Magic Worlds is returning to its 2004 home, seen here.

Magic Worlds is travelling back to the USA, with San Francisco serving as host city for the first time since 2004. Nearly 600 professional players will converge on Fort Mason Center this weekend, hailing from 50 different countries and earning their qualifying status in a number of ways: prior Worlds placement, national championships, regional DCI rankings, and more.

By the conclusion of Sunday's events, Magic: The Gathering players will be awarded with over a quarter of a million dollars in prize money, and one competitor will walk away with the title of World Champion. If history serves them well, they'll go on to manage a hedge fund and be the focus of a puzzling diatribe about online dating.

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Live spectators will become a thing of the past with invitation-only World Championship events

If you haven't been to a Magic: The Gathering event lately, then you've got a lot to catch up on. Wizards of the Coast has been rolling out a series of changes to their organized play programs, and the shakeups continued yesterday with major revisions to the Worlds tournament, National Championships, and the Pro Players Club.

For the newly re-scoped 2012 Pro Tour World Championship, Wizards has announced the 16-player invitee list:

  • 2011 World Champion
  • 2011 Magic Online Champion (determined at the 2011 Magic Online Championship held at Magic Weekend San Francisco)
  • Winners of the previous three Pro Tours (Philadelphia, Dark Ascension in Honolulu, and the second Pro Tour in 2012). Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti is the first invitee to the 2012 World Championship.
  • The top-ranked player from each geo-region (Asia Pacific, Europe, Japan, Latin America, and North America) in the Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria.
  • The top-ranked players in the worldwide Planeswalker Points 2012 Professional Total who are not yet invited based on the above criteria sufficient to bring the total number of invited players to the 2012 World Championship to sixteen.

Notably absent are National Championship winners. While the tournaments won't be going away, Wizards felt that with the growing world-wide popularity of Magic, country-specific tournaments as World Championship feeders were a one-size-fits-all solution that no longer worked. Instead, National Championships will now grant players an 8x Planeswalker Point bonus for their participation, with the hopes that players can qualify for the Pro Tour based on regional points rankings.

Stay tuned for more changes as well. The Pro Players Club, which grants members tournament invitations, comped travel, and appearance fees, will be going away after 2012. The new system yet to be announced, but it is already known that it will lean heavily on Planeswalker Points.

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Can't get the group together but need a quick board game fix? Xbox Live has got your back in their current deal of the week promotion. From now through October 10th, you can grab the following titles for 400 Microsoft Points ($5): Carcassonne, The Settlers of Catan, Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Battleship, and Family Game Night.

Of the five, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is the must-buy title. In this game, you'll get the brand new Archenemy play mode, cards from the just-released Innistrad expansion, and the ability to use Ral Zarek, an exclusive planeswalker. The fact that the game is only just a few months old only amplifies how good of a deal this is.

If Magic isn't your thing, then don't let the opportunity to get Catan and Carcassonne on the cheap. These are two of the most popular euro-style board games and serve as a perfect jumping-in point for new gamers. If a round of Monopoly ten years ago was the last board game you played, then you owe it to yourself to try at least one of these two. Come on in, the water's fine.

Commander is a new format for Magic: The Gathering that is not exactly new. In truth, fans have been playing Commander for years by its original name, Elder Dragon Highlander, but now the format is gaining widespread recognition. As a community-created variant, Commander gained its popularity as the casual format of choice for pros seeking a break from the intensity of competitive play. Now Wizards of the Coast has brought Commander to the masses with five pre-packaged decks that include everything needed for a player to join the game.

Commander's popularity is not without warrant; the game is actually quite fun, and could serve as a great entry point for players not interested in traditional games of Magic. As I mentioned earlier however, most players were drawn into Commander through an active love for Magic. The format was not being used to its full potential for bringing new players into the hobby or attracting older fans back into the fold. The release of pre-packaged Commander decks is a welcome change as it opens the door to this wider audience in an attempt to strengthen the game's player community.

While the game plays mostly by standard Magic rules, there are a few quirks that make it perfect for casual 3-6 player free-for-all matches. For starters, each deck is led by a legendary creature, referred to as that deck's commander. These creatures start the game set aside face up with the ability to be can be cast on any turn, and can return to this position any time they would normally be exiled or put into a graveyard.

