Review of "Magic: The Gathering"

published 11/03/2017 | elfbwillow
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Pro Fun, educational, great game concept, great story and artwork
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"GREATNESS AT ANY COST"

Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering


"The dead make good soldiers. They can't disobey orders, never surrender, and don't stop fighting when a random body part falls off." Nevinyrral, Necromancer's Handbook
Drudge Skeletons


GREATNESS AT ANY COST


Let me open this review by saying that I will only cover the basics of the game as if I was to cover every single aspect of this game and all its components, it will stretch for miles! I am hoping as I learn more about this game, I will be able to cover certain aspects or parts in greater detail. For now, let me introduce you to Magic: The Gathering.

I am certainly not a professional in this game, so please excuse me if I miss something important in this review. I had personally never heard of it until last year when my now nine year old daughter was invited to a Magic tournament by a friend, to play doubles with her. My daughter jumped at the chance, even though she had no idea how to play. For this first time, she borrowed her friends cards, though since then, she has excitedly built up her collection and attends club every week.

Magic: The Gathering has players of all ages, from approximately eight years old upwards. At the last pre-release afternoon, the oldest player at our local meet point was in his 80s!

So, what is Magic: The Gathering?

Let me start at the beginning...


THE SWORD IS JUST A TOOL

In essence, Magic: The gathering is a trading card game, though unlike most that fit in this category, Magic is so much more complex and involved. To be honest, I doubt there is anyone who knows every single card or rule in this game as it has grown so huge.

The game first began in 1991,growing from a board game idea, though thought too complex at that time, so the creator designed a simple card game instead, known then as simply 'Magic'. It was not until 1993, though, that the game was released, and immediately, it was a success – so much so, what was thought to be a years supply of cards sold out instantaneously. It did not take long for the fan base to grow, and with that, the game had to grow and evolve too, and to this day, it is still evolving.

There are also many Magic games online or on games consoles, but the heart of this game is playing in person, cards in hand, and that is the area of which this review covers.

So, how is the game played?

As already mentioned, I can not cover absolutely everything in this review as the game is so large, but I will try to cover all the basics to give you an idea, yet like the game evolving, we are still learning.

Magic is most often played by two people, though there are many different formats of the game and so sometimes you are able to play with more than two people. In general, on club night, my daughter will enter a two player game, though in special meet ups, she tends to play doubles. The concept for these two are very similar.

Each person will have pre-built a deck of 60 plus cards, generally with one or two different 'colour' decks (these will be further explained later). Each deck can contain no more than four of the same card, apart from 'lands', which is the mana of the game. In certain tournaments, the decks may have to be made there and then from specific cards, which proves more difficult for younger players, though they do get help from people who run these meetings. Some 'limited' tournaments use decks of 40 cards and some may be limited or even banned. Building a deck may sound simple, but trust me, it is anything but. Putting a deck together requires much thought and planning and as there are thousands of cards in the game, it can take quite a while. Not only do you have to make sure you have enough relevant land cards (mana), you also need to evaluate their power, their strengths, their weaknesses and how they interact with one another as well as how they may work with opposing player cards. It is recommended that beginners use only one colour deck to start with, though my daughter being my daughter decided to jump straight into the deep end with two colours to her deck, making it take longer for us to help her create it and teach her about the cards. It is also recommended that there be 24 out of the 60 plus cards that are plains cards, though you re able to put in more or less depending on how you play.

There are five main colour card groups in Magic, as well as a colourless group and a multi-coloured group. Each work great on their own, though some decks will have two colours to them (maybe more) and the choice is the players what they use, though some work better with certain colours. The colours included are as follows:

White – This set of cards represent healing, peace, community and order and contain many small creatures which are strong as a group rather than alone, and are able to enhance one another through a whole set of different spells to gain life, prevent damage, reducing the abilities of the other player and destroying certain cards. The white deck are also well protected by other cards, though its weaknesses do include dying easier when not in a collective group, as well as spells also tending to affect both players, not just the opponent

Blue – This set represents intellect, illusion, knowledge and trickery amongst other things as well as focusing a lot on air and water. The cards can often allow the user to pick more cards more often as well as take control of their opponents cards. The creatures in this colour deck tend to be weaker than in other decks, though their abilities and strengths make them difficult to be blocked. The weaknesses are the amount of mana needed for the cards to be played as well as keeping on top of the numerous spells.

Black – This deck represents power, ambition, death, greed and sacrifice. It may sound evil, and due to this, many of the younger players tend to avoid it, though it is not necessarily evil. Its strengths include destroying creatures and making players lose life quicker. Its main weakness is that the deck has almost no protection against enchantments or artifacts, and it tends to harm the player who is using them as well as the opponent.

