Hacker News

136 Comments:
alasdair_ said 3 days ago:

Magic may be the best game ever devised.

Unlike chess, it’s stochastic and unlike backgammon, it has hidden information and bluffing. But it’s more than that - the cards change the rules of the game itself.

On top of those layers, the fact that each player builds their own deck makes the game asymmetric and ultimately the meta-game of building the deck to beat the Keynsian beauty contest of optimal deck selection becomes the most important part.

It is this meta game that makes me think it will be a long long time before we have a machine learning model that can play the full game (and the meta-game) consistently better than an expert human player. At least while new cards are being added to the game.

The game is turing complete. It can have infinite loops and crazy, ridiculous complexity and is gloriously fun to play. I’d love to hear about any AI projects that have taken a serious stab at playing a complete game.

Smithalicious said 3 days ago:

Another great innovation it has over chess is making people pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year to the creator. I'm only being half sarcastic here; monetization seems like a difficult aspect of game design for an "analog" game like this.

alasdair_ said 3 days ago:

>Another great innovation it has over chess is making people pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year to the creator. I'm only being half sarcastic here; monetization seems like a difficult aspect of game design for an "analog" game like this.

In the original rules of the game, players had to ante up a random card from their deck every game. There were other cards that added to this ante during the game itself, much like doubling in backgammon. The point was to make the person who went out and spent a lot of money on the deck likely to risk more "monetarily" than the player who only spent a few dollars.

I played this way for many years and I still think it's the best way to play the game, with the trading of cards to get back the ante card a key mechanism to improve one's deck.

Smithalicious said 3 days ago:

Some parts of this are appealing but overall it seems like a bad design; new players and players with worse decks will have to give up cards far more often. Their cards will be cheaper on average, yes, but having to frequently replace a random card sounds like it would be very tedious. This also icentivizes people to pick on weaker players.

alanfalcon said 3 days ago:

There’s just enough luck involved that the risk-reward ratio was probably mostly right in those early days, especially as the game wasn’t designed with the expectation players would ever have perfect information about scarcity and relative power level of individual cards.

Even so, it wasn’t fun to play with ante, so most people didn’t do it; Magic smartly went with the flow rather than fight against it, and that’s a huge reason why the game persists successfully to this day.

(Details gleaned primarily from episodes of Mark Rosewater’s “Drive to Work” podcast, at least the best episodes of which are mandatory listening imo for any designer of any stripe, especially one who is also at all a fan of MtG. Yes, Garfield is the game’s creator, but Maro is the game’s central nervous system and has been for more than 15 years!)

gbrown said 3 days ago:

I think it's fun, but I HATE that it has such a strong pay to win component.

If a video game let players spend thousands of dollars on high power abilities to completely dominate the lower paid tier players, they'd be ridiculed in many circles.

There are certainly ways to play around this, but it's definitely a thing.

alasdair_ said 3 days ago:

>I think it's fun, but I HATE that it has such a strong pay to win component.

At most tournaments, all the players have essentially equal access to any cards they want to play with. Some formats are more expensive than others to enter of course, but that's about the same as any other sport - I don't race thoroughbred horses or drive Formula One motorcars either.

In terms of non-tournament (or tournament practice) there is nothing stopping people from taking a sharpie and writing "Black Lotus" on a one-cent card and playing as if it's the most expensive card in the game. People do this all the time.

antoinealb said 3 days ago:

There are a lot of different formats. In Limited for example, you buy the boosters you are going to play with when entering the event (you don't bring a constructed deck). This makes it very level and pretty cheap (pay to enter instead of pay to win). It is also quite competitive and is a format often played in championships.

whereismylogin said 3 days ago:

And sets these days are designed with limited in mind. Limited has gone from this weird thing you do at a PTQ side tourney after you flunk out round 4, to a real, super fun format!

thaumasiotes said 3 days ago:

> And sets these days are designed with limited in mind.

For reference, sets have been designed with limited in mind since Mirage in 1996.

Aeolun said 3 days ago:

I thought it was interesting to see that at the start they explicitly tried to make the common cards just as powerful as the rare ones.

That’s definitely changed for the worse, as well as making individual cards more powerful.

I used to make fun of YuGiOh for being full of ‘this card wins you the game’ cards, but magic has very much transformed into exactly the same thing.

thaumasiotes said 3 days ago:

Mark Rosewater (the head designer) commented on this very issue in the most recent State of Design article:

> Two years ago in my "State of Design" articles, I said we'd let complexity get a little too high. Last year, I said we overcompensated and ended up with complexity a little too low. I'm happy to say that we've found the middle ground and have been producing sets that seem to be hitting the sweet spot.

> The key to this success seems to be us towing the line of complexity at common, but upping the amount of complexity we allow at uncommon. This allows us to take in-theme things for the set that would normally be rare and pull them down to uncommon to allow us to raise the as-fan of the theme. A good example of this would be the planeswalkers in War of the Spark. The uncommon planeswalkers, in a vacuum, would probably be rares in a normal set, but by allowing ourselves to lower their rarity, we were able to infuse War of the Spark (especially Limited) with the planeswalker theme.

> Another component that allowed us to pull this off is a willingness to be more aggressive with the power level of commons, especially answers, to help make them more relevant without having to up their complexity.

