Beginner’s Guide to Magic Part 2: Your First Deck

Magic The Gathering Logo

Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of the Beginner’s Guide to Magic: The Gathering. Last week, I outlined several ways of learning the basics of the game. There, I advocated borrowing a deck and learning the game from a friend or someone at a local game shop. After you’ve learned the ropes, it’s time to acquire your first deck. In this installment, I will cover the choices you have for your first deck.

I should say right off the bat that your first deck will probably not be a tournament caliber winning machine. This is normal. As with all other pursuits, you will get better with time. Keep at it, and before long you’ll be able to hold your own in whatever playgroup you choose to play with. With that caveat out of the way, let’s get right to it! For your first deck, you can either buy a preconstructed deck, or build your own deck. Preconstructed decks are far simpler to start with, but building your own first deck can be a satisfying way to personalize your entry into the game. The decision is completely up to you.

Pre-constructed Decks

magic core set

Wizards of the Coast publish a number of different premade decks whenever a new set comes out. These decks range in power from nearly unplayable to tournament caliber, albeit low-tier tournaments, and are priced accordingly. Here are the types you’re likely to find at your local game store or department store. One thing to look at when choosing a preconstructed deck is the deck’s colors. The easiest color to learn and play is Green, followed by Red and White. If you’re going to buy a premade deck, your best bet is find one that’s primarily one of these three colors for ease of use.

Intro Pack

Magic The Gathering Intro Booster Pack

MSRP: $12.99 to $14.99

Includes: 60 card preconstructed deck and one or two booster packs, depending on the set it’s from.

Intro packs are some of the most basic preconstructed decks you’ll find. They’re serviceable decks geared towards new players. Because of their beginner-friendly nature, you can buy any Intro Pack and be equipped for battle. They include handy inserts that tell you about the deck’s purpose and possible strategies to use. The booster pack(s) included with the intro pack are a nice bonus. As you’re shopping, you may notice that there are two different packaging styles (and prices) for the Intro Packs. This is because of a change that WotC implemented for the Magic 2013 and Return to Ravnica Intro Packs, which include 2 booster packs instead of the one seen in previous sets’ Intro Packs, with a corresponding price increase. Overall, I recommend the Intro Packs for newer players, especially those who are not sure whether or not they want to spend a lot of money on Magic. For best results, go for a 2012 or 2013 Core Set Intro Pack. The yearly Core Sets are specifically designed to be easy for new players to understand.

Duel Decks

Magic the Gathering Duel DeckMSRP: $19.99

Contents: Two 60 card preconstructed decks with boxes

Duel Decks are an entirely different beast from the Intro Packs. They come with two decks, geared to a more experienced audience, with a proportionately higher learning curve. However, it is worth your while (and 5 extra dollars) to buy a set of Duel Decks over an Intro Pack. They come with a higher portion of Rare (read: powerful) cards, and are fairly competitive right out of the box. They also provide more useful tools for when you start making your own decks. Overall, Duel Decks are definitely worth the money and the increased learning time, and will last you far longer than an Intro Pack will without modification.

Building a Deck

Magic Deck Builders Toolkit

 Building your own first deck is a harder, but ultimately more satisfying alternative to buying a premade deck. Of course, to build a deck you’ll need some cards. The quickest way to get a good starting collection is to buy a Deck Builder’s Toolkit, available at your local game shop or department store with an MSRP of $19.99. It comes with 225 cards and four booster packs. The 225 cards are a semi-randomized lot from the latest Core Set, suitable for building several decks. It also includes a handy deck building guide, explaining the basics of deck building and suggesting several possible deck archetypes you could build. The DBT is a wonderful tool for the new player, providing a great jumping off point for your Magic collection.

No matter how you obtained your first deck, the best piece of advice I can give you is to go play Magic. As you’re playing, ask for feedback, and pay close attention to what cards do and don’t work for you in your deck. Use this feedback and observation to tweak your deck to your local playgroups’ needs. You probably won’t win all of your games, but don’t get discouraged. “Learn, adapt, and overcome” should be your motto as you play more and more games and become a better player. Keep building new decks, and don’t be afraid to branch out with your strategies. Your skills will improve at a steady pace, and you’ll soon become a grizzled veteran, ready and willing to teach this spectacular game to your friends and family.

Magic The Gathering Weapons Armor Artwork

If you have any questions or comments about this article, or about anything Magic related, leave a comment below or send me an email at I’ll answer any questions, and I am willing to work one on one with anybody on their deckbuilding or strategy. Finally, stay tuned to Geekenstein for more Magic content, such as set reviews, deck deconstructions, news, and anything and everything else under the Magic sun!

MTG Madness