Getting Started – The Right Way

At 15 years old, Magic: the Gathering is sailing into uncharted waters for customizable card games.  So long is the game's history that each of us has probably left and returned to the game more than once over the years.  If you are one of these people - welcome back!  Returning to the game can be very intimidating and financially draining.  Many players return to the table with their classic cards

Nostalgia won't win you any games.

Nostalgia won't win you any games.

and outdated conceptions about how the game is played.  The following is a guide to getting started again (the right way) in a game that is ever changing but still as fun as it was in 1993.

I know you're excited.  That old competitive spirit is swelling up in you and you want to run out and try to recreate your trusty 1997 championship sliver deck.  But before you go out and buy all of your favorite singles and a box of the latest set- consider the following - the game of Magic may be very different than it was in your heyday.  Not only have new cards been released but rules, card types and color balances have evolved over the years.   You're going to want to consider a few things before you take the plunge.

Since each player brings with them different needs, wants and cards we first need to take an inventory of your 'Magical Assets'.  Many cards are still very much legal and surprisingly effective in current environments so take the time to get your current collection organized.   If you are completely new to the game- that's great!  With the right investment we'll have you tapping with the big boys in no time.

You'll also want to grab a copy of the latest rules in searchable PDF format. While magic is simple on its surface (pay for a card, play the card, do whatever it says) you'll really have to encounter the infinite possibilities one by one in an actual game.  Having other players to turn to for a second opinion on a ruling is always a plus and Wizards even has an hotline (1-800-324-6496) you can call for ruling clarifications.  Understanding the rules is certainly important but naturally comes with experience with individual cards and specific situations.

You should also consider the nature of the arenas you'll be playing in:  Are you going to be playing in a tournament environment where we'll need to consider the "legality" of each card?  Will you be playing with friends who already own a heap of cards?  Thinking about heading over to a Friday Night Magic event?  Whether you're wanting to tango with the kings and queens of magic or simply dink around with some pre-constructed decks, I would urge you to consider purchasing newer, more core sets.  Doing this will allow you to build decks that are legal in almost any format but will still give you the core cards I know you're anxious to play again.  You'll find that many of your favorites have been reprinted or recreated in another form and quite frankly- newer Magic cards (particularly creatures) have become extremely powerful  and you'll quickly become a renewed fan.  I find the game to be much more enjoyable than it was 10 years ago with only a few hundred cards to choose from.  Spells and creatures have become exponentially more complex and therefore (I would argue) a whole hell of a lot more fun.

Consider the following 2 similar creatures- one old, one new:

Most certainly fun!

Most certainly fun!

Almost fun...

Almost fun...

lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllWhile While I feel the same attachment to my old cards as you do- you cannot deny the general superiority of some of these newer cards and without going into greater detail (I'll let you be surprised!) I strongly suggest that you purchase the newer cards, particularly if you plan on playing others who will be using the newer sets.

Alright, enough dilly dallying already!  This money is burning a hole in my pocket!  What should I buy?!
Start with a box of boosters of the latest "Core Set" which, as of this post, would be Tenth Edition.  You'll get cards from all of the previous sets including some of the newer ones and guess what?  They're legal in every format you'll play in!  Not to mention there are some wonderful cards in Tenth specifically.  After that you should spend some time reading through some of the newer cards in "The Gatherer" (your new best friend) and grab some deck ideas and building strategies from this or another MTG fan site.

Once you've got a cohesive strategy in mind, you will want to start buying singles.  While buying individual boosters is fun and certainly cant hurt your collection, a more effective way to get a deck going is to browse online auction sites like eBay for great deals on play sets (4 copies of one card) for pennies on the dollar.  In many cases you can get a play set of the card you want for less than the price of one booster pack.  Not to mention commons and uncommons are nearly free.

On that note we wouldn't want you to be afraid of buying some packs of magic cards once in a while.  Its a great feeling to rip open the shiny foil package and grin victoriously as you read an insane rare you may have never seen before and I encourage you to do so.  But buying singles can save you time, money and get you those specific cards you need, particularly the cards you need 3 or 4 of in a deck.  Don't be afraid to spend $15 to $20 on singles you need for a deck; for that price you could only buy 5 or six boosters with no guarantee of getting any cards you'll want to make a coherent deck.

So, lets review--

This could be YOU!

This could be YOU!

Whether you're completely new to the game, are coming back to the game or just want to start from the beginning- start with a box of the latest core set. Then, hop on a site like this one to explore some new deck ideas and building strategies.  And use eBay, or an eBay equivalent,  to purchase the singles you need to complete a deck or two. After that, don't be afraid to buy some boosters of the latest expansion once in a while- some of my most fun deck ideas have come from ripping open a pack and pulling a new and interesting rare.

I hope you've found this guide helpful and informative.  Stick with Gathering Magic for deck building strategies, multiplayer insights and good old fashioned Magic the Gathering rants.