( https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/s... )

The power level of commons was long one of their primary defenses to the question "why do you print bad rares?". Combining the introduction of Mythic rarity with the axing of staple commons did terrible things to the balance of power across rarities. As alluded to in passing here, they seemed to believe that powerful commons made the game more confusing to play and/or less fun, hurting their potential market.

You can track the issue on Doom Blade ( https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multive... ). In M12 (2011) it's a common. In M13, as part of their commitment to continuously rotate which cards fill which roles, Doom Blade is replaced by Murder ( https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multive... ), which is also common. In M14 (2013), Doom Blade is back! But it's an uncommon, where it stays for the next several years while they publish articles about how their new philosophy of design means you shouldn't have broadly useful removal at common for under 5 mana. But between M19 and M20, Murder shifts from uncommon to common. Murder is still much weaker than Doom Blade. But the philosophy of "no common removal unless it's either intensely situational or too expensive to play" has disappeared.

They're trying to balance money extraction, player demand, and the broader health of the game ("after playing 20 games, do I still like this?"), and feedback on those three issues has very different patterns of immediacy and accuracy. (And, of course, money extraction and player demand are in direct conflict with each other.)

tw04 said 3 days ago:

That's entirely by choice? You can play in all sorts of tournaments. If money is an issue, play a sealed deck tournament. I get that MAY run you a hundred bucks, but if even THAT is too much, play with friends and set rules about what cards are allowed.

The beauty of magic is that people with even a modicum of spending money can find a competitive game.

whereismylogin said 3 days ago:

I built my stepson a deck for about 50 bucks, and he won more than one reasonably-sized (>15 players) tournaments, as a 13 year-old.

Yes, if you currently want to be relevant you probably need Oko and friends, but if you want to play cheap, you can.

And if you want to play commander for cheap, check out The Commander's Quarters on YouTube, all deck techs are 25 or 50.

rantwasp said 3 days ago:

there are many formats. in some the field is as level as possible, in some it takes years to understand all the mechanics and interactions.

the cost to enjoy it is minimal if you’re not playing competitively and even if you are paying attention to the meta matters more than investing thousands of dollars in the game

city41 said 3 days ago:

I really have no doubt at all that Magic is the greatest game ever devised. However, I do think it was a better game in the early days before strategy and meta was disseminated so broadly across the internet. Each local community had their own deck styles and approaches, and a big part of the game was in discovering new combos and decks on your own. I feel that part is a bit lost these days.

arvinsim said 3 days ago:

I don't think information availability affected the game so much as the economic barrier. I mean, if people have infinite access to cards, there would be a lot of experimenting going around.

city41 said a day ago:

I think both are factors. In the 90s I'd estimate my Magic circle was about 100 people or so. Sure that's a lot of room for experimentation, but nothing like the millions of players today.

alanfalcon said 3 days ago:

The tools exist for people to experiment as if they had infinite copies of every card ever printed, and the people who most enjoy that sort of thing definitely make use of those tools!

arvinsim said 2 days ago:

That’s right but they wouldn’t be able to test on real tournaments though.

meroes said 3 days ago:

Can I take this opportunity to ask a stupid question?

Is ML anything more than pattern recognition? If I could tally nearly every game state vs game state -> win %, then run a simple if [state], then {} program, then what do I miss out on vs an ML approach? Is the magic just in how we feed good data sets to an ML algorithm so it can efficiently mimic the above much quicker?

rsrsrs86 said 2 days ago:

This is a very clever question.

If your problem's domain is not too big then you are basically right, but in practice things are more complicated, larger, noisier, etc. I am conflating many things here of course.

Steko said 3 days ago:

> Magic may be the best game ever devised ... [basic strategy plus] ... stochastic ... hidden information ... [self-extending ruleset] ... asymmetric ... meta-game

Magic was incredibly innovative but I think just having this list of characteristics was not so revolutionary in the early 90's. A number of wargames and RPGs that predate Magic have most of them and a few have all of them.

wyldfire said 3 days ago:

MtG is just a fantastic game. Somehow I think the detailed rules really appeals to those of us who simulate automata in our head. ;)

> I had begun the interview with what I figured was an obvious, softball icebreaker: “Yes,” Garfield responded when asked if he was related to President James Garfield (1831-1881), “he was my great-great-grandfather.”

Wow!

> I think make-believe is a very important component of games; the art really drives that.

The art and flavor text are a big part of the game, IMO. At least its original draw, anyways.

Konnstann said 3 days ago:

My favorite sets are the Un-series specifically because the art and flavor texts are so quirky.

DonaldPShimoda said 3 days ago:

As a blue player, one of my favorite cards of all time is Cheatyface [0] from Unhinged:

> Cheatyface {U}{U}{U}

> Creature — Efreet (2/2)

> If Cheatyface is in your hand, you may sneak Cheatyface onto the battlefield. If an opponent catches you right away, that player may exile Cheatyface.

> Flying

[0] https://scryfall.com/card/unh/30/cheatyface

scrooched_moose said 3 days ago:

Related to your comment, MtG is turing complete:

https://www.toothycat.net/~hologram/Turing/HowItWorks.html

cyberfart said 3 days ago:

Related to your comment, here's the paper [0] and Because Science recently made a video about how such a game would look like [1].

[0] https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.09828

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdmODVYPDLA

slothtrop said 3 days ago:

The rules appeal, but not the money-pit. I wouldn't say it's pay-to-win, but fuck.

falcrist said 3 days ago:

Play Commander (formerly EDH) with a deliberately casual group.

