Magic: The Gathering

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Magic: The Gathering
Magic: The Gathering card back
Magic: The Gathering's card back design
Designer Richard Garfield
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Players 2 or more
Age range 13+
Setup time < 2 minutes[1]
Playing time ~ 25 minutes[2]
Random chance Some
Skills required Card playing

Magic: The Gathering (colloquially "Magic", "MTG", or "Magic Cards") is a collectible card game created by mathematics professor Richard Garfield and introduced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. Magic is the first example of the modern collectible card game genre and still thrives today, with an estimated six million players in over seventy countries.[3] Magic can be played by two or more players each using a deck of printed cards or a deck of virtual cards through the Internet-based Magic: The Gathering Online or third-party programs.

Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards, known as "planeswalkers", who use the magical spells, items, and fantastic creatures depicted on individual Magic cards to defeat their opponents. Although the original concept of the game drew heavily from the motifs of traditional fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the gameplay of Magic bears little resemblance to pencil-and-paper adventure games, while having substantially more cards and more complex rules than many other card games.

An organized tournament system and a community of professional Magic players has developed, as has a secondary market for Magic cards. Magic cards can be valuable due to not only their scarcity, but also their utility in game play and the aesthetic qualities of their artwork.


[edit] History

Peter Adkison (then CEO of Wizards of the Coast games company) first met with Richard Garfield to discuss Garfield's new game RoboRally. Adkison was not enthusiastic about the game, as board games are expensive to produce and difficult to market.[4] He did enjoy Garfield's ideas and mentioned that he was looking for a portable game that could be played in the downtime that frequently occurs at gaming conventions. Garfield returned later with a prototype he had been working with on and off over the last few years under the development name of Mana Clash.[4] Adkison immediately saw the potential of the game and agreed to produce it. The game was renamed Magic: The Gathering and underwent a general release on August 5, 1993.[5]

Role-players were enthusiastic early fans of Magic, but the game achieved much wider popularity among strategy gamers. The commercial success of the game prompted a wave of other collectible card games to flood the market in the mid-1990s.

In 1996, Wizards of the Coast established the "Pro Tour",[6] a circuit of tournaments where players can compete for sizable cash prizes over the course of a single weekend-long tournament. In 2006 the top prize was US$40,000.[7] Sanctioned through The DCI, the tournaments added an element of prestige to the game by virtue of the cash payouts and media coverage from within the community.

In 2002, an official online version of the game was released. While unofficial methods of online play existed previously,[8] Magic Online quickly became a success for the company thanks to its rules enforcement, feature-rich environment, and accessible nature.[citation needed] A new, updated version of Magic Online was released in early 2008.

As of 2003, Wizards has been giving out more than US$3,000,000 in awards and prizes to players on the Magic Pro Tour circuit each tournament season.[9]

[edit] Awards

  • 1994: Mensa Top Five mind games award[10]
  • 1994: Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board game of 1993 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board game of 1993[11]
  • 1999: Inducted alongside Richard Garfield into the Origins Hall of Fame[12]
  • 2003: GAMES Magazine selected Magic for its Games Hall of Fame

[edit] Gameplay

Magic: The Gathering cards of various types and colors.

In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in a battle as powerful wizards called "planeswalkers". A player starts the game with twenty "life points" and—with a few exceptions—loses when he or she is reduced to zero or less. The most common method of reducing an opponent's life is to attack with summoned creatures. Although reducing an opponent to zero life is the most common way of winning (or losing) the game, drawing from an empty deck will also cause a player to lose. In addition, some cards specify other ways to win or lose the game.

Players begin the game with seven cards in hand. The two basic card types in Magic are "spells" and "lands". Lands provide "mana", or magical energy, which is used as magical fuel when the player attempts to cast spells. More powerful spells cost more mana, and are usually more difficult to play. Some spells also require the payment of additional resources, such as cards in play or life points. Spells come in several varieties: "sorceries" and "instants" have a single, one-time effect before they go to the "graveyard" (discard pile); "enchantments" and "artifacts" provide a lasting magical effect; creature spells summon monsters that can attack and damage an opponent. Spells can be of more than one type. As of the Lorwyn expansion, a new card type, "planeswalker", has been introduced to the game. These cards represent planeswalkers—similar to the player—with their own magic abilities, one of which can be used each turn.

Some spells have effects that override normal game rules. The "Golden Rule of Magic" states that "Whenever a card's text directly contradicts the rules, the card takes precedence."[13] This allows Wizards of the Coast great flexibility in creating cards, but can cause problems when attempting to reconcile a card with the rules (or, even worse, two cards with each other). A detailed rulebook[14] exists to clarify these conflicts.

[edit] Deck construction

Each player needs a deck to play a game of Magic. Beginners often start with an initial "Intro Pack", which can then be modified using cards from "booster packs".

