New And Returning Magic Players: Everything You Need To Know About Getting Into Magic: The Gathering
Do you remember how you felt when you played Magic: the Gathering for the very first time? Perhaps you were introduced to it by a good friend, or a family member? You may have played Magic: Online and wanted to try the paper form for a change. Or maybe you were simply curious and needed a new hobby? It doesn’t matter how you found your way to the game, once upon a time you were a brand-new Magic player and had to take that first step.
But stepping into a game that’s been going for over two decades, with over 20 million players worldwide (source, 2015) could be a very intimidating proposition for some. It might even be frightening, causing understandable anxiety as a newcomer to the game. And that’s perfectly understandable, which is why I’m writing this article as a guide for those who might still be a little reserved about diving into the game.
1. “I want to understand a bit more about Magic: the Gathering, but there’s so much stuff on the internet about it – I don’t know where to begin!”
I know that variety is the spice of life, but sometimes having too much to choose from can make things more difficult!
It’s good to read up on a new hobby to give yourself a little more background before diving in, it also helps to ease anxiety as you will have more of an idea of what you’re getting into. There are plenty of excellent guides out there already, but for a very basic and simple breakdown of components in a game then Wizards of The Coast have this very cool ‘How To Play‘ info on their page. It won’t bog you down with too much information, it will just give you a little bit more of an understanding of the parts needed to play.
Try not to feel too intimidated by the wealth of content available online about Magic, it’s a huge game with a huge player base, and people have been writing about it for years. Just focus on learning for yourself, and read over the above link until you feel it’s sinking in enough. Remember that Magic is a game and games are supposed to be fun, and once you’ve passed this early stage then you will start having fun!
2. “I really want to start playing Magic: the Gathering, but I have no idea who to talk to about it!”
It’s awesome that you want to play! It’s one of my favourite things in the world and I love talking about it – which is something I share in common with the people who are bound to run your local gaming store (LGS)! It’s easy enough to find where your nearest store is, thanks to the Store and Event Locator so no worries about going into a different shop. It’s always fun to go into a new shop and see what events they run, and the products they carry too – and I would advise that you see it as just that, fun! You’re not going in there to do anything other than have a chat. Pop in on a weekday if you can, or while you’re out and about. Be honest, tell them you’ve never played before but you want to learn. These folks know their stuff and will be glad to have an opportunity to bring a new player up to speed.
If you are looking to play Magic: The Gathering in the UK then this MTG events calendar will be helpful. If you are in Birmingham or the West Midlands area then please do pop in to Manaleak and join us! We’re a friendly bunch who love to chat about the game, and we are always willing to play a game or three.
3. “But what if they think I’m stupid for not knowing anything?”
Please hold onto this little mantra – we were all new players once upon a time. Every one of us. And the people you’ll meet in your local store will be more than happy to introduce you to the game, its mechanics and show you how to play. If by sheer bad luck you do come across someone who is rude or condescending to you for being a new player, then please don’t hesitate to talk to someone at the store about them. As a community we will not tolerate such behaviour. But in the three years I’ve been playing, I have yet to meet such a person so please try not to focus on this hypothetical situation.
4. “Will I have to buy a load of cards to start playing?”
A good number of hobbies do require you buy things before you can start up. As a new player though, you’ll be given a special 30 card sample deck to get you playing right away for free. That’s right, absolutely free! This gives you the tools you need to play a game straight out of the box – because playing is the foolproof way of deciding whether it’s for you or not. Most local gaming stores (LGS) will have these free decks in store, simply ask for one when you talk to a member of staff.
You can find more information about the free Magic Origins sample decks here: MAGIC ORIGINS SAMPLE DECKS
5. “I heard that there many different formats in Magic, and its all very confusing. What format should I play?”
As a new player, many of us would have started playing in Standard – it’s the most popular Magic: The Gathering format. This format generally consists of the most recent three ‘Block’ releases. Standard is the format that you should focus on as a new player, as plenty of people are playing it, there is more support available for it, and it’s easier to get to know the cards available.
To find out what sets are legal in Standard, simply use this website: What’s in Standard? You can then browse Magic: The Gathering sets and singles here. This is also handy for returning players who would like to jump back into Standard, as many players often take breaks from the game for various reasons. If you’re reading this and you’re a returning player – welcome back! I hope these resources help you back into the game, Standard is such a varied, evolving format so dive back in and enjoy!
