“The Way Magic Was Meant to be Played”

I heard this line from a Legacy player again yesterday. Its not strictly true. Well, actually, its not true at all.

Sure, if you don’t know anything about the early history of Magic: the Gathering, this would be an easy mistake to make. The vast pool of cards could easily lead you to believe you should have all those cards available to you. And if that’s the way you want to play, than so be it. I can’t argue with that. Its not for me for several reasons, but if it works for you, go for it.

However, don’t claim its the way the game supposed to be played.

Its very much the opposite.

In the early days, the estimate of how much a person would be willing to spend on the game was that most people would by a starter deck (a sixty card pack with a completely random assortment of cards from the early days of MtG, so its not really a “deck”) and maybe a couple of boosters. Maybe some would have two starter decks worth of cards, but that would pretty much be the upper limit. So, basically, Sealed is the purest form of Magic. In fact, in the early days, all decks were 40 cards and there were no four card limits.

The fact that people were buying this game by the box totally caught them off guard. Things like Black Lotus or the Moxen weren’t supposed to be widely available. They were supposed to be something maybe one guy in the group would have. They were meant to be one-offs, you could seek out if you knew about them to make the game more collectible.

So, the fact there are some very powerful cards in Alpha wasn’t really a mistake on Richard Garfields part in the sense that he didn’t understand how powerful they were. He knew very well. Those cards were a mistake in the sense that he didn’t (and couldn’t possibly) anticipate how popular the game grew and how quickly it happened.

From another point of view, maybe Block is the truest form of Magic.

Many people don’t know this, but Ice Age and Mirage were being designed and developed way before Arabian Nights. They understood they had something in their hands they could benefit from in the long run, so they were sure to be ready when the early editions were sold out. Just so happened, that the market was so much bigger than expected that they couldn’t wait two years for Ice Age, so they asked Garfield to make Arabian Nights and the early testing team were tasked with Antiquities and Legends, whereas The Dark was done by the artists.

The original plan wasn’t to just keep doing Magic: the Gathering. It was that there would be Magic: Ice Age and Magic: Mirage. Although they were basically the same game, under the original plan they would have had different backs, so they wouldn’t have been compatible (using sleeves wasn’t even a consideration in those days). Even Arabian Nights was supposed to have its own backside, even though you can’t really play it standalone.

In any case, Legacy or Vintage was never the way the game was meant to be played. Considering all the limitations put on WotC by their own restrictive reprint policy (which they are legally bound to follow), Legacy is pretty much a necessary evil for them. After all, they can’t really make money with it, because they can’t sell cards to those players.

Of course, Legacy helps disttibutors, so in that sense its good for WotC.

And in the end, what does it matter how the game was meant to be played? That was over 20 years ago and no-one had any clue that there would be some 13000 different cards, something like 15 million players and probably hundreds of billions of cards printed some day. Things evolve and usually that evolution is for the better.

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