Red - This deck represents freedom, chaos, creativity and warfare and uses fire and earth as its source. This deck is good at destroying lands and artefacts and being able to gain power by sacrificing resources. This deck includes a large number of creatures, most of which a weak, though there are also some extremely strong creatures. The weaker creatures can grow in strength, though at the expense of the person playing them. This deck is not able to destroy spells, and only gains its main strength later in the game.

Green – These cards represent life, nature, reality and instinct. They tend to have a very good chance of winning in combat and have many abilities that aid in their own survival. Their spells also build up their creatures and have many that can help the player gain life. The decks weakness lays in defending against indirect attacks and very few defences against creatures that attack the player directly.

The multicolour and colourless cards are more often mixed within the other decks rather than be stand alone decks. The multicolour ones tend to need two or more coloured lands (mana) to play and tend to mix the abilities of all the colours involved. The colourless cards tend to be lands and artefacts and do not tend to have a specific style to them.

There are many different types of card and under these 'categories', many, many more cards stand. I can not cover them all, of course, but the following is the basic types of card;

Lands – I have already mentioned that the lands are like mana, the 'currency' needed to play cards. There are a number of different coloured lands which go alongside the different coloured cards, and a player may lay only one down per turn.

Artefacts – These are generally a machine or creature of some sort with attack and health points.

Creatures – Like artefacts, creatures have attack and health points and can be any kind of creature. These are the cards that tend to do the most attacking and many have specific abilities attached to them.

Enchantments – These are spells that can harm or heal either player or creature.

Instant Cards – Instant cards can be played at any time no matter whose turn it is. These tend to be spells of some kind.

Planeswalker – If you choose to have a planewalker in your deck, you may only have the one as they can be very powerful, though are often complicated to play. The planewalkers do not have an attack but they do have loyalty status which goes up or down with their abilities which can be played each turn.

Tribal – This is not a card type I have really come across so do not know much about it, though I do know they mix enchantments and instants with creatures and never tend to be played alone.


ONE THOUGHT OPENS A THOUSAND EYES

“One thought opens a thousand eyes, One sun brings a thousand dawns, One injustice brings a thousand riots, One law stops a thousand crimes” - Lawbringer Creed

Before I move on to the basic gameplay, I want to mention that this card game does not just pick out random cards, it, like many games of this type, has a whole storyline behind them. Like the cards, the story is so in depth and long that I can not really cover it here, though it is an interesting read, though I do admit I havent even read the half of it. The basic storyline covers many different worlds, or planes, which allows the story and game grow and evolve easier. Each card is based on something within these stories, and with thousands of cards, you can imagine how in depth the story can be.

Another thing I want to note here is the artwork to this game. The majority of it, especially in later stages, is amazing. I am not a great artist by any means, though I do like drawing and have attempted a few of them myself. They are also worthy of framing in a lot of ways (the artwork of Magic not mine!).

Anyway, now we have covered the basics, let me go on to the game play.

As mentioned, games can be with more than two people, and there are many different variations, though I will cover the one on one game (which is also similar to doubles) as this is the one I know best and it also gives you a good idea on how this game is played.

Bare in mind, I am only going over the basics as this game is so complex, though it will hopefully give you an idea.

Both players decks are shuffled by their opponent and they then pick the top seven cards. They may chose to disguard this set if they wish, and pick up another seven. This can be done again, though from the third time, the card amount goes down. On each turn, a player will pick another card from the top of their deck. They will then go through different stages. The first, they can lay down a land card if they have one. They are then able to lay any number of cards as long as they have the lands on the board significant to them. (ie: two green land cards for a creature that costs two green lands). On entering the 'battlefield', the creature or artefact suffers a sickness which means they can not do anything else until the following turn, unless they have specific abilities to contradict this. The player can then attack if they wish, or if they can. The player uses the cards already on the board to attack the player directly. The opposing player can chose to block with their own cards, and if this happens, the 'creature' or such like takes and deals the amount of damage specified on the card, possibly killing the other 'creature'. Some have trample, and in which case, the attacking creature may end up attacking both the defending card and continuing onto the player, though otherwise, it will not attack the player if they are blocked. Once the player has taken all their turn, they pass and play transfers to the other player who follows the same steps. This continues over and over until one player runs out of life points.

Life points are given to a player at the beginning of the game. Each player generally has 20 life points and these can go up or down depending upon whether they are being attacked or have ability cards to help them.

Cards which have been used, or have 'died' go into the graveyard and stay there unless a card holds the ability to do otherwise.

