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Richard Garfield Biography | The Father of MTG

Richard Garfield Early Life

Richard Channing Garfield, Jr., Ph.D. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1966, and spent his childhood in many locations throughout the world, as a result of his father’s work as an architect.

However, his family eventually settled in the State of Oregon when he was 12. Garfield is also the great-grandson to US President James A Garfield, and his great-uncle invented the paperclip.

Garfield studied mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. He always had a keen interest in puzzles and board games, which sparked an interest in game development.

A Young Richard Garfield

Game Development | Robo Rally to Magic

During his time there at the university, he invented a board game called RoboRally. While Garfield was searching for a publisher for RoboRally, Wizards of the Coast reached out to him about making a game for them.

Wizards of the Coast expressed interest in a fast-playing game with minimal equipment, something that would be popular at a game convention. They asked Garfield to develop a game that was cheaper to produce than RoboRally, that can be more portable and easier to carry around to conventions.

Garfield had been working on an idea about combining baseball cards with a card game and began turning that rough idea into a complete game over the next week. This idea was the start of a genre that would emerge: the trading card game, or collectible card game.

But Magic: The Gathering was not the first name choice when it was conceived.

Garfield built older prototypes of a game that dated all the way back to 1982 when he’d created a game called Five Magics.

Early Playtest and Prototype MTG Cards

Garfield combined ideas from previous games to design the first trading card game, Mana Clash, which then had its name changed to Magic: The Gathering, and worked on it in secret under a shell company called Garfield Games.

More MTG history articles

Magic the Gathering Released

Graded Magic Cards from the Original Alpha MTG Set

The game we today call Magic: The Gathering, is considered to be the first modern collectible card game. Magic: The Gathering was first released in 1993 with its release of Alpha, Magic: The Gathering’s first set. Its success spawned many sets to be created, like Arabian Nights, Legends, and The Dark.

I had this idea for a trading card game and it took me a while, maybe six months, before I came up with a framework for Magic. But that framework itself was taken from games I’d been designing all through the ’80s.

Richard Garfield

Leaving Hasbro

Since then, Garfield has created multiple games that are still popular today. But his time at Wizards of the Coast was cut short. He left Wizards in December 2000, after Hasbro sold the D&D computer game rights and canceled the project.

Wizards was Acquired by Hasbro

However, Garfield was asked to help out on future Magic: The Gathering sets. And his last and perhaps final set, he had a hand in developing was Dominaria, which was released in 2018.

Personal Life

Garfield has personally created four Magic cards celebrating events in his life: one for his first marriage proposal, “Proposal”; one for the birth of each of his two children, Terry and Schuyler, “Splendid Genesis” and Fraternal Exaltation (both professionally printed); and “Phoenix Heart” to celebrate his second marriage.

Splendid Genesis & Fraternal Exaltation

These cards were given out to friends and associates, and are considered extreme rarities by collectors.


Even though Garfield has left the world of Magic, he has continued to work as a game designer. There are countless games he has been involved in. Some notable ones include Keyforge and Netrunner. Garfield was also a primary play tester for the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition book set.

He continues his passion and love for mathematics, puzzles, and games.

But he’ll always be remembered as the father of Magic: The Gathering.

Learn more about the history of Magic the Gathering.

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