In most tournament formats, decks are required to be a minimum of sixty cards. Players may use no more than four copies of any named card, with the exception of "basic lands", which act as a standard resource in Magic. Both these rules are loosened in "limited" tournament formats, where a small number of cards are opened for play from booster packs or tournament packs, with a minimum deck size of 40 cards and no "four of" rule. Depending on the type of play, some cards have been "restricted" (the card is limited to a single copy per deck) or "banned" (the card is no longer legal for tournament play). These limitations are usually for power reasons, but have been occasionally made because of gameplay mechanics.

Deck building requires just as much strategy as playing the game. Players must balance the synergy and utility of their cards. Synergy means how well a card works with other cards in a deck and utility means how well a card functions by itself. As mentioned in this article, MtG has a balance of skill and luck. Building a deck accounts for this as well, since one must picture their finished deck in its worst case scenario and find a way to avoid such a problem. A proper balance of lands and utility-rounded cards is vital, and works better when the majority of the cards have decent synergy.

Knowing what cards can help in any given situation helps players learn how to best use their deck, and help them determine what the deck lacks. Because every deck (in theory) has a weakness, some of the best decks do not just simply plan for the win, but plan for the loss. A deck that has no response to its ultimate weakness is likely to have its weakness discovered and planned against. The best decks can identify its own weakness and find ways to account for it.

The decision on what colors of mana to use is a key part of creating a deck. In general, reducing the number of colors used increases the statistical likelihood of drawing the lands needed to cast one's most-important spells. One- and two-color decks are the most common, though zero-, three-, four- and even five-color decks can be successful if well-designed.

[edit] The colors of Magic

Most spells come in one of five colors.[15] The colors can be seen on the back of the cards, in a pentagonal design, called the "Color Wheel". Clockwise from the top, they are: white, blue, black, red, and green (abbreviated as W, U, B, R, G, respectively[16]). To play a spell of a given color, at least one mana of that color is required. This mana is normally generated by a basic land: plains for white, island for blue, swamp for black, mountain for red, and forest for green.

The balances and distinctions between the five colors form one of the defining aspects of the game. Each color has strengths and weaknesses based on the "style" of magic it represents.[17]

  • White is the color of order, equality, righteousness, healing, law, community, absolutism/totalitarianism, and light, although not necessarily "good". White's strengths are a roster of small creatures that are strong if used together in groups; protecting those creatures with enchantments; gaining life; preventing damage to creatures or players; imposing restrictions on players; destroying artifacts and enchantments; and the ability to "equalize" the playing field. White creatures are known for their "Protection" from various other colors or even types of card, rendering them nearly impervious to harm from those colors or cards. Numerous white creatures also have "First Strike". White's weaknesses include its difficulty in directly destroying opposing creatures, a focus on smaller creatures, and the fact that many of its most powerful spells affect all players equally.
  • Blue is the color of intellect, reason, illusion, logic, knowledge, manipulation, and trickery, as well as the classical elements of air and water. Blue's cards are best at letting a player draw additional cards; permanently stealing control of an opponent's cards; returning cards to their owner's hands; putting cards from an opponent's library to their graveyard ('"milling"); and "countering" spells, causing them to have no effect. Blue's creatures tend to be weaker than creatures of other colors, but commonly have abilities and traits which make them difficult to damage or block, particularly "Flying" and to a lesser extent "Shroud". Blue's weaknesses include having trouble permanently dealing with spells that have already been played, the reactive nature of most of its spells, and the fact that its creatures tend to be comparatively inefficient.
  • Black is the color of power, ambition, greed, death, corruption, and amorality, although not necessarily "evil". Black cards are best at destroying creatures, forcing players to discard cards from their hand, and returning creatures from the dead. Furthermore, because Black seeks to win at all costs, it has limited access to many abilities or effects that are normally available only to one of the other colors; but these abilities are disproportionately expensive, often requiring the sacrifice of life, creatures, or other resources. Black is known for having "Fear" on its creatures, making them difficult to block. Black's main weaknesses are an almost complete inability to deal with enchantments and artifacts, its tendency to hurt itself almost as badly as it hurts the opponent, and difficulties in removing other Black creatures.[18]
  • Red is the color of freedom, chaos, passion, creativity, impulse, fury, lightning, the classical element of fire, and the non-living geological aspects of the classical element earth.[19] Red's strength's include destroying opposing lands and artifacts, sacrificing permanent resources for temporary but great power, and playing spells that deal damage to creatures or players. Red has a wide array of creatures, but with the exception of the extremely powerful dragons, most of them are fast and weak, or unbalanced with strong power and weak toughness, rendering them more easily destroyed. Some of Red's cards can turn against or hurt their owner in return for being more powerful for their cost. Red also shares the trickery theme with Blue and can temporarily steal opponents' creatures or divert spells, although generally not permanently. Many of Red's most famous creatures have the "Haste" trait, which lets them attack and use many abilities earlier. Red's weaknesses include its inability to destroy enchantments, the self-destructive nature of many of its spells, and its generally weak late-game play: most of its cards are designed to win fast or not at all. Red also has the vast majority of cards that involve random chance.
  • Green is the color of life, instinct, nature, evolution, ecology and interdependence. Green has a large number of creatures, which tend to be the largest in the game for their cost. Many of its spells make them stronger temporarily. It can also destroy artifacts and enchantments, increase a player's life total, get extra mana sources into play, and produce the other four colors of mana. Green creatures often have "Trample," an ability which lets them deal attack damage to an opponent if blocked by a weaker creature. Green's weaknesses include its difficulty destroying creatures directly; a distinct shortage of flying creatures (though some of its creatures have "Reach", making them able to block as though they had flying), and having few gameplay options besides large creatures.

