Magic: The Gathering. Here’s what you need to know.

Brian Carpenter
Aug 12 · 7 min read

Magic: The Gathering, often referred by its surname MTG, and the simple Magic. However what is this game? Is it reserved for kids? Is it for adults? Only the stereotypical geek? Why should I care about Magic? Let’s start off with a brief overview of what Magic is and what it is not. Let’s get started.


What is Magic?

Magic is a trading card game first and foremost. Meaning this is a game, it’s meant to be played with friends, competitors and or family. But it is also by definition a trading card game. You collect cards, sell them, buy them, and trade them. Now the economy of Magic is a whole topic by itself but we are not going to go into that today.

Absolutely, it’s possible, however as a beginner it is very unlikely. There is not a great return ratio on the cards. By this I mean, a casual investor, buying packs of magic cards will not make money. Those who do, buy wholesale, or exploit prices of single cards. There are tournaments, lucrative cards that sell for thousands of dollars, and even sponsors. However, the money making aspect is mainly a pipe dream. It’s akin to being a coin collector. You can make money absolutely but that’s not really why most people collect coins. You collect magic cards to have the ultimate collection! You want to have decks, knowledge, and leverage to make money and keep the hobby running! Or simply just make money and buy burritos, I don’t really care, just play the game.


Is Magic fun?

Opinion #1

The game is expensive, boring, and the players are mean and have bad self care habits!

Well this is a point of discussion. Some people would absolutely say no Magic is not fun and there is some validity to that. To be quite frank, the game is complicated and has a lot of rules and guidelines that even veteran players can confuse from time to time. Also in this generation of mainly online interacting, the let’s play a card game aspect of the game is nostalgic at best. The players of this game have been around since roughly the early 90’s and the learning curve is steep.

The new player disadvantage…

A new player or one that simply buys the biggest scariest creatures isn’t going to be respected most of the time. Some players are nice and help culture in the new player. However, unfortunate as it may be, the new player often is taken advantage of at the local game stores. They don’t know about ‘’net decking,” and they don’t watch the championships and know which decks are solid and proven to win most of the time. I believe a good game store owner can bridge this gap as it is in their best interest. There are some events recently such as the Open House and Prerelease events to help players get used to the cards. However buyer beware, because especially at any event with prizing, crafty players will play to win, ( fun being optional ,) and chase the possibility of improving their collection at the expense of the newcomer literally.


It’s all about the money…

Let’s be honest, the game is expensive. A pack of 15 cards retails for $4. More often than not, most of the cards are not useful and a pre-built deck retails for around $25–50 and that deck is usually not up to par with what is being played at the stores. You can easily spend $100, $200, $300 and still have nothing to compete with but a hodgepodge of cards that get overrun by experienced players. This pipe dream gambling is a scam and keeps the game running at the expense of the novice and or rookie. Even if you do score a good card, some profiteers ruin the economy and stockpile the best cards that are on the reserved list. A famous case is Moat which shot up $100’s in price because of a notorious buyer holding all the copies.

Besides this is a trading card game, so it’s difficult for most to expose their collection to a dinner table or wherever you may be playing. This is why we ( Magic: The Gathering players ) always use player mats and protectors on the cards. This is not merely aesthetic but it’s like locking your house at night. Your money is at stake, and so is your collection, so now you have to invest even more into the game and sadly people steal cards. When they can resell rather easily for $100’s even $1000’s of dollars, it’s a real problem and they weigh almost nothing and are usually all combined in a nice binder. It’s a thief’s dream, not to even go into counterfeit cards and proxies.

The game can be ridiculously expensive and the cards you yield aren’t even real. The online community is almost entirely how you play the best decks around that are being played and then the limited environment lacks the real player concept. Fork over your cash, buy the good cards, and play against everyone else with the same decks or fork over your cash, play with random cards and yet have no sense of a real competition because the cards you chose were only semi random. You don’t get to learn all the intricacies of a draft, because you’re only drafting against yourself. The sealed pools are a little bit better, but again, they short change you on the # of cards and the distribution isn’t as random as a true sealed pool. Algorithms keep it from being too random, and this kind of kills the feel of a sealed pool. In paper, it can be much more exciting.


Opinion #2

Community and socialization

The Magic community is broadening and has boys, girls, women, men of all ages. While there was a time when it was predominantly young adults and men, the game is becoming more popular with people of all demographics. The online formats are booming and the prize money pools are getting bigger and bigger, the streaming potential is real, the collections are valuable and the friends you can make will be close knit and form regular habits. I remember growing up and making decks with my friends and just spending hours and hours with the cards and it pleased the family, because I wasn’t online or just in front of the TV. We were playing outside, camping, on the tables, etc. We just got taken off into the multiverse and fully embraced the creativity, the artwork, and the joy of playing a great trading card game that employs strategy, luck and lore.

Competition

There are competitors of all levels and really you can always find someone to play within seconds now. You don’t have to wait until Friday Night Magic. You can be at home and play with people online. It’s pretty neat although there isn’t a chat feature but this cuts down the toxicity. No one can curse you out or do horribly annoying things. The only real disturbance is a sore loser, will extend the time allotted for their turn to the maximum as to make you suffer for beating them by wasting both player’s time. The top level players travel the world and play with other top players and earn money. The localized competition is fun too, and you can make some great friends.

Collecting is fun!

Over time, you have some awesome collections and it’s exciting to go back through and read over the cards. Some of them will be special to you because you played them in your first deck or you like squirrels or elves or giants. It’s just cool to look back, and be like, wow look at all these cards and the memories associated with them. Duly noted, the value of showing off! A friend sees your collection and wants to trade with you. It’s neat and adds to the social value of the game.

The game itself

The game is very intricate and just has a lot of awesome interactions. You use math and your brain and get to think about life in a fantasy world and interact within it. Dungeons and Dragons takes a long time and is great too but unlike D n D magic is accessible and you can see the reality right in your own hands. The game is consistent and once you get a knack for the rulings, you realize that almost every scenario has a perfect condition that melds or goes against it. Some cards are extremely powerful but within the thousands and thousands of cards there is always a card that clashes or meshes with every card. It’s like a baseball game, it’s never truly over until it’s over. The best deck of all time? It changes as players adapt and make new strategies. Sometimes it doesn’t change much, but the game is alive and adapting.

Did I pique your interest?

I see your Magic interest piqued. That’s all from Brian, have a great day!
I see your Magic interest piqued. That’s all from Brian, have a great day!
Photo by Wayne Low on Unsplash

I’m an avid writer, gamer, and Magic The Gathering player. Thanks for stopping by and please, remember, to think before you play games.

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