Of course, this is just the basic idea of the game, and it can last approximately half an hour (depending on what style is played). It becomes very complex depending on the cards used etc, and like many other games of this style, it not only needs concentration, skill and planning, it also relys a lot on chance and luck. Because the cards are shuffled, you never know when lands will come out, and if too few lands get picked then the player may not be able to do much at all e game depends on these lands to play cards. My daughter played a game one club night and got absolutely no lands in her hand from her deck meaning she was able to do absolutely nothing all game. This is the only real downfall and a lot of thought needs to go in the planning of the deck with regards to how many cards of each type is in there.

On my daughters club night, they play approximately three or four games and simply play for fun, with the winners receiving a booster pack and the runners up receiving a single card. For adults, this game is also often played for fun, though many more serious players do play for money.


LET COURAGE BE YOUR STRENGTH

"Never underestimate our enemy's strength, brutality,...or stupidity." -- Commander Eesha, Lead Astray

Magic: The Gathering has grown to huge heights since it originally began and is popular all over the world. Due to its rise in fame, so to speak, it has also built a wide range of merchandise and spin-off games.

The cards themselves are built rather like playing cards and are still probably the biggest Magic seller. Each card is unique with a beautiful picture on each as well as the cards name and its abilities and rules as well as quote quite often. As of September 2016 there are over 16,000 unique Magic cards and at least 1000 more are added each year. The original Magic cards were in English but now cards are made in many different languages. Most cards are sold in sets and usually either core card sets or themed packs. The most popular is the booster packs which contain a mix of different colour cards in the fifteen cards as well as at least one rare card. Along with new releases of cards come specific new merchandise to go alongside it.

The merchandise list is huge, though you can buy things that you use within your game as well as such things as clothing, bags, posters etc.

Magic: The Gathering is not a cheap hobby, though you do not have to spend loads of money to enjoy playing it. The cards are the main purchase requirement though many can be brought second hand. If you purchase them new within their packs, you are looking at approximately £3 which is not too bad, though if you choose to get specific booster packs, the cost does go up. I have seen a few for £10, for example. Single card purchases can be found online for anything over 1p, though many of the very rare cards can be very expensive indeed. You also have many variations of sets which include character specific cards, lands only and so much more. Depending on how serious you are as a player, depends on how much you spend. My daughter goes to her club once a week which is £4. This includes three to four games and a new person gets a booster pack free. Each week, players also receive a shiny card for playing with winners getting a booster pack. Merchandise for the games are also sold there, many at a lesser price. My daughter does not own a lot of merchandise, though I know some of her friends have purchased different items such as play mats. My daughter has the minimal things for her game, though has built a good array of cards over the last number of months. She also has dice to record energy and attack boosts which are just normal six sided dice and a life card and life dice. She has also purchased card protectors, both for her main deck and ones to keep her others in a folder.

So yes, this game can work out very expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs down.


THE STRONG CAN ALSO BE SUBTLE

"Pick up a shell upon my shore and put it to your ear. That sound isn't the sea, but the whispers of the fallen." -- Crovax, Zombie Scavengers


One thing to note with this game is that it involves a lot of thinking and planning, and not only does this make the game fun, but it can help children (and adults) with their number skills, such as mathematics. My daughter has always been good at maths, though since she started playing this game, she is able to work out maths questions a lot faster! Many schools even use this in their maths classes, though unfortunately, my daughters school has not got this far yet. It also gives children another chance to socialise, and has really built up my daughters confidence in this area which is brilliant.

The same club my daughter goes to does club meets for adults as well as older teenagers and welcomes everyone. Me and my partner play the games with my daughter, though I doubt we will go to a meet for adults. We both enjoy playing the game, though, especially me as I tend to beat them both more often than not! My daughter looks forward to her club meet every week and she is always playing with us at home and sorting out her cards. It is great to see her really into it.

Yes, the costs are quite high, though we do not buy lots of merchandise. We have got many cards at discounted prices and also through the club meetings and special events. My daughter spends her pocket money on booster packs and such like every now and again, and due to this, she actually really looks after her Magic bits and pieces!

Although this is a well known, well loved game, I had not heard of it before my daughter began playing, though I can certainly see why it is so popular. I can also see my daughter playing this for a good many years, so in some ways, it is a good investment.

Do I recommend this to others?

Definitely! I would say that eight is the youngest age to start playing this game, and the upper limit...well there isnt any. It is fun, educational and provides a fantastic all round basis, from the game, to the artwork, to the story. It is great!

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Comments on this review

  • gothic_moon published 23/04/2017
    Excellent review, congrats on the well-deserved diamond! x
  • NBCMad92 published 20/04/2017
    Looks so cool!
  • rolandrat123 published 30/03/2017
    ex
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Product Information : Magic: The Gathering

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Card Game

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