The colors adjacent to each other on the pentagon are "allied" and often have similar, complementary abilities. For example, Blue has a relatively large number of flying creatures, which it shares with White and Black, which are next to it. The two non-adjacent colors to a particular color are "enemy" colors, and are thematically opposed. For instance, Red tends to be very aggressive, while White and Blue are often more defensive in nature. The Research and Development (R&D) team at Wizards of the Coast seeks to balance power and abilities among the five colors by using the "Color Pie" to define the colors' differences.[20] This guideline lays out the capabilities, themes, and mechanics of each color and allows for every color to have its own distinct attributes and gameplay. The Color Pie is used to ensure new cards are thematically in the correct color and do not impede on the territory of other colors.

  • Multi-color cards were introduced in the Legends set and use a gold frame to distinguish them from mono-color cards. These cards require mana from two or more different colors to be played and count as each of the colors used to play them. Multi-color cards tend to combine the philosophy and mechanics of all the colors used in the spell's cost. More recently, two-color "hybrid" cards that can be paid with either of the card's colors (as opposed to both) were introduced in the Ravnica set, and appeared extensively throughout the Shadowmoor and Eventide sets. Hybrid cards are distinguished by a gradient frame with those two colors. Multi-color cards tend to be proportionally more powerful compared to single-color or hybrid cards, as requiring multiple colors of mana to cast a spell is a handicap.
  • Cards which are not one of the five colors are considered colorless, and most often appear in the form of Lands and Artifacts. Unlike the five colors, Colorless cards do not have a specific personality or style of play. Sometimes, colorless cards will imitate the mechanics of a particular color, though in a less-efficient manner than a similar colored card. Often colorless cards are linked to one or more colors via their abilities, through story references, or through flavor text on the cards themselves.

[edit] Variant rules

While the primary method of Magic play is one-on-one using standard deck construction rules, casual play groups as well as Wizards of the Coast have developed many alternative formats for playing the game. The most popular alternatives describe ways of playing with more than two players (with teams or free-for-all) or change the rules about how decks can be built.

[edit] Organized play

Officially sanctioned Magic tournaments attract participants of all ages and are held around the world. These players in Rostock, Germany competed for an invitation to a professional tournament in Nagoya, Japan.

Magic tournaments are arranged almost every weekend in gaming stores, schools, universities, and (in Europe) pubs and bars. Larger tournaments with hundreds of competitors from around the globe sponsored by Wizards of the Coast are arranged many times every year. Large sums of money are paid out to those players who place the best in the tournament.[7] A number of websites report on tournament news, give complete lists for the most currently popular decks, and feature articles on current issues of debate about the game. The DCI (formerly known as the "Duelists' Convocation International") is the organizing body for sanctioned Magic events. The DCI is owned and operated by Wizards of the Coast.

There are two types of organized play, Constructed and Limited.

[edit] Constructed

In Constructed tournaments, each player arrives with a pre-built deck, which must abide by the 60-card minimum deck size, the "four of" rule and have a fifteen card side-board or no side-board at all. Various tournament formats exist which define which card sets are allowed to be used, and which specific cards are disallowed.

In addition to the main deck, players are allowed a 15-card sideboard. Following the first game of each match, each player is permitted to replace any number of cards in his or her deck with an equal number of cards from his or her sideboard, allowing each player to alter his or her deck to better combat the opponent's strategy. The original deck configuration is restored before the start of the next match. Normally the first player to win two games is the winner of the match.