An example commander creature included in the green-themed "Devour for Power" deck

The most significant of changes to standard Magic is in the construction of a Commander deck, which consists of a hundred unique cards. There are also special rules on mana based on the casting cost of your commander creature, referred to as its color identity. No card may be included in a Commander deck unless its casting cost includes colors seen in the color identity if that deck's commander.

There are also some twists in how the game is won. Each player starts with 40 life, but must also track any damage they tack from each player's commander creature. If any individual commander ever deals a total of 21 or more cumulative damage to a single player, that player loses the game.

If Magic: Commander sounds interesting to then look for one of these five pre-constructed decks. Each has a different three-color identity with one primary color strategy and includes a starter strategy sheet for new players to the game. For a retail cost of $30, you'll get the entire hundred card deck in a Commander tuckbox, as well as three different oversized legendary creature cards that can be used as a reference when holding your commander face up out of play. There's also a draw here for Magic veterans, as each Commander deck includes fifteen never-before-seen cards that are legal for use in the Vintage and Legacy play formats.

Don't forget, we're giving away a whole slew of Magic cards from the new Innistrad expansion set as well as an entire 2012 foil set. In order to win, all you have to do is follow @MTVGeek on Twitter and retweet the following: We’re giving away a collection of Magic: The Gathering cards to 1 follower! #GeekMagic RT to enter! Rules http://on.mtv.com/nszw2A

Attention, Hobby Gamers! For this week's Twitter Giveaway we're unleashing a sweet collection of the classic fantasy card game, Magic: The Gathering!

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The release of Magic: The Gathering's latest set, Innistrad, is quickly approaching on September 30th, and this one is all about returns. The release marks a thematic return, with gothic horror making its way into Magic for the first time since 1995's Homelands. It also marks a major return to the design team, with original Magic designer Richard Garfield joining the ranks after a 15 year absence.

New mechanics embrace the horror theme, the most noteworthy being the 'transform' ability that uses double-sided cards. Often representing the day/night representations of vampire and werewolf creatures, all transforming cards have a set list of conditions or costs that must be met in order to flip a card to its powerful alternate side. Several of these double-sided cards are featured on Wizards of the Coast's Innistrad mechanics blog.

For a sneak preview of the dark creatures awaiting you in Innistrad, check out the Falkenrath Noble, shown here are MTV Geek for the first time:

If you just can't wait until September 30th for the full set release, check your local hobby gaming store for pre-release events running throughout the weekend starting September 24th.

Hasbro and IDW team up to bring the venerable collectable card game even more story.

Respectfully, we told you this all the way back during SDCC. But for those of you who didn't take a look at our pretty exhaustive SDCC coverage back in July, this Fall, IDW will be bringing you stories set in the universe of the card game that continues to maintain its popularity (contrary to the snarky belief of certain Gizmodo bloggerettes who will remain un-linked here). I know a lot of game developers (and just regular fans) who really get into the deep mechanics behind Magic, so I can see why Hasbro/Wizards of the West Coast and IDW decided that this is the right move for the property.

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For almost a year now, the forces of Mirrodin and Phyrexia have been waging war against each other in the Magic: The Gathering universe. On May 13th, Phyrexia will be crowned victorious with the release of the final set of cards in the Scars of Mirrodin block, New Phyrexia. As we come closer to that release, Wizards of the Coast has begun rolling out the details on what mechanics new and old will be showing up on New Phyrexia cards. Here's what we know so far.

As the new dominant force, Phyrexians have spread across cards of all five mana colors. However, additional improvements take their added flexibility even further. A new type of mana, Phyrexian Mana, can be seen on cards where instead of a number indicating the required quantity of mana, there is now simply a Phyrexian symbol (the letter Phi).

Phyrexian Mana is always colored, but can be paid with either that color mana or two life from the active player. Dialing down one's own life to cast a spell is a risky proposition, but this maneuver allows players the flexibility to stock cards which require mana types not otherwise seen in the deck. This symbol will be used not only in the summoning costs but in activation costs as well, so expect to see it used in strategic play.

A first look at the Phyrexian mana symbol present on many new cards in this set.

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Sometimes, you don't want to go through the hassle of building out a 60-card deck to enjoy Magic: The Gathering. Keeping up with the latest cards and strategy can be difficult for some, so Wizards of the Coast has been publishing a series of pre-built duel decks that boil the game down for casual players. Take a break from the war between Mirrodin and Phyrexia to check out the latest offering, a classic fantasy themed battle between Knights and Dragons.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
MSRP: $20.00
Release: April 1st, 2011

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We sat down with Wizards of the Coast at PAX East, and brand manager Paul Levy showed us their wares. The biggest news was that the next standard card set, Magic: The Gathering 2012, will launch in tandem with a new version of the popular Duels of the Planeswalkers online game, which had previously sold over 500,000 units.

