06 May 2024

Unravelling the Mystique of Magic: the Gathering

Submitted by: Franco D’Onofrio
Unravelling the Mystique of Magic: the Gathering

Created in 1993, Magic: the Gathering is considered the world’s first trading card game. Filled to the brim with compelling characters and a fantastic multiverse the game has thrilled and entertained fans for over 30 years. Magic is considered the pioneer of the trading card gameplay genre. To date it has more than 50 million fans in 150 different countries. 

Besides launching an entire industry, Magic: the Gathering, or MtG as it is also known, is unique because of its versatility of play. Stefan Roets, spokesperson for Unplug Yourself, explains that the inventor, mathematician Richard Garfield, created a game that has many ways of playing. “Garfield introduced the concept of playing a customised game. Five different players can look at one card, and they’ll all have a different idea of what to do with that card,” Roets explains.

The basic concept of Magic is this: the game represents a battle and players take turns casting spells, summoning creatures and using artifacts depicted on cards from their deck. What players love about the game is that gameplay is highly strategic and customizable to any playstyle.

It is interesting to note that players have mixed feelings about the game, it is often said to be clunky and luck-filled, and other times it is lauded for being perfect. For many, their opinion of the game lies somewhere between these two extremes. But opinion aside, a few things are unwavering – an appreciation for both the masterful artwork and the customisable gameplay.

“If you’re wanting a game that is fun and competitive for two players, but that can be extended to include a larger group, Magic is ideal. If you like a trading card game with many interactions, wide variety, multiple paths to victory and a balance of resource types, you’ll really enjoy it,” says Roets.

Playing Magic

There are many ways and formats of play. There are generally two types of cards – lands and spells. Lands produce mana or magical energy.  Meanwhile, spells consume mana, typically requiring at least one mana of a specific colour. The more powerful the spells, the higher the cost and more specific in colour the mana. As the game progresses, more land will be in play, more mana will be available, and the relative power and quantity of the spells “cast” during play tend to increase.

In terms of formats and strategy, in Magic: the Gathering there are numerous. Standard and Legacy formats are generally used in big tournaments.  Cube, Pauper, and Preconstructed formats work for very casual play. Limited, 2HG and Commander are other formats. Format depends on personal preference and the group you a playing with.

Magic has grown a sizeable following within the broader gaming landscape. Outside of gameplay is a whole ecosystem of card collection, availability, trading, buying and selling. The game also serves as a catalyst for sub-cultures, inspiring fan fiction, artwork, and entire communities dedicated to exploring the game's lore.

For upcoming Magic: the Gathering events follow @unplugza @unplugyourselfza or go to www.unplugyourself.co.za