Tyler Robinson - April, 6th 2023

Magic: The Gathering – The beginning of Trading Card Games

Magic: the Gathering Beginning

Trading card games sometimes referred to as collectible card games are highly strategic games that involve battling opponents with a purpose built deck of cards. Cards are usually assigned a number similar to regular playing cards, however the similarity ends there as additional abilities, card types and other numbers associated with power and defense can be present creating an enormous playset with tons of added variables of gameplay.

While a few high fantasy tabletop games preceded Magic: The Gathering, none went as viral as quickly, endured for as long and trail blazed a new genre quite like MTG. While there may have been a few austere games that were similar, Magic: The Gathering is considered to be the first collectible card game of its kind and it has only grown from that faithful day in 1993 when it was released.

How Magic: The Gathering was created

Richard Garfield, the creator of MTG, was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons as a young kid which pushed him into the nerd realm of fantasy gameplay that we all share a passion for. Naturally, he went on to college where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. It wasn’t until he decided to further his education at UPenn that he began development of Magic: The Gathering.

MTG, however, was not his first attempt at creating and publishing a game. His first game was Roborally, which was a board game he created along side his best friend Mike Davis. Mike Davis had introduced Richard to a colleague by the name of Peter Adkison who had created a game development company called Wizards of the Coast which was named after their Dungeons & Dragons guild. Upon meeting, they had agreed to join forces to attempt to get Roborally published, however, this ultimately got sidelined after going through 7 different publishers and failing to build out that relationship.

Peter Adkison had then urged Richard Garfield to create a simpler game, something that could be published/manufactured cheaper than a tabletop game. Another suggestion be that it was made more portable and quick playing. Essentially, the idea was to make something similar to a board game without the board and pieces, which think about this for a moment back in the timeframe of the early 90’s. This really speaks to the innovative design of Magic: The Gathering. He was essentially tasked with making a board game, without the literal core mechanics, which would be the board and pieces.

While juggling his PhD as a graduate student at UPenn, Richard Garfield, began this task in his spare time creating this new, faster pace game that didn’t require expensive board game materials. First called Manaclash and thought of only 3 days later, the beginning of MTG had begin.

The first MTG set

The first release of Magic: The Gathering TCG

Development and initial launch of Magic: The Gathering

About two months after the pitch of the new game was made to Peter Adkison, the first prototype had been created and play testing and further development occurred up until the beginning of 1993. Wizards of the Coast debuted Magic: The Gathering in Dallas at the 1993 Origins Game Fair from July 1 st to the 4 th . The game proved to be extremely popular and by August all 2.5 million cards had been sold transforming WotC from a small business to a top game publisher over the years.

By October of that same year their second print run of 10 million additional cards had been sold and print had been completed of their first expansion Arabian Nights. Arabian Nights proved to be yet another success solidifying the games existence. By the end of 1994, the Revised Edition core release and the follow up 4 expansion releases saw 1 billion MTG cards sold which truly sparked a revolution in the gaming genre Wizards of the Coast had created.

MTG First Booster Pack

Image depicts the first expansion Arabian Nights. Credit to mtg.fandom.com/

Magic: The Gathering Gameplay

The answer to MTG success is the gameplay and while on the face of it a board game without the board and pieces seems like it would be very simple, this was not the case. It turned out to be one of the most strategic tabletop games in existence even to this day. For example, it’s said that chess has about 10,000 different ‘typical’ possible game variables with 4,084 possible moves utilizing 6 unique game pieces. Magic: The Gathering as of 2023, has over 25,000 unique cards alone and variation of play is enormous.

The core principles of the game start off with 2 or more players called “Planeswalkers” or controllers. Each player begins with 20 hit points and the basis of the game is to deplete the players hit points to 0 to win the game. That’s where the simplicity ends as each deck contains creature cards of which have a variety of abilities along with enchantment cards, artifacts, sorceries and more recently commander cards.

MTG Turning Machine

Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald

Magic: The Gathering – The State of the Game

We just saw the 30 th anniversary of Magic: The Gathering and with it a ton of new expansions. In recent years, Hasbro has purchased Wizards of the Coast among other games including Dungeons & Dragons. This has seen a ton of new innovation and collaboration of various fantasy worlds implemented into the game of Magic. This originally was met with some criticism especially among older Magic players but we think everyone has come around to the idea. Now, Magic: The Gathering incorporates special release cards from things like Transformers, Lords of the Rings and Warhammer.

In terms of growth, I don’t think we have even seen the peak as of 2022, they reported 1.1 billion dollars in revenue marking perhaps the real beginning of what MTG can become and with other card games such as Disney Lorcana coming soon, we are excited to see what kind of innovation and competition can come to the TCG market.

Successful spin-offs and other collectible card games

Due to MTG’s success, a variety of games have come and gone in the path of the TCG behomth. This includes some games that are just as successful such as Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon and most recently Flesh & Blood. Not to mention our company Booster Crate. We quite literally wouldn’t be a thing had it not been for Richard Garfield and the crew over at Wizards of the Coast for producing such an amazing genre. If you are interested in getting Magic: The Gathering Booster Packs or a starter deck don’t forget to head over to our product page. Thank you for reading.

Leave a comment below and let us know what your first Magic: The Gathering experience was.

Thanks for reading, from your friends at Booster Crate!


  • McKnightJan 09, 2024

    I’m surprised D&D isn’t still going strong after reading this.

  • Joshua SparksJan 09, 2024

    I did not know anything about the history of Magic: The Gathering before reading this article. Thank you for sharing. This was definitely an interesting read.

  • Derek TJan 09, 2024

    Used to play way back in the day…and foolishly sold off my old cards…wish I’d kept them.

  • Chris LewisJan 09, 2024

    I must be too old. I remember playing this with my friends in Denny’s all night :)

  • Molly CarrJan 09, 2024

    It’s so cool to know how it all started. These cards have been in my life for more than half of my life! I remember my friends sitting around playing and it was like a ritual party, around the table snaking and playing. I mainly watched, but both my kids had these cards around and I still have some old one even though both my kids are older!

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