Card Sharks

Winning The Game

These days, Adkison works on managing the company that Magic built. With offices in three other countries (to be close to the company's overseas printers and to "develop the international gaming community," he says), running the show involves as much strategic thinking as playing a championship round of Magic. The game has been translated into six languages, a line of comic books, and a four-novel series published by HarperCollins.

Garfield, meanwhile, works on developing new games. In 1994, after graduating from college and teaching math at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, he joined Wizards of the Coast as a full-time game designer and owns 25 percent of the company. Since the wildfire success of Magic, three more Garfield creations have rolled out: In 1994, came Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, and RoboRally, the game that first put him in touch with Adkison; the next year, the company unveiled The Great Dalmuti, a game where players try to outdo each other on the social ladder. Next on his agenda: networked computer games that would allow players at far-flung computers to compete against each other in real time.

And, of course, there's always another Magic tournament to play. This year's company-organized tournament is sponsored by MCI, which will also be releasing a set of calling cards in November featuring artwork from Magic's card decks.

Garfield and other staffers are normally barred from playing in the tournaments--which sometimes draw more than 300 players from 30 countries vying for cash prizes of up to $250,000. Occasionally, Garfield plays a round at an exhibition tournament. He also plays the game a few times a week on his own; Adkison does, too.

Although both say they use different strategies every time they play, you have to believe that two guys who saw their little card game turn into a multimillion-dollar worldwide phenomenon must have a natural affinity for the Phyrexian War Beast. On that card is printed the query, "Knowing its origins, how could they have thought they could control it?"

Dennis Rodkin is a freelance writer in Chicago.

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Card Sharks.

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