There's a lot of variance in the games, variety in the cards, and weird interactions to work out.

You can buy preconstructed commander decks for $35 (maybe a little more), and modify them with a bunch of obscure cards that cost no more than a few dollars a piece. Check out EDHREC for card ideas.

indigochill said 3 days ago:

I've been eyeing Card Kingdom's battle decks. They're 60-card decks put together from inexpensive singles (most worth less than a quarter) around some theme, like goblin generation or enchanted creatures or recycling your graveyard or whatever.

Each deck is only $10 so you can pick up a handful of them and play them against each other with friends. They're not intended to conform to any particular format, but they are supposed to be relatively balanced against each other.

wyldfire said 3 days ago:

I heartily second EDH, it's great.

My friends and I would often play a hybrid of EDH and 2HG (Two headed Dragon?), it was a real good time.

falcrist said 3 days ago:

"Two-Headed Giant"

It's not even a hybrid really. It's just that 2HG is more of a format modifier than it's own format.

wyldfire said 3 days ago:

Yes, what I was going for is:

Elder Dragon Highlander + Two Headed Giant = "Two Headed Dragon"

moate said 3 days ago:

I mean, if I could just unspend all the money I've sunk into magic cards over my lifetime, I'd literally be probably have 10K+.

I've personally found that EDH/Commander is a good solution to the money problem. Yea, you're going to wind up dropping a few hundred for a deck (if you're staring from scratch), but the style of the format means you're not constantly chasing the "new hotness" of standard and don't need to worry about dropping $600+ just for your lands like modern. And I mean, legacy/vintage are just a way for rich people to show off.

elif said 3 days ago:

If you play standard, it's definitely pay-to-win.

The average cost of the top 10 decks at any moment is over $200, as meta shifts and sets rotate, you're buying ~5 decks per year minimum.

If you want to practice, you have to buy digital copies of those decks too (either buying singles in mtgo or a ton of boosters on arena)

If you want to play at the competitive level, you have to travel to multiple cities for open/gp events since there is a lot of randomness based on draw and matchups.

wyldfire said 3 days ago:

> If you play standard, it's definitely pay-to-win.

Yes, but casual games with friends can be really enjoyable. Sealed events at the LGS are good too.

make3 said 3 days ago:

it's one of the most pay to win games there is. there is a top to each format, in that the max performance can't be surpassed by investing more, but that top is currently around 700$ for the most popular format, standard, and double that for modern. That's insane if you ask me.

slothtrop said 3 days ago:

Yeah, I was trying to be kind. I don't know how anyone could justify that.

foota said 3 days ago:

I've begun to realize that the games I play for fun reflect the complexity of the work that I do. sigh

wbl said 3 days ago:

Ah, another Factorio addict.

friendlybus said 3 days ago:

Is that not good?

foota said 3 days ago:

It... is. It was mostly a funny realization. It also means that I don't necessarily get the downtime I would otherwise though from that kind of activity.

friendlybus said 3 days ago:

Yeah I agree, I think that could be a problem. Not much beats a drink in a deckchair on the beach for relaxing.

umvi said 3 days ago:

Is there a way to have access to all cards for free? Kind of ruins the fun when you need to sink so much $$$ just to try out different decks.

Another reason Hearthstone was so frustrating. All the legendary cards were locked behind astronomical paywalls.

igpay said 3 days ago:

I used to use Cockatrice (https://cockatrice.github.io/) to play with friends online. The interface is a far cry from Wizard's MTG Arena, but you do get to build any deck you want for free.

Edit: It's been a while since I played, but does look like for IP reasons you'll need to actually download the cards separately from the actual program. I'm not sure where to do this, but I'd imagine someone on this subreddit or on their dedicated Cockatrice server can help you https://www.reddit.com/r/Cockatrice/

wyre said 3 days ago:

I use cockatrice currently. After downloading the client it downloads a json database from scryfall of all of the cards.

cicero said 3 days ago:

Richard Garfield's new game, KeyForge [1], attempts to remedy this problem by using pre-made decks generated by an algorithm that makes every deck unique. You buy a deck for $10 and you are ready to play. Each deck is given a unique name that is printed on every card so you cannot alter the composition of the deck. Although some decks are better than others, they are all very playable, and I always have fun playing. I usually play a couple of sealed tournaments at my local game store each month where we all buy a $10 deck and play the tournament with whatever we got. It's a lot of fun whether I win or lose. When my deck collection started to grow, I gave away decks to get others started in the game. Although it's true that some people spend a lot of money in search of the really powerful deck, that is not necessary to enjoy the game, and I think it's much less expensive than Magic to play at a semi-competitive level.

1: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/keyforge/

Agentlien said 3 days ago:

I played a bit of KeyForge. It was fun and more unique than I had expected. However, I really missed the tactics and interactivity that come from being able to respond on your opponent's turn and the defending player assigning blockers.

mattnewton said 3 days ago:

As a legacy player (a magic format where there are a lot of very expensive out of print cards), we just print them out for playtesting. No sense in dropping hundreds on missing cards for a deck until you know if it performs well and is fun to play. If you aren't planning on taking it to a sanctioned tournament you can just stop there with the proxies.

