First TCG: What Was First Trading Card Game?

March 9, 2023 · Your Playmat

Today there are many forms of entertainment for both children and adults. But among them, some can unite both adults and children in the same place. Board games are one such form of entertainment. Such games are often available for all age groups.

Today, there are dozens of world-famous board games with similar mechanics. You can play Pokemon, MTG, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and others.

But few people thought about the history of the origin of board games. In our article, we will tell you about the history of MTG's origin, including the first TCG. We will also provide some interesting facts about the origins of MTG and other board games. Stay with us. Read our article to the end to fully immerse yourself in the world of table games.

What Is A Trading Card Game?

A Trading Card Game is one of a type of collectible card game. The players build decks of cards representing characters, spells, and other elements. These cards are then used to battle against each other. And the ultimate goal is to reduce the opponent's life points to zero. TCGs have become a popular pastime for gamers of all ages. They have several different franchises and unique gameplay styles to choose from.

To understand what TCG is, we need to look at the mechanics of the games.

The basic mechanics of a TCG involve using a deck of cards. Players build their decks by choosing cards from a collection. And each card has a specific function within the game. There are typically three main types of cards:

  • Character cards;
  • Spell cards;
  • Equipment cards.

Character cards represent the players themselves. In contrast, spell and equipment cards represent various abilities or items. The player can use them to aid the characters.

At the beginning of the oldest Trading Card Game, players shuffle their decks. And they draw a certain number of cards, usually 6-7. They then take turns playing cards from their hand, each of which has a certain cost associated with it. This cost is paid using resources. They're gained from playing other cards or through other means. Players play character, spell, and equipment cards to gain an advantage.

The ultimate goal of a TCG is to reduce the opponent's life points to zero. Players can also win by forcing the opponent to run out of cards.

How To Differ TCG From Other Card Games

At first glance, all card games may seem to be the same. But we will tell you the key differences between TCG and other card games. One of the key ways that TCGs differ from other card games is the collectible aspect. Players can buy booster packs or other card collections to expand their decks.

This aspect of TCGs has led to a thriving secondary market. It has rare or powerful cards, often selling for large amounts. The oldest and most modern Trading Card Games also differ from other card games in strategy and gameplay. Traditional card games such as poker or blackjack have a luck aspect. But TCGs are largely based on skill and strategy.

Players must carefully build their decks and choose which cards to play. This way, they can gain an advantage over their opponent.

Another unique aspect of TCGs is the community aspect. Players often gather in local game stores or online forums to:

  • Discuss strategy;
  • Trade cards;
  • Take part in tournaments.

These events can be a great way for players to connect with like-minded individuals.

The Origins Of Trading Card Games

The Origins of Trading Card Games

Card games have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries. Games like Poker and Bridge are still played around the world today. 

But the origins of trading card games, or TCGs, are relatively recent. They combine traditional card games with a focus on collecting and trading.

In this and the next blocks, we'll take a closer look at the origins of TCGs. We will explore their history and development. We will also cover the impact games like Magic have had on gaming over the past few decades.

The history of Trading Card Games is a fascinating journey. It goes through the evolution of gaming and pop culture.

The Early Years Of TCGs

TCGs have a long and fascinating history. We can trace it back to the origins of card games themselves. Card games have been around for centuries. The early examples were in China and Europe, dating back to the 9th century. These early card games were often used for gambling or entertainment. And they typically involved simple decks of cards with standard suits.

Card games weren't until the 20th century that they evolved into complex and strategic games. In the 1940s, Richard Garfield began designing his card games as a hobby. These early games were often played with friends and family. They featured unique gameplay mechanics that set them apart from usual card games.

In the 1990s, Garfield's hobby would lead to the creation of the first TCG, Magic: The Gathering. It's released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. Magic became a sensation, with players worldwide embracing the game's innovative mechanics.

Magic: The Gathering is widely considered to be the first TCG. And it remains one of the genre's most popular and influential games to this day. Garfield created a TCG with the strategy and complexity of usual board games. But he wanted to add the collectible aspect.

