Magic: The Gathering

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Games

Magic: The Gathering
Magic: The Gathering card back
Magic: The Gathering's card back design
Designer Richard Garfield
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Players Two and up
Setup time < 3 minutes
Playing time ~ 20 minutes1
Rules complexity High
Strategy depth High
Random chance Some
Skills required Card playing
1 Games may take much longer or shorter depending on a deck's play style and the number of players.

Magic: The Gathering (colloquially "Magic", "MTG", or "Magic Cards") is a collectible card game created by Richard Garfield and introduced in 1994 by the company Wizards of the Coast, which was later purchased by Hasbro. Magic was the first example of the collectible card game genre and remains the most popular, with an estimated six million players world wide. Magic can be played by two or more players each using a deck(decks are often called libraries) of printed cards or through an internet-based computer version.

Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards who use 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, Magic bears little resemblance to pencil-and-paper adventure games. Rather, Magic is more similar to bridge or poker but has substantially more cards and complex rules than other card games.

The world-wide popularity of Magic has spawned an organized tournament system and a community of professional Magic players, as well as a secondary market for Magic cards. Magic cards can be valuable due to scarcity arising from their power and utility in game play or the aesthetic qualities of their artwork.


When Peter Adkison, then CEO of the fledgling Wizards of the Coast games company, met Richard Garfield, then a graduate student who would become a mathematics professor, it was to discuss Garfield's new board game RoboRally. Adkison was not enthusiastic, as board games are expensive to produce and difficult to market. 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. Adkison immediately saw the potential of the game and agreed to produce it.

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. Many of them were poorly received and failed both commercially and in popularity while others were considered equal in gameplay quality, stature, and popularity to Magic: The Gathering. However, Magic’s gross card sales have been surpassed in recent years by other modern CCGs, particularly by Japanese import games based on the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! franchises.

In 1996, Wizards of the Coast established the " Pro Tour", a circuit of tournaments where players can compete for a top prize of US$40,000 for a single weekend-long tournament. Sanctioned through the Duelists' Convocation International, the tournaments add an element of prestige to the game by virtue of the cash payouts and media coverage from within the community. The system is similar to those used in golf, tennis and other professional sports. The company publicizes good players who win frequently in order to create a "star" system; the stars are offered as inspirations to which other players aspire.

In 2002, an official online version of the game was released. While unofficial methods of online play existed beforehand, Magic: The Gathering Online quickly became a success for the company thanks to its rules enforcement, feature-rich environment, and accessible nature. A new version of Magic Online is expected in early 2007.


  • 1994: Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board game of 1993 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board game of 1993
  • 1999: Inducted alongside Richard Garfield into the Origins Hall of Fame
  • 2003: GAMES Magazine selected it for its Games Hall of Fame

Game play

In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in a duel. A player starts the game with twenty life points. The player loses when he or she runs out of life points. The most common method of reducing an opponent's life is to attack with summoned creatures, although numerous other methods exist. There are other ways to win or lose the game, but loss of life is the most common.

Players also start with seven cards. They duel each other by casting spell cards, using mana or magical energy, typically drawn from land cards. Spells can have a single, one-time effect, set up a lasting magical effect, or summon a creature to fight for its player. More powerful spells cost more mana, or even other resources such as a player's own life points.

Some spells have effects that override normal game rules (e.g., allow a player to play more than one land per turn). The so-called "Golden Rule of Magic" is that if a card's text conflicts with the rules, the card has priority. Resolving interactions between conflicting spell effects is one of the more difficult aspects of game play. A detailed rulebook exists to clarify these conflicts.

Deck construction

A player needs a deck before he or she can play a game of Magic. Beginners typically start with only a starter deck, which is pre-built and ready for play. Two players seldom play with the same type of deck, and decks are customized based on the particular player's technique, playing style or even the anticipated content of an opponent's deck.

Decks are required to be at least sixty cards. Players may use no more than four of any named card, with the exception of "basic lands", which act as a standard resource in Magic. In Limited formats the minimum size is forty cards, and the four-of rule does not apply. Depending on the type of play, some more powerful cards are further restricted, allowing only one per deck, while others are banned outright. Experienced players often play with the minimum deck size in order to make their decks more consistent.

