A Beginner’s Guide to Magic: The Gathering
Part One: Learning the Basics
Magic: The Gathering is the most popular trading card game on the planet. The crew at Wizards of the Coast achieved this distinction by providing an incredibly fun game with deep, multilayered gameplay, an impressive amount of flavor and a huge following, online and off. Unfortunately, many people who may want to play Magic are put off by its complexity. I’m here to fix that problem, by providing an in-depth guide to getting into Magic: The Gathering. I’ll start by explaining several methods to learn the game’s basic concepts and gameplay.
The hardest part of the game is starting it and learning the basic rules. Magic is a complex game, and having someone teach you in person is the easiest way to learn it. There are several ways to go about this. If you have a friend or relative who plays Magic, ask him/her to show you the ropes. Most players would be happy to do so, since being able to hang out with your friends and with others who share your interests is a huge part of the game. This is how I learned to play during my first year of university, where my roommate taught me how to play,. It was a great bonding experience.
If you don’t have any friends that you know of who play Magic, I recommend going to your local game shop that sells Magic Cards. Local game shops, especially the larger ones, often have leagues or clubs devoted to Magic. Ask the owner or an employee if they have one. If they do, ask when the next meeting or event is. You’re sure to find at least one person there who is willing to show you the ropes. If they don’t have an active league/club, there may be able to point you towards a local playgroup that would be willing to teach a new player.
“But wait, I don’t have any cards yet!” you may be saying to your computer right now. Worry not! Whether you’re learning from a friend or a stranger at your local game shop, they’ll more than likely have a deck for you to use as you learn the game. If they let you use one of their decks, make sure to treat those cards with absolute respect. Don’t bend the cards, don’t spill your food or drink on them, and ask the player how they want their cards shuffled. Shuffling in the wrong way can wreck cards or the sleeves they’re in. I know it may seem like common courtesy, but I’ve either seen or heard of new players wrecking the cards they were given to learn with in these ways.
If you don’t have a friend or someone at a local shop to train you, it’s always possible to learn via digital means. Personally, I recommend that you find and download the demo to Stainless Games’ Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, available on Xbox 360, PS3, Steam (at the time of this writing, it’s 25% off on Steam!) and iPad. The demo includes a tutorial mode that will bring you through the basics of the game. After you finish the tutorial, there are several battles from the campaign available so you can put your newfound skills to the test. If you like what you’re playing, I highly recommend paying the ten dollars to get the full version. It’s a very noob friendly game, you get much more cards to play with in DotP than you would by spending $10 on any other Magic product, and the online community (in my experience on the PS3 version) is very friendly. Another way to learn digitally is via Wizards’ own Learn to Play website, where you can download the tutorial mode of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2009 version to play on your computer.
Both the digital and analog methods work, although, personally, I prefer to teach in person. That way, I can answer questions as they come up, and a lot of the rules make more sense if they’re explained in simple terms, rather than trying to decipher the rules text printed on the cards. However, learning the game digitally lets you work at your own pace, without an experienced player to potentially become impatient at your play speed.
However you learn the game, congratulations! You’ve taken your first step into a larger world. The next step is acquiring the first cards of your own. Tune in next week, when I’ll explain the options you have in getting or making your first deck! [Edit: the article is up and ready for your perusal]