Magic: The Gathering is hands down the biggest and most intimidating trading card game (TCG) to take part in. It spans back literal decades with thousands of cards in backlog and multiple formats with different rules and playstyles. This article aims to give you an introductory guide about how to delve into magic without teaching you a thing about the rules! I honestly hope that despite the initial intimidation, you might still have an interest in learning how to play, because Magic is a fun TCG that you and all your friends can enjoy.
The first item on the block is trying to convince your friends to play as well and that’s going to be the toughest part. Learning Magic is far easier to do when you already have a Gathering of your own! Some people will jump at the chance, others won’t (until they see all the crazy fun y’all have without them at your secret magic meetings (smmeetings) and others will bring up some very valid concerns that you yourself may have about the game, which hey, is what we’re talking about right now!
Money. Magic is going to be as expensive as you want it to be and some people want it to be prohibitively expensive. Those stories of multiple thousand-dollar decks are no joke, but the reverse is also true! Budget decking is a sub-community within Magic and leads to some pretty wild things, such as a $30 pile of cards winning tournaments without breaking a sweat just so long as the pilot knows what they’re doing. Now, even $30 for a deck seems steep to some people so how about… nothing? Aside from some printer ink, running ‘proxies’ (cards you’ve printed out yourself) is an extremely valid way to test out decks you aren’t quite ready to drop cash on yet. I recommend the website mtgproxy.net to help compile and print your proxies. Now you can’t enter any official tournaments with proxies, but if you have a group of friends all learning together it is a great way to try out various deck styles all amongst yourselves!
What if you’re already familiar with other TCG’s and want something substantial that you can take immediately to tournaments? Well friend, there are products designed exactly for that. I personally wouldn’t recommend the basic ‘planeswalker’ decks as they can be pretty overpriced and quickly become obsolete when learning the game. Wizards of the Coast (the Magic guys are the same people who make Dungeons & Dragons, nerds) have recently released more advanced decks that come pre-packaged at the $45 mark. It seems steep, but as someone who has played the game for a while these decks can really come out of the box and do WELL at a local competition while having clear upgrade paths for later down the track for when you discover that this is the hobby for you.
What if too many of your friends want to get in on the fun? Lucky you! Ruining their lives with another hobby! For groups trying to play Magic, I highly recommend the ‘Commander’ format. It’s based on having 3+ players in a single game and produces some of the best banter around. I do recommend having an experienced friend or perhaps learning the basics of magic before attempting this though, as the several layers of card interaction can be confusing to say the least.
Now, I’ve purposely left this until last, but you and your mighty group are going to need a hangout! Or maybe you want to learn the game for yourself and that’s okay too! Adelaide is pretty lucky in that it has quite a few local games stores set up. A quick search will show the nearest venues to you, but as a central location, I highly recommend Good Games Adelaide! The store is LGBT friendly, with a decent amount of room and friendly staff that can help with learning the rules or even pointing you towards others who’ll be happy to share a game and a laugh with you.
This has been a super light-weight rundown on some of the ways to break into Magic and I’m sure it still leaves some people with a bunch of questions. Truth be told, the absolute best way to get into magic is just taking the plunge, going to a games store and learning together with friends. I hope that it at least sounds a little less daunting now and if you want some hands-on experience, there will be a few tables of Magic and Magic-related groups wandering around AVCon this year in the board games room. Come on up, say hello and let’s smash out a few rounds!