|Magic: The Gathering |
|The distinctive card back design has remained unchanged since the game's introduction in 1993. |
|Players: ||21 |
|Age range: ||12 and up |
|Setup time: ||< 5 minutes |
|Playing time: ||< 30 minutes |
|Rules complexity: ||Medium |
|Strategy depth: ||High |
|Random chance: ||Some |
|Skills required: ||Card playing |
|1 Some casual rules allow more players. |
Magic: The Gathering (colloq. "Magic" or "MTG"), is a collectible card game created by Richard Garfield, Ph.D. and introduced by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. Magic inspired an entirely new game genre, and continues to endure with an estimated six million players in over seventy countries worldwide and on the Internet1. The game plays as a strategy contest not unlike chess, but like most standard card games, there is an element of luck due to the random distribution of cards during shuffling.
Magic: The Gathering cards are produced in much the same way as normal playing cards. Each Magic card has a face, which displays the card's name and rules text, as well as an illustration and "flavor text" appropriate to the card's concept, but with no game value. Over 7000 unique cards have been produced for the game, with 500–600 new ones added on a yearly basis. Each player designs a deck of cards (chosen from the cards they have managed to purchase) to be used in competition.
During play, each individual contest is called a "duel" to represent the primary fictional setting of the game. In this setting, each player is said to be a very powerful wizard (called a "planeswalker", a powerful mage, who, with a thought, can travel across the very planes of existence) doing battle against another. In order to win this contest and drive the other wizard away, each wizard draws upon the power of magical spells, items, and fantastic creatures to do battle. Though 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 those pencil-and-paper campaigns.
Magic boasts a thriving official tournament system, in which the game is played for cash and scholarship prizes, but is also known to be very well supported by casual gamers who only play with friends at schools, clubs, or home. The cards themselves also have value, much like other trading cards, but in this case based on both scarcity and game play potential.
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, although many of them were poorly designed and failed both commercially and in popularity. Although Magic's gross card sales have been surpassed in recent years, particularly by Japanese import games based on the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! franchises, Magic's popularity continues to grow steadily.
In 1994, Magic: The Gathering won the Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame of 1993 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Boardgame of 1993, and in 1999 it was inducted alongside Richard Garfield into the Origins Hall of Fame. In 2003, after Magic: The Gathering had fulfilled the ten-year existence required for induction, GAMES Magazine selected it for its Games Hall of Fame, making it the 23rd game so honored.
Magic: the Gathering cards are designated by various types and colors.
In a game of Magic, two (or sometimes more) players play the roles of so-called planeswalkers (powerful wizards) engaging in a magical duel to the death. Every player has 20 life points; once these reach zero (depleted by damage or by life loss) he or she loses. In addition, if a player is unable to draw a card from his library (the deck of cards he or she started with) when required, that player loses. Specific cards may add other ways to win or lose the game. The last surviving player is declared the winner.
Players fight each other by playing lands and spells from their hand. Spells are played by drawing upon mana, or magical energy, which is generated by land cards. There are thousands of different spell cards, which come from collectible sets (hence the term collectible card game or trading card game). There are two basic types of spells: those which create a "permanent" and those which affect the game immediately and are then discarded. The types of cards are:
- Creatures: Summon a creature that can attack the other player or be used for defense. Creatures are "permanents"- they remain in play until some event causes their removal (other spells or death in combat)
- Artifacts: Like creatures, artifacts are permanents that remain in play until removed. Artifacts may have continuous effects or may only take effect when activated by their owner. Artifacts may also be creatures. Artifacts are considered colorless, and as they do not have colored mana in their cards, they can be played in combination with any colors. Artifacts represent machines, devices, robots, magical items, and weapons.
- Enchantments: There are two forms of enchantments, local and global, which are both permanents like artifacts and creatures. Local enchantments are attached to any player's permanent, modifying its characteristics, and are destroyed either directly or when the permanent to which they are attached is removed from the play zone. Global enchantments affect the entire play environment. Global enchantments persist until destroyed.
- Sorceries: Can only be played only by the "active player", or the player who is currently taking their turn. Sorceries are not permanent, and go to the graveyard immediately after use.
- Instants: Can be used by any player at almost any time, but, like sorceries, go to the graveyard after use. Some older cards are of the type interrupt and mana source, however, these have been retroactively changed to become "instants", due to rules simplifications and clarifications.
- Lands: The most basic resource of the game, lands are permanents which provide the mana needed to play spells (sometimes in addition to other effects). A player may only play one land per turn. Lands are colorless, and are never considered spells.
