Magic is the first example of the modern collectible card game genre and still thrives today, with an estimated six million players in over seventy countries. Magic can be played by two or more players each using a deck of printed cards or a deck of virtual cards through the Internet-based Magic: The Gathering Online or third-party programs.
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Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards, known as “planeswalkers”, who use the 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, the gameplay of Magic bears little resemblance to pencil-and-paper adventure games, while having substantially more cards and more complex rules than many other card games.
An organized tournament system and a community of professional Magic players has developed, as has a secondary market for Magic cards. Magic cards can be valuable due to their rarity and utility in game play
In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in a battle as powerful wizards called “planeswalkers”. A player starts the game with twenty “life points” and loses when he or she is reduced to zero or less. Players lose life when they are dealt “damage” by being attacked with summoned creatures or when spells or other cards cause them to lose life directly. Although reducing an opponent to zero life is the most common way of ending a game, a player also loses if he or she must draw from an empty deck (called the “library” during the game), or if they have acquired 10 “poison counters.” In addition, some cards specify other ways to win or lose the game.
Players begin the game with seven cards in hand. The two basic card types in Magic are “spells” and “lands”. Lands provide “mana”, or magical energy, which is used as magical fuel when the player attempts to cast spells. Players may only play one land per turn. More powerful spells generally cost more mana, so as the game progresses and more mana becomes available, the quantity and relative power of the spells played tends to increase. Some spells also require the payment of additional resources, such as cards in play or life points. Spells come in several varieties: “sorceries” and “instants” have a single, one-time effect before they go to the “graveyard” (discard pile); “enchantments” and “artifacts” are “permanents” that remain in play after being cast to provide a lasting magical effect; “creature” spells summon monsters that can attack and damage an opponent. The set Lorwyn introduced the new “planeswalker” card type, which represent powerful allies who fight with their own magic abilities depending on their loyalty to the player who summoned them. Spells can be of more than one type. For example, an “artifact creature” has all the benefits and drawbacks of being both an artifact and a creature.
Some spells have effects that override normal game rules. The “Golden Rules of Magic” state that “Whenever a card’s text directly contradicts the rules, the card takes precedence.” This allows Wizards of the Coast great flexibility in creating cards, but can cause problems when attempting to reconcile a card with the rules (or two cards with each other). The Comprehensive Rules, a detailed rulebook,exists to clarify these conflicts.