The new game will have numerous added features, and as Levy put it, "Magic 2012 is both the paper game and the online game. We've got a huge community in the analog world and we're expanding the digital community to bring them together." Releasing this summer, Duels of the Planeswalkers will be available on XBLA, PSN, and PC.

While Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 will feature many modes of play, fans at PAX East were able to preview the new Archenemy play mode. Archenemy embraces a "one versus many" style of gameplay, where a group of players teams up against a sole opponent. In order to even the fight, the archenemy is given a deck of twenty oversized "scheme" cards that will supercharge the powers of their normal sixty card deck.

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Mirrodin event deck

Although Magic: The Gathering is definitely the most popular collectible card game on the market, breaking into a game with a nearly 20-year history can be a daunting task. In order to ease the learning curve, Wizards of the Coast has been releasing event deck packs that include a tournament-ready 60-card deck, 15-card sideboard, life counter die and strategy guide all in a sturdy deck box.

The newest two packs, Infect & Defile and Into the Breach are both debuting on February 25th. Wizards of the Coast will continue to produce two new event decks after every new set of cards is released, but before that specific set's Game Day occurs.

Game Days are Standard-format tournaments run simultaneously at local game stores around the world, with a focus on the newest set of cards. The two event decks mentioned above are built around the Mirrodin Besieged set, which will have its Game Days held on March 5th and 6th.

I received an early copy of the Mirrodin Besieged: Infect & Defile deck, which includes cards from the Magic 2011 Core Set as well as multiple expansions: Mirrodin Besieged, Scars of Mirrodin, Rise of the Eldrazi, Worldwake and Zendikar.

Before getting into the deck itself, the packaging must be discussed simply because it is so well put together. The art is beautiful and printed with foil highlights on every surface, but the box is quite function as well. The deck box itself has an outer slide cover to make sure it stays closed during transit, while inside there is a cardboard divider to separate your main deck from your sideboard. There is enough room inside this box to fit all of the included cards sleeved, and an additional area to the side has enough room for all the counters a player could possibly need. Sure, the fact that it is all constructed from cardboard means it will not last forever if heavily used, but this product is meant for beginners. You could do a hell of a lot worse than this for your first deck box:

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In a grueling best-of-seven matchup, Brad Nelson defeated Guillaume Matignon. For the first time, the Player of the Year title was decided through a one-on-one matchup. Traditionally, pro tour points earned throughout the year are added up to determine who the title will be awarded to, but at the conclusion of the 2010 season, both competitors were locked at 66 points. Naturally, a playoff format was devised to break this tie.

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In the buildup before Saturday’s major events (an anticipated record-breaking Grand Prix tournament and the highly-anticipated Player of the Year showdown), attendees of Magic Weekend spent day two participating in smaller public tournaments and interacting with some of the creative staff behind Magic: The Gathering. Some of the activities, which will be running all weekend long, included the opportunity to challenge the R&D staff to a round or to have a card signed by the original artist.

In the “Spell Slingers” area where the R&D staff was lined up to compete, players had their choice of Mark Gottleib, rules manager and card designer for Magic R&D; Ken Troop, Magic digital games manager; and Dave Humphreys, Magic R&D development manager. You’d better bring your serious game if you plan to win though, because Magic: The Gathering is designed by some pretty smart guys. Both Dave and Mark are graduates of MIT!

A Magic: The Gathering fan challenges Dave Humphreys to a match

In the artist’s signing area, two recent artists Igor Kieryluk and Véronique Meignaud were joined by veteran Aleksi Briclot. Igor and Véronique have both been working with Wizards of the Coast since the Zendikar set in late 2009, while Aleksi’s art dates back to Tenth Edition. Fans lined up for the opportunity to meet these creators behind some of the great artwork that adorns their favorite cards. Read More...

The geeks have taken over Paris, and it feels like home. This weekend, MTV Geek is on location at the 2011 Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour in Paris, France. The first of many Magic Weekend events throughout 2011, this event marks the start of Pro Tour and continues the Grand Prix competition that began in Atlanta earlier this year.

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