There are various formats in which Constructed tournaments can be held. They include Vintage, Legacy, Extended, Standard, and Block Constructed. The DCI maintains a Banned and Restricted List for each format, which defines certain cards which are not allowed or restricted to only one copy in a deck. Banning has generally been rare in the more modern formats, but is considered necessary for some of the older formats to control their power level. Restricting was more common in Magic's past; currently the only format in which there is a Restricted List is Vintage, as the DCI now prefers to ban cards outright rather than restrict them.[21]

Block formats are defined by the cycle of three sets of cards in a given block. For example, the Ravnica block format consists of Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, and Dissension. Only cards that were printed in one of the sets in the appropriate block can be used in these formats.

Standard is the format defined by the current block, the last completed block, and the most recent core set. The current Standard card pool consists of the Shards of Alara block, the Tenth Edition core set, and Lorwyn and Shadowmoor mini-blocks (which count as a single block).

Extended is the format where all Magic blocks and core sets issued during the last seven years are legal. Prior to March 1, 2008, Extended format rotation system was different and more complicated: three Magic blocks rotated out every three years. The current extended format consists of the Onslaught, Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Ravnica, Time Spiral and Shards of Alara blocks; the Lorwyn and Shadowmoor mini-blocks; the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth edition core sets; and Coldsnap.[22]

Vintage and Legacy are considered "eternal" formats because the card pool never rotates. This means that all the sets that are currently legal will continue to be legal and any new sets will automatically be included in the legal card pool. The only banned cards in Vintage are cards using the "ante" mechanic and very few cards, which are considered not to be compliant with the nature of the game. Because of the expense in acquiring the old cards to play competitive Vintage, most Vintage tournaments permit players to proxy a certain number of cards.[23] As this is not compliant with the tournament rules of the DCI those tournaments are unsanctioned.[24] Legacy differs from Vintage in that is has a longer list of banned cards, but no list of cards restricted to one exemplar. The result is that Legacy has a lower power level than Vintage and is considerably more affordable because the most expensive Magic cards (Power Nine) are banned from the format. The DCI has attempted to promote the format with the addition of occasional Legacy Grand Prix events.

[edit] Limited

Limited tournaments are based on a pool of cards which the player receives at the time of the event. The decks in limited tournaments need only be a minimum of 40 cards, and all the unused cards function as the sideboard. A player generally may add any number of basic lands to his deck.

In sealed deck tournaments, each player receives six booster packs (each with 14 cards and 1 basic land) from which to build their deck.

In a booster draft, several players (usually eight) are seated around a table and each player is given three booster packs. Each player opens a pack, selects a card from it, and passes the remaining cards to the next player. Each player then selects one of the remaining cards from the pack he or she just received, and passes the remaining cards again. This continues until all of the cards are depleted. The directions of passing is left for the first and third packs, and right for the second. Players then build decks out of any of the cards that they selected during the drafting. Talking, signaling, and showing cards is forbidden during the drafting process.

By winning a yearly Invitational tournament, Jon Finkel won the right for this card to feature his design and likeness.

[edit] Tournament structure

The DCI maintains a set of rules for being able to sanction tournaments, as well as runs its own circuit. Many hobby shops offer "Gateway" tournaments as an entrance to casual competitive play usually organized by a local game store. The same shops often offer "Friday Night Magic" tournaments as a stepstone to more competitive play. A special tournament set called the "Junior Super Series" (now known in the US as the "Magic Scholarship Series") was run for underage competitors. This allows for a very broad base of gameplay.

The DCI runs the "Pro Tour" as a series of major tournaments to attract interest. The right to compete in a Pro Tour has to be earned by either winning a Pro Tour Qualifier Tournament or being successful in a previous tournament on a similar level. A Pro Tour is usually structured into two days of individual competition played in the Swiss format (players play rounds against opponents with similar success in previous rounds). On the final day, the top eight players compete with each other in an elimination format to select the winner.

At the end of the competition in a Pro Tour, a player is awarded "Pro Points" depending on his finishing place. If the player finishes high enough, he will also be awarded prize money. Frequent winners of these events have made names for themselves in the Magic community, such as Kai Budde and Jon Finkel. As a promotional tool, the DCI launched the Hall of Fame in 2005 to honor selected players.[6]

At the end of the year the "Magic World Championships" are held. The World Championship functions like a Pro Tour but competitors have to present their skill in three different formats (usually Standard, booster draft and a second constructed format) rather than one. Another difference is that invitation to the World Championship can be gained not through Pro Tour Qualifiers, but via the national championship of a country. Most countries sends the top four players of the tournament as representatives, though nations with minor Magic playing communities may send just one player. There are also other means to be invited to the tournament.

As such, the World Championship also has a team competition which is comprised of the results the members of the national teams put up during the individual competition and the team based competition on the second to last day of the event. During the final day, the top two teams play each other to determine the winner.

At the beginning of the World Championship, new members are inducted into the Hall of Fame. The tournament also concludes the current season of tournament play and at the end of the event, the player who earned the most Pro Points during the year is awarded the title "Player of the Year". Also the player who earned the most Pro Points and did not compete in any previous season is awarded the title "Rookie of the Year".