AsusFan said 3 days ago:

Well, if you just want to admire the cards, there's scryfall:

https://scryfall.com

https://scryfall.com/sets

If you want to play in the computer, there are several free and open source implementations. I don't have any great recommendation, but I'll just point out that I sometimes play around with XMage (http://xmage.de/) when I feel like whacking around the AI a bit. Too bad it is so unstable and crashes a lot :(

hiccuphippo said 3 days ago:

Another game you might want to take a look at is Dominion. You buy a single box with the cards for all the players (from 2 to 4 IIRC) so no need to buy extra decks.

blotter_paper said 3 days ago:

I enjoyed Dominion, and generally appreciate games where you don't have to keep buying things to play competitively. I've never actually played it, but I was always intererested in Codex: http://sirlingames.com/codex

It's modeled after real time strategy games (Warcraft 3 especially), and was designed by David Sirlin. Sirlin writes about game design, and I've really enjoyed his commentary on competitive systems. He did the rebalancing for Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix, and the changes he made are discussed in a series of articles here: http://www.sirlin.net/articles/sf

You can various other articles he's written by clicking around that site.

eropple said 3 days ago:

I was interested in Codex but at the same time I played Fantasy Strike for a hot minute and it kinda cooled me on Sirlin-as-designer rather than Sirlin-as-analyst. I'd be interested in whether anybody has played Codex and enjoyed it.

Tyr42 said 3 days ago:

You should try it for a few hours it's pretty fun.

You can even do play by post, since you only make decisions on your turn. You have to trust the other person to shuffle, but it works

vkou said 3 days ago:

The base Dominion card set is allright, but does not have all that much variety. The various expansion packs are fairly pricy.

But if you like the base game, you can probably snag someone's collection on the cheap, on Craigslist.

dole said 3 days ago:

You really need at least one expansion (and make it Intrigue) before too long to keep the game interesting. IIRC the base game originally had the first 2 or 3 expansions but broke them out to cut the costs down (and for the expansion revenue later.) IMHO get them all up to and including Hinterlands at the least if you get into it.

RIP isotropic

eropple said 3 days ago:

Intrigue is good but you have to have a consistent playerbase to start rolling that stuff into the game. But I find that the base game is pretty intuitive and somebody can play competitively even on their first play-through.

I'd bet the overwhelming majority of Dominion games are not just using the base set, but the "recommended first play" card selection.

ccffpphh said 3 days ago:

You can also play dominion online with matchmaking, including expansions, at https://www.dominion.games/

elif said 3 days ago:

In college wed use the library printer and paper cutter.

Put the 'proxy' cards in a sleeve with a regular card behind it.

Takes time and effort, but if you play one night a week or so it ends up more fun because you never know what someone is going to bring.

antoinealb said 3 days ago:

It is what I do with my flatmate to practice new matchups (in Modern). I recommend using http://www.mtgpress.net to print out the decks easily from a decklist.

ergothus said 3 days ago:

I used to buy boxes of random cards on Ebay. For 5-20 bucks you get a huge variety. (~1000 cards) , mostly commons but plenty of uncommons too. Hardly ALL cards, but plenty to give good games. My friends and I would randomly deal them out and/or draft them, then build play and trade from that point.

yoz-y said 3 days ago:

You could print the cards out of the Gatherer or some other sites. I think there are even programs that can create sheets for that.

There is also Apprentice, kind of like MtG online but with barebones interface, that allows you to play against other people.

lelandbatey said 3 days ago:

To expand with more detail: there are several sites which let you enter a lit of cards and they'll generate printable PDFs which, when printed on paper, are meant to be easy to cut out. For example:

http://www.mtgpress.net/

Then, you simply slip your rectangles of printer paper into a card sleave with a real Magic card (usually some card you don't care about such as a basic land) and tada, you've got whatever cards you want and all it cost was ink and time time.

JoshTriplett said 3 days ago:

If you're willing to spend some time getting it working: http://gccg.sourceforge.net/

foota said 3 days ago:

There's an online version of MtG with pretty reasonably prices cards iirc, and you can get lots free.

Interface is amazingly complicated though, since it has to model all of MtG.

elif said 3 days ago:

There's 4 versions of magic online:

MtGO: old official version, you can buy and sell singles for similar costs to paper

Cockatrice: Old unofficial free version. leaves a lot of rule/effect enforcement up to players manually.

Duels: "new" official version, never implemented complete rulesets, abandoned by devs 2 years ago, leaving collectors who paid good money SOL

Arena: new official version, but with hearthstone model of only RNG card purchases, no singles or resales.

Personally, after putting close to 4 figures into MtGO, then hundreds into duels for nothing (on top of the fortune I've spent on paper), the price fatigue has ruined arena for me, and I don't give them any money.

paulmd said 3 days ago:

if only there was some kind of eXchange for MTG Online...

(to ruin the joke: this is where the famed bitcoin exchange MtGOX came from. It was an exchange for MTG Online that was repurposed into a bitcoin exchange... with that kind of flawless pedigree who could have ever foreseen problems coming down the road? /s)

elif said 2 days ago:

Indeed :) I am a mtgox asset recovery claimant. I have also bought plenty of "investment" paper magic, for instance, during zendikar, I tried to buy up a large swath of full frame foil lands.

But for real, the target demographics (nerds who want to speculate and also feel like they're doing something cool) made it the great fit it was.. especially when magic speculators themselves needed a better vehicle for peer-to-peer value exchange.

foota said 3 days ago:

Yeah, I think I was thinking of MtGO here.

