Magic: The Gathering: A definitive guide to MtG for beginners

Magic: the Gathering

Anyone can play Magic: The Gathering. Here’s the path to becoming a MtG master.

Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh card games are for noobs and degenerates. True scholars pursue deeper games, like Magic: The Gathering, also known as MtG.

Magic: The Gathering has been out since the early ’90s and is still going strong with card game nerds everywhere. Anyone can understand the basic Magic: The Gathering principles and play a round or two within minutes of learning the rules.

How to play Magic: The Gathering

To play Magic: The Gathering cards, you will need Mana. It comes in six land types: Forest, Plains, Islands, Swamp, Mountain, and Wastes. As you draw once a turn, you’ll acquire land cards as well as monsters, spells and more. To use these abilities, you’ll need to “tap” a certain number of lands on your turn. The catch is you can only add new lands to your side of the board once a turn. Easy enough, right?

Players begin each MtG bout with 20 life points. Once you hit zero, you’re done-zo. In order to keep your score up, you’ll need to play cards that can attack the monsters standing in your way. Once the path to your opponent is clear, your attacks hit their life score. It sounds simple–but there are thousands of variations on what happens between 20 and 0.

Magic: The Gathering decks for beginners

You can’t jump into the Magic: The Gathering field without a set of Magic cards. I suppose the bravest among us would jump in blind, assembling a deck out of loose booster packs. However, there are plenty of MtG cards available in starter packs, built with beginners in mind. It’s also built to spar, considering you can’t play Magic cards alone. Each of these Magic Duel Deck packs contains two MtG decks, so you and a lucky friend (or despised enemy) can play the second you crack open a box. They even come with two deck boxes to keep your decks safe, crisp, and shiny.

1) Mind vs. Might

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In Beauty and the Beast and Magic: The Gathering, the tune remains the same. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme: brains and brawn. Which one reigns supreme among MtG cards? Human wizard Jhoira of the Ghitu heads up Team Mind, with a swarm of deep-sea creatures and sky leviathans in tow. If brute strength is more your thing, the Might Magic cards deck stars Legendary creature Lovisa Coldeyes, who powers up all Warriors, Barbarians, and Berzerkers.

Price on Amazon: $20

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2) Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis

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In Magic: The Gathering, there are few monsters as fearsome as Planeswalkers. Each deck in this pack stars two of the nastiest creatures of this powerful category. Nissa, Voice of the Zendikar lets you draw cards for every land played, perfect for one-turn kills.  Ob Nixilis Reignited destroys creatures on command. Whichever deck you pick, you’ll know your opponent will be packing serious MtG firepower.

Price on Amazon: $20

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3) Heroes vs. Monsters

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Are you betting on muscle-bound brawlers of legend, or the gargantuan beasts they slay? Regardless of where your loyalties lie, each Magic: The Gathering deck packs a punch. Batting for the heroes is the Sun Titan, who can revive powerful permanent cards. Its nemesis, Polukranos, World Eater, is such a bonafide monster it has the power to turn everything it touches “monstrous.” Even Planeswalker cards will cower in fear.

Price on Amazon: $25

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4) Speed vs. Cunning

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Yes, the name of these Magic: The Gathering card decks lay out the strategies within. But forget that for a second. Instead, let’s focus on names. The stars of Speed vs. Cunning deserve to be written in the heavens with gossamer stardust: Zurgo Helmsash and Arcanis the Omnipotent, respectively. Zurgo gets powered up for every monster he slays. Arcanus can escape any attack and retreat to the owner’s hand at any moment. Regardless of your choice, each of the Magic games played with them will be star-studded.

Price on Amazon: $22

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5) Zendikar vs. Eldrazi

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In Greek mythology and high school football teams, nobody is more feared than Titans. The Eldrazi serve as the titans of the Magic: The Gathering multiverse. After thousands of years of being trapped away, they’ve woken up with revenge on their minds. The motley creatures of Zendikar have united to face off against the ancient behemoths, with the power of the lands behind them.

Price on Amazon: $42.99

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6) Jiang Yanggu & Mu Yanling

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The Magic: The Gathering multiverse is sprawling, to say the least. These decks were designed by Chinese artists, inspired by their folklore and rooted in Chinese aesthetic. Jiang Yanggu’s nature army deck combines the delicate alchemy of fire and earth. Island Planeswalker Mu Yanling’s ability lets you take a turn after turn, making her as devastating as a tidal wave in all Magic games.

Price on Amazon: $15

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Magic: The Gathering decks come single, too

You’re a loner, Dottie. A rebel. For whatever reason, you want to blaze your own trail. This isn’t too big a surprise. As far as the Magic card game is concerned, champions are made alone. You could still get the dual packs listed above and have more than one deck to pick when it comes to creaming the competition. Or, if you’re more into a minimalist approach to winning at Magic cards, you can nab one of these single decks packs. Each pack includes a 60 card deck and a fresh booster pack, which may just come with even more powerful cards to pump up your new deck.

7) Planeswalker: Tezzeret

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Planeswalker Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist heads up this deck. Granted, he’s so powerful he’s practically a deck in himself. He’s got the power to turn any card into cannon fodder to take down your enemies. It’s classic MtG beatdown at its best.

Price on Amazon: $11.99

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8) Planeswalker: Vivien 

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Forest Mana powers up this unstoppable MtG army, helmed by Vivien of the Arkbow. Alone, her own firepower isn’t too threatening. But once you’ve amassed a small collection of enemies, she’ll boost their stats to trample over your opponents. Even defensive Magic: The Gathering monsters won’t protect your opponent’s life.

Price on Amazon: $15

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9) Planeswalker: Sarkan

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Sarkan, Dragonsoul’s name tells you exactly what he excels at, which is summoning big, beefy dragons. His army of winged beasts hails from the mountains, ready to scorch the earth of anyone in its path. A few extra Magic cards booster packs could easily turn this humble deck into one that deals out one-hit kills in the cutthroat Magic: The Gathering arena.

Price on Amazon: $20

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Magic: The Gathering wants you to build, baby, build

10) Magic: The Gathering Origins Deck Builders Kit

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Are you indecisive as heck? Let fate decide where your Magic: The Gathering cards adventure will start. This pack comes with 125 randomized cards, four assorted booster packs, 100 land cards, and a full-art storage box. If you’re lucky, you can fashion together at least three different decks, maybe four. Whatever powerful cards you get will define your direction in all Magic games.

Price on Amazon: $30

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Jaime Carrillo

Jaime Carrillo

Jaime Carillo is a writer for Pure Nintendo and a plucky YouTube cook. He specializes in writing about console gaming and kitchen gadgets. It comes naturally, considering he's either wielding a massive cleaver or Switch Pro controller at any given point. When he's not cruising through a drive-thru at 2am, he's baking shokupan or whipping up a big pot of Japanese curry. He enjoys retro gaming, geopolitics, and Vic Berger videos.