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How Was Magic: The Gathering Created?

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.

The first (and Best) CCG in modern history!

The first (and Best) CCG in modern history!

How was Magic: The Gathering born?

Everyone recognise Richard Garfield as the creator of Magic: The Gathering. But many of them know all the story? How was our favorite game created? What were the elements that forged the early life of our favorite game?


Magic: The Gathering today is a worldwide phenomenon and in turn, has inspired other card games (Eternal, Gods Unchained, Pokemon, etc.) as well as its numerous quotes and appearances in different media such as within the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" where Sheldon challenges Will Wheaton to a card game "inspired" by Magic: The Gathering or how the "Triple Triad" present within Final Fantasy VIII may have been influenced by the growing popularity of Magic: The Gathering.

Once upon a time there was a Wizard of the Coast who met a Mathematician ....

Once upon a time there was a Wizard of the Coast who met a Mathematician ....

Let's meet the Wizard and the Mathematician...

To truly understand how Magic: The Gathering was born we have to take a step back to 1978, when a young Peter Adkison (future co-founder of Wizards of the Coast) was having fun in Idaho with his friends in long gaming sessions with Monopoly. , Risk and one of the games that will most influence the birth of Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons.
Just the passion for D&D by his own admission was the first step in the creation of the next "Wizards of the Coast", so much so that the name derives from a Guild present in their D&D campaigns.
This will lead to the creation in the early 1980s of some small games (such as Castles & Conquest) and the creation of some D&D campaigns still active today.
In addition, Peter will be able to share his passion for role-playing games through "Usenet" (an internet predecessor but only textual) with the creation of the "rec.games.board.design" Forum and getting in touch with several passionate people.

Through the Forum he will have the opportunity to meet Mike Davis, co-creator with Richard Garfield of the game Roborally. We are at the beginning of the 90s.
In August 1991 Peter Adkison will have the opportunity to meet in person with Mike Davis and Richard Garfield, the historic meeting was described for the first time by the magazine "The Duelist" (active between 1993 and 1999, for which Mark Rosewater worked ) and describes Richard Garfield as a math major in mismatched socks and frayed, patched clothes.
The meeting was supposed to serve to introduce Roborally to Peter Adkison in the opportunity to publish it under the WotC logo and bring it to a wider audience. Unfortunately, however, the resources of WotC were too limited and therefore it was decided to opt for something smaller and easier to make.
Adkison's request to Richard Garfield was to make a mini-game that could entertain people waiting for a late Dungeon Master before a D&D match or between campaigns.
Therefore it had to be something quick, inexpensive to make and comfortable to carry on the go and that depicted the same fantasy themes as D&D. Maybe similar to baseball cards to trade (or a card game) with illustrations taken from D&D.

how-was-magic-the-gathering-created

The creation of Magic: The Gathering

Richard Garfield worked hard on the creation of the new game and after only two months he managed to have a pile of 120 cards to do the first playtests.
One evening he took his friends from the dormitory of the University of Pennsylvania mathematics faculty, split the 120 cards in two (symbolically creating the first 60-card decks), and they set out to test the new game. Without realizing it, they stopped playing only the next morning.
Enthusiastic Richard Garfield informed Peter Adkison of the incident and the game entered a more advanced stage of development.
To give structure to the game, Richard Garfield created many other cards inspired by the basics of another game he made but never published (Five Magic), as well as of course D&D and used the students of his faculty as playtester. The new game should have been called "Mana Clash" but since all its playtesters simply called it "Magic" in name it was soon changed, "Magic" was too generic to be registered and therefore "The Gathering" was added to symbolize the possibility of exchanging cards or playing for "ante" or giving away a card from the deck at each clash (some of these rules were abolished after the first playtests or the first expansions).

Meanwhile, Peter Adkison was trying to raise the funds to produce the game through his work at Boeing and the production of other content such as "The Primal Order". Unfortunately, however, soon after the publication of "The Primal Order", WotC was sued by Palladium Books for copyright infringement and Magic: The Gathering was in danger of disappearing even before its publication.
To protect the new game still in development from the ongoing lawsuit, Garfield Games was temporarily created. Once the lawsuit was over, “The Primal Order” was reprinted eliminating any reference to the games and properties of Palladium Books.
Later, during the "Origins Game Fair 1993" (Columbus, Ohio) Peter Adkison was able to obtain a loan of $ 40,000 to finance "Magic: The Gathering" and take it to the next Gen Con in Milwaukee.
The creation of the first Magic cards (called Limited Edition Alpha) was entrusted to a company in Belgium operating with European standards for playing cards, for this reason the cards of the Alpha series have more rounded edges than in subsequent expansions as well as the presence of some errors that will be corrected in subsequent reprints such as the non-printing of some cards, including Volcanic Island.

Volcanic Island is only available from the Limited Edition Beta due to Alpha misprints.

Volcanic Island is only available from the Limited Edition Beta due to Alpha misprints.

From the first expansions to today

In August 1993 Magic: The Gathering was finally released and Peter Adkison (accompanied by his wife) headed to Gen Con in Milwaukee to introduce the new game to a larger audience.
On their journey, they stopped by all the major Game Stores on the route to introduce the new game and have as many players try it as possible. The first receptions were quite lukewarm but as the game was tried the sequel began to grow, at the end of Gen Con Peter Adkison (also reached by Richard Garfield) managed to sell 2.5 million cards, going sold out. An incredible success.
In the following months (October 1993) they managed to sell approximately 10 million cards without excessive advertising as they could not satisfy the demand.
The Limited Edition Beta and the Unlimited Edition (with white border) were then reprinted, while in December 1993 the Arabian Nights expansion was launched with a circulation of 5 million copies and which for the first time presents the expansion symbol (a scimitar ). Since then, all subsequent expansions will have a dedicated symbol.

Over the next few years, the expansion design teams will follow one another, making several expansions set on the plane of Dominaria and writing the lore of Magic: The Gathering, its own story.
After a stint at WotC, Richard Garfield has returned to being an independent creator but occasionally returns for specific collaborations. These collaborations have resulted in some of the player's favorite planes, such as Ravnica or Innistrad.

Since then Magic: The Gathering has grown considerably and new expansions were printed and more and more important tournaments were made, such as the 1996 “Pro Tour”.
Over the years, different ways of playing Magic: The Gathering have been developed and supported through the birth of Standard, Legacy, Vintage, Extended, Modern, Commander, Pioneer and many more, as well as the creation of Magic Online (2002 ) and Magic: The Gathering Arena (2019).
WotC also grew considerably over time by purchasing “TSR” (owner of the D&D brand) in 1997 and being bought in 1999 by Hasbro.

© 2021 Christian Allasia

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