Sunday, 17 February 2019

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"Magic: The Gathering" Explained, What You Need To Know

What do you think of when you hear the word “Magic”? Do you think of David Copperfield floating midair? Do you think of slide-of-the-hand card tricks? Maybe you even think of David Bowie surrounded by goblins, singing and dancing, throwing a baby in the air, wearing tights and heavy make up. When I think of magic, I think of Plainswalkers. I think of Giants fighting Zombies, +4/+4 enchantments, and obliterating your opponent with an overpowered, flying, invincible, zombie rat. I think of Magic: The Gathering.



For those of you who don't know, Magic: The Gathering is a card game consisting of strategy, weird creatures, and, well, magic. It was created in 1991 by Wizards of the Coast, inventors of Dungeons and Dragons, and has since then accumulated millions of players. It is the first trading card game, and as such comes from a very humble beginning. In fact, it almost didn’t have any beginning.



24 years ago, in the basement of Peter Adkinson, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, Dr. Richard Garfield came with a very hopeful inquiry. He had in his arms his design for RoboRally, an interesting board game of survival and skill, but was denied due to a lack of money. However, he was given a chance. They asked him to design something that nerds all over the world could play while waiting in lines, something portable and easy to play. He left and when he came back he presented the world with the very first design for Magic: The Gathering. The game has since evolved and reeled in over 12 million players all over the world who share the love of collecting, deck building, and playing games in the spirit of competition, fun, and friendship. 



The game itself isn’t hard to play. Each person starts off with a deck consisting of spells, a broad term which here means enchantments, creatures, instants, and lands. Standard decks have 60 cards, though some do have a significant amount more than that, and are based around lands. Whether you choose Swamps, Forests, Plains, Water, or Mountain lands depends on your preferences. If you want a deck with spells and enchantments that “burn” your opponents and deplete their 20 point life, then Mountain lands are the way to go. If you want to overpower your creatures, then Forest lands and creatures are what you want to deal in. Personally, I am a sucker for Green/Blue (Forest/Water) decks, since these two collaborate beautifully. 



Once you have your deck set, you draw seven cards and hope your hardest that you get a decent hand. If you don’t there is absolutely no worry, you can mulligan. Then somebody goes first. Going first is both good and bad. You get the chance of putting down a land and, should mana cost allow it, instantly bring out a creature or do some sort of damage. However, you don’t get to draw a card like the next person does. It’s a tough decision. So, most people roll dice and the player with the higher sum goes first. 



The first player is to put down a land card without drawing a card from their library (the rest of the deck). It can be any land card in their hand, but it can only be one. They can then look through their hand and see if they have the ability to summon a creature. Summoning a creature in MTG is very similar to doing so in the game, Yu-Gi-Oh!. You have to look at the top right corner of the card - in Yu-Gi-Oh!, it’s the top left - and count how much mana (land) you need to pay to summon it. The difference between Yu-Gi-Oh! and MTG is that you don’t sacrifice the mana. If you’re using mana in a turn then you simply tap it (turn it sideways) until your next turn where you untap it and reuse the land. 



If the player actually summons a creature then it is put onto the field. Most cards have specific effects that are triggered by specific situations. Some cards, like Servo Schematic, have effects that take place when they enter the battlefield. While these effects to take place, the card is useless until the next turn. When a card first enters the battlefield, it is inflicted with Summoning Sickness which means it cannot attack until the summoner’s next turn unless otherwise stated. This is true for all creature spells, but not for enchantments, lands, or instants. 



Once the player is finished with their turn, they pass the metaphorical stick to whomever is next and they follow the same process. However, before they begin to put cards down, they must draw a card from their deck. If they do not do anything that turn, then they must discard a card as you cannot have more than seven cards in their hand. 



The game goes on, sometimes for hours, until somebody gives up, has to go, or loses all 20 of their initial life points.


Magic: The Gathering brings people together from all walks of life at conventions and professional tournaments. It is “an expensive, amazing, legal addiction” that causes laughter and competition within friend groups, and even causes people to make new friends through the card shops scattered across the globe. The father of trading card games thrives to this day with hundreds of cards and an ever growing fan base that looks incapable of dying. 

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