Interested in Magic: The Gathering, but don’t know how to start? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what I believe are the best ways to get into the game. Before delving into it, it should be known that Magic is a pretty big game, having been around for over 20 years, with multiple expansion releases per year, and a massive fanbase of all ages, genders, nationalities, etc. Along with the physical game, there are dozens of digital games, ranging from a replication of the card game, to RPGs and strategy games. The actual game itself has many formats, some of which restrict your card selection, restrict the amount of cards you can play, or give no restrictions whatsoever. Still seems daunting? It is at first, but it’s that way for anything with a large following. If you want to get started in Magic, or get back into Magic after a long hiatus, there are three good ways to get into it nowadays: Casually and/or digitally, attending a Prerelease, or attending an Friday Night Magic or major tournament.
Firstly, if you don’t know what Magic: The Gathering is, here’s a quick guide: Magic is a trading card game based around common fantasy and mythological tropes and themes. Games are usually one versus one, with some game variants consisting of more players. Players use 60 card decks, start with 20 life, and win when they reduce their opponents life total to zero, or when their opponent has no cards in their library (There are cards that circumvent those win conditions, but that’s for another article). Cards are split into different types, players get turns which are split into phases, and there are various timing and layering rules. Those bits of info are better learned playing the game.
The easiest way to get into Magic is casually. Buy a starter deck at a gaming store, or buy a bunch of packs and make a deck out of the cards, then play with some friends. No one to play with? Your local gaming store will surely have someone there willing to play. Oh, and if you don’t want to make a monetary investment yet, most gaming shops have free starter packs they can give out. They’re a really good way to learn the current rules and intricacies of the game! You can also start digitally, with the newly released Magic Duels free-to-play game. While it has a limited card pool, it’s one of the best ways to learn about playing Magic.
If you’re looking for a more social experience, or want to start off with an event, I’d recommend attending a prerelease (That’s how I started!). There’s a new set coming out on October 2nd, with prerelease events starting a week before. The rules for it are a little different than for regular games, but the gameplay remains the same, and while it can be competitive, everyone is on the same level in regards to their card pool and card choice. You can also attend a Draft, which you’ll have to ask the gaming store owner about. It’s a little bit more competitive than a prerelease, but the rules are roughly the same. Both events have an entrance fee, and while a draft is intentionally limited in size (usually eight people), prerelease events can have dozens to hundreds of people. Oh, and if you’re curious about the formats of those, in a prerelease event, you get six packs, and use that pool of cards to build a 40 card deck. In a Draft, you get three packs, and while using one pack at a time, pick one card and pass it to your neighbor. It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to learn, and a very fun experience.
Lastly, a good way to get into the game is to just get right into it. Buy or build a deck, and attend a Friday Night Magic Event (also known as FNM). These events can get competitive, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun of playing the game. Most gaming shops have an FNM every Friday, and attendance varies from shop to shop (my shop averages around 15 people, with some weeks getting upwards of 40). Another choice is to attend a major tournament, but this should be avoided due to the competitiveness and intensity of the event (though tagging along with a friend would be a great way to see other people play, and to have them teach you!).
Magic: The Gathering is a very enjoyable and rewarding game, whether you are playing casually with friends, or attending a major event. If getting into the game seems too nerve-wracking, it’s fine. I played digitally for years, and collected physical cards on the side, too nervous to attend a real event. One day, I decided to just go to a prerelease, and it was a blast. Now I’m planning on attending my tenth prerelease, and I’ll be attending it along with the friends I’ve gained over the years of playing this game. So whether it’s social anxiety stopping you, or the massive fanbase, cardbase, and terminologies that deter you, just draw in a deep breath, and get yourself out there, play a game of Magic, and have some of the most fun you can get from cardboard!