As for the innovations of the game, there are:

  • Mana. One of the key innovations of Magic was the concept of "mana". It's used to cast spells and activate abilities. Players gain mana by playing "land" cards. They represent the game's environment and allow players to generate resources. This mechanic adds an element of strategy to the game. Players must manage their resources to gain an advantage over their opponents.
  • Expansions. Another innovation of Magic was the concept of "expansions". They are sets of new cards that appear periodically. Each expansion introduces new characters, spells, and other elements. They help to keep the game fresh and exciting for players.
  • Collections. The collectible aspect also played a significant role in the game's popularity. Players buy booster packs to expand decks and add new cards to the collection.

Since the release of the first Trading Card Game, TCGs have continued to evolve and expand. There are new franchises and unique gameplay styles. These games have become a popular pastime for gamers of all ages, with millions of players worldwide participating in local tournaments, online matches, and other events.

What Inspired The Creation Of Magic: The Gathering?

The creation of Magic: The Gathering was inspired by a combination of factors. They are the history of Trading Card Game’s design leading up to TCGs and the vision of its creator, Richard Garfield.

Games like Dungeons & Dragons introduced players to building and customizing their characters. And these games helped to pave the way for TCGs. The games introduce players to the idea of collecting and trading game pieces. Richard Garfield said his experiences playing D&D inspired creating Magic.

Garfield's vision for Magic was to create a game that was both complex and easy to learn. He wanted the game to be accessible to a wide range of players. But he also wanted it to offer enough depth and complexity to keep players engaged over the long term. Garfield also wanted the game to have a strong theme and setting. It should have each card representing a unique character, spell, or other elements.

Garfield's early prototypes for Magic were well-received by his friends and family. And he eventually pitched the game to Wizards of the Coast, a game publisher based in Seattle. Wizards saw the potential in the game and agreed to publish it; the rest is history.

Interviews About The Influence Of MTG

In interviews with other early creators of the oldest Trading Card Game, it's clear that Garfield's vision for Magic had a significant impact on the genre as a whole.

Skaff Elias, one of the co-creators of the game Netrunner, spoke about the influence of Magic. Elias explained that Magic's success inspired him to create a game. It was similarly complex and strategic. But it had a unique theme and gameplay mechanics that set it apart from Magic.

Also, Mike Elliott, co-creator of the Dominion, said about the influence of Magic on his game design. In an interview with The Guardian, he said that the collectible aspect of Magic inspired him. But he wanted to create a game that was simpler and more accessible to new players.

The Mechanics Of Magic: The Gathering

Magic's mechanics have evolved and expanded to offer an incredible variety of options.

The basic mechanics of Magic are fairly simple. Players start with a certain number of life points and a deck of cards. And they take turns playing cards from their hand to:

  • Summon creatures;
  • Cast spells;
  • Activate special abilities.

The game aims to reduce your opponent's life total to zero before they do the same to you.

But the depth and complexity of the game come from the vast array of cards and abilities. Players can combine them in countless ways. They are to create unique strategies and gameplay experiences.

The first TCG Magic sets, released in 1993 and 1994, introduced players to the basic mechanics. And the first iconic fantasy setting was the world known as Dominaria. These early sets included various creature cards, spells, and artifacts. They all had their unique abilities and effects. TCG's first expansion set was Arabian Nights. It added even more cards and introduced new mechanics. They include "interrupt" spells. Players can play them at any time during the game, even during an opponent's turn.

Over the years, Magic has continued to expand and evolve. New sets and mechanics were being released regularly. Some of the game's most iconic mechanics include:

  • Flying creatures. Other flying creatures can only block them.
  • Haste creatures. They can attack immediately after being played.
  • Counterspells. They can cancel out an opponent's spell before it takes effect.

Concept Of Colors In MTG

One of the most important aspects of Magic's mechanics is the concept of "color." Each card in the game is associated with a certain color or combination of colors. And these colors represent different types of magic and abilities.

For example, red cards are often associated with fast, aggressive gameplay. And green cards are great for creature-summoning abilities and "mana ramping" abilities. They allow players to generate more resources to play their spells.

