A few months ago my 7-year-old son casually mentioned that it would be cool to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG, or Magic) with standard playing cards (sometimes called a poker deck or a French deck). We gave it a whirl. He won, naturally, as he was making up the rules.
But he got me thinking about how to craft a Magic-esque experience with the cards that everyone has in their homes. Magic is fairly difficult to explain to people once you understand and appreciate some the complexity that makes it awesome. The simpler parts of the game, tapping for mana and attacking with creatures, are often lost in the avalanche of keywords and strategies.
The first TCG/CCG I really learned was World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (or WOWTCG), with has a fair bit in common with MTG. You play allies (like creatures), resources (like land for mana), and abilities (like non-creature spells) in a similar fashion. A major difference in WOWTCG is that you can play any card as a resource. For example, you might draw an “expensive” card and realize you’ll never get to play it. Lay it face down as a resource instead, and it now serves to make your other cards more viable.
So I combined that WOWTCG component with MTG to make the following game. If you don’t already know how to play MTG or WOWTCG this will likely be too brief of an explanation. A ton of stuff isn’t included (enchantments, equipment, artifacts, sorceries, and approximately a bazillion keywords and mechanics). All non-creature spells are instants.
The game requires one deck of 52 standard playing cards.
Choose a dealer somehow (e.g. cut for a high card). Shuffle the deck and deal 7 cards to each player. No mulligans are allowed. The remaining cards are placed between the players and to one side; they make up a shared library.
Each player begins with 20 life points. Track them on paper or with dice.
Anatomy of a turn
The same steps apply as for MTG: untap, upkeep, draw, main, combat, main, end. Everything’s normal here. Creatures still have summoning sickness, blockers are declared in the same way, etc.
One major difference is that the active player can play any card as a Land (source of mana)… there are no specially designated Land cards. This is the bit from WOWTCG, see? Below is the list of card meanings.
Because the deck is shared, you’ll need a common graveyard. When the library is depleted, shuffle the graveyard to replace it. The maximum hand size of 7 at the end of any turn should ensure there are always cards available for the library.
You win by reducing your opponent’s life total to zero.
Suits don’t matter. Here are the card meanings based on their values. You’ll probably want to keep this handy if you’re playing.
Ace: A 1/1 creature for 1 mana.
2: A 2/2 creature for 2 mana.
3: A 3/3 creature for 3 mana.
4: A 4/4 creature for 4 mana.
5: A 5/5 creature for 5 mana.
6: A 6/6 creature for 6 mana.
7: Instant: Counter spell for 3 mana.
8: Instant: Cause 3 damage to target creature or player for 2 mana.
9: Instant: Gain 3 life for 2 mana.
10: Instant: Give a creature +4/+4 until the end of turn for 3 mana.
Jack: Instant: Destroy target land or creature for 4 mana.
Queen: Instant: Cause 1 damage to every creature for 2 mana.
King: Instant: Draw 2 cards for 3 mana.
Reference Cheat Sheet
Here are some little card meaning reference sheets that should fit nicely inside of your Bicycle deck box:
Please comment with happiness or concerns. I’ll try to play this sometime and then I’ll have some feedback for myself as well.