Entry Level Magic: A Guide To Your First FNM! by Mark Pinder

What’s the Magic Word? by Liam Casserly

Entry Level Magic: A Guide To Your First FNM!

There are times when Magic: the Gathering can be a pretty harsh game to play, your opponents know so much more than you, quotes the rules at every opportunity and everyone seems to have a better deck than you. Welcome to your first Nationals Qualifier, Pro Tour Qualifier, Grand Prix Trial and oh yes I almost forgot one that must surely be the most obvious, your first Friday Night Magic!

Yes folks, the most daunting prospect to a Magic player isn’t really the bigger events but it is stepping your toe into the water. Now not everyone starts their gaming life in a shop and can see first hand the friendly atmosphere but are looking from outside, they may read about the Top Decks from the latest Pro Tour, see the cost of the Primeval Titans and baulk. As a Tournament Organiser I worry, I worry a lot as it happens, will enough players turn up, will enough players want to draft as there is a big hole in my bank account from buying that booster box and where will the new players come from to keep the WPN level up so we keep the Pre Releases/Friday Night Magic. It’s a stressful life being a Tournament Organiser, there are always more complaints than there is praise and it can be a thankless task. A popular misconception is that all shops and Tournament Organisers are raking in money, especially at Pre Releases etc where you hand over the money for your sealed pool, little do players consider how much the TO has already laid out to get the stock and anything left over still has to be sold on etc. So next time you are at an event, even if you have a few gripes remember to thank the TO before you leave.

Anyway, I’ve been digressing, something I tend to do a lot as I am passionate about Magic. I feel one of the biggest barriers to players coming back is them having a good time, so we strive to make our club accessible, have a community commons draw full of spare commons albeit many are for older formats, encourage and help new players.

Getting back to the first paragraph how many of you went 4-0 at your first Magic event scooping first place ? 0-4 more likely wasn’t it and how many more times do you want that to happen before you decide actually, I can log onto WOW tonight and get a couple more levels ? So you want to play Magic, you don’t know if you will like the game and you are not sure you really want to spend a lot of money. This article is aimed at you but can also be useful for any Magic player during the current credit crunch who wants to maximise his budget for Magic. What we do in Grimsby is give out FREE decks to new players, not the ones Wizards give out at the shops which are a nice hook to get players to start Magic but need a major upgrade if you are going to be competitive. So, how many people have heard of Pauper Magic, decks built out of common cards only ? Peasant, which I believe is Pauper plus four uncommons though there are know to be regional variations in both formats ? What I intend to do is work from those humble beginnings and give you some deck lists of primarily commons and uncommons so they should be easy to get hold off and not too expensive. I’ll give a quick guide on how the deck works in case it is not entirely obvious to newer players and then some options to upgrade the deck.

Red Deck Wins.

The red deck aims to kill an opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible. The main engine to the deck is the Kiln Fiend‘s and Chandra’s Spitfire‘s that combo with the burn spells to pump them up. Then you can add the Goblin Bushwhacker and Goblin Wardriver to pump the guys up even further on offence. Fire Servant may seem a bit controversial but if it can see play the burn spells will become more powerful but by then hopefully you have won.

Teetering Peaks 4

Smoldering Spires 4

Mountain 14

Chandra’s Spitfire 4

Kiln Fiend 4

Goblin Wardriver 4

Goblin Bushwhacker 4

Fire Servant 4

Burst Lightning 4

Searing Blaze 4

Lightning Bolt 4

Fling 4

Fireball 2

The most logical upgrade to this deck is Goblin Guide to replace Fire Servant to make the deck even faster.

Boros Landfall.

Okay, first things first for those new to Magic, Boros is a reference to Magic the Gatherings history and was a Guild in a previous set called Ravnica, it has been adopted as the name for Red – White aggro decks. The deck looks to win by using cheap landfall creatures and effects but with the new Battle Cry special ability thrown in for good measure. Throw in some burn spells and you have a nifty little deck.

Evolving Wilds 4

Terramorphic Expanse 4

Teetering Peeks 4

Plains 8

Mountains 4

Steppe Lynx 4

Plated Geopede 4

Goblin Bushwahacker 4

Signal Pest 4

Accorder Paladin 4

Adventuring Gear 4

Searing Blaze 4

Zektar Shrine Expedition 4

Lightning Bolt 4

Again, the only change I’d probably make is to add Goblin Guide and maybe take out the Signal Pest at that point. I also think that Brave The Elements at uncommon could also force a place into the deck.

Green Stompy.

Well no article on beginner decks wouldn’t be the same without a Green Aggro stompy deck. The aim is to get out the Baloth quickly and put opponent under pressure, throw in combat tricks to beef creatures up and give them trample should help put players under more pressure.

