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Magic: The Gathering» Forums » General

Subject: What does a boardgamer need to do to learn to enjoy this game? rss

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Timothy Young
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So, I have a brother who likes to play MTG. He played quite a bit in his teenage years, then fell out of it as he moved into adulthood. But recently he's started playing it a bit again.

I purchased him some secondhand cards for his birthday last year and he was pretty stoked about it. (Nothing expensive; ~1,000 commons for $20.) I let him teach me how to play with those cards, but I couldn't really see the appeal of it.

So that brings me to my question. I've heard from numerous respected individuals within the BGG community that MTG can be a very satisfy gaming experience. And I'm wondering what it is that I need to do to discover the interesting side of the game. When I played with my brother on his birthday, he built himself a deck, then he built me a deck, then he explained the rules, then we played. And as we played it really felt like the game just played itself. I drew cards from my deck and if I could play them I did, and if I couldn't play them I didn't, and I won. But there wasn't any satisfaction in winning, because I hadn't really made any choices.

I suppose the interesting part comes into play as you consider what to put into your deck before you play. But is that the only interesting aspect to this game?

Please, you who are fans of Magic, enlighten me as to how one goes about enjoying this game. I'm truly interested in finding out if there is something here than I can find appealing.

Thanks,

Tim


Edit: typos
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True Blue Jon
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Timing is everything as you play. When you play something is crucial.

Some links you might find interesting:

Stepping Through Combat
What I Know About Magic
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Timothy Young
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Hmmm...

I started reading dbuel's post. It pretty much addresses this topic, but, man, there's.... a lot there to absorb.
 
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The Dave
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If you're willing spend just a touch bit of money, Commander is really fun format. It's meant to be played multi-player, but can be played 1-vs-1. The games are casual, and there are several different play-styles. There are even decks where the entire point is to make sure everyone else is having a great time by letting other players draw more cards etc. Over time you can slowly evolve your deck (or decks...) to suit your changing values in the game.

The reason I say spend a touch of money is that one of the best ways to get into Commander (sometimes called EDH) is to buy one of the preconstructed decks. You can find these at almost any game shop that sells Magic, but also at Target and Wal-mart. They just released 5 new precons for 2016 that are supposedly very fun, and each caters to a different play style. You and your bro could each buy one and since the decks are 100 cards (instead of the typical 60), you'll likely not get bored exploring the different synergies in the decks very quickly.

Anyways, maybe that's helpful


EDIT:

I see you have Dominion and 7 Wonders highly rated. These games are descendants of MTG. The deck-building aspect of Dominion was directly inspired by MTG and the drafting aspect was directly inspired by one of the formats/styles of playing MTG, which is booster drafts. I think if you stick with MTG a bit, you will really really like it if you enjoy those two games. Booster drafts are a ton of fun, but I'd recommend not jumping into those at your local game store until you understand the game well.
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Mike Frantz
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What you need to know is that Magic is one of the most complex games in existence. You can put a little bit of effort into it, and enjoy it at that level (or maybe you won't enjoy it), or you can put all of your gaming energy and time into it and enjoy it at that all-consuming level. The one thing to understand about the game is that with the unbelievable amount of variation, variety, customization, etc, comes a great deal of randomness in the quality of an individual game. Sometimes a single game of magic can be extraordinarily unrewarding. If you are expecting a game to be rewarding every time you sit down to play, Magic simply isn't for you. Even at the highest competitive levels, with decks that have been tuned and tested for hours, days, years even, sometimes a game or a match can just be a complete dud.
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Jerry Martin
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I always find it funny when people say the game is so simple you just play stuff and that is it.

You took two very inexperienced players and played a couple games.

That's like saying Chess doesn't have any depth. I know 2nd graders that play chess all you have to know how six pieces move. You move them. And then you win. Easy.

The truth is for over 20 years people have been writing many articles about Magic 5 days a week. That is literally 10's of thousands of full articles about playing the game. There is more depth than any one person can ever really understand.

That is what makes it cool to me. When I sit down I don't know what is going to happen. Even when I have a good idea what my opponent is playing it is still a surprise. A puzzle that always changes and you are constantly trying to figure out.

Enjoy!