ColanR said 3 days ago:

You just print them out.

cortesoft said 3 days ago:

You could print out the cards

jahlove said 3 days ago:

Growing up in the suburbs south of Seattle, I got to visit the Wizards of the Coast headquarters once or twice. As a 14 year old, I approached Richard Garfield one day and asked him if he wanted to play. We played two or three games, I recall I won two. He signed one of my cards and continued playing other folks.

For a 14 year old me this was a pretty big deal. Thank you Richard for doing that!

klyrs said 3 days ago:

I grew up in south Seattle, and also got to visit the original WotC headquarters a few times. What an awesome opportunity that was. In addition to tables and tournaments for Magic players, they had a bank of networked computers where you could play multiplayer games on their LAN.

My favorite memory was when me and a friend tried a novel strategy in Warcraft 2 -- the "Peon Rush". Haven't heard of the strategy? That's because it's awful. We ganged up on another player, sending waves of peons as fast as we could spawn them. Our target crushed us both with, IIRC, a pair of ogres. One died.

cehrlich said 3 days ago:

What a great read! Stasis is one of my all time favourite pieces of MtG art, although there are definitely people who feel the opposite. To me it perfectly encapsulates what the card does, and as someone who at age 12 lost his first game at a 'real' Magic tournament to a Stasis deck the card is a special memory for me. Although the game has moved towards being very cohesive with its art, I actually liked it when there were many cards whose artwork didn't really fit into the canon of the game, in some way it made the game's world feel even bigger.

lifeformed said 3 days ago:

The art in the old sets were so much more iconic and imaginative. They were so varied in styles and had so much personality. The newer ones have a much more consistent style, but ends up looking really generic and forgettable.

DonaldPShimoda said 3 days ago:

I don't think that's completely true; plenty of the new cards are quite imaginative. I think there's just a greater degree of imposed consistency in the design.

For some counterexamples to your point, look at any of the art by Seb McKinnon.

moultano said 3 days ago:

>For some counterexamples to your point, look at any of the art by Seb McKinnon.

His stuff looks fantastic, and does look a lot like the more "tarot" inspired art of early magic. Thanks for telling us about him! Link for the curious. http://www.sebmckinnon.com/illustration/2019/5/29/2019/5/29/...

Noumenon72 said 3 days ago:
ImprovedSilence said 3 days ago:

I totally agree. I also think the newer art looks like it was made to be wall sized, and really just looks muddy, dark, and obscures details when it’s the size of a card. Looking back at old art, it soooooo much clearer and more flavorful.

NauticalStu said 3 days ago:

The varied art in the old sets made the game feel "big" to me, like it was this giant bazaar of oddities that I was sifting through and piecing together in a unique way. Nowadays it feels more like assembling parts in a carefully curated environment. That's not an entirely bad thing, but a lot of the mystique is lost.

moultano said 3 days ago:

Exactly. I always felt like the world of magic was bigger than my imagination of it, that the cards were a tiny window into an unfathomably strange world. "Eldritch" is maybe the best word I can think of to describe it.

toasterlovin said 3 days ago:

Agree completely. The redesign of the card format ruined the game for me. IMO the old format made it feel like you were holding some ancient and special.

Izkata said 3 days ago:

The introduction alongside Mirrodin made sense IMO, but I really hoped they would revert after that. I also lost interest around the end of Mirrodin / start of Kamigawa.

uwuhn said 3 days ago:

I first played Magic when I was around seven years old, when the Portal set came out. I've played on-and-off, never seriously/competitively. Before Arena came out, I had spent more time playing on Apprentice and then Cockatrice than I had with physical cards.

Arena now takes up a LOT of my spare time. I'm happy with the microtransaction system. $5 can take you pretty far when it comes to building a competitive deck if you are willing to play drafts. I've spent around $40 total across three accounts. The $5 one-time purchase is quite generous.

BO1 constructed allows you to deviate from the meta and/or counter it. The matchmaking is good, and you can tell a lot of effort has gone into cosmetic and sound effects.

I've played lots of Hearthstone and Shadowverse since both came out. I haven't touched Hearthstone in years, even though I spent close to a thousand dollars on it. I'm done with HS for good. I'll still play Shadowverse for new sets since you can always make a competitive deck for free if you create a new account and spend a few hours grinding.

I hope Wizards doesn't get greedy with Arena as it (and MTG) continue to grow in popularity. When Hearthstone got big, I expected Magic to die out completely, but it's nice to see that didn't happen.

busterarm said 3 days ago:

I love playing Magic. I was a bit of a whale player as far as case openings goes. Obviously paper magic became untenable at some point...and I love playing Standard.

Arena has been so fantastic for me. I spend a fraction of what I used to, have all that space back in my apartment and play way more than ever. There are some things that I miss about playing face to face with people, but also there's no way I'd ever play some of my combo decks (any Mirror March...) in paper.

Qworg said 3 days ago:

Sadly, many combo decks that are perfectly viable run up against the clock in Arena. If only there was loop detection to allow for "do this X times", it'd be far better.

JorgeGT said 3 days ago:

There's no mention in the article, but as a kid I really liked the flavor text at the bottom of some cards: witty, small fragments of an unknown fantasy lore.

the_af said 3 days ago:

Agreed! In particular Kaervek has become a favorite with my friends -- none of which has played Magic for more than a decade now -- with his iconic "If it is weak, either kill it or ignore it. Anything else honors it."

