Magic: The Gathering still dominates the physical trading card game world and it’s not just because it came first. Wizards of the Coasts has continued to innovate and refresh the game as the years go by. They put an insane amount of work into Magic to make sure that it stays the premier trading card game for the discerning geek.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play beyond the confines of Magic, despite what some Magic fans would like you to believe. There are other fantastic games to play, although none of them have quite the same mystique and beauty Magic’s lore provides.



Yu-Gi-Oh is a card game based on a famous manga and later anime written by Kazuki Takahashi. In the story, the main character takes part in a game known as Duel Monsters. In the story the game players summon real monsters; sadly, the actual card game we get to play in the real world does not include this feature.

Yu-Gi-Oh is an incredibly popular card game; so much so that in 2009 it won a Guinness World Record for the best-selling card game in the world. The game is played between two contenders who each have a deck of between forty and sixty cards. Players may also have an “extra” deck of fifteen cards, which is a bit like the side deck in Magic.

Each player starts the game with 8000 life points. The cards are then used to attack the other player with the objective of reducing the points to zero. You also lose if you have to draw a card from your deck but have run out. Interestingly, some cards or sets of cards can trigger an automatic win under certain conditions.

In terms of complexity Yu-Gi-oh isn’t that far off from Magic: The Gathering, but its art-style and pace might be more appealing to younger players. The anime is still going strong and so it’s sure to have a steady supply of new players for years to come.

Pokemon TCG

Pokemon TCG

You seriously need to have spent decades under a rock to not know the Pokemon franchise. The core product is a series of computer RPGs where you have to collect wild monsters known as “Pokemon” and train them to compete against monsters caught and conditioned by others. If you’re thinking this sounds like dogfights for children, well, you’re not wrong.

Still, the world of Pokemon isn’t that violent and the worst you can do to another Pokemon is knock them out. The original Game Boy games were a global hit and they are still making Pokemon video games to this day. Moreover, there are dozens of spin-off games, TV shows, movies, clothes, and (unofficial) adult toys. Yeah, Google it if you’re feeling brave.

Given the format of core Pokemon games, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has also been adapted to a TCG format. During the game you take on the role of a Pokemon trainer (no surprise) and you have to battle against another player using your cards. Unlike Magic and many other TCGs, players don’t attack each other directly. Instead, their Pokemon battle against each other. When a Pokemon gets knocked out after taking enough damage, the winner gets to draw a “prize” card. The main way you win in the Pokemon TCG is by drawing all the prize cards, or knocking out all your opponent’s Pokemon.

The Pokemon TCG is a game enjoyed by both young and adult players. It has a strong competitive side and there’s always a tournament coming up. Personally, I’m a fan of the Pokemon franchise in general, and the TCG carries the spirit of the video games over perfectly, while being its own thing entirely. If you can get past the “kiddy” art-style and reputation, you’ll find a fun game with plenty of tactical depth.

World of Warcraft TCG

World of Warcraft

Long before Hearthstone turned Warcraft lore into the hottest name in computerized trading card games, there was the World of Warcraft TCG. In fact, much of this traditional TCG was used as the basis for Hearthstone. Some of the card artwork in the video game comes straight from the paper version of the game. This game revolves around hero cards. Each player starts with one hero, and once per turn you can play any card from your hand. You want to reduce the other players’ health to zero, but also directly attack their cards.

The big problem with the WoW TCG is that it is no longer officially supported. Blizzard killed it back in 2013 and now only cares about Hearthstone. You can still buy the cards in many stores and players are still active, but who knows how long that will last? Still, it means you can buy cards for a bargain, and if there’s an active group of players nearby it’s still as fun as it ever was.

Duel Masters

Duel Masters

Duel Masters is one of the most popular trading card games you’ve probably never heard of. The game was partly developed by Wizards of the Coast, the same folks who make Magic. The other two partners are the Japanese companies Shogakukan and Mitsui & Co.

Duel Masters has a lot of similarities to Magic. It is a creature-summoning game, but the mechanics are significantly different than those of Magic. For example, not all creatures can block attacks and they can all generate mana. While Duel Masters remains incredibly popular in Japan, it’s already been canceled twice in the West. The last time the product was discontinued was in 2014, but you can still buy and play it. There are also several video game versions, but none for modern systems.

Duel Masters shows just how much flexibility there can be in the basic Magic formula; it’s a pity it never really took off in the West as it did in Japan.

Pick a Card

Despite the world now being taken over by video games, physical card collecting and face-to-face matches still have as much addictive power now as ever. Once you get into a TCG, chances are it will hook you for years and perhaps longer. The internet and social media now make it both easier to find people to play with and much easier to actually buy the products you want. Although many of the games I mentioned above are discontinued, I have a feeling we might be looking at a renaissance in physical TCGs as more and more people get introduced to them through computer technology. It’s time to start saving up for more sleeves!