Magic is a game that many of us have played for years and years. If you're here reading an article, odds are fairly decent you've been playing for a while now, having participated in competitive events. Some, like myself, even grew up playing the game. I started at nine years old, but it's not uncommon to see people learning even younger as their parents were entrenched players themselves. Many of us have built valuable collections and made irreplaceable friendships because of the game.
The last few years have been trying for a lot of people with regards to this incredible game we all love. Organized play has taken hit after hit, the last year of power creep has been outrageously over the top, extreme product pricing, and so on. All of this has made a number of players question whether the game is really right for them and whether or not it can even survive going forward.
We've seen it time and again lately. Players have been leaving Magic in favor of other games. This could be an MTG Arena competitor like Legends of Runeterra or something else entirely like Teamfight Tactics. There's also been a number of players who stopped producing competitive content in favor of more casual stuff like Commander. Tensions and aggression have grown even higher thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.
Is this all a sign of Magic dying? Maybe. But I'm here to let you in on a little secret: even if Magic does "die," it will still continue to live.
Huh? But Kendra, you must be asking, how can the game live on if it's dead? Simply put, Magic has such a large, loyal, and long-standing fanbase that it'll never truly go away. Wizards and/or Hasbro could pull the plug tomorrow and we'd still be playing for years to come. The game has so much history and so many cards already available that people have developed tons of ways to play beyond the official formats Wizards provides.
Commander and Cube are the most well-known of these, naturally, and these can create environments that can continually change and evolve. Even if we had the same card pool we do right now, that would happen. We have Old School and Premodern (aka Middle School) which both serve as dedicated snapshots in time with the game. Some people play with old Standard decks much like you might see with Yu-Gi-Oh's popular Goat Format (essentially that game in its early 2005-era iteration). Some people even go so far as to design their own custom Magic cards and sets!
But how does such a game survive without official support? The fans, of course! You might think it's crazy, but Magic would hardly be the first game to do this. I can think of a couple games that I remember seeing or playing growing up that have done exactly this, including these:
Recognize these? These are the original trading card games for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dragon Ball Z that followed in the popularity of games like Magic and Pokemon. In fact, during the late 90's and early 2000's, there was a massive explosion of games based on pre-existing properties. You could find games for Digimon, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Tomb Raider, and more. Magazines of the day, like Scrye and Inquest, wondered which of these could become the next Pokemon (spoiler: it was Yu-Gi-Oh!).
While many of these games have been lost to time, many of these - especially the above three card backs - have seen continued play and revival efforts. Online groups host events, make new cards, and more. Finding specific cards can even be a bit expensive, as playable cards can go for quite a bit. Sealed booster boxes can run you multiple hundreds of dollars easily. The push to keep the Dragon Ball Z game going past its original life that Panini revived it in 2015 for two years. They pulled the plug on it due to Bandai beginning to produce the Dragon Ball Super card game, but as you might expect, that's not going to stop the people who loved it from playing it today!
And this brings me back to Magic. There's so many ways to play the game, so many fun ways to have a great time, that it will always live on. Magic is like a game engine, much like something like the Unreal Engine you might see used frequently in video games. With that engine, we've created many different games, from casual ones like Commander and Cube to more official ones like Modern and Pioneer. It's a game that we all love in our own way and will always have available to us for years after Wizards finally turns off the printing presses. Even if they do, I wouldn't be surprised if someone found a way to revive it and bring it back proper.
So yes, Magic is going through a tumultuous time right now. But we've survived bad times before and come out strong. If it continues, and the game dies officially, then we'll just find our own ways to play. Realistically, though, Magic is going to live on for many years to come. I just hope that Wizards manages to finally work out the right balance with everything so that players don't need to continually ask: "Is today's announcement going to kill Magic?"
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