Free Magic With Every Gathering

Wizards of the Coast is giving away decks of Magic: The Gathering cards, while they’ve got the stash they designated for the purpose. Check it out.

Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is one of those games with an extremely simple framework and the potential for extremely complex play. Players each have a pool of cards, some bought in packs like the ones in this giveaway, some in smaller “booster” sets. Before game time, each player assembles a deck, working within constraints about the number and type of cards a deck can have depending on the type of game and number of players. Deck design is just about a game in itself—two players might end up with very different decks given the same pool of possibilities, and this is very much intended.

During actual games, players bring out cards that provide them with resources they can spend, and spend the resources to bring assets of various kinds into play. Mana in five different colors comes from terrain cards—mountains, swamps, deserts, and so on, each kind of terrain generating one or more points of mana in a particular color each turn. Assets—creatures, fortifications, weather, disasters, and so on—all cost mana of one or more colors to bring into play, and often some more when a player wishes to use their special abilities. Monsters, minions, and other creature-type assets fight each other in lines of battle arranged by positioning cards for a fray; others stay where they are and act at a distance. To liven things up, many cards provide for exceptions to the rules, from changing the normal order of battle to allowing a player to hold more or fewer cards than normal.

(There’s a beautiful and useful introduction that combines setting lore and introduction to the mechanics at the Wizards of the Coast site.)

I had a blast with MTG in its early years, then drifted off. Friends of mine have continued to play, and recent releases have sounded increasingly appealing. The giveaway just hastens a decision I was already going to make. If you’ve never given it a try, this sounds like a good way to dabble in the shallow end. There are hard-core players with countless thousands of cards, but good fun play is available with far less than that. (It’s something they’ve worked on a lot in recent years, too, to make the mega-collecting less appealing and less necessary.) And free is a very good price.


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