Magic: The Gathering Is Turing Complete

Don’t take my word for it. Alex Churchill, Stella Biderman and Austin Herrick recently published a paper demonstrating that Magic is Turing complete.

Magic: The Gathering is a popular and famously complicated trading card game about magical combat. In this paper we show that optimal play in real-world Magic is at least as hard as the Halting Problem, solving a problem that has been open for a decade. To do this, we present a methodology for embedding an arbitrary Turing machine into a game of Magic such that the first player is guaranteed to win the game if and only if the Turing machine halts. Our result applies to how real Magic is played, can be achieved using standard-size tournament-legal decks, and does not rely on stochasticity or hidden information. Our result is also highly unusual in that all moves of both players are forced in the construction. This shows that even recognising who will win a game in which neither player has a non-trivial decision to make for the rest of the game is undecidable. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for a unified computational theory of games and remarks about the playability of such a board in a tournament setting.

Munchkin Collectible Card Game

In February 2018, Steve Jackson Games is releasing a collectible card game based on its popular Munchkin non-collectible game card game.

Not sure how well the humorous Munchkin vibe will translate to CCG fans. Obviously the game has sold a ton of cards in its various base sets and expansions, but I’m not sure Munchkin is the sort of game that people want to play in a CCG format.

Generation Decks

This “unofficial history” of Magic: The Gathering has one of the more clever book titles I’ve seen in a long time.

Generation Decks tells the story of the mould-breaking fantasy card game, Magic: The Gathering. The brainchild of misfit maths genius Richard Garfield, Magic combines complex gameplay with collectability. When it came out in 1993 it transformed the lives of quiet braniacs who had longed for a way to connect and compete. It made millionaires of its creators, and it kick-started the era of professional gaming.

Titus Chalk tells the game’s story – from its humble origins to its continued success in today’s digital age. Prepare to meet Generation Decks, a community like no other.

Buying Cards for Pokémon TCG Online

I started playing the Pokémon TCG Online game earlier this year after watching The Professor’s video comparing the online versions of the Pokémon TCG with the Magic: The Gathering TCG. The Pokémon TCG is a great example of a product that is amazing in large part because it doesn’t repeat the many mistakes that the online versions of other collectible card games that are also available as traditional cardboard trading cards.

First, the game is completely free and has a ton of content that can be played for free. I spent dozens of hours playing the game meaningfully without spending a single penny. Second, the online version of the game is largely identical to the physical card game. All of the mechanics, cards, etc. are the same between the two. That might sound like a “no duh” moment, but Magic: The Gathering does not meet this most basic of minimum requirements.

And finally, the Pokémon TCG includes an activation code with every physical product that lets the player activate a similar product in the online game. For constructed deck products, the code gives you an identical constructed deck in the online game. For general booster packs, there is a code that unlocks a booster pack of the same type in the online game (the online packs contents are randomly generated, however, so the exact cards in the physical pact are not reproduced exactly).

This is awesome, and also creates an aftermarket for the online codes. A Pokémon TCG booster pack costs in the $3-4 range depending on the source. The online activation codes sell for a serious discount online. Depending on the set, you can buy the code cards in bulk for 12 to 19 cents apiece on Ebay.

In one of the few drawbacks in the way that the online codes are handled, there is no scratch off or other covering for the online code–it is simply printed plain as day on the code card. So the potential for fraud is always going to be there in buying the codes.

After searching around on various Pokémon TCG forums on the Internet looking to balance price with risk, I settled upon to purchase codes from. PTCGO rests solidly in the middle of the road as far as costs are concerned. Codes for recent set releases go for around 40 cents apiece, although the site has regular daily sales that sees those fall to around 33 cents apiece.

I have purchased several hundred codes from the site so far, and have been very pleased with the process. PTCGO sends the codes via email just a few seconds after the payment goes through. I experienced a single issue with a code not validating, and the company took care of that within a few minutes.

The only drawback to PTCGO is that they only accept payment via a PayPal account. So if you don’t have or don’t want a PayPal account, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

Heartstone Deck Tracker

Hearthstone Deck Tracker is a free, open source utility that runs alongside Blizzard’s online collectible card game, Hearthstone.

The software adds an overlay while you’re playing Hearthstone that shows:

  • what cards you’ve drawn from your deck, which are still left, and draw chances
  • which cards your opponent has played, deckcount and draw chances

Hearthstone Deck Tracker Overlay

When you’re not actually in-game, the software adds a Deck Manager that lets you import decks from various websites and then export those decks directly to Hearthstone. This lets users get around Hearthstone’s ridiculous 9 deck limit. The Deck Manager has a ton of options including the ability to assign custom tags to decks, add notes, create screenshots and share decks as XML.

Finally, Hearthstone Deck Tracker has a fascinating analytics component. While playing with the overlay enabled, the software can keep track of each game and then produce statistics for each deck to show a win/loss rate vs. particular classes, opponents, game modes, etc.


Hearthstone Deck Tracker - Win/Loss Stats


Finally, Hearthstone Deck Tracker allows users to replay specific games.

Hearthstone Deck Tracker - Replays