Noumenon72 said 3 days ago:

I like the text too. It's interesting that the text other people point to as their favorite is not interesting to me. https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-favorite-flavor-text-on-a...

Magic serves many different audiences -- they even purposely design cards for certain players knowing others will hate them. I guess the flavor text hits different people too.

GuB-42 said 3 days ago:

My favorite is "Ach! Hans, Run! It's the Lhurgoyf!" - Saffi Eriksdotter, last words.

Just a fun, stupid and memorable flavor text.

But there is more:

- They made an Unhinged card out of it (Ach! Hans, Run!)

- It is referenced in an other card with a similar ability (Revenant). "Not again." -Hans

- Saffi Eriksdotter is a creature from the "time spiral" block. Many cards of this block are "parallel universe" version of older cards. And indeed, here, Saffi Eriksdotter manages to run away.

alok99 said 3 days ago:

Well there is the whole MtG novel series for the (relatively) newer blocks and sets. I wouldn't be surprised if some flavor texts are direct quotes.

EamonnMR said 3 days ago:

That definitely wasn't the case in the heyday of MTG novels, though they might have gotten better at it more recently. Wizards is very open about its design process: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/116841

Izkata said 3 days ago:

The novels have existed basically since the beginning, though tying them to a set may not have been there at the start. But if not, it was still very, very near the beginning, with the Weatherlight saga.

I both played and read Invasion through Fifth Dawn, and while the quotes never appeared verbatim, some of them could be pinned down to specific events. One of my favorite easter eggs was learning that the Blind Seer from Invasion [0] was actually Urza in disguise... which fits that flavor text perfectly.

[0] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?name=Bl...

Itaxpica said 3 days ago:

It's nice to learn about the backstory of Stasis in particular. The card art in Magic was gorgeous all around back then, but Stasis in particular has always been one of my favorites. Totally iconic, highly unique stylistically but still a great fit for what the card is and does. It's a real classic of the genre.

rubinelli said 3 days ago:

Stasis is probably one of the worst cards to play against, to be unable to do anything as your opponent slowly chips at your life total or makes you draw your whole deck, but at least that gives you a lot of time to admire the lovely art.

thom said 3 days ago:

If there's one thing that has made me fall in love with Magic all over again, it's my boy trying to get into Yu-Gi-Oh, which is one of the most absurdly complicated games I've ever tried to learn. In Magic, no matter how big the rulebook is now, the core interactions and vast majority of cards are incredibly simple (and still flavourful!), and all the complexity is more or less optional, in terms of playing with more rares or different sets. It's astonishing how much stuff Garfield got right 25+ years ago, whether by accident or not, but I hope to be playing the game for the next 25 years as well.

thom said 3 days ago:

Also worth pointing out that there's a Mythic Championship on right now, if anyone wanted to get a feel for how the competitive game looks in 2019:

https://www.twitch.tv/magic

YeGoblynQueenne said 3 days ago:

>> So, in Magic, the rare cards are often the more interesting cards, but the most powerful cards are meant to be common so that everybody can have a chance.

It's funny but just today I was playing a match in M:tG Arena and I noticed that I used a card's rarity to make a decision. The card was Worthy Knight, a 2/2 creature and I was trying to decide whether to attack into it with my own creature, a Pelt Collector (at the time also a 2/2, with a +1/+1 counter). Normally, in that situation, I wouldn't attack with Pelt Collector - I'd wait for it to grow a bit and then attack so it wouldn't just trade.

However, I wasn't sure what Worthy Knight was doing in the opponent's deck, but I noticed it was a rare (I didn't know the card, it's from the new set, Sword of Eldraine).

Now, normally that would make no difference, but there is no trading in M:tG Arena, as there is in the physical game, so rare cards are harder to come by in Arena than they are in the physical game. Given that Arena booster packs only have eight cards, when physical booster packs have 15 cards, a full set of four of any rare represents a more significant investment (of money, or time) on the part of its owner.

Based on this I figured that, if the opponent was running Worthy Knight (and likely a set of four given I'd seen it in the first turn), then it must be somehow important to their strategy. So I attacked with Pelt Collector and we traded (i.e. the two creatures killed each other in combat).

Aeolun said 3 days ago:

If he used it to block it clearly wasn’t so important to his strategy though?

YeGoblynQueenne said 3 days ago:

I think they recognised Pelt Collector was important enough to my own strategy to be worth the trade. I did regret it later. I think I lost that game actually (too many bloody knights).

Edit: I mean, Pelt Collector is like the creature kill magnet. It seems players know it's a powerful card and do their best to get rid of it as early as possible.

Edit 2: Oh, I remember now. They just played another one next turn. They probably had it in hand from the start. I should have waited with the Collector.

YeGoblynQueenne said 3 days ago:

>> “One of the underlying premises of the game,” he said, “is that there’s supposed to be a very simple set of rules and all the cards are exceptions. Every card allows you to break the rules at some point. That’s how I think of it.”

That's Garfield of course and it's his game, but I think it's more accurate to describe the game as an abstract machine and the text on the cards (the "ability text") as its inputs that change the machine's state. Seen another way, the ability text language is the scripting language of the game's rules engine.

The language itself is fascinating. Formally, it's a Controlled Natural Language, but I doubt there is any other CNL that has been in constant use by so many people, while undergoing so many changes to its syntax and vocabulary.

