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Magic the Gathering 101

Magic the Gathering 101

In 1993, Seattle-based gaming giant Wizards of the Coast — yes, the very same people who created the iconic tabletop RPG game Dungeons & Dragons back in the ’60s — came up with yet another classic, in their words, “a world of infinite possibilities that lies in your hands”.

Almost two decades down the line, Magic: The Gathering is now a multi-billion-dollar card game that is able to attract the most avid fans of science fiction, fantasy, and even straight-up mythology geeks. From the ancient Nagas of South Asian mythology to the stealthy ninja Nezumi of Japanese folklore, the world of Magic: The Gathering (also called simply Magic or MTG by its fans) has it all … always accompanied by breathtaking artwork! 

Are you new to the game of Magic? Always wanted to play but never knew where to start in this vast world with hundreds of cards?

Here’s our handy introduction to the core elements you’ll need to know to get playing. 

How You Fit Into the Game of Magic 

To begin a game of Magic we have to first understand what you — the player — represent. 

Players participate in the adventures of mythical and magical creatures in Magic. Cards are used to participate in the many conflicts that plague its world. Each card contains powers — creatures, characters, and mystical artifacts —  which players can call upon to defeat their opponents. 

You’re Not Just a Wizard … You’re a Planeswalker 

As you play Magic, you’ll learn quickly that you aren’t just some magical wizard in a magical realm. Your powers and abilities make you a Planeswalker. 

Like many fantasy stories and epics, the worlds of Magic are known as planes. That means, as a Planeswalker, you have the ability to move from plane to plane as events unfold and you find new sources of powers to add to your deck. This is where the game’s story and the mythology really shines because we encounter the fantastic creatures who reign over these planes.  

The Plane of Dominaria and Other Strange, New Planes   

Dominaria is the first plane created for the game way back in the early 1990s. 

In the game’s storyline, two brothers warred between each other and a great army swarmed Dominaria. As the crew of the skyship Weatherlight began exploring more of the game’s universe, players were introduced to more and more planes. 

Each new plan got a storyline and histories of their own. And players could participate in the events in those other planes. 

And it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that introduced characters who shared the same powers as we the player. 

Changing up the formula with different worlds and timelines opened up the game to the now “Current Golden Age of Magic”. Well, at least when it came to the illustrations on the cards. And we were introduced to many many more characters. Chandra the elementalist, Jace the mind wizard, Garruk the hunter, Liliana the necromaster, and Ajani the warrior, were all characters whom the story now focused on and shared our ability as players to go from one plane to another.

Speaking of the term “sparked”, that is exactly what happened to these characters. Wizards of the Coast, uniquely has each of these characters gain their “Planeswalker Spark” which allows them to “Planeswalk” in different stories, some which have yet to be revealed to the Player. Each of these characters are either searching for something or running from their destinies by moving from one plane to another. As one would guess, when they are involved both good and bad things are to happen. 

If you’re interested in learning a complete history of magic both lore and real world consumer I recommend checking the link below by Toy Galaxy that goes into in depth review. 

Current State and the Return to Zendikar

With each plane, we visited a new story, a new adversary, and new Planeswalkers were introduced. As of now, we are returning to the plane of Zendikar where many stories involving the planeswalkers we have discussed have happened and have had their effects on the plane. 

To again keep it brief, the plane had once been the prison to great Lovecraftian-like creatures; The Eldrazi. Tasked with their imprisonment, a planeswalker named Nahiri went through stages of betrayal, anger, and eventually revenge when her fellow Planeswalkers Ugin the Spirit Dragon and Sorin the Vampire lord,  failed to return when the Eldrazi were released by some of the main protagonist Planeswalkers. 

The plane itself has been completely damaged by the presence of the Eldrazi’s return, but we are now at the stage after those trying times. Magic wants us to not only explore but adventure in ways that other games have had us doing.

Adventures like Dungeon and Dragons

If the story and lore haven’t caught you yet, then if you enjoyed the environment of Dungeons of Dragons, you’ll love this newest edition to the game.

Magic always keeps their content fresh and unique by introducing each plane with a different mechanic or ability that cards from that world will be the only ones to have it. With the plane of Zendikar being a world of adventure and exploring they have introduced a mechanic which makes the game feel similar to playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The mechanic gives creatures further power if they have a fellow Wizard, Rogue, Warrior, and Cleric —  a Dungeons and Dragons full party. 

This wouldn’t be the first time the long-running card game has shown respect for another genre. In the spring of 2020, they introduced a special group of cards whose alternate art would have their own Godzilla-themed art to give homage to the classic movie monsters universe. In the Summer of 2019 they created playable cards whose art is from the My Little Pony franchise.

The obvious nod to the game is Magic way of respecting its senior game by allowing players to reminisce and relate to both games. 

Wizards of the Coast has even announced in the spring-summer period of 2021 that they will be releasing a plane that will be exclusively based on Dungeons of Dragons material and cards which bear resemblance to what they would see in a campaign. 

How and Where to Get Started

Now I’ve explained a lot when it comes to the lore, the content, and even the various tie-in to other genres that Magic has done, you’re probably wondering where do you even start? 

This is a perfect time to begin playing because Magic has recently put out a series of special booster packs themed “Jumpstart” to help newer players get into playing the game. 

Each pack includes half a deck of cards (20 cards out of a full deck of 40 cards) in which a certain theme is randomly given to the player. If you are looking to start playing Magic, we recommend grabbing at least 2 packs of these (Valued at 7.99 MSRP) in which you can make a fully functioning deck that can be ready to play. 

Naturally playing the game right now during pandemic cards can be difficult without the proper protection and luckily it exists. 

A free Web-based game Magic: The Gathering Arena is available to download for Mac or Windows in which the player can play the most recent set of cards safely from the confines of their own home. Wizards has even announced a mobile version of the game will be available sometime in the Fall of 2020. 

If you or friends you know are going to start playing Magic, we recommend checking out your local Hobby/Card store in which sanctioned events are played. 

Like any game, being around the environment of people who play this game will allow you to learn and understand the game much better when friendly like-minded enthusiasts are there to aid you. I personally try to go once a week to meet with friends, other Magic players, and even speak with the people working at my local store to learn more about the game and see what’s happening when it comes to events.

Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully, this gives you an understanding of the world of Magic both in its own lore and in a world of enthusiastic players. Along with cards, themes, mechanics, there are also multiple ways to play the game in which I can touch in another article. The game truly reaches out to their players and tries to tie in the many different fictions of any universe in a way no other game has done before. I truly feel it is a great game to start with friends, family, and strangers and gives you the creative freedom to create an infinite world of possibilities.  

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Avid learner of animation and the arts, Kunal loves to talk and discuss everything animated. Currently working towards becoming a storyboard artist, Kunal's website (chaosthoughts.net) shows a plethora of drawings, animations, and 3D sculptures dedicated to express himself creatively.

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