The decision on what colors to use is a key part of creating a deck. Although five colors of spells are available, lowering the number of colors used makes it more likely that a player will draw a correct mixture of spells and land that create mana of the correct colour. Since each of the five colors each have different strengths and weaknesses, playing more colors can help create a more versatile and well-rounded deck.

The colors of Magic

Most spells come in one of five colors. The colors can be seen on the back of the cards, in a pentagonal design, called the "Pentagon of Colors". Starting from the top, going clockwise, they are: white, blue, black, red, and green. To play a spell of one color, mana of the same colour is required. This mana is normally generated by a land with one of the basic land types, respectively: plains, island, swamp, mountain, and forest.

The equilibrium among the five colors is one of the defining aspects of the game. Also known as the "color pie," the various strengths and weaknesses of each color are attributed to the fact that each colour represents a different "style" of magic.

  • White is the colour of order, organization, purity, balance, law, justice, community, righteousness, and light (although not necessarily "good", in the same way that laws and the assumptions behind them can be flawed). White's strengths lie in protecting its creatures, healing damage, efficient small creatures (rather than large individual creatures), imposing restrictions on players, the removal of enchantments, and the ability to "equalize" the playing field. White's weaknesses include its difficulty in proactively and permanently removing the opponent's creatures, its inability to change game plans, and the fact that many of its most powerful spells affect all players equally.
  • Blue is the colour of knowledge, illusion, reason, dreams, ingenuity, 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, stealing control of opposing permanents indefinitely, returning permanents to their owner's hands (informally called "bouncing"), and countering (canceling) spells as they are being played. Blue's creatures tend to be "tricky" and precise; they often have weaker base statistics than other colors, but commonly have evasive abilities such as flying. Blue's weaknesses include having only limited ways of dealing with opposing threats once they have entered play, a fairly weak set of creatures, and a lack of ways to increase its mana production.
  • Black is the color of death, darkness, despair, plague, selfishness, ambition, greed, corruption, and amorality (although not necessarily "evil"). Black cards are best at killing creatures, making players discard cards from their hand, and raising creatures from the graveyard. Black is also the most flexible color in many ways; it is willing to do anything, which is reflected in being able to cast many unusual out-of-colour effects. However, black also tends to utilize or sacrifice resources to achieve its goals, such as creatures, life, or cards. Black's main weaknesses are its tendency to hurt itself in order to gain an advantage, an almost complete inability to destroy enchantments and artifacts, and difficulties in removing other black creatures directly from the field. This third restriction has been lightened in recent years.
  • Red is the colour of chaos, destruction, war, art, passion, and fury, as well as lightning and the classical element of fire. Red shares an association with the classical element of earth with the colour Green; Red has an affinity for the nonliving aspects of Earth while Green is focused on the organic aspects.Red is one of the best colors for destroying opposing lands, trading long-term resources for short-term power, and for playing spells that deal damage to creatures or players (colloquially, "burn" or "direct damage"). Red also has the vast majority of cards that involve random chance. Red shares the "trickery" theme with Blue and can temporarily steal an opponent's creatures or divert their spells. Red's weaknesses include its inability to destroy enchantments, the random or self-destructive nature of many of its spells, and its generally weak late-game play.
  • Green is the colour of life, nature, growth, instinct, and interdependence. Green creatures tend to have the strongest base statistics in the game, and many green cards further increase those. Green also excels at destroying artifacts and enchantments, increasing a player's life total, and increasing mana-production capabilities. However, green has difficulty removing opposing creatures from play, and it lacks damaging or controlling spells; nearly all of its strategies are creature-based. Furthermore, green shares with red a distinct lack of flying creatures.

The colors adjacent to each other on the pentagram are "allied" and often have similar, complementary abilities. For example, blue has a relatively large number of flying creatures. White and black, being next to it, also have many flying creatures. The two non-adjacent colors to a particular colour are "enemy" colors, and are thematically opposed. For instance, red has many aggressive and damaging spells, white and blue have defensive and protective spells. Aside from the technical likeness, the colors are also linked by their "essence". White shares "humanity and civilization" with Blue, who shares "deceit and mischief" with Black, who is linked by "destruction" to Red, who is related to Green by "savagery and fury", whom is finially related to White by "purity" The R&D team at Wizards of the Coast balances the power between the five colors by using the Colour Pie to define each colour's strengths and weaknesses. Every color has its own distinct attributes; the pie is used to ensure new cards are thematically in the correct colour and do not impede on the territory of other colors.

