Three reasons why I quit Magic: The Gathering

When I was a teen, and for many years afterwards, Magic: The Gathering was one of my favourite games. Every week, I would meet in a local shop to play it and it would be rare for me to go more than a couple of days without building a deck or thinking about it. And yet, despite its enduring popularity, I no longer play it with any regularity.


Magic is the most expensive game I’ve ever played. In fact, it may very well be the most expensive game I’m aware of. Despite being fully composed of cards, it requires an investment unmatched by any other title, even those that require highly detailed miniatures. A typical deck can cost more than 1000€ and paying 20, 40 or 90€ for a single card is commonplace.

You can reduce that price by playing in environments where only the newest cards are legal, but that’s more expensive in the long run. The price impacts the entire experience of play. Better cards are more expensive than weaker ones. Experimenting in deckbuilding comes with a hefty price tag and mistakes are punished, not just in game terms, but economically.

Even the community is worse for it. Magic players are constantly scared of having their cards stolen and indeed theft is not an uncommon occurrence. Some older players cheat children out of their good cards in trades and speculate on booster boxes like an unregulated stock market. Expensive “foil” cards act as status symbols, a nerdier equivalent of jewelry and conspicuous consumption.

The cost actually drove me out of the game when I was younger. I had been playing the same deck for years to an end, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t afford another. And, when it ceased to be legal in tournaments, I was left with no deck to play. My attempts to move to another hit a financial wall as I found myself unable to afford the expensive pieces of cardboard I needed to compete.

Even then, it’s never a matter of buying one deck. There are always new cards you need to buy, be it because they are more powerful or because you need to spice up your strategy. Each time you change your deck you must ask yourself if paying 6, 10, 50€ for just one card is worth the fun you’ll get from it. The whole game is filtered through your wallet at every step.

There are some ways to reduce the cost of the game. One can stick to unpopular cards, never play in tournaments and ask your friends to never spend more than you do. But that only highlights how damaging the price is to the experience. Magic players are so used to it that they struggle to recognize that fact. Ultimately, I decided to cut the knot and left the game entirely.


Still, even if Magic wasn’t so pricey, the truth is that I still wouldn’t play it anymore. Despite its large influence in the art form, Magic is heavily flawed as a game. Burdened by poor design decisions since its birth, it’s heavily dominated by luck. Games often boil to who drew the right cards and a large number of them don’t even give a player a chance.

To play your spell cards you need to draw lands. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you won’t be able to do anything. Conversely, if you draw too many lands, you won’t have enough spells to compete and you’ll also lose. This effect, known as mana screw can cause you to lose up to 20% of your matches through no fault of your own.

This is a well-known issue with the game, but it’s far from the only problem. A well-timed discard spell, mass removal or the wrong matchup can also create one-sided games. For years, I defeated opponents who couldn’t do anything to stop my combo decks and folded to those that could. That’s no longer fun to me. I seek games that are more interactive and meaningful.

About a third of Magic matches aren’t matches at all. You can have such an overwhelming advantage or such bad luck that your decisions cease to matter. Beginning a game only to not be able to do anything is no longer an acceptable use of my time. While I can still enjoy Magic casually and even like drafting it, the number of non-games is too high for me to partake in it with regularity.


Lastly, I found other games that I liked more than Magic. Abandoning the scene and selling my cards allowed me to get deeper into board games. I discovered Cosmic Encounter, The Republic of Rome and Innovation; all great games that now sit amongst my favourites. While I don’t regret my time with Magic, I have more fun now than I did before.

Above all, setting Magic aside allowed me to explore other card games such as Android: Netrunner and Legend of the Five Rings. Not only were these amazing designs with an unsurpassed level of depth, they were also cheap. Part of Fantasy Flight’s series of “Living Card Games”, each 13,5€ expansion came with a full playset of every card which means you could deck build without breaking the bank.

After so many years of playing these games and even competing in their tournaments, I can’t see myself going back to Magic. Even if I could afford to play it, it no longer satisfies me on a strategic level. I need games that push me to improve, that make me think about tactics and where I can show off my skills. Magic, while fun, is not the best game for me to do that.

