Getting to Grips with Magic: The Gathering

I’ve mentioned it a few times already, and yet for those of you that don’t know what it is, well I guess I’m being a little presumptuous with these posts, so allow me to gas a little about what Magic: The Gathering actually is.

Well it is old, it was brought about in 1993 (I only began playing in 2013 when a set called Return to Ravnica was coming to its end, every year, new sets would gradually be released) but before I get into that, I’ll explain the basics.

Magic: The Gathering, which I will shorten to Magic or MTG respectively, is a game about two or more people hashing it out in glorious card game warfare. There are 5 colours you can do battle with: White, Blue, Black, Red and Green, also known as WUBRG for short, which each represent certain ideals. Each library or deck of cards contains one or more of these colours epitomised via creature spells which maul your opponents with varying degrees of effectiveness, non-creature spells to mess up your opponents plans or better your own, and land cards which provide you the fuel to power this wicked implement of torture. Each colour has a different type of land. White lands are known as plains, Blue land as islands, Black lands as swamps, Red lands as mountains and Green lands as forests. You can imagine it as if the these elemental forces provide the player with the power to summon forth their spells, or you could imagine it as a gamer picking between Sports, RTS, Horror, Hack ‘n’ Slash or a digital pet game to get his jollies… In WUBRG order.

The setting of the game is primarily fantasy, though sometimes the game has certain Sci-fi implications, intentionally or no. The protagonists of the Story, I guess you could say, are called Planeswalkers because they have the ability to jump between sets of cards *cough* I mean planes of existence. In all seriousness though, the story is expansive, the worlds rich and thematic, and it is growing all the time. It really is one of the greatest aspects of the game, and most every card means something. Hero’s Downfall is a black card that kills a creature or Planeswalker on the field. In the story of this verse, it represents a certain Planeswalker’s death in the story by the hands of a God. I won’t spoil it for you. Points to you if you can tell me which though!

The game plays very strategically, knowing the right time to play cards and when to hold back, making the most efficient plays, like trying to use the least amount of cards to get rid of your opponents big threat, and reading your opponent to tell what they are trying to do whilst bluffing yourself. Of course there is the math *shudder*. There is however a lot of luck involved too. Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of the game is mana, the lands I mentioned before are needed to cast spells and you have to have a certain amount depending on the card you want to play. Standard decks are 60 cards plus. A well balanced deck has roughly between 20-26 land, which by itself does nothing, so imagine then that your opponent just played a huge dude, you need your Hero’s Downfall or your toast in a few turns and then you draw nothing but land… You didn’t lose because your opponent was more skilled, or their deck was better than yours. assuming equal levels of competence, just sheer bad luck which turns a fun game into a frustrating grind. Imagine you’re running for the bus like you do every morning because you wanted those few extra minutes in bed, you get on it, everything’s going well surprisingly and then BAM! The driver wants a cigarette and stops for 15 minutes. Well damn, your going to be late, your managers going to give you a huge lecture and yell at you for not being a team player and you just know everybody’s staring at you all day like (Geez look at this guy- “It was just one time-!) *cough* but it wasn’t your fault, the bus just let you down.

There’s a lot more to it, but that’s all you really need to know to understand the very basics of the game. Despite my gripes, it remains one of my most enjoyable past-times.

Also opening booster packs is like opening a pack of Reese’s Pieces and saying “oh I’ll just have the one”… Yeah not gonna happen, you’re chomping all them bad boys down till you’re sick.

I think next week I’m going to focus on Dungeons and Dragons. Perhaps an explainer for the uninitiated, since this one was so fun.

If you’d like to try Magic, I suggest downloading Magic Duels on Steam, it’s free with a solo campaign and bots to play against and get you started on your journey.

Meanwhile, what Dungeons and Dragons posts would you like to see from me?


3 thoughts on “Getting to Grips with Magic: The Gathering

  1. I’d like to hear how you personally work out where your D&D character fits in the team composition from combat to progressing the story. 🙂


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