There has never been an official history of Magic. Back in the days, the early days of tournament Magic was chronicled at The Dojo. Formats, like Legacy or Vintage, have had their respective histories written in article series in places like Starcitygames or The Mana Drain. Mark Rosewater has written countless articles about the history of the game’s design back on the mothership, and almost every detail of the Pro Tour has been debated in one way or another. But nobody, as far as I know, has ever tried to tackle the whole history of the game at once. That is, until now.
Titus Chalk’s Generation Decks, released earlier this year, is an unofficial history of the game, but, being a journalist, Chalk goes to the original sources, digs up truths and speaks to very many people who were there. Loosely chronological and thematic, the book start with the meeting between Richard Garfield and Peter Adkison in 1991 that kicked it all into motion, covering the pre-Alpha playtest phase, the 1993 GenCon release, the early success and incredible growth of Wizards of the Coast as a company, the introduction of the Pro Tour and its first heroes and villains, the Schools of Magic and The Dojo, the rise of Jon Finkel and Kai Budde, the exodus of many pro players towards a career in professional poker, the sale of WotC to Hasbro, the secondary market for cards, the role of Magic Online, and the lack of women in the game. Sprinkled in, there are autobiographical parts, describing what the game means to the author, illustrating how it can make you meet new friends and give you a stable point in life.
If you’re interested in old school Magic, in Magic in general, or just in gaming history, you need to read this book. I’m fairly well versed in the game’s history, having played since late 1994, read The Duelist since 1995 and compulsively consumed every internet article from The Dojo to current-era Starcitygames, and there were still lots and lots of things in the book which were new to me. Like the part about the original artists’ contracts, or the actual early history of The Deck (my favorite part of the book, to be sure). If anything, my only negative note is that the current Pro Tour part ends in 2013. It makes an otherwise timeless book feel a bit dated right off the shelves, but in a few years’ time, it won’t matter. And this is a book for the ages. The prose style is clear, fluent and at times witty. Chalk’s passion for the game is eminently evident, making the British-born, currently Berlin-based author fly around the globe, attending tournaments, talking to different people, and tracking down even more by phone and Skype. It is a joy to read, and it should stand on every serious Magic player’s shelf.