Magic: The Gathering – The Past, Present, and Future of Trading Card Games

Growing up in the late 90’s, I was privileged to have lived through the golden era of children’s trading card games. It started in the 2nd grade with my first packs of Pokèmon cards. There were 5 of us on the block who started the collection craze in our neighborhood and our street was the place to go if you were looking to make a deal. We soon grew tired of the Pokèmon game, which I still to this day have no idea how it works, and graduated to the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe.

Yu-Gi-Oh! offered us, the obviously too mature for Pokèmon 4th graders, a more grown up looking trading card to collect. The game itself was easier to play, but for me, it was still always about who had the sweetest cards. My Pokèmon card collection was a decent line-up of cards, but my Yu-Gi-Oh! collection was a true point of pride. By the end of my Yu-Gi-Oh! days, I had copies of some of the coolest cards in the game (In my opinion):

A small piece of me died the day I sold my Yu-Gi-Oh! card collection in order to buy a Playstation 2, but they will always play a prominent role in the childhood I choose to remember. It was a number of years before I would be back to the Trading Card World, but when I did return, I found the promised land that had always eluded my naïve, youthful self – Magic: The Gathering (MTG).

Magic: The Gathering offered the answers to so many of the questions begged by the trading card games from my youth and offers a robust game that appeals to all. The rest of this post will attempt to cover all of the components that make Magic: The Gathering the one true G.O.A.T.

Presentation

The look, feel, and flow of modern MTG cards put it in a class all its own. From the artwork to the flavor text, to the quality of materials the cards are printed on, everything about them draws you into the world they mean to represent. Each new set either builds onto an existing realm or starts a brand new one, each with its own theme and eccentricities, never allowing the game to feel old or too homogenous.

Dynamic Mechanics

In the same way that the presentation changes through the sets, the mechanics of the game are always evolving. Keywords, which can be better described as abilities, offer some creature cards special advantages when used in certain ways. These keywords are regularly tweaked and fine-tuned as the game grows with each newly released set, adding new wrinkles to the already excellent gameplay.

The game itself is objectively great, but half of the fun, in my opinion, is the process of building a deck. Trying to integrate multiple types of cards into one functioning deck can be a challenge, but the reward of seeing your buddy’s face after you roll him with it makes it all worth it. The ever-changing landscape of MTG keywords keeps the game fresh and interesting even after you build your 400th deck.

Parity Across the Board

Wizards of the Coast, the makers of MTG, do a fantastic job of making sure the game stays balanced. The power is often properly distributed among all the different types of cards, offering a fun and fair game to be played by all. New sets are given new keywords and different mechanics to change the game, but all of the changes are thoughtfully done so as to keep all of the previous iterations of the game involved. The equality maintained across all sets allows the player a level of creativity that is unmatched by other trading card games, offering new windows of opportunity with different keywords, but never closing the door on the game staples that lead them to that point.

Quick Hitting Action

One of the greatest strengths of MTG, especially in the age of shorter attention spans, is the time in which it takes to actually play the game. The average game of MTG is less than 10 turns long, which allows for near instant reviews for that new deck you just built and plenty of time to tweak, then play again. The Pace of play in MTG allows for so many different types of decks to be built and tried out without feeling like it takes ages to finally get to one that works. Within 30 minutes you can build a deck from scratch, play 3-4 games, fine-tune it, play 3-4 more games, perfect it, and destroy your friend’s clearly inferior deck. That is some seriously good bang for your buck.

Replayability

I have alluded to this above, but I really want you to grasp how amazing this game is from top to bottom. There are 5 different types of cards (White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green) all offering different play styles from the others and even within themselves. Most decks are made up of one color type, but there is nothing stopping you from making a double, or even triple, colored deck. Whatever man, it’s your world. The constant innovation from Wizards of the Coast enhances this immensely, with new card types such as double-sided cards and multi-colored cards. With a constantly evolving game, you can never truly get to the point where you feel you have mastered it completely, always finding new ways to win (or lose).

Accessibility

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of MTG is how easy it is to pick it up and play. Wizards of the Coast has started releasing Duel Decks that come with 2 premade decks that allow you to jump right into the fray. They offer starter kits for those who want a little more control over what their first deck looks like. You could also go the hard way and simply start buying booster packs and forging decks out of your randomly accrued assets. I went this route and pulled this beauty, in foil form to boot, out my second ever booster pack:

Jace, Memory Adept

 

Finding people to play with has never been easier, either, with MTG events popping up all over the place.

I know the game may seem daunting to try out, but I can assure you, Magic: The Gathering will steal (read: consume) a place in your heart if you simply let it in. Get out there and experience it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Magic: The Gathering – The Past, Present, and Future of Trading Card Games

  1. Great piece. MTG is definitely the goat. But I think all of these new virtual card games like hearthstone and the new elder scrolls run are making some serious noise…I wish magic online didn’t look like it was running on windows 98

    Like

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