One thing I might note is that you said you had 1,000 common. Commons are intentionally kept simple as the cards go up in rarity they become more complex.
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Joakim Björklund
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As commented above, what you describe playwise is very common when starting. Play a land each turn, play out your cards if you can, attack if you can, block something, and so on. A couple of turns later, your hand is empty and the game dissolves into a luckfest of who draws a game winning card first. Since you posted and asked, you probably have a suspicion that there must be something else to this. After all, the game is still going strong after 23 years. Yes, there is more to it than this. A lot more than can be said here in a few lines of text (if it could, we wouldn't need those hundreds of articles being written each week).

One aspect that you don't immediately see when starting to play and with random decks just put together is the metagame, that is how your deck is situated against other decks and how you play it against those decks. The metagame is part of what drives Magic, and it comes in various forms. Tournament constructed formats often have a well defined metagame, some decks are a bit better than the rest and you can figure out how to tweak your own decks to give you the edge in matches against those, or try to build something new to beat those other decks. Sealed and drafts have their own metagame, some deck archetypes might be better than others and part of the fun is figuring that out. And those forms of play makes the deckbuilding more of a part of the play as well. Casual kitchen table games with your friends have their own metagame, you know what your friends play with and like, and can prepare for that. So for me at least (I almost only play constructed tournament Magic right now) the metagame is a big draw, and also taking a certain deck and master it.

Playwise, holding cards back in your hand is something you always should do. Even if it's only 3 lands that does you nothing in the later game. This creates a situation of uncertainty for your opponent, they don't know what you have and can't make optimal plays. Once you know about different decks it often becomes a "do they have it or not" situation, and that creates bluffing and counter-play situations. Often the puzzle aspect is rewarding. You're sitting at a few lifes, and will be dead in two turns, can you with the cards in hand stabilize and win the game? What line of play do you take, among three different ones? Figuring out the optimal play isn't always easy, and it's something you realize with more experience.
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Joakim Björklund
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TIM0THY wrote:
Hmmm...

I started reading dbuel's post. It pretty much addresses this topic, but, man, there's.... a lot there to absorb.


Yes, that's a really good series of posts. It gives a good view of why Magic is such a great game.
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Timothy Young
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Syvanis wrote:
I always find it funny when people say the game is so simple you just play stuff and that is it.

You took two very inexperienced players and played a couple games.

That's like saying Chess doesn't have any depth. I know 2nd graders that play chess all you have to know how six pieces move. You move them. And then you win. Easy.


Sorry- I didn't mean for my original post to sound disparaging, or to suggest that I believe the game to be lacking in depth or unable to provide a satisfying experience. I was just trying to get across what my experience with the game has been like so far.

As theDave pointed out, my perspective coming into it has been informed by games like Dominion and 7 Wonders. Which means I'm accustomed to games where the players share the same pool of available cards and don't have the option of considering their strategy until the game begins and those cards become known simultaneously to all players.

But from what I've heard so far in this thread, and from other sources, a big part of the appeal of the MTG for many people involves taking into consideration before the game even begins what kind of approach your opponent may take, and attempting to construct a deck that responds adequately to his approach. The two games with my brother were completely devoid of that aspect, as my deck was constructed for me. This meta-game concept leads me to believe that I may never come to really enjoy MTG, as it seems to require a whole lot of gameplay experience before the different meta- aspsects congeal in a player's mind, as well as a whole lot of thinking and planning, on one's own, and by one's-self before actually sitting down and playing the game. That just doesn't sound very social, and I'm afraid that a big part of the draw of table-top gaming for me is the social aspect. All this leads me to believe that I might never arrive at the point where I find MTG to be a satisfying gaming experience.

But then, from what theDave mentioned about the commander format, it sounds like it might be a bit more social and casual as well as less meta.

I still plan on playing a few more times with my brother before reaching a final verdict. He really likes it and he was excited when I gave him the cards for his birthday. So if nothing else, it's fun to play with him for that reason. And maybe if I do a bit of research before our next round of Magic I might be able to discover the depth and strategy that leads to more satisfying gameplay.
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Timothy Young
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Syvanis wrote:


One thing I might note is that you said you had 1,000 common. Commons are intentionally kept simple as the cards go up in rarity they become more complex.



I think there were more than just commons. But it was mostly commons, and obviously, mostly cheap cards.
 
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Timothy Young
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TIM0THY wrote:

I still plan on playing a few more times with my brother...


To that end, what are some good resources for getting a handle on the rules?

Edit: I found this tutorial at the Wizards site. It seems pretty helpful.
 