Still, I can’t deny it occupies a small place in my heart. As a farewell, I built a “Cube”, a handpicked Magic set to draft with my friends with my favourite archetypes and cards. It has a low mana curve to prevent non-games from happening and its designed to be a more interactive experience. Building it has been a great experience and now I can keep a small bit of the game for when I feel nostalgic.


  • Haha, I hate loving this game! Wall of text incoming!

    The blog “Killing a goldfish” had a good post about WOTC’s business model, Magical Capitalism (and also a bunch of good reviews for older sets!). It’s not just stupidly expensive, but WOTC has also created a load of bad incentives for itself. For them, classics, sleeper hits, long sellers really aren’t a thing. There’s only perpetual hype for the next thing. Original Innistrad shows up on everyone’s list of best draft sets. If they were a normal game publisher, they would be rewarded for that by selling it over and over for a long time because people want to check out what the fuss is about. But doing that would upset the actual customer base. As it is, they can make a bit of money from the people who can tolerate Magic Online, by running flashback drafts on there sometimes.

    I want to defend the land system a bit. It needs some little hacks (scrying, cycling, stuff like that) to be bearable, but there’s something that would be lost without it. Most TCGs are very rigid about the factions you play in one deck, but Magic lets you combine as many colors as you want. You can just play the best stuff from all the colors, but you have to dedicate some amount of cards in your deck and game actions to make that work. (And money, let’s not forget that! All the good dual lands must be rare because they’re so widely useful. Sigh.)

    I like it especially when drafting a cube or the Kaldheim set from earlier this year. I just find it a really interesting choice to pick between a spell that helps me win games, or a piece of color fixing that broadens my options.

    • The land system is terrible, but it’s very hard to replicate some of its benefits without drawbacks. I’m alway surprised nobody has translated Magic to a better resource system. There are patches, like getting one “land” per turn but none that are truly better.

      Funnily enough, I also like drafting lands in cube or in Kaldheim.

      • sean douglas mclorie

        Necromancy! honestly weird plug digimons tcg has a better life total system and a better resource system, cons managed by Bandai, so far so good also its a joke I have six decks that combined cost less than wrenn and six.

  • Time to switch to Flesh and Blood where non games are a non issue and competitive decks are half the price of magic

    • While Flesh and Blood has much fewer non-games, I’m not sure it’s much cheaper. I started playing it recently and have spent more than I would spend playing Pioneer in Magic, for example. Most cards are cheap, but a few are not. Besides the Tome of Fyendals of the world, I’m playing without Arcanite Skullcap and Command and Conquer, both of which are in most competitive decks and cost over 100€ a piece.

  • Oh, I feel the same way about MTG!
    Have you tried “Codex: Card-Time Strategy”? I feel it like “MTG without it’s weaknesses” – it’s non-collectible card game with creature combat and deckbuilding, but it doesn’t need regular expansions, it’s deep enough, it has better resource system than “mana from lands”. And you build your deck while playing, not before the game.

    • I haven’t, sadly! I have always wanted to try Sirlin’s games but they are hard to come by around here and nobody I know owns a copy.

  • Warning long post incoming
    Reasons I’m also leaving:
    1. cost since Post Malone decided to pop up

    2. A lot of people in my area keep bringing up politics (I come to my hobbies to have fun not deal with unnecessary distractions)

    3. It’s heavily sided on what style of deck you need to play in order to have a chance of survival even at local game stores (it’s gotten like this for me in modern,commander, and pioneer)

    I recently rebuilt my Hope of Ghirapur voltron commander by selling cards I wasn’t using.

    It is not a broken deck, but my friends have rediculous high cost decks (they drop crazy money but are NOT rich, FOIL Gaeas Cradle as an example) and not once have I won, constant just steamrolled or allowed time just to get set up once and then get obliterated and no chance to recover.

    If I had known Post Malone had started becoming public about playing magic I would have left it sooner. Now pieces I need/would help are rediculous I remember a time CraterHoof was only $20.