Each player has a library where cards from the deck that have not yet been drawn are kept; a hand containing cards drawn but not yet played; an area on the table for his or her lands, creatures, etc. that are in play (cards in play are referred to as permanents); and a graveyard where spent spells or destroyed permanent cards are discarded. Players may never look into the libraries (unless a card's ability allows you to do so) and may see their own hands only, but may view all the other cards on the table without restriction. There are also lesser-used zones called the "phased out" zone and the removed from game zone; in both cases only a few cards make use of it.
Game play is turn-based. During a turn, the active player untaps his tapped cards (returns them to their upright state), draws one card, plays at most one land from his or her hand, casts as many spells as he or she wants to and can afford (with mana), and may attack another player with one or more creatures. In order for a creature to be used as an attacker, it must have been in play before the current turn starts. The attacking player taps the creature card by turning it sideways to indicate he or she is attacking with that creature. The defending player may declare some of his or her creatures as blockers. Attacking creatures deal damage to their assigned blockers (equal to their power) and are likewise damaged by them. A creature that amasses in one turn more than a specific amount of damage (its toughness) dies and goes to its owner's graveyard. Unblocked attackers deal damage to the player they attacked, reducing that player's life points. All damage dealt to creatures that did not die is healed at the end of the turn.
The protocol for resolving spell cards and other abilities is known as the stack, or the LIFO (Last In, First Out) rule. The stack works like this: A player may play any number of successive spells or abilities when he or she has priority. However, none of these actions will resolve (that is, take effect) until the player with priority passes it to the other player, and that player passes in return. If the second player adds anything more to the stack, they go "on top" of the actions already there. When both players pass in succession, the top action on the stack resolves. If both players pass when there are no actions on the stack, the game moves on to the next phase. This protocol may sound complicated in writing, but in practice it is usually instantaneous.
Some spells have effects that override normal game rules (e.g., allow you to play more than one land per turn). Spell effects may contradict each other, and it is one of the more difficult aspects of gameplay to resolve these conflicts. A detailed and thorough rulebook exists to clarify conflicts. The so-called "Golden Rule of Magic" is that if a card's text overrides a game rule, follow the card. Because of this very few rules in the game have not been broken. There are numerous cards that change the way combat works, allow players to play spells for free, or even forcing people to skip parts of their turn.
Preparation for a game as the players choose which cards to include in their decks. Beginners typically start with only a starter deck; but, over time, more cards are added to the player's stock through purchases or trading with other players. In casual play, the allowed card sets are agreed informally. Due to the many possibilities, two players seldom play with the same decks.
The standard deck size for play is sixty cards, as a minimum total, counting spells, creatures, and lands. Players are restricted to using no more than four of any named card, except that they may include any number of "basic" lands. Some standard formats restrict further the number of allowed cards. When deciding which cards to include, it is often most beneficial to use the minimum deck size, combined with the maximum number of card copies, so that the most useful cards are drawn more often.
The balance of land to spells is the most fundamental aspect of deck building. Most spells have a color, which means that they require lands which will provide that color to be included in the deck. A deck also must have a large enough number of lands so that they are drawn in a timely manner. The ration of spells to lands is typically in the range of 2:1–3:2.
The five colors (see The colors of Magic) each have different strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, it is often worthwhile to play two or more colors, so that the strengths of one compensate for the vulnerabilities of the other. This complicates the interaction of all the components, but results in a more diverse deck.
The colors of Magic
The equilibrium between the five colors is one of the defining aspects of the game. The various strengths and weaknesses of each color are attributed to the fact that each color represents a different "style" of magic. Because the trade-offs between the abilities of each color are integral to keeping the game balanced, it is helpful to discuss the various color philosophies.
- White is the color of equality, order, law, righteousness, and light (although not necessarily "good.") Typical white creatures include knights, soldiers, civilians, and angels. Within the game, white's strengths lie in healing damage; launching tactical creature assaults; removing opposing enchantments; and imposing additional rules that all players must abide by. White's weaknesses include its difficulty in answering threats through direct removal, and the fact that many of its most powerful spells affect all players equally.
- Blue is the color of knowledge, illusion, reason, ingenuity, and trickery. Typical blue creatures include wizards, merfolk, and air and water spirits. Blue's cards are best at letting you draw additional cards; giving you control of opposing creatures; sending cards in play back to their owner's hands (informally called "bounce"); and canceling your opponent's spells as they are being played. Blue's weaknesses lie in that it has by far the weakest creatures of any color and it has only limited ways of dealing with opposing threats once they have entered play.