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Joakim Björklund
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TIM0THY wrote:

But then, from what theDave mentioned about the commander format, it sounds like it might be a bit more social and casual as well as less meta.


Yeah, Commander is a very casual and social format. The metagame aspects I mentioned are more strongly present in constructed tournament formats (like Standard, Modern, or Legacy). Commander is a constructed format, but a casual multiplayer one. In casual formats the metagame and planning required is more on the level "My opponent usually plays lots of artifacts, let's put some artifact destruction in my deck" or similar. So not much planning at all. Commander has more bartering and negotiations during the game itself than any other format (two-player games have none).

I don't play Commander myself because I don't have a playgroup for it and I'm not particularly fond of multiplayer Magic (I'd rather play a boardgames in that case).

Magic is great because it offers so many different forms of play, so most people can find a format that fits their play style.
 
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TIM0THY wrote:
I purchase...~1,000 commons for $20...I couldn't really see the appeal of it.


I highlight this part of your Original Post because to an established player, this is an extremely limited view of the game of Magic: The Gathering.

Simply playing with 1,000 random commons is like attempting to play Ticket to Ride using only 3 colors of train cards or playing Chess with only pawns. It's not just that you're limited by card power level, but you're limited by choice of cards.

And I'm not here to tell you just to buy a $300+ deck of Rare's and Mythics. I actually play Pauper, which is comprised of only Common cards. So that means I'm NOT going to tell you that "to enjoy the game you need to spend more money."

Spending money on "good" decks helps, but it's not necessary. (See Pauper Magic comment from above.)

You could get a lot of enjoyment from Magic playing only the old Duel Deck products, or grabbing some pre-constructed Commander products.

The real answer to how to enjoy Magic is this:

Time.

You just have to spend time with the game.

Playing the game, yes, but also thinking about the game. Trying to build your own decks. Reading articles about the game. Watching video explanations of certain decks and card interactions. Watching live coverage of professional and semi-professional players.

Magic is one of the few games that most of the players spend more time actively thinking about the game than they do actually playing the game. (Most traditional tabletop RPG's fall into this category too.)

If you don't like Magic, that's okay, and if you don't want to put in time to learn it's nuances, that's okay too. Not all games are meant for all people.

But if you do really want to give it a go, reading about and playing the game for about 2 - 3 months will help you "go up a level" in your understanding. Then after the first 6 months, you'll gain a little more knowledge, etc. I've been playing on and off since 2010, and at my best, I was playing in a Pro Tour qualifier in late 2014, losing matches to people obviously better and more knowledgeable than me, but I was having fun because I learned a lot from that experience, and ultimately, I was getting to play a game I really like.

Now I play exclusively Pauper and Commander, I don't spend barely any money now (That's not to say I didn't spend a lot over the past 6 years), and I still love the game, but in a different way than I did in my first year, second year, third, etc.
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Brendan
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Syvanis wrote:
I always find it funny when people say the game is so simple you just play stuff and that is it.

You took two very inexperienced players and played a couple games.

That's like saying Chess doesn't have any depth. I know 2nd graders that play chess all you have to know how six pieces move. You move them. And then you win. Easy.


This is a good point. I bought a copy of Chessmaster 10th edition many years ago. The game came with an interactive tutorial with voice lessons by Josh Waitzkin, covering basic tactics and more advanced strategic concepts. I am by no means a strong chess player, but the understanding of the game I gained through the tutorial, listening to his annotated games, and then playing against the computer greatly increased my enjoyment of the game.

I won't say that Magic has the same depth as chess, but I think that it is similar in that a better understanding of the underlying concepts will increase your enjoyment. A good series is Reid Duke's Level One "course" (just a series of articles).

As others have pointed out, though, this requires that you have cards that have a certain level of complexity. In particular, cards that allow you to 'control your own destiny' in which cards you draw or keep (Ponder, Lead the Stampede, etc.) and cards that you can play at 'instant' speed (Unsummon, Lightning Strike, Giant Growth, Mana Leak) create more interesting games, in my opinion, since you have to pay more attention to what your opponent could have.

I think another part of the enjoyment comes from knowing the deck you are playing and having at least a vague idea of what the deck you are playing against is trying to do. Then you get to the type of play where you have to think "Ok, John is threatening to do X. Do I have a way to stop it? Can I make him think I have a way to stop it? Or can I put myself in a position where I have one or two cards I can draw that will win, even if it's a bit risky, because otherwise I don't have a chance?"
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Colm McCarthy
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Try playing the app version. That was my first intro to MtG (last year - at the age of 48), and I just played through the "story" mode. I was blown away by how good (and complex and deep) the game was. I'm still afraid to get into buying actual cards, as I know myself too well, but I'm fortunate to have a friend who has bunches of decks to play with. It's an excellent game.
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Timothy Young
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colmmccarthy wrote:
Try playing the app version.