Modern, Commander and Booster Drafts are three other formats that you might want to dip into when you want to branch out into other forms of Magic, but I wouldn’t worry about that just yet. I only started playing Modern this year, remember that there’s no race or rush in this game! Just experiment and play whatever format you feel most drawn to, the most important thing is to have fun!
6. “I have some money to spend but I don’t know what sets to sets to start on. What Magic sets and products should I buy as a beginner?”
So for a beginner, I would always recommend purchasing cards from the latest set. If you do not have a deck already, then I would recommend buying one of the new Planeswalker Decks, these are designed with new players in mind. Pick a planeswalker deck that you feel most drawn to, you’ll know.
Then you’ll want to purchase a Deckbuilder’s Toolkit and a Gift Box Bundle. These will give you the additional cards that you’ll need to build your deck(s), or build on your existing deck(s). The Deckbuilder’s Toolkit will contain all the playable staples that you’ll most likely be needing, a storage box and some booster packs. The Gift Box Bundle will offer you 10 x booster packs, an additional storage box, a dice and a players guide which will also show you all the cards from that set (very handy!). If you have the funds available then I would also purchase a booster box. From there, you’ll want to buy booster packs till have you have a good spread of the commons and uncommons that you feel you’ll need from the set. Once you have a good spread then just trade for and purchase the singles that you need for your decks.
Once you feel that you have enough cards from the latest set, then start purchasing products from the set just before it, and then just before that. Don’t be afraid to chat to other players about the cards you have, they may be able to help you build and create other decks or add better cards to your existing decks.
You can view all the Magic: The Gathering sets available here.
You might find this Facebook Magic: The Gathering trading group helpful: mtgUK & Ireland MTG Cards For Trade & Sale
7. “Creatures, instants, sorceries, enchantments… how am I going to remember what each of these do?”
Practise, practise, practise. You learn how to play Magic just how you’d learn how to play any other game, an instrument or a favourite recipe. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly it becomes part of your everyday vocabulary. Plus you will always be surrounded by more experienced Magic players that will be more than happy to remind you of how certain cards work – and a lot of cards include text to tell you how different mechanics work too. Wizards of The Coast don’t set out to confuse their players, they do want you to pick these things up so you can enjoy the game to the fullest!
Trust me, you will pick these things up.
If you have any questions regarding MTG card rules and interactions then you may find this Facebook rules support group helpful: mtgUK Rules & Judges Questions
8. “What’s a DCI number? The guys at my local store say I need one to play in events – do I have to pay to play Magic?”
Oh gosh no! A DCI number is absolutely free, it’s basically your identification as a Magic player. It does indeed allow you to play in all sorts of events including Friday Night Magic (FNM) – this is a weekly event that goes on in each store every Friday night (funnily enough!), prereleases, Grand Prix Tournaments, there is always something going on!
Setting up your DCI number is very simple. The guys at the shop will need your name, they will then hand you a card with your DCI number on. All you need to do after that is go to the website on the card and activate it with the code on the front of it. That’s it! It’s easier to get a DCI number than it is most store loyalty cards!
9. “Okay, I think I have the hang of the basics after playing a few games with the guys at the store and they’ve invited me to Friday Night Magic – I’m scared that I’m going to be against way more experienced players. They’ve probably been playing for years!”
Remember that mantra? No matter how experienced another player is, they were new like you once upon a time. And also, time played does not always mean more experienced, skilled players. I’ve been playing three years and have yet to make Top 8 at FNM – I would not call myself a good player in any way, shape or form, but I really enjoy playing! You will meet people that have been playing for a very short amount of time who are exceptional, as well as those who have been playing for nearly a decade and yet avoid events like the plague.
Do not be afraid to tell those other players that you’re a new player. They will leap at the chance to bring you into the atmosphere and help you along in your first FNM. Cards will be handed to you, folks will love to look at your deck and advise on how to get the most of what you’re playing. And most importantly? There will be no judgement. (And remember the other thing I said? If someone is particularly off with you, please tell someone working in the shop.)
10. “What do I need to bring with me?”
Yourself and your deck (obviously!), your DCI number if you have it already, money to pay for entry (this varies by store, depending on prize support and other things), snacks and drinks (although a good number of stores sell these sorts of things) and finally a way to track your life total in games. This can either be a special spindown D20 dice like these, or just a sheet of paper/notepad. I have a huge amount of D20s on me at all times, purely because I like collecting them, and there will always be someone at FNM who doesn’t have one. Again, don’t worry if you don’t have any of these as your local gaming store or players in the store will have some available, all you need to do is to just turn up!