- Black is the color of death, darkness, plague, selfishness, and greed (although not necessarily "evil.") Typical black creatures include undead, demons, and necromancers. Within the game, black cards are best at killing opposing creatures; making your opponent discard cards in his hand; raising your own creatures from the dead; and giving you the option to trade your own life points for more powerful effects. Black's weaknesses include the fact that it cannot remove opposing artifacts or enchantments, and many of black's best cards can harm you if you are not careful.
- Red is the color of destruction, war, passion, chaos, and anger. Typical red creatures include goblins, orcs, barbarians, and earth and fire spirits. Red is one of the best colors at destroying opposing creatures, artifacts, and lands; for trading long-term resources for short-term power; and for playing spells that deal damage directly to your opponents. Red's weaknesses include its inability to deal with enchantments, and the fact that it has limited options if you are trying to interfere with your opponents' ability to play spells. Red also has the vast majority of cards that involve random chance.
- Green is the color of life, nature, growth, instinct, and interdependence. Typical green creatures include beasts, elves, plants, and druids. Green has many creatures, of all sizes; it is excellent at being able to bring more lands in play and generate more mana; and it has ways of adding points to its life total. However, green has difficulty removing opposing creatures from play, and has almost no strategies that are not creature-based.
The colors can be seen on the back of the cards, in a circle-like design, figuratively called the "color wheel". Starting from the top, going clockwise, they are: white, blue, black, red, and green. The colors adjacent to each other on the wheel are "allied" and can have similiar/complementary abilities or strategic approaches. For example, blue has few efficient, playable creatures in general, but does have a relatively large number of flying creatures. White and black, being next to it, also have many flying creatures. Red and green are opposite blue and have very few flyers. The two non-adjacent colors to a particular color are "enemy" colors, and are often thematically opposed. For instance, red is the color of chaos, while white is the color of order.
A series of five articles written by Mark Rosewater describing each color in depth can be found at the game's official site at MagicTheGathering.com (http://www.magicthegathering.com): The Great White Way (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr57), True Blue (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr84), In The Black (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr109), Seeing Red (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr133), and Its Not Easy Being Green (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr43)
The large majority of Magic players around the world play more casual games than tournaments. Thus, many variant sets of rules exist offering alternate ways of deck construction, alternate victory conditions, and/or team play. Some of these have varying degrees of official backing from Wizards of the Coast. The following rules are not set in stone and individual groups may vary the rules from game to game.
- Two-Headed Giant (or Ogre) - Two players are on each team. The life of the team is shared and starts at 40. Either each person on the team takes his or her turn at the same time, or play alternates between players on different teams. Players may look at each other's hands but may not pool mana. The last team standing wins.
- Rainbow - Five people are needed for this game. Each player picks one of the five colors of Magic. Each player's deck must consist of only cards of his/her chosen color and land. Artifacts may or may not be allowed. The winner of the game is the first to eliminate the two colors opposed to their color. (If the blue and the black player had both been eliminated then the green player would be the winner.)
- Assassin - Played as a group game each player may only target the player on their left with effects and attacks. Global effects still effect the entire table. The last one standing wins. Some groups allow counterspelling to target any player's spells.
- Highlander or Singleton - Players' Decks may include only one copy of each different card except basic lands ("There can be only one"). Highlander is often played with decks containing 500 or more cards and special "House Rules", which might e.g. ban Counterspells or Discard Spells from the Decks.
- Landless variants - Players can use constructed decks with no lands or a random assortment of non-land cards - either individually or from a shared deck. Each card type in a player's hand during game play can be played not only as it would be played in a normal game, but also as a Land, the type of mana it produces corresponding to the color or colors of the card itself. Once any card is played from a player's hand, it is either a land or it is the spell that the card indicates, not both, and can not be arbitrarily changed until its return to their hand.
- Peasant Magic was created by Robert Baranowski (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/feature/58) This format allows no rares and no more than 5 uncommons.
- Paupers Deck Challenge (aka PDC) - This variant allows only common cards in deck construction. In Magic: The Gathering Online, regular tournaments of this format occur. Sometimes called "PDC", Pauper Deck Challenge, the online version constrains players to using extended-legal commons. If printed as a rare or uncommon, the PDC rules state it must have been a common since the Invasion expansion to be allowed.
- Mental Magic - Players use a common stack of random cards which is shuffled up and divided randomly into "decks" for each player. Play is as normal except that the cards in their hand can be played as any card in the game with the same mana cost, but each such card can only be named once per game. Any card can be played as a land, like the landless variant above.