Invitation to a Pro Tour, Pro Points and prize money can also be earned in lesser tournaments called "Grand Prix" that are open to the general public and are held more frequently throughout the year. Grand Prixs are usually the biggest Magic tournaments, frequently drawing more than 1,000 players to the event. The biggest Magic tournament ever held also was a Grand Prix, at Paris in 2008.

[edit] Product and marketing

Magic: The Gathering cards are produced in much the same way as normal playing cards. Each Magic card, approximately 63 x 88 mm in size (21532 by 3716 inches), has a face which displays the card's name and rules text as well as an illustration appropriate to the card's concept. Over 10,000 unique cards have been produced for the game,[25] [26] many of them with variant editions, artwork, or layouts, and 600–1000 new ones are added each year.

The first Magic cards were printed exclusively in English, but current sets are also printed in Simplified Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.[27]

Magic cards are normally divided into four rarities, which can be differentiated by the color of the expansion symbol (in sets released after the Stronghold expansion; for cards released prior to Exodus, rarities must be checked against any number of databases, as all expansion symbols were black). These rarities are Common (Black), Uncommon (Silver), Rare (Gold), and Mythic Rare (Copper-Red). Basic lands are their own rarity and are colored black as Commons. Most new cards are purchased in the form of "Booster Packs" or "Tournament Packs". A fifteen-card Booster Pack will typically contain one Rare, three Uncommons, ten Commons, and one Basic Land (this is a change starting with Shards of Alara; in previous sets there were typically eleven Commons and no Basic Land). A Tournament Pack typically contains three Rares, ten Uncommons, thirty-two Commons, and thirty Basic Lands.[28] This means that three Booster Packs are roughly equivalent to one Tournament Pack.[29] Tournament Packs will be discontinued as of the beginning of the next block in Autumn 2009. For Sealed Deck Limited Tournaments, these will be replaced with three Booster Packs of product. Generally a Mythic Rares replaces about every eighth Rare card. There are also premium versions of every card, randomly inserted into some booster. These are called "foil" cards and replace about every seventieth card.

The vast majority of Magic cards are marketed to the public in the form of sets. The biennially-released Core Set currently consists of 383, with a mixture of old and new artwork. Tenth Edition is the most recent Core Set and was released on Saturday, 14 July 2007. Newly-designed cards are first sold in expansion sets with a "block" consisting of up to three theme-related expansion sets released over a period of a year. The first and largest part of a block is the set released in or around October and typically consists of 249 cards with 15 Mythic Rares, 53 Rares, 60 Uncommons, 101 Commons and 20 Basic Lands. At subsequent four-month intervals, the second and third expansion sets of the block are issued. These two smaller sets each typically consist of 145 cards divided into 10 Mythic Rares, 35 Rares, 40 Uncommons, 60 Commons, and no Basic Lands. The number of cards per set and the rarity distribution has varied over time.

In 2003, starting with the Eighth Edition Core Set, the game went through its biggest visual change since its creation—a new card frame layout was developed to allow more rules text and larger art on the cards, while reducing the thick, colored border to a minimum.[30] The new frame design aimed to improve contrast and readability using black type instead of the previous white, a new font, and partitioned areas for the name, card type, and power and toughness.

[edit] Secondary market

There is an active secondary market in individual cards among players and game shops. For example, there are around 20,000 Magic: The Gathering card auctions running on eBay at any one time.[31] Many other physical and online stores also sell single cards or "playsets" of four of a card. Common cards rarely sell for more than a few cents and are usually sold in bulk. Uncommon cards and weak rares typically cost around US$1. The most expensive cards in Standard tournament play usually cost approximately $20-30. On rare occasions, some have sold for $40-50.

The Beta version of the Black Lotus card is usually considered to be the most valuable non-promotional Magic card ever printed.[32] (Unlimited version shown.)

The most expensive card which was in regular print (as opposed to being a promotional or special printing) is Black Lotus, with average prices as of 2009 above $700 and high-quality "graded" copies rising above $3,000 — in 2005, a "Pristine 10 grade" Beckett Grading Services graded Beta Black Lotus was bought by Darren Adams, owner of West Coast Sports Cards & Gaming Distributors in Federal Way, Washington, for a record $20,000.[33] A small number of cards of similar age, rarity, and playability —chiefly among them the other cards in the so-called "Power Nine"— routinely reach high prices as well.

As new sets come out, older cards are occasionally reprinted. If a card has high play value, reprinting will often increase the original version's price because of renewed demand among players. However, if the card is primarily attractive to collectors, reprinting will often decrease the original version's value. Wizards of the Coast formulated an official "Reprint Policy"[34] in 1995 in an attempt to guarantee to collectors the value of many old cards. The Policy details certain cards that are unavailable to be printed again.

