Today I’d like to talk to you all about a topic of MTG that I consider to be a very relevant one for anyone who spends more than 1 day every week or two doing something related to the game — longevity. Just how long will Magic: The Gathering be around for us all to enjoy and take part of? Will there come a time when the influx of new players becomes a smaller number than those deciding to retire from playing? Just how safe are MTG investments? These are all things I’d like to touch upon throughout the course of the following articles. But let’s start at square one: Why is Magic still around?
Magic is Fluid
Throughout my life I have played a number of card games. I started off enjoying Pokémon cards and liked making up my own ways to “battle” with them. Honestly, I didn’t have anyone to play with so this was how I managed to find enjoyment out of them besides just collecting. As I grew a little older, Yu-Gi-Oh took the place of my now faded interest in Pokémon cards. What did I like about this new card game? Cool art, a wide variety of playstyles and probably most importantly, a way to express myself and be creative doing something I enjoyed. And my younger sisters were getting old enough at this point to where I was able to teach them how to play the game and it was a ton of fun spending every penny I managed to get a hold of on boosters so I could maybe get some sweet new cards that would trump theirs.
Eventually, though, it got boring. I didn’t really want to play with the same cards anymore. And (through no fault of their own) my sisters kinda sucked at the game. Winning every game with no challenge just isn’t fun for me as a player and I think it was around this time that I began to understand that winning wasn’t the be-all end-all for my enjoyment in games. No, I need a challenge. I need something to strive towards — to become. And if that means imposing challenges on myself or limiting my resources in some way then that’s what I’m going to have to do. But enough about that. That’s not why I wanted to write this.
What I’m trying to get at is that previous card games got stale for me. A lot of games can be incredibly fun and even a bit addicting at first, but a great majority of them don’t have longevity. They get boring. So what makes Magic different? Mostly, it’s the fact that Standard exists. You’d probably assume that someone like me would want access to as many cards as possible when deck building so that I can be as creative as possible, but you’d be far from correct. Standard brings an aspect of limitation. You don’t have a huge card pool to choose from and in order to be innovative; you must be cunning, skilled, and creative in your approaches. Remember: Every famous and powerful archetype started with someone’s imaginative spark.
But it’s not just the limited card pool that causes me to enjoy playing and brewing in standard. If that were all it was, I’d have discontinued playing a loooong time ago. It is the addition of new sets and (more importantly) rotation of old sets that draws me so heavily into one of the most basic of MTG formats. You can complain all you want about Mono-Black Devotion or Thoughtseize or Elspeth or Sphinx’s Rev, but at the end of the day you can say to yourself “well…at least those will be gone eventually.” THAT, my readers, is what makes Standard such a special and amazing format to play in. And I feel that is one of the biggest reasons why MTG is still around now 30+ years later. There’s a reason why MTG has remained as one of the first and most successful TCGs to this date, and I think rotation has played a big part in this by allowing room for change and an environment requiring a selection of ever-adapting players.
Magic is an Art form
People like expressing themselves. If they didn’t, humankind would have never invented the arts. People like to invent and be creative. If they didn’t, we would still be in the stone ages. These are fundamental ideals that begin to separate humanity from Neanderthals (don’t hate me archeologists, just go along with what I’m trying to say, here). Basically, I’m trying to say that in order for a product of entertainment to continue to bring in new players and keep the old ones, there needs to be a system set in place where people can be themselves. The psychographic profiles of MTG players are a real thing, whether or not they are as black and white as some think they are. The community needs brewers. It needs Spikes who just want to win. It needs players who just want to have fun and play “big dumb green guys.” We need control players. We need aggro players. We need old-fogeys who just want to play with their power 9. We need new….fogeys who just want to force tribal centaurs because they REALLY LIKE FREAKING HORSES. Variety is the spice of life.
There are many aspects where MTG helps to keep this around, be it the above description of rotation and differing formats or the people behind the scenes creating lore to back up the cards we play with. For someone who is into the lore of Magic, a “simple” (read: intricate and incredibly complex) card game becomes a book, a story that they can even act out should they desire to do so. Their favorite characters can manifest themselves into a form that is palpable. They, themselves can “act out” the revenge of Ajani, or the death of Elspeth (spoilers!!). They can travel the guilds of Ravnica and fight alongside the Conclave or Syndicate. One could create their own story! They could create for themselves a world where Koth and Jace are best buds who travel the planes in search of the world’s best burrito! I mean come on people WHERE IS THAT DECK??