    As of today I’m just keeping my current 2 decks and selling any cards I’ve got.

    BattleTech has been the most welcoming community and actively encourage 3D printing with no issues where some people frown at proxying (why the hell am I gonna pay $100+ for a blightsteel when I could buy a starter box, expansion box, and some lore books for the same amount.)

  • Thanks for posting this and letting me know I’m not alone. The non-games make me more upset than the games give me pleasure, so it’s time to stop. I feel like I’m in a better mood doing chores or other productive stuff than when I play this crap, addicting though it has been at times. Today is a new day.

  • For me, it was the inconsistent, ever-changing rules or new and broken abilities (they’re introducing cards played like Yu Gi Oh trap cards now), how everything is more about not allowing the other person to play rather than actually trying to win a game, bad stack mechanics, and how your opponent spend more time than you do on your own turn.

    Cards that were destroyed can still activate or you can be forced to sacrifice a creature before their abilities activate (and you can copy them while forcing the sacrifice, so you get to essentially steal their hard work). Stacks not only work backward (so much for counterspells because now there isn’t anything before them to counter), can include effects of cards that were destroyed, and DESPITE how important order is, you can a) introduce a new effect and put it in the MIDDLE of the stack) and you can’t make logically separate stacks. Tap a fungus, goblin, and vampire for three separate effects? They are ALL on the same stack. Why when they don’t affect each other and a spell against one card shouldn’t apply to the other cards? Doesn’t matter, you can’t have more than one stack and you have to resolve things backward (such as, if an effect says to sacrifice it, an opponent can clone that creature and force you to sacrifice the first creature without effects going off, but the clone’s effects go activate first and the original character’s ability never.) Don’t forget, your opponent can even declare attacking during your turn before you do. In fact, they can butt in at any time and play for longer during your turn.

  • To me, all the flaws always boil down to the same thing: I spend less time actually enjoying the game instead of being absolutely infuriated by it. Wins have no joy, and the losses always feel like BS. Luck is far too much of a factor for how detailed the game tries to be. In the last few years, I’ve never felt I’ve intellectually outwitted someone vs. just having things flow my way through random chance.

    I actively start to just absolutely hate it every time I come back to it. And when you leave and come back after a while, you’re greeted with cards like Sheoldred, which just make you go “Huh, now I remember why I left this BS game.”

    I like being a good sport when it comes to tabletop games as it’s all in good fun I don’t care who wins any other game. For whatever reason, I can’t do that with magic – and I don’t think the fault is mine.

    • I know exactly how you feel. I actually got to the top 300 players on Magic Arena and I felt…no joy. I felt so many of my wins were undeserved or lucky that I felt down instead of excited when I won. And like you say, it’s something that rarely happens to me in other games.

  • This is exactly how I feel about MTG.

    I’m still playing MtG-Arena, but just to collect cards because of their nice artwork and because it’s cheap as I don’t have to buy cards (I don’t spend any money on it).

  • “Wins have no joy, and the losses always feel like BS”

    Previous commentor said it best. When I win, I am made to feel shameful, and when I lose, winning still feels worse. Sadly, MTG falls into the 3rd level of ‘Gaming’ I have, where it is too competitive to be fun.

    I look for games for the spirit of fun, not the spirit of competition. The gap between the two is very narrow but distinct enough where having fun is obvious vs playing to not let others have fun. MTG is a game that focuses on the latter option, “My fun comes at the cost of no one else having any of it.”

    So it isn’t the game or hobby for me after my friends got me into it. I do love the artwork, the lore, all of it, but the actual gameplay feels unrewarding. If I invest any more money or time into the hobby, I’m going to just make a proxy deck that leans heavily into the game philosophy and just not let anyone have fun. What a miserable joke.

    • Magic does have a problem with “zero-sum fun”, which is sadly pushed by the designers. For example, ticking up a planeswalker might be “fun” for its owner, but it’s absolutely miserable for the other side of the table.

      I do admit that many cards I love, like Smokestack, do exacerbate this issue.

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