Wholesale distributors are not allowed to ship product to foreign nationalities. Additionally, several countries still have import restrictions that could be construed to bar the import of Magic: The Gathering or other collectible card games (Italy, for example, places restrictions on the importation of "playing cards").[35] Shipping restrictions have been relaxed recently and it is now possible to ship sealed product to Europe.

Non-English cards often have different prices on the secondary market than their English equivalents, depending on the desirability of the language. Certain languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian, are less valuable than English cards, while Asian languages, along with Russian and German, are often worth more to the American or English-speaking collector. Some people are willing to pay higher prices for foreign cards, while others prefer to only collect cards in their native language.

[edit] Artwork

Each card has an illustration to represent the flavor of the card, often reflecting the setting of the expansion for which it was designed. Much of Magic's early artwork was commissioned with little specific direction or concern for visual cohesion.[36] However, after a few years of submissions featuring beings with wings on creatures unable to fly,[37] or multiple creatures in the art of what was intended to be a single creature, the art direction team decided to impose a few constraints so that the artistic vision more closely aligned with the design and development of the cards. Each block of cards now has its own style guide with sketches and descriptions of the various races and places featured in the setting.[38]

A few early sets experimented with alternate art for cards. However, Wizards came to believe that this impeded easy recognition of a card and that having multiple versions caused confusion when identifying a card at a glance.[39] Consequently, alternate art is now only used sparingly and mostly for promotional cards.[40] That said, when older cards are reprinted in new (non-Core Edition, and not "timeshifted" reprints in the Time Spiral set) sets, Wizards of the Coast has guaranteed that they will be printed with new art to make them more collectible.[41]

Ever since 1995, the copyright on all artwork commissioned is transferred to Wizards of the Coast once a contract is signed. However, the artist is allowed to sell the original piece and printed reproductions of it, and for established and prolific Magic artists, this can be a lucrative source of revenue.

As Magic has expanded across the globe, its artwork has had to change for its international audience. Artwork has been edited or given alternate art to comply with the governmental standards. For example, the portrayal of skeletons and most undead in artwork is prohibited by the Chinese government.[42][43]

[edit] Storyline

An intricate storyline underlies the cards released in each expansion and is shown in the art and flavor text of the cards, as well as in novels and anthologies published by Wizards of the Coast (and formerly by HarperPrism). It takes place in Dominia, a multiverse consisting of an infinite number of planes, but was changed to simply "the Multiverse" to avoid confusion with Dominaria, which is but one of them[44]. Important storyline characters or objects often appear as cards in Magic sets as "Legendary" creatures, unique cards of which there can only be one in play at a time.

The expansion sets from Antiquities through Scourge (with the exception of Homelands) revolve around the plane of Dominaria and are a roughly chronological timeline of that plane's history (with the exception of the Urza's Saga Block). Major recurring characters include Urza and his brother Mishra. The sets from Weatherlight through Apocalypse follow in particular the story of the crew of the Weatherlight, allies of Urza against Yawgmoth. After Scourge Magic ventured out of Dominaria into the new planes of Mirrodin, Kamigawa, and Ravnica. It then returned to Dominaria for the block Time Spiral but left it again upon the block's conclusion. The focus of the following block lay on the Lorwyn plane, once depicted as a utopic heaven for all creatures and once as a dystopic place. The most recent expansion features the plane of Alara.

[edit] Controversial aspects

[edit] Luck vs. skill

Magic, like many other games, combines chance and skill. A common complaint, however, is that there is too much luck involved with the basic resource of the game: land. Too much land (mana flood or mana overload) or too little (mana drought, mana lock, or mana screw), especially early in the game, can ruin a player's chance at victory without the player having made a mistake. A common response is to say that the luck in the game can be minimized by proper deck construction, as an appropriate land count can reduce mana problems. The standard land count in most 60-card decks ranges from 18 to 26, although the use of special spells or lands and the relative costs of the main spells within the deck can substantially increase or decrease the number of lands required. Other cards can minimize the player's dependence on mana.

A "mulligan" rule was later introduced into the game, first informally in casual play and then in the official game rules. The modern "Paris mulligan" allows players to shuffle an unsatisfactory opening hand back into the deck at the start of the game, draw a new hand with one less card, and repeat until satisfied.[45] The original "mulligan" allowed a player a single redraw of seven new cards if that player's initial hand contained seven or zero lands. A variation of this rule is still used in some casual play circles and in multiplayer formats on Magic Online, and allows a single "free" redraw of seven new cards if a player's initial hand contains seven, six, one or zero lands.[46]

[edit] Demonic themes

Demonic imagery in card art.