If you do not have a DCI number then don’t worry, you can create one on the day at your FNM – it’s a super quick process!
11. “I’m so worried that no-one’s going to want to talk to me, everyone will already know each other and won’t know who I am.”
This is the risk of going anywhere new. I remember my first FNM and just how terrified I was – I was clutching my phone and texting a friend, telling him how much I wanted to run out of the place! I hadn’t left my house for months for anything that wasn’t work, so anxiety was practically choking me and it was obvious just by how I’d sat myself right in the corner away from everyone else. But it wasn’t long before I was approached by a few players (including the man who is now my husband!) and I was blown away by just how friendly they were.
tell everyone you meet that you are new and that you’re looking forward to playing, be the person that you yourself would want to meet
If you are new, and if you want to ensure that you have a great experience then try to make sure that you say hello to everyone; tell everyone you meet that you are new and that you’re looking forward to playing, be the person that you yourself would want to meet. Doing so will help others to understand your position better, and help you in return.
Tip: Always try to find your local gaming store’s Facebook page and Facebook group first. Most stores will have a Facebook community group, join these as they will help you get a feel of the local community. Say hello and ask any questions that you may have. Tell everyone that you’re new and would like to join in!
You may also be interested in this Facebook Magic: The Gathering community group: mtgUK & Ireland Community & Trading Discussions
12. “What about my first FNM game? What do I do?”
Tell your opponent that you’re new, and be amazed at just how many people will want to guide you through your first game!
Three years ago, I sat across from my first opponent with my 90-odd unsleeved deck and no clue how to play against a flesh-and-blood player. He talked me through each step, corrected any mishaps without putting me down, and congratulated me on playing through both rounds. Sure, I lost spectacularly but I felt far better after I’d played. It also gave me a chance to talk to other regulars and learn names.
If you’re playing Magic: the Gathering, you’re going to meet lots of people who have Magic as a common factor between you both. As you get to know them better, you might find you have other things in common too!
13. “I’ve really enjoyed playing, and I want to look at new decks and talk to more players! What should I do next?”
KEEP PLAYING! Talk to those friendly neighbourhood local game store folks, talk to the Magic community online, talk to your fellow players at events, take the chance to watch other matches at FNM and see other decks get played. Maybe even ask to have a casual play between rounds? Never stop playing, you will learn everything you need from there.
This is also the best time to start investing in the game. If you haven’t already picked up the items suggested further up in the article, now is the time to start looking into making some purchases. There is nothing more fun than cracking booster packs and building new decks.
I would say to all potential new players out there that once you have taken that crucial first step into the game, you will wonder how you were ever so nervous to start. I wish you all the best in your time with Magic: The Gathering, and maybe we’ll cross paths for a game in the future!
Additional MTG Resources
The best thing about Magic: The Gathering is the community, this is what separates it from any other hobby. There are plenty of resources to help you as a Magic player engage with the Magic community. I have included a list of forums and Facebook groups below that I would wholeheartedly recommend you try out.
The group names are self-explanatory. Please click on each of the headings to view and join.
We host a vibrant community on our Facebook page, please add/follow us to take part in the discussions, if you need Magic: The Gathering related help and advice, if you want to ask us about an order or if you need anything else!
Same again, our Facebook Page is the host of the UKs most engaging MTG Community. Please click on the link above and hit Like to get involved!
Trade with other UK based Magic: The Gathering players and collectors in the community for free, and make great friends! Please always exercise caution with online transactions. Please kindly read the group rules before posting. You can find the group rules here.
Trade for Legacy, Vintage and generally high-end MTG cards with other UK based Magic players and collectors. Please always exercise caution with online transactions. Please kindly read the group rules before posting. You can find the group rules here.
Please join this group if you have any trading or general MTG questions and comments, so for example; asking for trading vouches and references, discussing card values, fake cards and posting on matters that affect the MTG community at large etc.
Got a deck idea? Need help or want to offer deck building advice? Then join this group and take part in the discussions.
Got a MTG rules question and want (pretty much) instant help? or maybe you are a qualified DCI judge and want to help players in need? Join this group.
If you love designing cool Magic: the Gathering cards, or simply enjoy seeing what weird and wonderful creations others have come up with, then join this group and take part in the discussions.
mtgUK & Ireland Facebook Group for MTG Commander (EDH) & Casual Gamers decks and discussions. Please invite more like-minded players!
Community Question: What was your biggest challenge when you first started playing Magic? Please let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,