Consider for instance the ability text of the card, Stasis, discussed in the article:

  Players do not get an untap step.
  Pay {U} during upkeep or Stasis 
  is destroyed.
That was what was printed on the card in its original, Limited Edition Alpha printing. The same text is now listed as follows on The Gatherer, Wizards' of the Coast M:tG online card database:

  Players skip their untap steps.
  At the beginning of your upkeep
  sacrifice Stasis unless you pay 
  {U}.
Note how the original card uses "destroyed" while the new text uses "sacrificed" to describe what happens if "you" (the player "controling" Stasis) does not pay {U} (one blue mana) during your upkeep step. In short, "destroy" and "sacrifice" now have different meanings. In particular, while both abilities ultimately move a permanent from its controller's Battlefield to its owner's Graveyard zone, "sacrificing" a permanent doesn't "destroy" it, so effects that replace destruction (like regeneration) cannot prevent a permanent from being moved to its owner's graveyard. Neither can "Indestructible", an ability that precludes destruction, prevent sacrifice.

So the ability text language started very loose and informal, a language aimed to help players understand how a card is meant to be played, but over time it has morphed into something else entirely, a precise formal language that leaves no room for ambiguity, given of course a good knowledge of the rules.

rantwasp said 3 days ago:

yeah. the guy who invented it does not know.

-5/-5 for you + you must suffle all of your library into your graveyard

arkades said 3 days ago:

The game is the game. People are allowed to have different metaphors for the game - the creator doesn’t have special ownership on that.

YeGoblynQueenne said 3 days ago:

If I have a library, I must be a player. In that case, how do I get -5/-5? Players don't have P/T.

scubbo said 2 days ago:

Form of the Dragon begs to differ... /s

YeGoblynQueenne said 2 days ago:

Form of the Dragon "makes you a dragon" in the sense that your life total becomes 5 and it also deals 5 damage to a creature or player (but not planeswalker because there weren't any back then, as a card type).

But, a life total is a unique characteristic of players, not creatures, and it's not P/T, while the ability to directly damage a creature or player is distinctly different from the ability to _attack_ a player (and enter combat with a blocking creature). So no, Form of the Dragon doesn't make you into a creature.

I suppose a card that actually turned the player into a creature, now that would be a fun card and I guess it could be done without even a token to represent the creature since you have the person's own body as a physical representation. You could get vigilance to avoid having to tap, because that would be awkward. Some people might misunderstand the ability of a creature to "attack" an opponent and that might cause some trouble. Anyway, probably a card for an un-set.

/p

(for pedantry).

rantwasp said 3 days ago:

it’s a metaphorical -5/-5

ryanmercer said 3 days ago:

A very long time ago (16-18 years ago) I saw that one of the artists (Dameon Willich) was also in the SCA and did equestrian stuff, I found an email address on some website for the period equestrian stuff for him and shot him an email saying I think it's really cool that he's doing the sorta stuff I like doing and to keep having fun.

Replied to me pretty quick, asked for my address and sent me a signed artist proofs of all the cards he had designed which was really cool because they have the card on the front but the backs were blank, just white. It made my month, any time we went to play at a store I'd get them out and set them out and if anyone asked "oh these are my artist proof good luck charms" just for an excuse to show them off.

Sadly all of my MtG cards went up in flames at a friend's apartment 3 or 4 years ago when he lost everything (including one of his two dogs) in a New Year's day fire.

I just looked him up again, he's still doing the period stuff, and dropped him a line thanking him, brought a smile to my face and I'd probably not thought about that in the better part of decade, good times.

smabie said 3 days ago:

I really enjoyed mtg as a kid but played a few games recently and discovered I don’t really like it. I feel the use of mana makes the game slow and clunky. Moreover, a deck of 60 cards is a lot. My favorite card game nowadays is Gwent. With the small deck size and single card mulligans you can mitigate almost all bad luck and chance and design a really tight and cohesive deck. Also I love the 3 round format, makes the game very interesting.

Mtg at this point just feels dated and I think there’s better ccgs around. Net runner is also great and imo, deeper than mtg. The asymmetrical nature of it also makes things very interesting and deep.

alasdair_ said 3 days ago:

The latest “London” mulligan rule is far better than the older rules and only became standard a fee weeks ago. It helps mitigate the mana issue fantastically well.

fcarraldo said 2 days ago:

Interesting - I recently tried to get into Gwent and it feels extremely shallow and underbaked compared to MtG. There’s so little interaction between me and my opponent that it feels like playing solitaire and comparing the results. CCGs as of late seem to want to minimize interaction (counterspells, instant speed responses, etc), and I’m not sure why. Does Gwent have more of this at higher level play, and it’s just not apparent in the starter decks?

AcerbicZero said 3 days ago:

I've seen MTG played, and I've had a few friends try to get me into it, but the idea of collecting a big shoe box full of cards never appealed. In a way I see it much like WH:40k, super interesting looking game, but with such a high barrier to entry as to make it functionally unattainable. Also unless I'm mistaken don't most MTG cards come in "packs" where you don't know what you're actually getting? I have zero interest in loot boxes, virtual or physical, so thats a big negative for me.

To each there own of course, but I think I'll avoid this particular time/money sink.

enneff said 3 days ago:

You don’t ever have to open a booster pack if you buy all singles on the secondary market, as many players do.

There are also draft formats where you pay to play against others from the pool of cards opened from a set of packs. The choosing of the cards is a deep meta game of its own. These are pretty affordable in general.

