Magic: the Gathering swept the tabletop gaming world by storm when it was created in the early 90’s.
It took advantage of a slowly growing interest in fantasy that arose from other games, such as Dungeons & Dragons. Rather than invest in lengthy campaigns that could take months to play through, MTG gave players the ability to play in brief and manageable games.
But even so, why is MTG so popular? What has made it endure for almost 30 years?
We’ll shed some light on this gaming phenomenon for you.
Here are the questions we’ll be answering in this article:
- What is the Magic: the Gathering?
- Why is it so popular today?
- Should you play MTG?
Let’s take a closer look.
Table of Contents
What is Magic: the Gathering?
In a nutshell, Magic: the Gathering is a card game that pits two or more players against each other.
Players each have a life total, and the most common way to win is by reducing your opponents’ life total to 0. You can accomplish this through tens of thousands of means, whether it’s through casting offensive spells or by using huge creatures to attack.
Of course, there are many other ways to win. Some cards have what are called win conditions (wincons for short) that allow you to instantly win the game if you meet the condition listed on them.
An example of this is Felidar Sovereign, a card that lets you win the game if you have 40 or more life points.
Why is MTG so popular today?
Knowing what Magic is doesn’t completely answer the question of why it’s so popular. For that, we’ll need to take a deeper look at the qualities fans can’t get enough of.
Some of the reasons MTG has an enduring fan base are:
- MTG Competitions
- Multiplayer Design
- Numerous Play Styles and Formats
- Appealing Storylines and Characters
- Beautiful Artwork
- Collectible Cards
- Long-Term Value
- Suitability for all Budgets
Magic: the Gathering Competitions
Competitive natures can find their calling in Magic: the Gathering.
Tournaments are hosted constantly, with the prizes varying widely from money to rare cards. In fact, there are some professional players who can make a living through winning these competitions.
You can take a look at some of the top-earning Magic players overall on the official site here.
Naturally, not everyone is going to be a skilled enough player earn this kind of cash. However, tournaments are also often held in smaller communities, where talented players can show off their know-how to their friends.
Competition often makes people work harder to get better, and nowhere is that more true than in the MTG community.
Looking for a way to make more friends with geeky pursuits?
Magic is a great way to accomplish this. Because it’s designed to be played with two or more people, you can meet a lot of other players at local game shops to play against.
Alternatively, you can play MTG with your friends. It’s amazingly fun sitting at a table together and competing to see who can cast the scariest creature or most complex combo.
The bottom line is, Magic is a game that forces people to come together. Consequently, it’s great for forging or strengthening friendships.
Numerous Play Styles and Formats
Games that can only be played one specific way get boring pretty fast.
You won’t have that problem with Magic: the Gathering at all. There are tons of different formats, from Modern, 60-card, to the highly popular Commander.
If you don’t enjoy one kind of game, it’s pretty likely there’s another format that you would.
This variety also means that players of any skill level or play style can fit right in. Beginners who are unfamiliar with the game can viably use basic aggressive strategies, like big creatures.
At the same time, seasoned Magic veterans can experiment with wacky or obscure combinations and card interactions.
You can think of Magic as art, in a way. If your cards are paint, then your deck is a canvas – and you can truly make it into anything.
Appealing Storylines and Characters
There’s nothing quite as unifying as good stories, and that’s something MTG has in spades.
When it was first released, Magic: the Gathering published books in addition to its cards. These books were well-written expeditions into the lives of the characters appearing most often in the cards’ artwork.
To this day, every single set that comes out has some kind of continuing storyline. This story, like any good tale, is full of titular characters, comedy, tragedy, and overall drama.
Even if you know nothing about the lore behind the cards, you can get a brief glimpse of it in the flavor text on them. Most cards include a quote or blurb at the bottom that gives you a little insight into the world of Magic.
Every single card, no matter how inconsequential, has an original piece of artwork on it.
This artwork is almost always exquisite. And because there are so many cards today, there’s equally as many various pieces of art to go with them.
Many find themselves drawn to the art, and specifically seek out cards with memorable pictures. An example of this is full-art lands.
Most lands cards, which are used to give you mana for spells, have a symbol on them that covers part of the artwork. Full-art lands minimize the symbol and text so you can see the full piece.
In fact, some players have favorite Magic: the Gathering artists. Cards that are particularly well-known for their art also tend to fetch a higher price.
Predictably, one of the biggest things about card games (including MTG) is how collectible the individual cards are.
Because some cards are exceedingly rare, you’ll find that there are many collectors who take pride in their carefully curated cards. Binders full of cards or displays made with impressive collections are not uncommon.
Owning every single one every made is nearly impossible, but that still doesn’t stop quite a few players from trying.
Like many other collectible things, MTG cards frequently have a surprising long-term value.
There are more than a few players who specifically gather valuable cards and hold onto them while their price slowly increases. Some look at Magic: the Gathering as a sort of stock market, and watch the costs of cards rise and fall, choosing consistently pricy ones for their own collections.
If you were to do some in-depth research on MTG, you’d come across dozens of websites designed to analyze the value of individual cards.
This is just a small part of what makes the game so exciting. It’s thrilling to spend a few dollars on a booster pack with the possibility of finding a card worth ten times more inside.
Suitable for a Variety of Budgets
One of the things you might have heard about MTG is that it’s an extremely expensive game.
While this can certainly be the case at higher levels of play, it doesn’t have to be the case for you or your friends. Cards come in all kinds of colors, abilities, and prices.
If you see a deck or theme that interests you, it’s pretty easy to go online and find a budget version of that deck somewhere. Magic players are all about sharing their knowledge, and it’s more than possible to make strong and economical decks.
There are even inexpensive bundles online for beginners, or pre-built decks you can buy.
You don’t need to spend hundreds to get into the game.
Should you play MTG?
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because something about Magic: the Gathering interested you.
You may even be wondering if you should give the game a chance. As with most things, there isn’t one answer that applies to everyone.
To better answer your question, think about your own interests.
Are you looking for a game that incorporates a high amount of strategy? Do you want a game that you and your friends can play countless times with different outcomes?
Are you interested in fantasy settings, where magic, elves, dragons, and monsters are an everyday occurrence?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then MTG is definitely worth your consideration. Additionally, if you’d like to buy some cards and don’t know where to begin, you can check out our guide to the best booster boxes for your money here.