For the first few years of its production, Magic: The Gathering featured a small number of cards with names or artwork with demonic or occultist themes. Their presence led to some criticism from religious groups, and in 1995 the company elected to remove such references from the game. In 2002, believing that the depiction of demons was becoming less controversial and that the game had established itself sufficiently, Wizards of the Coast reversed this policy and began to reprint cards with "demon" in their names.[47]

[edit] Gambling

The original set of rules prescribed that all games were to be played for ante. Each player would remove a card at random from the deck they wished to play with and the two cards would be set aside. At the end of the match, the winner would take and keep both cards.

Early sets included a few cards with rules designed to interact with this gambling aspect, allowing replacements of cards up for ante, adding more cards to the ante, or even permanently trading cards in play. The cards came with the instruction that they should be removed from the deck in a game that wasn't being played for ante.

The ante concept became controversial because many regions had restrictions on games of chance. The rule was later made optional because of these restrictions and because of players' reluctance to possibly lose a card that they owned. The gambling rule is forbidden at sanctioned events and is now mostly a relic of the past, though it still sees occasional usage in friendly games as well as the "five color" format. The last card to mention ante was printed in the 1995 expansion set Homelands.

[edit] Patent

A patent was granted to Wizards of the Coast in 1997 for "a novel method of game play and game components that in one embodiment are in the form of trading cards" that includes claims covering games whose rules include many of Magic's elements in combination, including concepts such as changing orientation of a game component to indicate use (referred to in the Magic and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle rules as "tapping") and constructing a deck by selecting cards from a larger pool.[48] The patent has aroused criticism from some observers, who believe some of its claims to be invalid.[49]

In 2003, the patent was an element of a larger legal dispute between Wizards of the Coast and Nintendo, regarding trade secrets related to Nintendo's Pokémon Trading Card Game. The legal action was settled out of court, and its terms were not disclosed.[50]