And you can play online which is cheaper still.

rantwasp said 3 days ago:

just buy a duel deck and play that w/ a friend.

the barrier to entry is super low. i can teach you how to play in the time it takes to drink 2 coffees. it’s trivial. to actually see beyond immediate things? well... it’s gonna take a while

otakucode said 3 days ago:

I would love to hear the original audio from that game between a precoscious 6 year old and Garfield. It sounds like it would be totally adorable and also informative. I got the Magic bug in junior high school in the early 90s and it was a blast that definitely enhanced my life and expanded my friend circle throughout high school. I vividly remember going to a small local tournament, meeting a ton of people and very much having a feeling of 'these are my people'. It was amazing.

That was back in 4th edition days I think (I know it was during release of The Dark expansion, I bought a box of boosters for that... was a bit disappointed). It seems the rules have changed a bit since then and the game itself is quite a bit more complicated. Lots of counters and tokens and such that weren't so much of a thing back then.

k__ said 3 days ago:

Magic is an awesome game.

Taught me how strategy and tactic work together.

How you make weaknesses my strengths.

But most importantly, it taught me not to play the games of others, but to play my own game.

make3 said 3 days ago:

the part about rare cards not being stronger than common cards is really not true anymore sadly, with competitively payable planeswalkers like Oko, for example, often being 50$+ each, and pretty much every card in competitive decks except basic lands being rare or mythic rare

lordleft said 3 days ago:

I've recently gotten back into MTG, and Commander in particular. If you think you know magic, check out the Commander format -- it feels so political, so dynamic, so buck wild.

D&D is still my favorite game, but man is magic up there for me.

paulpauper said 3 days ago:

Like many others reading this, I wish i had kept my old cards or invested in the alpha,beta editions when they were merely just expensive compared to the price they are now. The oldest MTG cards are like the original bitcoin equivalent.

oneepic said 3 days ago:

I almost got into Magic just because the cards looked so cool, but my aunt (who showed me my cousin's cards) said I was too young for that somehow. Anyway, that's how I became a Yu-Gi-Oh! player instead...

Phillips126 said 3 days ago:

Growing up I enjoyed playing Magic: The Gathering with my friends - simpler times. I remember having a pretty killer "Goblin Deck". Alas, that was 20+ years ago and are nothing more than feint memories.

diego898 said 3 days ago:

Does anyone know if/where one could download all the art from Magic the Gathering? If not all, any subsets? Not necessarily generic wallpapers, but the actual card art.

Noumenon72 said 3 days ago:

Scryfall has the biggest-sized art if you're looking one card at a time. https://scryfall.com/card/me1/54/vesuvan-doppelganger

seanwilson said 3 days ago:

Is there a good link that concisely describes the rules of the game?

eindiran said 3 days ago:

The rules of Magic are quite complex so you'll be hard pressed to find a resource that actually covers all of them that's able to be digested quickly. The reason there is so much to learn is that cards have rules on them, and there are a lot of cards: this leads to a lot of crazy interactions, which is what makes the game very interesting.

This should cover the (very) basics well: http://www.teachmtg.com/basics

If you want a video, something like this should cover the bare-bones basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZyXU1L3JXk

Once you have a sense of the basics, the best way to learn is to play and look up rulings whenever you get stuck.

Basic official rules are here: https://magic.wizards.com/en/magic-gameplay

Comprehensive rules for the current season are here: https://media.wizards.com/2019/downloads/MagicCompRules%2020...

Whenever there is a ruling specific to a card and its non-trivial interactions, you can look the card up in Gatherer, and there will be a rulings section that will tell you the relevant info. For example, if you were using the card 'Felidar Guardian' and didn't know what would happen in a particular case, you'd look up its Gatherer page: https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multive...

wyre said 3 days ago:

The rules are too large for there to be a concise resource to learn all of them. I would recommend learning the basic rules and then learning the intricacies playing the game with others. YouTube is probably a good resource for learning the game or go into you local game store and tell the staff you are interested in learning.

Be warned, mtg is addictive and expensive.

seanwilson said 3 days ago:

What's a good concise guide for the basic rules then?

cheald said 3 days ago:

MTG Arena is actually pretty good for getting started. Its tutorial modes teach you enough to start playing. There are a lot of interactions that aren't immediately obvious, though, and card/effect wording matters _a lot_.

wyre said 3 days ago:

I can't recommend a good guide because I learned from playing with friends. But an Internet search "how to play magic the gathering" or a YouTube search for the same thing should give you a lot of lot of guides to choose from.

If you have a local game store going in and asking if they have any resources for new players hoping to learn how to play would probably be the best option, imo.

Boardgames are social thing. Magic is the best when there is a gathering.

cmaggard said 3 days ago:

MTG Arena, their latest online effort, also has a "learn to play" mechanism built in.

rantwasp said 3 days ago:

learning all the rules is insane and 95% of people playing it don’t know all the rules.

the good news is that you don’t need to learn all the rules. you learn the basic rules and after that you learn the rules surrounding abilities/effects/etc as they come up.

here:

https://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-fo...

crtlaltdel said 3 days ago:

love MtG, started at the end of general availability (locally anyhow) of the beta release around 6th grade. still have cards, still play with my spouse once or twice a year.

i even still buy the occasional booster pack.

simonebrunozzi said 3 days ago:

Is there an easy way to learn MtG online, without buying cards?

thedaemon said 3 days ago:

"How Not To Type a Title."