Magic: The Gathering is a Collectible Card Game, produced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast (eventually the owners of that other great geek game, Dungeons & Dragons). It was the first true Collectible Card Game,note the Genre Popularizer, and even today it is one of the most popular card games in the world.
Each game is a duel between powerful mages (the players) known as "planeswalkers." Planeswalkers deploy a wide array of spells, creatures, artifacts and enchantments (all represented by cards) as they vie to dominate entire realms ("planes")—or, if you prefer, to reduce the opponent's life total to zero. Notable gameplay elements include:
- The "Color Pie": The game features Color-Coded Wizardry in five different elements: White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. Each represents a different ideology, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and there are complex interrelations between them. For more on the colors, see our Magic the Gathering's Color Pie page.
- The Mana system: To cast spells, players need the correct amount and color of mana. Mana is gained from Land cards... but you can only play one Land per turn. At a stroke, this brings the "Awesome, but Impractical" (good spells cost more mana), "Limited Move Arsenal" (having spells of one color and lands of the other is frustratingly plausible) and "You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum" (not getting enough land is frustratingly plausible) tropes into the game.
- It's "collectible": Wizards of the Coast have, as of October 2020, released over 21,000 unique cards into the game, and add an average of 700 new ones every year. This gives you a chance to create a deck that no one else on earth has. (And of course, once you realize that one of the cards you don't own would fit perfectly into your deck, you want to buy more cards.)
For a more complete analysis of gameplay (which is, of course, the heart of any game), we wrote a Useful Notes page for your enjoyment.
The game spawned several Video Game adaptations. Some of the more prominent ones:
- Magic: The Gathering: A 1997 Card Battle Game by MicroProse. It contained both a free-dueling mode, allowing you to build decks and battle them against AI opponents, and a campaign mode, where you could travel across the land of Shandalar exploring, dueling enemies, collecting cards, and eventually battling a Big Bad. Notable in that when the game was in Development Hell, Sid Meier was brought in to give it more focus.note
- Magic: The Gathering Online: released in '02, it was the first official way to play the game over the Internet. It has garnered a fair bit of revenue over the years, especially since Wizards offer (very limited) ways to convert digital cards into physical ones and vice versa.
- Duels of the Planeswalkers: A more modern adaptation available on The PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, originally released in 2009. It received Numbered Sequels in summer of each succeeding year, coinciding with new Core Set releases, and Wizards explicitly positioned it as their Gateway Series to new players.
- Magic Duels: Wizards eventually stopped releasing yearly sequels, in favor of a single Free-to-Play game that receives regular updates, usually with new cards and story missions. Unlike a lot of other Free To Play card games, purchasing packs in Magic Duels will always give you new cards. Once you have four of a card (the max allowable in a deck), it is removed from the card pool. Otherwise, it is very similar to the other Duels games. On November 26th 2019, official support of the game ended and has been removed from online storefronts, however multiplayer is still possible for those who own it at the time of writing this.
- Magic: The Gathering Arena: In July 2017, Wizards announced that they would no longer update Magic Duels in preparation for a new Free-to-Play game named Magic: The Gathering Arena. It takes cues from Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft in terms of visual styling and some of its collection bonuses: for instance, players have a chance to draw "Wild Cards" from packs which can be exchanged for a single copy of a card at that rarity. It has taken over as the main digital method of playing the game.
- Magic: The Gathering Tactics: A 2011 Turn-Based Strategy for PC and PlayStation 3 inspired by Magic. The gameplay bears little to no resemblance to the original card game, but the flavor of it is retained.
- Magic: Legends, an MMORPG by Cryptic Studios (creators of Neverwinter and Star Trek Online) which, like Tactics, is only using the lore of the MtG multiverse for its foundations.
- ...And more.
A film adaptation languished in Development Hell at 20th Century Fox for years, and was eventually canceled when Disney purchased the studio in March 2019. By June of that year, Netflix had acquired the rights, and announced that The Russo Brothers of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame would create a Netflix original series for them.
The official Magic website can be found here.
Due to length, the trope list for this work has been split across several pages:
- Gameplay Tropes
- Flavor and Story Tropes
- Magic the Gathering's Color Pie
- Individual Character Tropes
- Audience Reactions and YMMV
- Additionally, the pages for individual Magic novels and comics can be found here.