Magnesium has multiple dislocation and twinning systems with starkly different properties, which make its plastic deformation strongly anisotropic and highly complex. Existing empirical interatomic potentials fail to capture the full scope of these properties, making current molecular statics and dynamics simulation results of limited quantitative and predictive use. Here, based on the work by Kim et al, a new modified embedded-atom method potential for magnesium is introduced and rigorously validated against existing ab initio, continuum theory and experimental results. The new potential satisfactorily reproduces all the necessary mechanical properties for plastic deformation, including the various generalized stacking fault energy surfaces, dislocations core structures, Peierls stresses, surface energies and basal plane cohesive strength. The capability of this potential to accurately describe all the important slip systems and fracture behavior makes it valuable for future realistic atomistic studies of general magnesium deformation and failure problems.