- 5-Color Magic (http://www.5-color.com) is a format with 250-card decks which must contain at least 19 cards of each color. Additionally, there is a specific list of banned and restricted cards. Games are played for Ante.
- Prismatic Magic (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=magic/magiconline/prismaticprimer) is a semi-official variant on 5-Color Magic, primarily played in Magic Online. In this format, as in 5-Color, decks are at least 250 cards, featuring at least 20 cards of each color. Wizards of the Coast began performing online tournaments for Prismatic Magic in November of 2004.
- Free Magic - players use decks containing no lands and are free to play spells without using any mana. Certain ordinary cards must be banned, as, without mana restrictions, they are overpowered.
Playing Magic on the Internet
- Magic Online (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=magic/magiconline) — The official Internet-based version of Magic, provides for play against other people connected to the Internet. It recreates Magic: The Gathering gameplay closely, enforcing an extensive and actively updated knowledge of the game rules, provisions for social and card trading interactions, visual presentation of the same card art as the physical cards, and near-parallel release of new card sets both as physical and online cards. Magic Online does not charge for time online or per game played. Instead, the online cards must be purchased. Prices for online cards are comparable to prices for physical cards, at least in the United States. Each player's purchased cards "reside" on game servers.
- Magic-League.com (http://www.magic-league.com) — Magic can be played online free of charge through Magic-League. The software used is a freeware program called "Apprentice". Magic-League has its own ranking system and player base.
- Generic Collectible Card Game (http://gccg.sourceforge.net/) (in beta testing as of October 2004) — GCCG is a program intended to support online play of multiple collectible card card games. It is a free open source program running on Linux, Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Every player starts with the same amount of money (not real money), that can be used to buy closed card sets or cards from other players. Players create decks with these cards and then play against other players for money, cards or fun.
- Magic Workstation (http://www.magicworkstation.com/) — This shareware program (not affiliated with DCI or Wizards of the Coast) is a powerful tool that enables users to build decks and compete in online play.
Officially sanctioned Magic tournaments attract participants of all ages and are held around the world. These players in Rostock
are competing for an invitation to a professional tournament in Nagoya
- Main article Duelists' Convocation International
Magic: The Gathering has grown a lot 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. 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, and the winner receives sums upward of US$30,000. 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 basic types of organized play, Constructed and Limited.
Constructed tournaments are tournaments in which a player comes with a pre-constructed deck, built according to the restrictions of the DCI and the tournament type. Currently, the only supported Constructed tournament types are:
- Vintage (formerly Type I) permits the use of cards from virtually any Magic set, with the exception of those on the Banned list, which may not be used, and the Restricted list, of which only one may be used per deck.
- Legacy (formerly Type 1.5) uses the same Magic sets as Vintage, but only has a Banned and no Restricted list, as do all other of the following Tournament types.
- Extended uses cards from the last eight blocks and the last three core sets. It currently uses cards from Sixth Edition, Tempest, and all subsequent sets.
- Standard (or Type II) uses cards from the last two blocks in print and the current core set. It currently uses Eighth Edition, Mirrodin, and all subsequent sets.
- Block Constructed permits only cards from the current block of three sets.
Decks must consist of no fewer than 60 cards, and no more than four of any one non-Restricted, non-Banned card. The basic lands, however, may be used in any quantity.
Additionally, a 15-card sideboard is permitted, from which a player may tweak his or her deck during a match to better deal with their opponent's strategy. Following the first game of a best-of-three 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. The original deck configuration is restored at the conclusion of the match.
Limited tournaments are based on a pool of cards which the player receives at the time of the event. There are three common types of limited tournaments.
- Sealed deck: Players each receive a sealed tournament pack of 75 cards, 30 of which are basic lands, and two booster packs of 15 cards.
- Booster draft: Players each receive three booster packs of 15 cards. After being seated around a table, each player simultaneously opens one booster pack, selects a single card, and then passes the rest to the next player over. After all players have drafted fifteen cards, they each open their second pack, and drafting continues. Players examine privately the cards they receive; direct communication between drafters is not allowed. A booster draft normally comprises eight players, but sometimes fewer will suffice. Once players have built their decks, they compete against the other players in the draft.
- Rochester draft: Players each receive three booster packs of 15 cards. One player's first pack is opened, the cards are placed upon a table for all to see, and the players take turns selecting one card at a time until the pack is exhausted. The next player's pack is then opened, and drafting continues. A Rochester draft normally comprises eight players, but team Rochester uses two teams of three players each, who may communicate non-verbally during the draft.