Community Reaction

The reception of Magic: The Gathering by the public was initially mixed. But as the game grew and evolved, it quickly became clear that Magic was here to stay.

One of the key factors in the game's success was its accessibility. The game's mechanics are complex and need strategy and planning. But the game's basic rules are easy to learn and can be picked up by players of all ages and skill levels.

Also, the game has a wide variety of cards and gameplay options. This means that players can always find something new and interesting to explore. And it doesn't matter how long they have been playing the game.

The Impact Of Magic: The Gathering On The TCG Industry

It is important to note MTG as the first TCG has a huge impact on the card industry in the world. So, this board game helped re-engineer the way players interacted with TCG. Thus, MTG was able to change the gaming industry forever completely.

MTG started out as a simple yet fun CCG. But now, it is a global phenomenon. Magic continues to influence and shape the CCG industry. It also paves the way for new games and new generations of players. And also, MTG opens up the joys of an exciting and dynamic game for new players.

In this block, we will take a closer look at the cultural impact of the first Trading Card Game on the gaming community and other TCGs.

How Did Magic: The Gathering Influence Other TCGs?

Magic: The Gathering had a significant influence on the TCG landscape. Some of the most popular TCGs that Magic directly influenced include:

  • Pokémon Trading Card Game. Magic heavily inspired it. It has similar gameplay mechanics and a focus on collecting and trading cards. The game has become one of the most successful TCGs of all time. It is massive and followed by players of all ages game.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! It also drew heavily from Magic. This game is focusing on strategic gameplay and powerful, unique cards. The game has since become one of the most popular TCGs in the world. It has a massive fanbase and many spin-off media franchises.
  • Hearthstone. It is a digital TCG rather than a physical one. But Hearthstone was heavily influenced by Magic. It focuses similarly on strategy and various cards and mechanics to explore.

Cultural Impact Of Magic: The Gathering

Besides its influence on the TCG industry itself, MTG as the first TCG had a significant impact on pop culture. Some of the key ways in which the game has left its mark include:

  • Esports. Magic helped to popularize the concept of esports and competitive gaming. Today, esports is a massive industry, with millions of players and fans worldwide.
  • Pop culture. Magic has also impacted pop culture, inspiring many books and comics. The game's iconic artwork and powerful, unique cards have become cultural touchstones. They inspired countless artists.
  • Gaming industry. Magic has had a significant impact on the gaming industry as a whole. Game designers pushed the boundaries in gameplay mechanics, storytelling, and worldbuilding. The game's success has helped to confirm the potential of gaming as a serious and important art form.


As a result, we can note that MTG is one of the most significant TCGs in the world. Thanks to it, millions of players can enjoy other TCGs based on the mechanics of Magic: The Gathering. Thanks to this game, we can collect Pokémon, fight Yu-Gi-Oh monsters, and have fun with other TCGs.


What Is The Oldest Trading Card Game?

The exact origins of card games are unclear. But the oldest known deck of playing cards is the "Mamluk deck," which dates back to the 15th century. The game of "Ganjifa," played with a deck of circular cards. It's also considered one of the oldest card games, dating back to ancient India.

When Was Magic: The Gathering Invented?

Magic: The Gathering appeared in 1993. Mathematics professor Richard Garfield created the game. And it's first published by Wizards of the Coast.

What Are The Most Popular TCGs Besides Magic: The Gathering?

Some of the most popular TCGs besides Magic: The Gathering include:

  • Pokémon;
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!;
  • Hearthstone.

Are TCGs Still Popular Today?

Yes, TCGs are still very popular today. The industry has seen significant growth with the rise of online play and e-sports events.

How Do TCGs Differ From Other Card Games Like Poker Or Bridge?

TCGs differ from other card games in that they are for competitive play. And they typically involve players building and customizing their decks. Poker and bridge are traditional card games with set rules and no deck customization.

How Do TCGs Differ From CCGs?

The terms trading card game and collectible card game are often used interchangeably. But some people use the term CCG to refer to games where players collect cards. And it works without any trading involved. TCGs involve trading cards with other players to build a stronger deck. But these differences are not always strictly defined.