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Excluding deck construction
  2. ^ Games may take much longer or shorter depending on a deck's play style and the number of players
  3. ^ Wizards of the Coast (2006-05-03). "Press Release". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. "There are more than six million Magic players in 52 countries"  Note that the "six million" figure is the one used by Wizards of the Coast; while they would be in the best position to know through tournament registrations and card sales, they also have an interest in presenting an optimistic estimate to the public.
  4. ^ a b Shannon Appelcline (2006-08-03). "A Brief History of Game #1: Wizards of the Coast, 1990-Present". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. 
  5. ^ Wizards of the Coast. "Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited Editions". Retrieved on 2007-02-15. 
  6. ^ a b Chris Galvin (2005-06-06). "The Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. 
  7. ^ a b Duelists' Convocation International. "2006 Pro Tour Prize Structures". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. 
  8. ^ Notably, the Apprentice program. See Magic: The Gathering video games.
  9. ^ "10th Anniversary Press Release". 2003-02-17. Retrieved on 2008-01-17. 
  10. ^ "American Mensa mind games past winners". 
  11. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1993)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Retrieved on 2007-11-01. 
  12. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1998)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Retrieved on 2007-11-01. 
  13. ^ Rule 103.1 of the Magic Comprehensive Rules.
  14. ^ "Magic Rules for Tourney Players". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2006-09-30.  This website will contain a link to the most up-to-date version of the Comprehensive Rules.
  15. ^ An article on the consideration of "purple" for the set Planar Chaos is at The Color Purple.
  16. ^ "U" stands for "blue" because "B" denotes Black and "L" land; see Anatomy of a Magic Card
  17. ^ A series of articles written by Mark Rosewater describing each color in depth (as well as multicolor cards, artifact or colorless cards, and color-hybrid cards) can be found at the game's official site at The Great White Way, True Blue, In the Black, Seeing Red, It's Not Easy Being Green, Just the Artifacts, Ma'am, and Midas Touch.
  18. ^ "Card of the Day — July, 2006". 2006-07-27. Retrieved on 2006-09-30. "Black removal spells like Terror or Dark Banishing that could take out large-sized creatures historically had the drawback of not being able to affect other black creatures, and sometimes not artifact creatures either. Since then this drawback has been tweaked in many ways that no longer limit the cards to just non-black or non-artifact." 
  19. ^ Brady Dommermuth (2006-02-01). "Ask Wizards". Retrieved on 2006-09-26. "The particular issue of red's connection to earth and stone has another aspect as well, though. Red has and will continue to have earth/stone-themed cards. But green wants to be connected to earth as well, in the soil sense. So red gives up a few of its 'earth' cards for green's sake." 
  20. ^ Mark Rosewater (2003-08-18). "The Value of Pie". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. 
  21. ^ Mark Rosewater (2003-02-17). "Banned on the Run". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. "Restricting a card makes games more swingy as the variance of drawing the powerful card has a huge impact on the game. We accept the swinginess in Vintage as we want players to have access to all the cards. But in other formats, we err on the side of making the formats a little less luck-based." 
  22. ^ Coldsnap is a special exception to the usual rule.
  23. ^ Avi Flamholz (2004-07-13). "Money, Proxies, and the Must-Have List — A Case for Vintage". Retrieved on 2006-09-30. "More and more, the larger U.S. Vintage tournaments are unsanctioned and allow growing numbers of proxies (usually five to ten, sometimes unlimited). In fact, I would be hard pressed to find a sanctioned Type 1 tournament (A.K.A. proxy-free) in the last year or so that drew more than thirty people (other than major conventions like GenCon)." 
  24. ^ Proxies are permitted in sanctioned tournaments if a card is damaged or worn in the course of competition, however. They are also permitted in Limited if the opened cards are already damaged.
  25. ^ Rosewater, Mark (2009-02-16). "25 Random Things about Magic". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2009-02-16. 
  26. ^ "Gatherer". Retrieved on 2009-02-12. , the official Magic card database.
  27. ^ Mark Rosewater (2006-02-06). "Coldsnap Q & A". Retrieved on 2006-09-30.  shows those 9 languages as of the summer of 2006. Magic was previously printed in Traditional Chinese (used in Taiwan) and Korean, but this stopped after Urza's Saga, when Simplified Chinese was added, the official language of the People's Republic of China. See for a language history, albeit one that is not updated any more.
  28. ^ "Typically" is used due to a change in card distribution in Time Spiral which allows premium cards of any rarity to replace Common cards instead of cards of their own rarity. See Purple Reign for more information.
  29. ^ Tournament Packs contain one more Uncommon and one less Common than would be acquired from three Booster Packs, so they aren't exactly equal.
  30. ^ "Card Face Redesign FAQ". 2003-01-20. Retrieved on 2006-09-30. 
  31. ^ the gathering "eBay search page". the gathering. Retrieved on 2008-12-105. 
  32. ^ Compare US$3,000 price here for Beta version to prices for other cards here.
  33. ^ Beckett Magic The Gathering Magazine, Issue 3, December 2005/January 2006, pg. 10, "Sold! $20,000!"
  34. ^ Official Reprint Policy has Wizards of the Coast's Reprint Policy. Note, however, that important individuals such as Mark Rosewater have indicated that the policy was a mistake; nevertheless, they have also said that they will maintain the policy to insure Wizards' promises are taken seriously.
  35. ^ Country Conditions for Mailing - Italy
  36. ^ Jarvis, Jeremy (2007-01-01). "Ask Wizards". Retrieved on 2007-04-21. "In the ‘old days’, art descriptions were vague suggestions of images... Neither continuity nor the idea of worldbuilding (creating distinctive and unique worlds and settings) would become issues until some time later." 
  37. ^ Buehler, Randy (2003-11-21). "Flight of Fancy". Retrieved on 2007-04-21. 
  38. ^ Cavotta, Matt (2005-09-07). "The Magic Style Guide". Retrieved on 2007-04-21. 
  39. ^ Chase, Elaine (2002-06-17). "Ask Wizards". Retrieved on 2007-02-15. "While we don't like to completely rule anything out, there currently aren't any plans to repeat the alternate art within a set model. The main reason is that most players recognize cards through the artwork." 
  40. ^ A notable exception are Basic Land cards, but those are easily identifiable due to the oversized mana symbol in their text boxes.
  41. ^ Rosewater, Mark (2004-04-26). "Collecting My Thoughts". Retrieved on 2006-06-30. 
  42. ^ Chinese Skeletons by Magic Arcana,, March 2002
  43. ^ Alternate Chinese Art in Ravnica, Part 1 by Magic Arcana,, November 2005
  44. ^ Dommermuth, Brady (2007-02-15). "February 15, 2007". Ask Wizards. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2007-12-30. 
  45. ^ Rosewater, Mark (2004-02-23). "Starting Over". Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  46. ^ Smith, Bennie (2006-04-27). "Nephilim Are Prismatastic!". Retrieved on 2007-02-11.  This article explains this mulligan rule in the Prismatic format, where it is called a "big deck" mulligan. The rule was added to all multiplayer Magic Online later, as explained in this official announcement.
  47. ^ Mark Rosewater. "Where Have All The Demons Gone Today". 
  48. ^ US patent 5662332
  49. ^ Varney, Allen (2006-05-03). "The Year in Gaming". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved on 2007-06-03. 
  50. ^ "Pokemon USA, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Resolve Dispute". FindArticles. 2003-12-29. Retrieved on 2007-09-21. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Baldwin & Waters (1998). The Art of Magic: A fantasy of world building and the art of the Rath Cycle. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1178-6. 
  • Moursund, Beth (2002). The Complete Encyclopedia of Magic: The Gathering. New York, NY: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-443-2. 

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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