Magic: The Gathering has been a staple of geek culture for over twenty years. Originally pitched as a filler game for people to play between sessions of Dungeons & Dragons, Magic quickly came into it’s own, offering players the chance to craft their own experience, enter a world of unbridled possibility, and most importantly gave players ways to express themselves.
Today, Magic is not only the undisputed most popular card game in the world, it is also more accessible than it has ever been. Regardless of what you look for in gaming, whether it’s a challenge, a competition, a creative outlet or just plain old good times with friends at the dinner table, Magic has you covered.
Some folks have a tendency to shy away from Magic, worried about entering some arcane mystery that must be beyond them. Sticking to board games and other card games seems like a safe passage, because let’s face it, something as entrenched and old as Magic can be pretty daunting- but make no mistake, if you like games, I guarantee Magic has something for you.
‘I still remember a handful of us throwing together decks from modest collections and throwing Grizzly Bears at each other.’ Said Luke Lancaster of ReedPOP. ‘If I had to pin down what I like most about Magic, it’s that it invites experimentation. It’s a proving ground, a gateway, a testing lab. Deckbuilding, following the lore, playing sealed, building jank to see if it works or tuning a perfect competitive deck- The scope of the game is huge. People go deep on Magic, they go wide with other games, and it’s always there as an undercurrent to the whole hobby.’
Morgan Meehan-Lam is a Magic ‘judge’- official referees of sorts, who run tournaments, enforce rulings, and make sure that events go smoothly and that everyone has a fun and fair time. ‘They have just released an amazing online version of their game which just keeps being improved. So as well as playing a game you could play anywhere in the world at any time, you’re starting at a great time.’ She said. ‘Also, Magic is the only major card game that seems to be making any effort at inclusivity in it’s artwork, characters and storylines.’
There has never been a better time to start playing Magic than right now. Here are just a few ways you can get started.
There is almost no barrier to entry. You can walk into any local Good Games store and if you’re interested in learning to play, they’ll give you a free deck and everything you need to start slinging spells.
If you’re keen on playing with friends at home, then you can’t go past the Game Night box– It offers five decks (one for each colour), and lets you and the whole family get started. With this offering of decks, you can try all the colours and several of the playstyles to see what fits you best. Also, a few exclusive cards never go awry.
What began as a fan format quickly became the Commander phenomenon. A casual format where massive spells clash with strange combinations, where alliances are forged and torn asunder all in the space of a few turns, Commander is great for off-the-wall Magic, and deckbuilding creativity.
More than most other formats, Commander encourages players to experiment, find their niche, and rewards you for thinking of new, cool combinations that haven’t been tried before. In a game with over 12,000 unique cards, there is always something new to explore.
In late 2018, Magic developers Wizards of the Coast announced the biggest investment in organised play in the game’s history. Literally millions of dollars are up for grabs across the many tournaments around the world.
There are many tiers of competitive play, as well. From your local Friday Night Magic tournaments, to the larger Magic Fests (formerly Grand Prix) and the high-end, invite-only events that many players strive toward.
When people decry Magic, they often talk about how expensive the cards are. While there are plenty of pricey cards, be they rare collectables or format staples, the best way to play Magic is the limited format.
In limited, everyone plays with fresh cards from packs opened especially for that event. The most common limited format is draft, but if you’re just starting out, you need to come on down to a prerelease!
At a prerelease, you’ll get a bunch of packs of a brand new set, and get to play with the cards for the very first time. It’s great because everyone has the same odds of opening powerful cards, and nobody is rewarded for spending more money than anyone else. It’s a great way to enter an event on an even keel, as well as build your initial collection.
Right Now (But On Your Computer)
Also in 2018, Wizards of the Coast launched Magic Arena, an online version of Magic in an fun, animated interface similar to that of Hearthstone or Shadowverse.
Arena lets you get your draft or standard fix without having to leave the house. The game is still fresh, and continues to be improved upon. In 2019, we hope to see it launch on iOS and Android, and perhaps see some in-store event support as well.
The weekend of January 12th and 13th is Magic Open House- a weekend where you can go to your local Good Games and join an official Magic demo event, get a free deck and an exclusive promo card, all for free!Open House is one of the best ways to get into the game, and is often attended by plenty of new and returning players, all of whom are looking to grow the lively and inclusive Magic community.
There has never been a better time to start playing Magic, so put on your robe and wizard hat, and sling some spells with friends!