Al RACADAD HA
T'S A MAGICAL LAND, BUT IT SURE ISN'T Oz.
It's Dominia - and ruby slippers and
good witches offer no solace when play-
ing Magic: The Gathering.
Invented by Richard Garfield, a former
mathematics professor at Whitman Col-
lege in Washington, Magic is a role-play-
ing fantasy game a la Dungeons and Drag-
ons that uses poker-deck-sized playing
cards to cast spells, summon creatures and
"Magic combines the natural fun of play-
ing a game with the collectability aspect," says
Paul Nobles, who organizes Magic tourna-
ments out of his hobby shop in Minneapolis.
The combination was intentional, says
Carrie Thearle, marketing director for Wiz-
ards of the Coast, which sells the game. The
colorful cards, bearing images of scaly drag-
ons, lush landscapes and wizards were
designed by several artists to give each a
Originally targeted at college students,
interest in the game has expanded to include
people of all ages. Magic is now so popular
that Wizards of the Coast is able to deliver
only one-tenth of the 900 million decks of
"It's brought a lot of new people into
game and hobby shops," says U. of Minneso-
ta senior John Stephenson, manager of
Phoenix Games. "I've taught more than 150
people to play."
Players can acquire cards and build their
decks by trading or betting on the game's
outcome. "I usually don't [bet my cards],
because it's so random," says U. of Iowa
senior Doug Carlson. "[To bet], you just
pick a card from your deck-it could be
Players say Magic offers the chance to
think strategically, pass the time - even take
on a new personality.
"I've got a real thing for goblins," says
Bryan Von Donslear, a U. of Iowa grad stu-
dent. "I get together with friends, and I have
this desire to utterly destroy them."
Starter decks for Magic retail for $8.
Booster packs, which can add the card need-
ed to conquer the world, cost between
$1.50 and $3.
The game, with all of its twists, turns and
infinite possibilities, has hooked enough
players to create a $175 million-per-year
business. It also seems to have cast a spell
over some of its fans.
"We limit the amount [of Magic decks]
that people can buy in one day," Stephenson
says. "They were getting overly hooked - so
into the game that they would use their food
money to buy Magic."
U. of Iowa senior Mike Niemeyer insists
that there are more harmful addictions. "It's
better than drinking," he says. "At least you
can play all night and still be OK when you
DevonAlexander, U. of Iowa
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0 1995 Greyhound Lines Inc. Certain restrictions and limitations apply.
August/September 1995 0 U. Magazine 15