“Magic: the Gathering” is, simply put, the greatest game known to humankind. The original trading card game, Magic will turn 25 this year, and is enjoyed by about 20 million players in every corner of the globe. Many other popular and recognizable card game, range from poor imitations to interesting knockoffs of the original — but rest assured, knockoffs they are.
Gameplay Basics: The game has more in common with chess than any other game — in that it’s fairly quick and easy to pick up the mechanics of the game, but there’s no limit to the levels of strategy. New sets are released every few months, allowing players to continually tinker and experiment with new strategies.
There are two broad kinds of cards in the game: lands (resources) and non-lands (creatures and spells). Magic has five different colors (white, blue, black, red and green), each with their own strengths and weaknesses — like different classes in an roleplaying game or different weapon packages in a first person shooter. For example, Blue has many creatures that are hard for an opponent to deal with, but they are not usually very large. Green has larger creatures available for the same amount of resources, but they’re often easier to remove from the battlefield.
Before beginning, players build their decks out of any cards they like, which for many players is most of the fun. Players begin by shuffling their decks, then drawing seven cards as their opening hand. At the start of each of their turns, players “untap” any resources that were used the previous turn, allowing them to be used again, then draw a card. Players can play one land per turn, and use their available lands to cast creatures and spells. The more powerful the spell or creature, the more lands it takes to cast. The ultimate goal of the game is to remove the opponent’s starting life total, from 20 down to 0.
Learning to play: Duels of the Planeswalkers is a cheap version of the game meant for teaching new players, available on PC via Steam, Xbox LIVE Arcade, iPad and the PlayStation Network. A quick Google or YouTube search will also return a phonebooks worth of good how-to-play resources.
Rooks Comics and Games, a local store hosts Magic events of every level of competitiveness six days a week (everyday but Thursday) and has free, pre-made decks to give away to new players just getting into the game.
Community: The best part of Magic is not the limitless strategic depth, the absorbing fantasy world or the fun of seeing new things happen every game. It’s the people.
More than any other game, Magic fosters a sense of community among its players. It can be played by any number of players, allowing friend groups of any size to spend an evening gaming together. Events attract people off all ages and from all walks of life — it’s not uncommon for players to sit and chat after a match to trade tips, ignoring any differences between them in age, gender, race or anything else.