Magic: The Gathering

By Eric Hamo

Copyright 1992 by Eric Hamo.


Since its inception in 1993, the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering has experienced an explosion in popularity among fantasy role playing gamers. The primary consumers of Magic are males in their teens and twenties with experience in role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Magic was designed by Richard Garfield and is distributed by Wizards of the Coast, a name familiar to role-players.

The initial purchase needed to play Magic costs only around $8.00, but expenses tend to add up quickly for the average player. Sixty cards plus rules for the game come in a Magic “deck,” and fifteen cards come in what is called a “Booster Pack.” Each card has unique fantasy art work, a contributing factor to the game’s popularity. The impact that the Magic rage has made is so strong that it has prompted powerhouse role-playing producer TSR (originators of Dungeons and Dragons) to create a similar game of its own.

Additional Magic sets have been produced since the original, including Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, and Jyhad, with more in the planning stages. The major feature of these additional sets is the opportunity for Magic consumers to partake of the latest fantasy art work on the cards. Some players own thousands of cards, and some buy to collect, without even playing the game. By-products of Magic include a quarterly magazine called The Duelist, and a limited edition poster displaying all of the original cards. It is too early to tell if Magic is just a trend, or a serious mainstay on the shelves and in the minds of gamers.

Playing Magic

The basic premise of the game is to win cards and, in turn, points instrumental in increasing a player’s power. The rules assert that players of Magic “represent powerful sorcerers attempting to drive each other from the lands of Dominia.”

Some liken the game to a cross between collecting baseball cards and playing the card game War. Like baseball cards, each Magic deck contains a different assortment of cards. And like the card game War, the best card played allows the player to win cards from the opponent’s deck. Some cards are labeled common, others uncommon, with the ones labeled rare the most sought-after cards. An entire set consists of over 300 cards. The original set of cards has been slightly amended, as have the rules.

Through the course of a game, players cast spells on each other as they seek to increase the size of their decks and polarize their enemies. Each game is relatively short, but players typically will play multiple games at one sitting, sometimes until someone runs out of cards, which sometimes takes several hours. Some players have referred jokingly to the game as “Magic the Addicting” or “Magic the Disease.” Wizards of the Coast already has formed the Duelists’ Convocation, the official tournament league of Magic: The Gathering. Some players form their own tournaments and many college campuses have Magic clubs, where players meet on a regular basis to duel. The rules imply that Magic is a two-player game, but several can play against each other at the same time.

Ties to the Occult

Just as is the case with role-playing games, there are allusions to the occult in Magic: The Gathering. These include sorcery, witchcraft, and magic, all of which are condemned in both the Old and New Testaments (see Lev. 19:26, Deut. 18:10, Gal. 5:20, Rev. 21:8). Terms such as enchantment, spell, sacrifice, and ogre are common to the game.

There are five basic kinds of magic players use. Black magic represents the magic of death. Powers of the blue magician are artifice, illusion, and deception. It is mental in nature. Green magic is the magic of life. It has a peaceful exterior, but has vast destructive capability. Red magic is the magic of earth, fire, chaos, and of war. Its tendencies are also destructive. Spells of healing and protection are the white magician’s specialty.

Magic players will argue that it is harmless fun. However, its addictive nature can lead one to deprioritize his or her involvement in school, family, church, or other activities in order to have time for Magic. And don’t think the producers aren’t well aware of its addictiveness. Besides its inherent attractiveness, players are exposed to an abundance of occult references in the game. This element of darkness can lead to a path of spiritual destruction for those who use it as the doorway to serious occult involvement. Concerned parents should consider carefully whether or not to allow their children to play the game, and then they must monitor carefully both the behavior of their children and the amount of time their children spend playing Magic: The Gathering.

Related Answers In Action resources: The Occult Watch Pack (book) or When the Devil Dares Your Kids (book or cassette).