Therefore, in sealed deck tournaments, each player has 75 cards from which to build their deck; in drafts, 45 cards. Any number of basic lands may also be added to the deck. The decks in limited tournaments need only be 40 cards, to allow for the limited flexibility of the decks; all the unused cards function as the sideboard.
- Main article: Magic: The Gathering sets
Wizards of the Coast releases Magic cards in expansions and base sets. The base sets are reprints of cards that have been previously printed in expansion sets and are considered "basic" cards. The purpose of these sets is to form a frame around the game, so it's easy to get enough of the basic cards you need for a deck. Expansion sets are released in blocks, consisting of 3 sets. The first set usually contains 200 to 300 cards and introduce a new theme and new game mechanics. The next two sets are usually smaller than 200 cards, and build on and expand the theme and mechanics from the first set in the block. They expand the game by adding new cards..
First Magic cards were printed in English language, but since then there have been several localised editions, including French, German, Italian and Japanese.
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.
The game cards are published by Wizards of the Coast in varying quantities &ndash a standard booster pack contains eleven common cards, three uncommon cards, and one rare. The prices of individual cards vary accordingly. Common cards rarely sell for more than a few cents. Uncommon cards and weak rares typically cost under US$1. The most expensive cards in Standard tournament play are usually around US$10-20.
In the whole of Magic there are approximately 20 cards that routinely sell over $100. All of them are cards that have not been reprinted since 1994. The most expensive of these are known as the Power Nine: Mox Pearl, Mox Jet, Mox Emerald, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, and Black Lotus. In formats that allow these nine cards (typically Type I), decks which include them are known as "Powered" decks and tend to have an enormous advantage over decks which do not ("unpowered" decks).
The most expensive card is generally considered to be the Black Lotus, with certain rare printings as of 2004 rising above US$1000. 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 had a large, unexpected price increase. Cards that had sold at US$20 for years surged to US$100+, and prices are still increasing, but now mostly due to speculation by card dealers in the secondary market.
As new sets come out, older cards are occasionally reprinted. If a card is expensive because of its play worthiness, reprinting will often increase the original version's value, because there are more tournament formats in which it is now legal and hence a higher demand among players. However, if the card is primarily attractive to collectors, reprinting will decrease the original's value, since it is now less scarce. To protect the value of certain old cards that are highly desirable to collectors, Wizards of the Coast has formulated an official reprint policy, which includes a list of cards they promise never to reprint (called the Reserved List). This reserved policy has been changed several times over the game's life span.
Since its inception, Magic has used exceptionally high quality art on its cards. Each card has a fantasy-themed picture related to what the card represents. Each picture usually includes elements of the colour of the spell, contains the background of the set it is published in, and relates to the flavor of the spell as given in the flavor text or title. The art proved so popular that Wizards of the Coast released a book titled The Art of Magic: The Gathering (ISBN 0786911786) in 1998. Notable artists who have contributed art for Magic cards include John Avon, Melissa Benson, Brom, John Coulthart, Mike Dringenberg, Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, Frank Kelly Freas, Rebecca Guay, John Howe, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ron Spencer, Bryan Talbot, Christopher Rush and Michael Whelan.
Three to four new sets for the game are published each year, adding 600-700 new cards annually. Competitive players of the game, especially those that participate in tournaments which use DCI-sanctioned format known as Standard or Type II, must frequently adapt their constructed decks because the competitive environment changes each time the list of allowed sets is changed. To collect the cards needed, players either purchase un-opened packs or specific cards from stores, or trade with other players. In Standard, new sets are added shortly after the official release date, and removed after approximately two years. Other formats, such as Extended and Vintage (formerly Type I), allow sets to be played for much longer durations, but many older, hard-to-find, or widely-used cards increase in price dramatically over time because they hold higher competitive value.
In Limited formats, such as sealed-deck and draft, players are provided un-opened packs at the start of the event and must construct decks using only the cards received. Costs for individual events are relatively steady because deck preparation is negated, but frequent play or practice does require investment in un-opened packs.
Luck vs. skill
Magic is based on a system of basic resources called lands from which mana is drawn so that spell cards can be played. Drawing too few or too many of these resources can have a detrimental affect on the player's game — a situation known colloquially as mana screw. Although each player is able to choose which cards to include in their deck, because each deck is shuffled prior to the duel they cannot choose the order in which the cards are drawn. A player must determine the optimal number of lands to include in their deck, usually by fine-tuning after a number of practice games.
