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Is there a way to have access to all cards for free? Kind of ruins the fun when you need to sink so much $$$ just to try out different decks.

Another reason Hearthstone was so frustrating. All the legendary cards were locked behind astronomical paywalls.

I used to use Cockatrice (https://cockatrice.github.io/) to play with friends online. The interface is a far cry from Wizard's MTG Arena, but you do get to build any deck you want for free.

Edit: It's been a while since I played, but does look like for IP reasons you'll need to actually download the cards separately from the actual program. I'm not sure where to do this, but I'd imagine someone on this subreddit or on their dedicated Cockatrice server can help you https://www.reddit.com/r/Cockatrice/

I use cockatrice currently. After downloading the client it downloads a json database from scryfall of all of the cards.

Richard Garfield's new game, KeyForge [1], attempts to remedy this problem by using pre-made decks generated by an algorithm that makes every deck unique. You buy a deck for $10 and you are ready to play. Each deck is given a unique name that is printed on every card so you cannot alter the composition of the deck. Although some decks are better than others, they are all very playable, and I always have fun playing. I usually play a couple of sealed tournaments at my local game store each month where we all buy a $10 deck and play the tournament with whatever we got. It's a lot of fun whether I win or lose. When my deck collection started to grow, I gave away decks to get others started in the game. Although it's true that some people spend a lot of money in search of the really powerful deck, that is not necessary to enjoy the game, and I think it's much less expensive than Magic to play at a semi-competitive level.

1: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/keyforge/

I played a bit of KeyForge. It was fun and more unique than I had expected. However, I really missed the tactics and interactivity that come from being able to respond on your opponent's turn and the defending player assigning blockers.

As a legacy player (a magic format where there are a lot of very expensive out of print cards), we just print them out for playtesting. No sense in dropping hundreds on missing cards for a deck until you know if it performs well and is fun to play. If you aren't planning on taking it to a sanctioned tournament you can just stop there with the proxies.

Well, if you just want to admire the cards, there's scryfall:



If you want to play in the computer, there are several free and open source implementations. I don't have any great recommendation, but I'll just point out that I sometimes play around with XMage (http://xmage.de/) when I feel like whacking around the AI a bit. Too bad it is so unstable and crashes a lot :(

Another game you might want to take a look at is Dominion. You buy a single box with the cards for all the players (from 2 to 4 IIRC) so no need to buy extra decks.

I enjoyed Dominion, and generally appreciate games where you don't have to keep buying things to play competitively. I've never actually played it, but I was always intererested in Codex: http://sirlingames.com/codex

It's modeled after real time strategy games (Warcraft 3 especially), and was designed by David Sirlin. Sirlin writes about game design, and I've really enjoyed his commentary on competitive systems. He did the rebalancing for Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix, and the changes he made are discussed in a series of articles here: http://www.sirlin.net/articles/sf

You can various other articles he's written by clicking around that site.

I was interested in Codex but at the same time I played Fantasy Strike for a hot minute and it kinda cooled me on Sirlin-as-designer rather than Sirlin-as-analyst. I'd be interested in whether anybody has played Codex and enjoyed it.

You should try it for a few hours it's pretty fun.

You can even do play by post, since you only make decisions on your turn. You have to trust the other person to shuffle, but it works

The base Dominion card set is allright, but does not have all that much variety. The various expansion packs are fairly pricy.

But if you like the base game, you can probably snag someone's collection on the cheap, on Craigslist.

You really need at least one expansion (and make it Intrigue) before too long to keep the game interesting. IIRC the base game originally had the first 2 or 3 expansions but broke them out to cut the costs down (and for the expansion revenue later.) IMHO get them all up to and including Hinterlands at the least if you get into it.

RIP isotropic

Intrigue is good but you have to have a consistent playerbase to start rolling that stuff into the game. But I find that the base game is pretty intuitive and somebody can play competitively even on their first play-through.

I'd bet the overwhelming majority of Dominion games are not just using the base set, but the "recommended first play" card selection.

You can also play dominion online with matchmaking, including expansions, at https://www.dominion.games/

In college wed use the library printer and paper cutter.

Put the 'proxy' cards in a sleeve with a regular card behind it.

Takes time and effort, but if you play one night a week or so it ends up more fun because you never know what someone is going to bring.

It is what I do with my flatmate to practice new matchups (in Modern). I recommend using http://www.mtgpress.net to print out the decks easily from a decklist.

I used to buy boxes of random cards on Ebay. For 5-20 bucks you get a huge variety. (~1000 cards) , mostly commons but plenty of uncommons too. Hardly ALL cards, but plenty to give good games. My friends and I would randomly deal them out and/or draft them, then build play and trade from that point.

You could print the cards out of the Gatherer or some other sites. I think there are even programs that can create sheets for that.

There is also Apprentice, kind of like MtG online but with barebones interface, that allows you to play against other people.

To expand with more detail: there are several sites which let you enter a lit of cards and they'll generate printable PDFs which, when printed on paper, are meant to be easy to cut out. For example:


Then, you simply slip your rectangles of printer paper into a card sleave with a real Magic card (usually some card you don't care about such as a basic land) and tada, you've got whatever cards you want and all it cost was ink and time time.

If you're willing to spend some time getting it working: http://gccg.sourceforge.net/

There's an online version of MtG with pretty reasonably prices cards iirc, and you can get lots free.

Interface is amazingly complicated though, since it has to model all of MtG.

There's 4 versions of magic online:

MtGO: old official version, you can buy and sell singles for similar costs to paper

Cockatrice: Old unofficial free version. leaves a lot of rule/effect enforcement up to players manually.

Duels: "new" official version, never implemented complete rulesets, abandoned by devs 2 years ago, leaving collectors who paid good money SOL

Arena: new official version, but with hearthstone model of only RNG card purchases, no singles or resales.

Personally, after putting close to 4 figures into MtGO, then hundreds into duels for nothing (on top of the fortune I've spent on paper), the price fatigue has ruined arena for me, and I don't give them any money.

if only there was some kind of eXchange for MTG Online...

(to ruin the joke: this is where the famed bitcoin exchange MtGOX came from. It was an exchange for MTG Online that was repurposed into a bitcoin exchange... with that kind of flawless pedigree who could have ever foreseen problems coming down the road? /s)

Indeed :) I am a mtgox asset recovery claimant. I have also bought plenty of "investment" paper magic, for instance, during zendikar, I tried to buy up a large swath of full frame foil lands.

But for real, the target demographics (nerds who want to speculate and also feel like they're doing something cool) made it the great fit it was.. especially when magic speculators themselves needed a better vehicle for peer-to-peer value exchange.

Yeah, I think I was thinking of MtGO here.

You just print them out.

You could print out the cards

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