Hi all! Welcome to the first installment of Magic the Gathering content here on The Game of Nerds. Magic can be an overwhelming game to get into, it has a lot of moving parts and a large online community. The goal of this article is to help give you the information you need to have a strong foundation to help you find what part of the game or community is a good fit for you.
Magic is a game where each player uses their own deck of cards to battle with spells and monsters to overwhelm their opponent and win. Most people have a slew of questions when starting to learn to play, the biggest one being what is a good place to learn how to play. The best resource out there for this is Wizards of the Coasts own website, here is where they go over the basics of how to play. This site is full of helpful articles and guides on every aspect of the game, but this is not the only place where the Magic community thrives.
MTGsalvation is an online message board dedicated to Magic the Gathering, the community on here is knowledgeable and dedicated. This is where I personally go when looking into different decks or strategies when playing. To discuss the rules or recent news for Magic I turn to Reddit, there is a subreddit for every format and major aspect of the game. That rabbit hole starts with r/magicTCG.
Learning the basics of how to play is just the start of the game, after that, you have to learn about different formats, competitive play and the story of the Magic. The biggest draw to Magic that helps put it ahead of other competitive card games is the diversity of supported or popular formats.
The most popular format is called Standard, in Standard only cards from the most recent sets the older sets rotate out. Players by majority start out playing Standard, like most players I started out the game by buying an intro deck and battling my friends at school. Intro decks now branded as Planeswalker Decks are a good starting point for someone who is getting into Magic, the deck comes with a prebuilt deck and two booster packs from the set the deck is from. Although you likely won’t win a major tournament with these decks, they are a good way to start the game with a consistent and synergistic deck. They also help reduce the cost of entry for the game, Magic is an expensive hobby and products like these are intended to help players just starting out to have a safe starting place. But what happens when cards in a player’s collection rotate out of standard?
After Standard players usually look towards what is called the eternal formats, these formats are non-rotating meaning unlike Standard the cards legal in the format never changes. The official formats are Modern, Legacy, Vintage and Pauper. These formats have their own ban and restricted cards to help keep the game fun and fresh, you can find the official lists here.
Modern is a format where every card printed after 8th edition is legal for the format. It’s my personal favorite format due to it being the cheapest of the eternal formats, with a diverse and healthy meta game allowing for players to attempt all types of strategies. Modern is still a costly format, and there is no easy way to buy into the format. My recommendation when starting to get into modern is to check out the Budget Magic series by MTG Goldfish, these are again no the most powerful decks but they do have their strengths and these decks do typically have avenues to upgrade them to help rival the top-tier decks.
Legacy is a format where every black-bordered card is legal. Formats like Legacy are expensive because having every card legal means that every powerful card that has ever been made in the 25 years of production the game has had, the older sets had less supply, therefore, leading to a shorter supply of cards leading to rising prices for cards. Now, why won’t Wizards of the Coast just reprint these expensive cards in today’s products to reduce the cost you may ask? Long ago when players had a harder time feeling confident in the ability of these pieces of cardboard holding their financial value because of that very argument Wizards of the Coast released an agreement with the community called the reserve list. The Reserve list was intended to show players that their collections wouldn’t lose value over time because Wizards wouldn’t be allowed to reprint the specified cards or similar cards in the future.
After Legacy comes Vintage, the most expensive and skill intensive of all the formats. Vintage, like Legacy, has every card ever printed legal, except for a different banned and restricted list, these two formats are both expensive but Vintage takes the cake for most expensive. With the average deck costing close to twenty thousand dollars to play a competitive full value deck. This is not a format for people not fully invested in the game of magic.
Competitive play with Magic is very well-organized, time-tested and constantly improving or evolving with the times. After learning to play and picking the format to battle in, go to Wizard’s locator to find a list of all of your local game stores (LGS). These stores will host events called Friday Night Magic or FNM, the format is different by store but it is typically standard to allow for the most players to enjoy the event. Playing in these events usually comes with prizes and the cost to play is different for each store. Remember when buying Magic the Gathering products, if possible always buy from your LGS. These stores exist to be a local haven of Magic and cant continue to exist if you do all of your shopping at Walmart or Target.
If epic stories that span across dozens of worlds with limitless potential are something of interest to you, then the story of Magic the Gathering is a great place to start. Wizards of the coast release semi-regular pieces of the storyline relevant to the current set on their website. This is where you should go to get updated on the current story and find the archives for the past stories to get all caught up. The community over at r/mtgvorthos is the story and lore buff. MTG Vorthos is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the Magic the Gathering lore. Also if you would like to see the timeline of Magic’s existence check out this article released by Wizards for their twenty-fifth anniversary!
That’s all for today! I hope you found this to point you in the best direction to get into whatever part of Magic that interests you. If there is anything I didn’t cover in this article or you would like me to go more in-depth into please leave a comment below and I will try to cover it in the future!