A "mulligan" rule was later introduced into the game, first informally in casual play and then in the official game rules. The "mulligan" allows players to shuffle their hand back into the deck at the start of the game, and draw a new hand. Initially, a player was only allowed to do this if they had either no lands or all lands in their opening hand, and only once per game. Later, the rule was changed so that a player could mulligan regardless of their hand and as often as they wanted, but drawing one less card than the previous (the "Paris" mulligan). This action introduces a skill component into this random element of the game, as the player can choose to mulligan a hand if it contains too few or too many lands. An excellent source for information on the "mulligan" can be found in the article "Starting Over" (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr112b) by Mark Rosewater.
Other random factors can affect play. In "Constructed" tournaments, where pairings are assigned randomly, players will often cite the "luck" of certain match-ups between deck archetypes. In those cases, some decks are said to perform better against certain types than others. In "Limited" tournaments, the cards a player receives are a random selection, and so can limit or enhance a player's performance.
While it is generally agreed that the game has elements of both skill and luck, it is the ratio of these two factors that is often debated amongst players.
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. Known as "net decking", some players will take this information and construct a deck containing the same, or very similar, contents – relying on the expertise and experience of other players. While this strategy is often a good one, it is not a guarantee that the deck will repeat its earlier success. The player may be inexperienced, unfamiliar with the operation of the deck, or they may enter an event where a large number of other players have also "net decked". Many players advocate "Limited" formats of competitive Magic over "Constructed" formats because of this phenomenon.
The Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Revised editions, plus some of the early expansion sets, had cards with demonic themes (such as Demonic Tutor and Unholy Strength, which both featured a reversed pentagram in the artwork). For reasons discussed in the article Where Have All The Demons Gone? (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr131) by Mark Rosewater, these cards were removed from later sets and there was a long period when all references to demons were carefully avoided. However, the game still received criticism over its occult themes. Believing that the concept of "demons" was becoming less controversial, Wizards of the Coast restarted printing cards with "Demonic" in the name in 2002. Although many cards have had a theme of demons, Magic: The Gathering boasts over 7,000 different cards, most of which have no relation to a demonic theme. Themes most often used in Magic are folklore and classic fantasy.
Magic was the basis for a controversial patent obtained by Wizards of the Coast, which covers many of the game's mechanics and concepts. See "Collectible card game" for a full discussion of the patent issue.
- Kai Budde – 1999 World Champion, three time Pro Tour Player of the Year, lifetime winnings leader, and lifetime Pro Points leader.
- Jon Finkel – 2000 World Champion, 1998 Player of the Year, second in lifetime winnings, and second in lifetime Pro Points. Finkel began his Magic career as part of the Junior Pro Tour.
- Dave Williams – successful Pro player, later became a 2004 World Series of Poker finalist.
- MagicTheGathering.com (http://www.magicthegathering.com) Official site for Magic: The Gathering
- MTGOnline.com (http://www.mtgonline.com) Official site for Magic: The Gathering Online
- TheDCI.com (http://www.thedci.com) Official site for Wizards of the Coast organized play
- MagicCards.Info (http://www.magiccards.Info) Searchable card database in 8+ languages
- MTGSalvation.com (http://www.mtgsalvation.com) News and rumors about the game.
- The Magic Library (http://www.magiclibrary.net) Background information on ultra-rare promotional cards and other collectible items
- Magic Online Trading League (MOTL) (http://www.magictraders.com) Discussion board for card trading and sales
- Magic-League.com (http://www.magic-league.com/) Unofficial online magic play using Apprentice and Magic Workstation
- Misetings.com (http://www.misetings.com/) A humor site focusing on parodies and spoofs of Magic: The Gathering
- Phyrexia.com (http://www.phyrexia.com) Storyline site
- The Math of Magic (http://www.kibble.net/magic/math.php) Essay on the mathematics of Magic: The Gathering
- BrainBurst.com (http://www.brainburst.com) Strategy site (pay service)
- StarCityGames.com (http://www.starcitygames.com) Strategy site (merchant site)
- Essential Magic (http://www.essentialmagic.com) Site to create and view decks, combos, and strategy.
- The Mana Drain (http://www.themanadrain.com) Strategy site that specializes in Vintage (T1).
- The Source (http://mtgthesource.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi) Strategy site that specializes in Legacy (T1.5).
- PlanetMtg (http://www.planetmtg.de) The premier German MTG Site.