Multi-colour cards were introduced in the Legends set and use a gold background to distinguish them. More recently, two-color "hybrid" cards that can be paid for with either of the card's colors (as opposed to both, as is the case with normal multi-colour cards) were introduced in the Ravnica set. These cards tend to combine the philosophy and mechanics of all the colors used in the spell's cost. Due to the restriction of having to play all the colors in the casting cost, multi-color cards tend to be more powerful for their cost compared to single-color or hybrid-colour cards.

Artifacts are cards that exist without the colors of magic. They do not require a specific color of mana to play. Flavorwise, artifacts are magical constructs that can be used by any planeswalker. Typically, abilities found on artifacts are those that can be used by any color or are abilities that do not normally fall into any of the colour categories, although some recent artifacts, most notably in the Ravnica block, have required colored mana to use their activated abilities. Some artifacts are also creatures, and a few others are also lands.

Variant rules

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

Organized play

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

Magic: The Gathering has grown tremendously since it was first introduced in 1993, and a large culture has developed around the game. 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. 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 Duelists' Convocation International (or DCI) is the organizing body for professional Magic events. The DCI is owned and operated by Wizards of the Coast.

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


In Constructed tournaments, each player comes with a pre-built deck. Decks must consist of no fewer than 60 cards, and no more than four of any one card (the basic land cards may be used in any quantity). Various tournament formats exist which define what 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 a 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. Thus a player may alter his or her deck to better deal with the opponent's strategy. Tournaments are normally structured so that the first player to win two games is the winner of the match. The original deck configuration is restored before the start of the next match.

There are various formats in which Constructed tournaments can be held. They include Vintage (Type 1), Legacy (Type 1.5), Extended (Type 1.x), Standard (Type 2), and Block. The DCI maintains a Banned/Restricted list for each format, which defines certain abusive cards as 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. Restricted cards are cards that a player may only use one of in his or her deck. Restriction was more common in Magic's past, but currently the only format in which there is a Restricted list is Vintage, as the DCI prefers to ban cards outright rather than restrict them in modern times.

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 Ravnica block, Time Spiral block, Coldsnap, and the Ninth Edition core set.

Extended as a format rotates every three years and leaves the six most recent blocks and two most recent core sets. Any additional blocks to be released between rotations are automatically added to this format's card pool. The current extended format consists of the Invasion, Odyssey, Onslaught, Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Ravnica, and Time Spiral blocks; the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth edition core sets; and Coldsnap.

Vintage is considered an eternal format 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 for Vintage are cards using the ante mechanic, as well as Chaos Orb and Falling Star, two cards that involve flipping the card onto the table. Due to the expense in acquiring the old cards to play competitive Vintage, most Vintage tournaments held are unsanctioned ones where players are permitted to proxy a certain number of cards. Proxies are treated as stand-ins of existing cards. They are not normally permitted in tournaments sanctioned by the DCI.

Legacy is the other eternal constructed format. It evolved from Type 1.5, a format defined by a banned list that merely consisted of all banned and restricted cards in the old Type 1. In 2004, the format was revitalized by separating the banned list from the rechristened Vintage and banning many old, powerful, and expensive cards such as Mishra's Workshop, Mana Drain, and Bazaar of Baghdad. The result is that Legacy has a lower power level than Vintage, which makes for longer games, and is considerably more affordable. The DCI has attempted to promote the format with the addition of a Legacy Grand Prix circuit.


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 40 cards; all the unused cards function as the sideboard.

In sealed deck tournaments, each player receives five booster packs (each containing 15 cards), or a 75-card Tournament Pack (containing 45 cards and 30 basic lands) and two booster packs 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 his or her left. Each player then selects one of the 14 remaining cards from the pack that was just passed to him or her, and passes the remaining cards to the left again. This continues until all of the cards are depleted. The process is repeated with the second and third packs, except that the cards are passed to the right in the second pack. Players then build decks out of any of the cards that they selected during the drafting and add as many basic lands as they want. Booster draft tournaments are somewhat prone to collusion, as players can hold the cards their neighbours need at the expense of their own deck building.

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 "Friday Night Magic" as an entrance to casual competitive play. The DCI runs the " Pro Tour" as a series of major tournaments to attract interest. They also run a special tournament set called the Junior Super Series for underage competitors. This allows for a very broad base of gameplay.

