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Published: July 3, 2023

Written by: Stoyan Todorov


  • Magic The Gathering was supposed to have a gambling-like mechanic which never saw the light of day
  • The mechanic was only there to boost the rate at which cards would circulate in the game, giving more opportunities to players
  • Players feared that introducing the ante’s randomized feature would cost some people their most valuable possessions in exchange of pitiable reward

Magic: The Gathering was supposed to have a gambling-like mechanic which was scrapped. Years after the release, this was the right decision to do.

Upping the Ante in Magic? No, Thank You!

Magic The Gathering is a fantastic game by any standard. While it has a clear pay-to-win format, it has tried to stay competitive and casual-minded players in equal measure. What this means is that you can enjoy the game today without spending a dime, provided that you have the grit and resilience to go all through the motions of grinding daily.

Today, we talk about not just the world’s first-ever trading card game, but also how the physical and digital transformation of this game could have actually been accompanied by a gambling-like mechanic rooted in the original game design, which the developers from the Wizards of the Coast quickly scrambled for fears that it might ruffle feathers with fans, regulators and more.

Just think of how contentious of issue loot boxes are today. Magic: The Gathering was designed to have ante rules, which essentially asked players to “gamble” with their cards to explore some new formats of the game. Should this mechanic saw the light of day, it would have definitely attracted the ire of regulators, and it would have hindered the game’s organic growth.

How Would the Ante Rule Work in Magic?

The rule by creator Dr. Richard Garfield was simple enough. When two players would duel, they would agree to set one card at random aside in the ante zone which will be wagered against the winner taking both their own and the opponent’s card.

The idea was not rooted in greed. Rather, Garfield wanted to make sure that players would be able to experience as much of the game as possible. The fear was that purchases of cards or earning cards in-game would not be enough for players to experience the title in its entirety, making players miss out on some elements of the game that would have been otherwise interesting.

Garfield believed that even casual players would see some reason in going ahead with the idea, as it would allow them the opportunity to bag a double prize from playing even if they are not that much into the competition. However, the randomizing aspect of the deck meant that a player may end up losing a highly valuable card, forcing more players to protest against the rule.

The developers listened to fans and none of the ante rules have made their way into the offline or digital version of the game. This may have been a bullet dodged and if anything, fans of the game are able to enjoy a rewarding play all the same with plenty of cards circulating successfully and allowing players to enjoy the game in its entirety.

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