The Addicting Nature of Trading Card Games

Lexi Herbert
4 min readMay 15, 2020
The Colors of Magic: The Gathering

Card games have been a pastime for a long time now, as there have been variations dating as far back as the 1400s. However, there’s no time like the present to be into card games. From gambling, casual poker, and trading card games, cards are a universally loved way to entertain ourselves. With that being said, trading card games in specific have reached new heights with how utterly addicting they can be. Not only can you have fun simply playing games, building decks, and testing strategies, but now you can also compete for cash if you’re good enough. Every current TCG on the market has some kind of competitive tournament held somewhere. The three most popular are Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, and of course, Magic the Gathering. So, what makes games like these so addicting? The answer is quite simple: there are a lot of possibilities and variation to keep interest high. However, that endless replay value comes with a price: a lot of time and money.

Most TCGs have rotations where certain cards become legal and illegal for tournament play upon the release of new sets. This keeps the price at a consistent level, and with a new meta generally arriving with a new rotation, some single cards alone can go for $50. To be wholly invested, you have to be dedicated and willing to buy what it takes to make you a top-tier player. If you’re competing for money, this is even more true, because then you can have a steady income to keep the hobby going. I’d say Magic has the priciest cards to date, since some formats allow you to use cards from any set, and some cards from old sets can be anywhere from several hundred, to thousands of dollars now. If you came into this article not knowing that, I bet that sounds pretty ridiculous, and it admittedly is, but it’s also because the most expensive cards had very limited runs and are rare collectibles at this point.

Has this intimidated you at all yet? If so, then that’s fairly normal. If not, then you’re probably deep into card games like I am. The important thing to remember is that if you’re dishing out that kind of money, you should probably be competing, or at least working enough to afford that kind of spending. The best way to get into card games if you haven’t already is buying boxes or pre-made decks to give you something to work with, but not break you. My physical card collection of Magic cards was built over years and most of it was buying a large amount once a year and then calling it good. You don’t have to be rich to enjoy playing games like these, but you do still have to invest money. Now, for the question of how much time it will take to get started.

If you’re starting with a game like the Pokemon TCG, then you’re probably better off. Pokemon has a simple rules system and its mechanics aren’t hard to grasp with a small amount of reading and practice. The advanced players generally get where they do because of their deck building abilities, where they use their knowledge of the game to build combos that give them a much higher chance of winning. Magic the Gathering and Yu-gi-oh aren’t quite as simple, as each new set can introduce different effects that you have to learn and dedicate to memory if you plan on playing regularly. While there are online resources that can help you out, it is going to take a lot of time to come to grips with every aspect of each game and build decks that can compete with others.

So, if these games are fairly difficult to learn for newcomers, why are they so popular? The games are highly rewarding once you get your footing. Building a deck that can leave your opponent in the dust is satisfying. Using strategy and planning to get the upper hand in a game you’ve been losing is exhilarating. It’s simply very enjoyable to play once you have skill and strategy. In some cases, if the money commitment is too much of a barrier, there are options like Hearthstone or the recently released Legends of Runeterra, which offer a free-to-play mentality that allow you to gain cards as you play, rather than purchase them. Magic has an online game like this called MTG Arena, but it doesn’t have every set at your disposal. However, if you want to dip you toes into the game, it’s a good place to start.

So, now that all of this has been explained, is the addicting nature of the games a problem? Yes and no. Like any hobby, it can overwhelm your life if you let it become an obsession. There are people who spend money that they really don’t have and that can put them into a place of unending debt. However, the vast majority of players don’t have this issue. So, if you are easily addicted to things, then maybe approach something like this with caution, or avoid TCGs altogether. You do need restraint to play these games, as you can’t really get instant gratification just from buying a bunch of cards anyway. Take a slow and steady approach and you’ll be perfectly fine.

To wrap up, card games are addicting because of how fun and rewarding they can be once you get past the initial learning curve. They’re not dangerous to the vast majority of people, but be wary if you have an addictive personality. If you’re just looking for a fun new pastime, then I do recommend getting into any of the available games that strike your interest.



Lexi Herbert

A queer, enby gamer who has thoughts and opinions on stuff and things.