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 honour these players.

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 (2.5 by 3.5 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 8000 unique cards have been produced for the game, with about 600 new ones 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.

Magic cards are divided into three rarities. These are Rare, Uncommon and Common. Most new cards are purchased in the form of "Booster Packs" or "Tournament Decks." Typically, a fifteen-card Booster Pack will contain one Rare, three Uncommons, and eleven Commons. A Tournament Deck typically contains three Rares, ten Uncommons, thirty-two Commons, and thirty Basic Lands. This means that three Booster Packs are roughly equivalent to one Tournament Deck.

The vast majority of Magic cards are marketed to the public in one of two ways. The first is via the now biennially-released Core Set, Ninth Edition being most recent. Currently, Core Sets consist of three-hundred and fifty-nine reissued older cards, with a mixture of old and new artwork on the cards. The second is via the release of expansion sets. These are the sets in which newly-designed cards are first sold. A "Block" consists of three theme-related expansion sets released over a period of a year. The first and largest part of a Block consists of a set of roughly three hundred cards. At subsequent four-month intervals, the second and third expansion sets of the Block are issued. Each of these sets typically consists around one hundred sixty cards. The exact 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. 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. This change received a mixed reception when first announced, but players quickly adapted, and most people have at least made their peace with the new frame design, with many still hailing it as better than the original.

Secondary market

There is an active secondary market in individual cards among players and game shops. On eBay, for example, there are an estimated 30,000 Magic: The Gathering card auctions running at any one time. Many other physical and online stores also sell single cards or, more commonly, "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 under US$1. The most expensive cards in Standard tournament play usually cost approximately US$10-20.

The most expensive card which was in regular print (as opposed to being a promotional or special printing) is Black Lotus, with as of 2006 average prices of above US$600 and high-quality "graded" copies rising above US$3000. 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. In 2003, after the rotation of the Extended tournament format and in combination with the first Type 1 Championships, the prices for such old, tournament-level cards underwent a large, unexpected increase.

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" 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").

Non-English cards often have different prices on the secondary market than their English equivalents, depending on the desirability on 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; especially as foils. The spike in price is often associated with a card's playability in Vintage, or Type 1 tournaments; a highly played Type 1 English card worth $8 may fetch up to $200 for the Japanese foil version.


Each card has an illustration to represent the flavor of the card, often reflecting the setting of the expansion for which it was designed. Magic’s initial few sets were a mixed bag in art quality; while Wizards of the Coast had hired some established and well-known artists, they also commissioned card art from newcomers to the industry with mixed results. Since that initial period, the quality of the artwork has generally stabilized, and many well-known fantasy and science-fiction illustrators have worked for Magic. Wizards of the Coast's purchase of TSR, and with it, the Dungeons & Dragons property, has led to some bleed between the games, with artists performing work for both. Notable artists who have contributed art for Magic cards include John Avon, Brom, Ciruelo Cabral, John Coulthart, Mike Dringenberg, Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, Frank Kelly Freas, Donato Giancola, Rebecca Guay, John Howe, Todd Lockwood, Keith Parkinson, rk post, Christopher Rush, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ron Spencer, Bryan Talbot, Kev Walker, and Michael Whelan.

Most of the artwork created was initially left completely in the hands of the artist. However, after a few years of submissions featuring beings with wings on creatures unable to fly, 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.

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. Consequently, alternate art is now only used sparingly and mostly for promotional cards. That said, when older cards are reprinted in new (non-Core Edition, and the new Time Shifted cards in the Time Spiral set which have the original artwork and card design/colour, but modern text) sets, Wizards of the Coast has guaranteed that they will be printed with new art to make them more collectible.

Ever since 1995, all artwork commissioned becomes property of 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.

In 1998, Wizards published a coffee-table book of Magic artwork entitled The Art of Magic : a fantasy of world building and the art of the Rath Cycle by Lizz Baldwin and Anthony Waters.

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


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 the multiverse, which consists of an infinite number of planes. 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 Antiquites through Scourge are set on 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. Recently, Magic has begun to venture out of Dominaria and into new planes including Mirrodin, Kamigawa, and Ravnica. The Magic storyline has since returned to Dominaria with the release of the Time Spiral set, with the next set, Planar Chaos, speculated to focus on the newer planes.