Forest 24

Arbor Elf 4

Bellowing Tanglewurm 4

Garruk’s Companion 4

Leatherback Baloth 4

Llanowar Elf 4

Sacred Wolf 4

Giant Growth 4

Unnatural Predation 4

Untamed Might 4

The upgrade path on this deck is Garruk Wildspeaker and Overwhelming Stampede to overrun the opponent with your guys. Any most cost effective creatures to replace the Sacred Wolf and Garruk’s Companion would be beneficial too.

Pridemate Comb.

Okay, lets start getting controversial. The vast majority of people say “Life gain” is a bad strategy . I feel this blanket approach is unduly negative and not thought out, many Magic players are like sheep who agree with whatever the current or popular philosophy as to challenge those perceptions can make you the target for derision. Well, in Summer 2010 US Nationals saw the arrival of Soul Sisters, on the face of them weak cards but when they were put together they became frighteningly good, based around Ajani Pridemate being built up to become an awesome creature from all the “Life Gain” triggers. Well, Soul Warden is no longer about but we still have a lot of “Life Gain” cards.

Kabira Crossroads 4

Plains 18

Ajani’s Pridemate 4

Lone Missionary 4

Soul’s Attendant 4

Kemba’s Skyguard 4

Kor Firewalker 4

Kor Skyfisher 4

Brave the Elements 4

Emerge Unscathed 4

Masters Call 2

Jouney to Nowhere 2

Condemn 2

So how could you make this deck better ? Serra Ascendant is a good choice to become a win condition, I also found Sun Titan if you can get it to resolve brings back all your dudes. You could of course go for the alternate win condition offered by Felidar Sovereign. When “Action” comes along you would also have Suture Priest to add to the mix.

White Weenie.

I don’t think any article on budget decks would be complete without a White Weenie deck. Simple in design aiming to deal damage hard and fast with tricks to protect your guys.

Plains 14

Evolving Wilds 4

Terramorphic Expanse 4

Signal Pest 4

Squadron Hawks 4

White Knight 4

Kemba’s Skyguard 4

Leonin Skyhunter 4

Accorder Paladin 4

Steppe Lynx 4

Brave the Elements 4

Journey to Nowhere 2

Adventuring Gear 4

The white weenie could easily become a Knight Weenie deck though by adding Student of Warfare, Mirran Crusader, Knight Exemplar and Hero of Blade Hold. This would push up the cost but none of the cards are really that expensive or hard to acquire.


Well “Vampires” is known to be a relatively cheap deck with some good uncommons that are sought after, most of the cards have been in theme decks with alternate art promos available to for several of the cards. This deck just looks to turn creatures sideways and disrupt their opponent enough for the win.

Swamp 18

Bojuka Bog 2

Vampire Lacerator 4

Pulse Tracker 4

Vampire Nighthawk 4

Gatekeeper of Malakir 4

Bloodthrone Vampire 4

Vampire Hexmage 4

Go for the Throat 4

Sign in Blood 4

Inquisition of Kozilek 4

Vampires Bite 4

The upgrades for Vampire decks are usually Malakir Bloodwitch as a finisher, Kalastria Highborn to make your opponents choices really difficult and even Captivating Vampire can make an appearance though he is no Vampire Nocturnus.

Green Trampler.

Well a variant on the green stompy deck but one that can create an opponent real headaches. The offensive creatures in this deck all have trample which will put the opponent under a clock and also ever growing threats.

Forest 24

Arbor Elf 4

Garruk’s Companion 4

Pelakka Wurm 4

Stomper Cub 4

Sylvan Ranger 4

Tangle Mantis 4

Viridian Emissary 4

Giant Growth 4

Untamed Might 4

There are lots of silly rare creatures that are awesome and strong like Rampaging Baloths and Terra Stomper but Garruk Wildspeaker could also come into the mix.

Mono Black Poison.

Okay, just like down at your pre release this is a nasty little deck designed to deal ten damage rather than the twenty needed usually. Creatures are recipient of pump spells, equipment and the trusty mortar pod can be used to do the final damage or have the contagion clasp proliferate up the counters.

Swamps 20

Plague Stinger 4

Vesper Asp 4

Ichor Rats 4

Septic Rats 4

Blackcleave Goblin 4

Corpse Cur 4

Vampire’s Bite 4

Sign in Blood 4

DarkSteel Axe 4

Mortar Pod 2

Contagion Clasp 2

Okay, how to turbo charge this deck. Well we have Phyrexian Crusader to come in and replace the Septic Rats and we can have Hand of the Praetor’s come in for the Blackcleave Goblin.

Well I hope the above decks have given you food for thought and also maybe an idea of a deck you would like to play. Just remember that commons and uncommons can usually be traded for quite easily and in many cases established players will give them away to newer players to get them started. Also don’t forget that you can always down size on a trade, you can give up a rare for several playable uncommons.

Hope to read some Feedback.

Mark Pinder

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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.