiring. The game also kind of looks like an eyesore compared to today's standards.
Wizards of the Coast hired out a bunch of multiplayer only games called Duel of the Planeswalkers 20_. They're all shit designed to milk you on micro transactions, have limited deck building and most of them are completely obsolete now anyways. This series ended in 2015.
To get at that sweet, sweet Hearthstone money, they made another client called Magic Duels: Origins, notable mostly for the emphasis on story and because the client wouldn't keep being replaced every year like Duels of the Planeswalkers. Despite looking promising, it failed to capture the eyes of fans, and was phased out in 2017. Also there was a bug at launch that allowed players to obtain infinite packs, which certainly didn't help.
Bowed, but not broken, Wizards kept at trying to get at that Digital Card Game money and made Magic: the Gathering Arena, which is their newest and most current client. Perhaps Hasbro was getting tired of Wizards wasting money on failed games, or they just straight up decided to actually give a shit. Whatever the reason, the client is actually very good for a change, and it's only in Beta. The client is quite generous for a digital card game, and they regularly listen to feedback: something that many developers of other card games can learn to do. Despite being in Beta, they have stated that "unless something catastrophically terrible happens," there will be no account wipe when they move out of Beta. Time will tell what happens to this client.
Fan-made projects include Forge. It's pretty nifty and, unusually for a fan-made simulator, has some good single player content. Unfortunately the PC version is based in fucking Java. The AI is limited and can be slow with lots of tokens in play.
- Official site
- Rulebooks: basic and comprehensive
- magiccards.info - A card database.
- MTG Salvation - A Magic fansite.
- Slightly Magic - Another Magic fansite, this one focuses on vidya adaptations of Magic both official and fan-made.
| Call of Cthulhu - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Fire Emblem Cipher |
Force of Will - Jyhad - Magi-Nation Duel - Magic: The Gathering
Netrunner - Pokémon - Star Wars: Destiny CCG - Yu-Gi-Oh
| 1000 Blank White Cards - 7th Sea - Apples to Apples - Bang! |
Cards Against Humanity - Coup - Decktet - Dominion - Dvorak
F.A.T.A.L. - Mafia - Mag Blast - Mao - Munchkin
Race for the Galaxy - Sentinels of the Multiverse - Tanto Cuore
|Bridge - Cribbage - Mahjong - Patience - Poker - Rummy - Tarot|
|Settings of Magic: The Gathering|
|Pre-revisionist:|| First Magic Sets - First Urza Block - Arabian Nights |
Legends - Homelands - Ice Age - Mirage
|Weatherlight Saga:|| Portal Starter Sets - Second Urza Block |
Tempest Block - Masques Block - Invasion Block
|Post-Weatherlight:||Otaria Block - Mirrodin - Kamigawa - Ravnica - Time Spiral|
|After the Mending:|| Lorwyn - Alara - Zendikar - New Phyrexia |
Innistrad - Return to Ravnica - Theros - Tarkir - Eldraine
|Two-Block Paradigm:||Kaladesh - Amonkhet - Ixalan|
|Never in a standard set:||Fiora (Where the Conspiracy sets take place)|
|Planeswalkers of Magic: The Gathering|
|Original Five:|| Ajani Goldmane - Chandra Nalaar|
Garruk Wildspeaker - Jace Beleren - Liliana Vess
|Alara:||Elspeth Tirel - Nicol Bolas - Sarkhan Vol - Tezzeret|
|Zendikar:||Gideon Jura - Nissa Revane - Sorin Markov|
|Scars of Mirrodin:||Karn - Koth of the Hammer - Venser|
|Innistrad:||Tamiyo - Tibalt|
|Return to Ravnica:||Domri Rade - Ral Zarek - Vraska|
|Theros:||Ashiok - Kiora - Xenagos|
|Tarkir:||Ugin - Narset|
|Kaladesh:||Dovin Baan - Saheeli Rai|
|Other:||Dack Fayden - Vivien Reid - kaya|
|Commander 2014:||Daretti - Freyalise - Nahiri - Ob Nixilis - Teferi|
|Pre-mending:||Bo Levar - Commodore Guff - Jaya Ballard - Urza|
|Planeswalker Groups:||The Gatewatch|