Controversial aspects


With three to four new sets appearing each year, many players complain that it requires a substantial investment to maintain a Magic collection that is competitive and/or complete. The principal competitive format, Standard, uses only cards from the last completed block, the block currently in print, and the most recent "core set", forcing players who wish to remain competitive to constantly update their collection. Formats such as Extended, Legacy, and Vintage that allow older sets to be played, on the other hand, may have cards that are out-of-print, hard-to-find, or simply widely-used; this can cause older cards with high competitive value to increase in price dramatically.

Many players find it a fun challenge to make a good, solid deck on a tight budget. The viability of "budget" decks is at best variable for serious tournament competition; some metagames have strong decks composed entirely of commons and uncommons, but others require an $80 investment in just lands to even begin. The average cost of a good quality Block deck (which is arguably the cheapest Constructed format) for the Ravnica block is well over US$100. Still, the most notorious case is the Vintage metagame, where cards with only a tiny printing in the original release of the game are format-definers and nearly required for competitive play.

Those who wish to play the game without paying for rarer cards use proxy cards, buy non-tournament-legal "gold bordered" decks, or use free magic software clients such as Magic Workstation and Apprentice.

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 or too little land ("mana flood" and "mana screw/drought", respectively), 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. A proper land count can minimize mana problems. Other cards can minimize the player's dependence on mana. The standard land count in most decks ranges from 18 to 26, although the use of special spells or lands (such as Land Tax, Harrow, and Brushland) and the relative costs of the main spells within the deck can substantially increase or decrease the number of lands required.

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. The "standard mulligan," still used in some casual play circles and in multiplayer formats on Magic Online, allows a single "free" redraw of seven new cards if your initial hand contains 0, 1, 6, or 7 lands. An excellent source for information on the "mulligan" can be found in the article "Starting Over" by Mark Rosewater.

Net decking

The Internet has played an important role in competitive Magic. Strategy discussions and tournament reports frequently include a listing of the exact contents of a deck and descriptions of its performance against others. Some players will take this information and construct a similar (or even the same) deck, relying on the expertise and experience of other players. This strategy, referred to as "net decking," is often a good one, but it is not a guarantee that the player will be able to repeat the deck's earlier success. The player may be inexperienced, unfamiliar with the operation of the deck, or enter an event where a large number of other players have also "net decked." In such a tournament, a metagamed-deck (a deck designed to defeat common builds in an environment) may be a superior choice. Many players advocate Limited formats of competitive Magic over Constructed formats because of this phenomenon.

Demonic themes

For the first few years of its life, Magic: The Gathering featured occasional cards with names or artwork that implied demonic or occultist themes (such as the cards Demonic Tutor and Unholy Strength, which both featured pentagrams in their artwork). For reasons discussed in the article Where Have All The Demons Gone? by Mark Rosewater, these kinds of cards were removed from later sets. Although there was a long period when all references to demons were carefully avoided, the game still received criticism for its occult themes. For a few years, some schools banned Magic games altogether from being played on school grounds.

Later, believing that the concept of "demons" was becoming less controversial, Wizards of the Coast abandoned this policy and started reprinting demons and cards with "demonic" in their name in 2002. This change was foreshadowed in Ask Wizards, a question-and-answer section of, with a tongue-in-cheek response from Brady Dommermuth, Creative Director of Magic at the time:

So in short, we would never, ever, ever print anything gross like a Demon in a million million years. Unless it was a fun, happy demon. Like a Grinning Demon, for example. That would be super fun!

However, although there are a number of cards that represent demons, Magic boasts over 8,400 different cards, most of which have no relation to demonic themes (in fact, there are many more angels in Magic than demons). The themes most often used in Magic are folklore, classic fantasy and cultures inspired by the real world.


The original set of rules prescribed 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 those cards would be set aside. At the end of the match, the winner would become the owner of both cards. There were 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. This was controversial due to many regions having restrictions on games of chance. The rule was later made optional due to these restrictions and due to the dislike most players have for having to possibly lose a card they own. 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 "5 colour" format. The last card to mention ante was in the 1995 expansion set Homelands.


Magic was the basis for a controversial patent granted to Wizards of the Coast in 1997. The patent describes several of the game's concepts such as "tapping" and constructing a play deck by selecting cards from a larger pool. As of 2006, the patent's legal standing has not been fully challenged in court.

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