I always get asked this question. How do I start playing Magic? Usually, when someone starts the game it is because their groups of friends decided to, probably due to one member of the group learned about it and so on. Yeah, the game is infectious but how do you go from being completely interested in something to actually doing it without that commitment it takes when you need other people.
That is where “Duels of the Planeswalkers” comes in. It is specifically designed to be a teaching tool of the game. As a seasoned vet, I found the lack of customization to be the one glaring issue. Magic is a game of exploration. Part of that flavor comes in deck designing and building. If everyone has access to all the cards, then obviously there are going to be “the best decks” and “the chaff”. I think for the most part any of the decks in the game can beat the others any given day. There are two that I think are far better than the others, but both are beatable. For only ten dollars, you get to play with a bunch of different cards and different decks. It is the cheapest way to play Magic.
If you want to start playing immediately, but again you may not have a bunch of friends around. You can try Magic Online. Magic Online is a digital solution to the paper game. Any card available, (well of the released cards, it’s pretty close now), are the same ones you can get at your local game store. The official store only sells booster packs and preconstructed theme decks. They also have the “Duels of the Planeswalker” format, I believe that every new account receives these gold bordered cards that can only be used in this format. That way you can easily jump in and play for relatively nothing, albeit you have to be confined to just those gold bordered cards. The biggest advantage to playing on Magic Online (we like to call it MTGO), is that you can always find a game day or night. Outside of the weekly downtime (Wednesday mornings), you can draft, play in limited events, constructed tournaments, casual matches, and multiplayer games any time. I also find that it is much easier to keep track of your collection digitally than it is scouring old boxes and binders for cards. It is also a lot cheaper to build decks. Because of how the MTGO economy works, there are so many cards opened through drafts that the market is flooded with product. As for singles, I like to buy from a place called MTGOtraders. They generally have the best selection and the lowest prices across the board. The only major disadvantage one may have to just starting out is, you should probably be comfortable with the rules of the game before you jump into MTGO. I’m not saying you can’t “pick it up as you go” with MTGO, but your life will be a lot easier if you learned a little bit before jumping in.
The last way you can play Magic is obviously in the analog sense. This is probably the hardest way to start playing cards. First, if you don’t have a local game store (I, sadly, fall into this category) than it can be difficult to find people to play with. I luckily have a pretty good playgroup, but we also had a game store before and really we only have about 2 or 3 new people who have joined since our store closed down in ’06. And even than, with adult schedules, its hard to find the time to play weekly. I’ve been trying to make an effort to play more. Also, when you are playing MTGO or “Duels of the Planeswalkers”, the AI never lets you play a card “wrong”. For instance, sorceries can only be cast during your own turn, if you and your play partner are just starting out you may not have grasped this rule and then later on when you try to do this against more experienced players, you may become discouraged at the game because you were playing it incorrectly. The best way to get into the paper game in my opinion, is to find someone who has played for a considerable amount of time. Ask them to teach you, I also suggest everyone to go to playmagic.com that will teach you the very basics of the game. The other article series I would suggest come in the form of Magic Academy. This was an article series written a few years ago to help newer players become more accustomed to how more advanced players talk and play. It goes more in depth than I could here.
Robert Chesley has been playing Magic since 1997. He’s been a writer at several Magic related websites including PureMTGO and CardShark. You can find Robert on Magic Online under the user namer Urzishra14.