Gathering the Magic

Magic: The Gathering is a card game and your goal is to knock your opponent down to zero points. But Magic: The Gathering also has a deep mythology about an infinite number of parallel worlds. Eric Molinsky of Imaginary Worlds looks at why this handheld card game has survived the onslaught of competition from digital games, and how the designers at Wizards of the Coast create a sense of story and world-building within a non-sequential card game.

Subscribe to Imaginary Worlds on Apple Podcasts and RadioPublic


Imaginary Worlds is produced and hosted by Eric Molinsky. Stephanie Billman is the Assistant Producer.

For this episode, Eric Molinsky talked to Mark Rosewater, Brady Dommermuth, Alli Medwin, James Wyatt, Liz Leo and Nathaniel Bael.

  1. Prof59

    Glad to hear the MtG topic discussed. I just have a couple of quibbles.
    You guys go on and on about the story, th flavor, the narrative. I’ve been playing 25 years. Kitchen table, comic book store, prereleases, pro tournaments. I have never, ever, once met any player who cared at all about the story. All they care about is what the cards do, period. I’m sure Mark Rosewater believes what he says, but the players are not interested.
    Players do not want the novelizations, either. At one tournament, novels were given away as prizes, and no one even wanted them for free.
    Please go on making the stories, but it is spitting into the wond, I promise.
    Also, the woman who was upset when a kid told her he didn’t think girls like Magic. She can’t possibly be so blind not to notice that in a room of 500 players, there are 10 females. And half of those are girlfriends of players who dragged them there. I’m all for more girl players, but seriously, it is not the demographic, and she has to know that.

    1. Sara

      What card shop are you hanging out in? I’ve never been in a shop where people aren’t at least following the sparknotes of the lore, because it’s so integral to what’s going on in the card mechanics. You *could* just play the physical game, but you would be missing how downright incredible the team integrates the story into actual mechanics, and that diminishes the experience. Heck, I started into Magic not from the cards, but from reading the story over my fiance’s shoulder. Magic’s desire to expand and appeal to so many facets of its fanbase, from mechanical nerds to lore fiends, is what makes it so incredible. If we all wanted to just play a fancy card game with no story, we’d be talking about Yu-gi-oh.

  2. Tricia

    Roman, you just made me so happy! Thank you for including your boys in this episode; I’ve really missed hearing from them.
    A very happy New Year to all at 99pi

  3. Chris Tedin

    Great show, as always. I sent a link to my brother, Mark Tedin, who designed many of the first cards in the beginning. Love your show. Been listening since the beginning.

  4. Jason MEGRELIS

    So so good, and very inspiring. What a nice one !
    Appreciated every moments of it.

    Best wishes for the year to come from France.

  5. Stephanie Kearns

    Thank you for this episode. My 23 year old son recently started playing and was bummed at Christmas that no one seemed interested. After hearing about Magic on this podcast I gave it a try and now have my very own cards. I have leveled up my NerdMom status!

  6. Dman

    @Prof59: I have also met very people that are interested in the story (I’ve personally never read any of the lore, and I’m not that interested). That being said, there’s no real downside to adding that depth to the game (even if the majority of people don’t care), especially if it will matter to someone. I guarantee the price of packs would not go down if WOTC demanded the story get cut from the process. It seems like that detail was added with care, and if Alseha pops up in the meta (I’m not up-to-date), all the better! Playable + not banned + decent backstory = good design

    For me, Alesha the card that taught me the difference between color and color identity, which actually opened up options for Commanders.

    The player archetypes of Vorthos/Melvin, Timmy/Johnny/Spike are interesting to me, because they’re almost like personality types (especially when combined with a player’s preferred colors). I’m sure cards are specifically designed with all of these in mind (not just the un- cards)

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