Okay, but seriously, it’s important to understand that no matter who you are, the lore of Magic is part of what makes it tick. If Mark Rosewater hadn’t dreamed up Zendikar, a world of chaos and destruction, we would never have had things like Celestial Colonnade. If Innistrad had never been cognitively-formed we would never have witnessed things like Avacyn or Tragic Slip or Lingering Souls. And if Richard Garfield, himself, hadn’t dreamed up a world where we could battle bears against goblins and send armies against a mighty dragon or even just say “no” to someone who tried to send lightning from the heavens themselves onto us….we wouldn’t have any of this! And so again I will say to you that creativity, imagination, and innovation are other big reasons why Magic still exists and continues to grow. We still have these brilliant minds just filled to the brim with ideas of what is to come and we still have deck builders spending hours a day trying to build the next Caw-Blade or Reanimator strategy. And if this goes, so will the spark that has ignited within all of us to love this game as we do.
Magic is an Aspiration Engine
I’ve now touched upon the structure of Magic itself as well as the emotion and inspiration that fuels it to continue on for generations. However, there is more to it than just that. The final bit of information I’d like to bring up for discussion is Magic as a financial device.
Believe it or not, there are TONS of ways to make money off of MTG. There’s a lot to choose from, be it playing competitively, working for WOTC, making a podcast, writing for a site, creating video content, or even just playing the secondary market as if it were a stock exchange. Sure, not all of these are going to grant you a living on their own, but I think it’s safe to say that most hobbies are in that same boat. I feel like one of the biggest reasons why someone would choose not to pursue a hobby further would be for financial reasons. I’ve known of many new fathers and mothers who stop playing magic either short-term or indefinitely simply because they cannot afford it any longer. On the other hand, I’ve known handfuls of people who continue to work towards winning or getting better or being more innovative or just trying to get themselves out there because they WANT to turn this hobby into something more. Having something to strive towards makes for a healthy environment and one that is sure to both attract new people and keep current players coming back for more and more.
As a personal note, I have had many goals pertaining to Magic since I started playing less than two years ago. My first one? I wanted to make the best mill deck that could possibly be made — one that would be undefeated. I wanted to be the dark horse and show everyone that they were wrong in saying that mill was a bad strategy. Well…that one didn’t pan out. But we can go ahead and blame that one of being new to the game and not nearly having the sort of understanding that studying the game for years can bring to the focused and driven individual.
But there have been many more, too! Perhaps it was when I said to myself that I WAS going to make top 8 at FNM one day with my own brew no matter how many nights without sleep it took, studying the cards available and the game, itself. Or you could bring up the time I decided I wanted to beat this person or that person because I considered them better than me at the game and I wanted to prove to myself that I could become just as good without there being any hostility involved. I could mention the day I first had one of my decks receive “success” and admiration from people online who I had never met and still haven’t. Or maybe we could talk about the time I decided I was going to turn my simple forum posts into a legitimate article series. And then that I wanted to turn that simple article series into one that I could get paid for. And what about now? Well, I won’t be “done” until I have created a new archetype that I can call my own, or found a breakthrough that most people didn’t see coming. I want to go to a tournament and play. I want to go to another tournament after that and not suck that next time. I want to go to the following one and actually, seriously not suck and then take home prize winnings. These are the things people can and do strive towards, and having something like that in any form can be a huge factor in deciding whether or not a simple “children’s card game” can become something serious — something that people of all ages and nationalities and genders and backgrounds and whatever else can sit down at a table to enjoy and discuss.
Magic has been around for quite a long time in terms of card games. And there are plenty of reasons why — be it the ever-changing environment or the creativity surrounding it or even the goals that it can allow people to achieve and strive towards. Truly, I think that this game has, can and will change many peoples’ lives to come. And there doesn’t seem to be any stop to it in the near future from what we can all see. But it’s important to remember the old saying: “All good things must come to an end.” Check out my next article where I will attempt to go over some of the biggest and easiest ways that Magic: The Gathering could go under and turn out just like many, many games of long past.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this bit of a talky article, and I encourage you to check out my next one, but until then may you never be mana-screwed. And as always, thanks for reading!
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