Earlier today I went searching in the Google Play store to see if something like this was available there. I couldn't find anything. There were plenty of supplementary apps- reference guides and deck-building resources and such. But I couldn't find anything that actually lets you play the game.

This would be a great option for me. I've learned several boardgames by playing their app counterparts. What do I need to look for?
 
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Colm McCarthy
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TIM0THY wrote:
colmmccarthy wrote:
Try playing the app version.


Early today I went searching in the Google Play store to see if something like this was available there. I couldn't find anything. There were plenty of supplementary apps- reference guides and deck-building resources and such. But I couldn't find anything that actually lets you play the game.

This would be a great option for me. I've learned several boardgames by playing their app counterparts. What do I need to look for?


Do a search on MAGIC 2015 or MAGIC 2014. I believe it's called Duels of the Planeswalkers or something.
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colmmccarthy wrote:
TIM0THY wrote:
colmmccarthy wrote:
Try playing the app version.


Early today I went searching in the Google Play store to see if something like this was available there. I couldn't find anything. There were plenty of supplementary apps- reference guides and deck-building resources and such. But I couldn't find anything that actually lets you play the game.

This would be a great option for me. I've learned several boardgames by playing their app counterparts. What do I need to look for?


Do a search on MAGIC 2015 or MAGIC 2014. I believe it's called Duels of the Planeswalkers or something.

Magic Duels is the current app. It contains storylines and card sets going back to Magic Origins.
 
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TIM0THY wrote:
I purchase him some secondhand cards for his birthday last year and he was pretty stoked about it. (Nothing expensive; ~1,000 commons for $20.) I let him teach me how to play with those cards, but I couldn't really see the appeal of it.
It's been said before in these forums, but going the "1000 commons for $20" route is a recipe for disappointment. Magic shines brightest when played in some sort of targeted, limited, set/block specific method. This is when you get the best synergies, where you can see the interesting interplay of faction against faction, and where a lot of the mechanics begin to make sense.

And others have opined similarly, but I will reiterate that MTG, just like WH40k, tends to attract "lifestyle gamers." Folks who submerge themselves in the meta, and the history, and the antecedents that came before. You don't need to be that guy, but the game certainly rewards folks who have been "keeping up" with it.

For my money, picking up a Duel Deck yields the best results for incoming noobs, because they are decks with a specific theme that are designed specifically to play against each other.

Unless you think you are already not a fan, and that's okay too.
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From a boardgamer's perspective.

Instead of buying random card lots, just get a couple of the new starter decks. These are already constructed to work well and you can have many, many enjoyable games with them. I bought the five starter decks from Oath of the Gatewatch for about $100. They are all we need for the experience of playing Magic without the insane card trading aspect.
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Timothy Young
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logopolys wrote:
colmmccarthy wrote:
TIM0THY wrote:
colmmccarthy wrote:
Try playing the app version.


Early today I went searching in the Google Play store to see if something like this was available there. I couldn't find anything. There were plenty of supplementary apps- reference guides and deck-building resources and such. But I couldn't find anything that actually lets you play the game.

This would be a great option for me. I've learned several boardgames by playing their app counterparts. What do I need to look for?


Do a search on MAGIC 2015 or MAGIC 2014. I believe it's called Duels of the Planeswalkers or something.

Magic Duels is the current app. It contains storylines and card sets going back to Magic Origins.


I'm doing something wrong here. I keep searching and nothing comes up. Well, lots of stuff comes up, but not what I'm looking for.

Just to be sure we're on the same page- we're talking about getting the app from the Google Play store, right?

I've tried searching for "Magic the Gathering", "Magic Duels", "Duels of the Planeswalkers", and "Magic Origins", but none of those terms return exact matches. Any suggestions? (I did find "Magic: Puzzle Quest" which looks to be official. It also looks like exactly the kind of game I'm not interested in playing )
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Timothy Young
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fightcitymayor wrote:


For my money, picking up a Duel Deck yields the best results for incoming noobs, because they are decks with a specific theme that are designed specifically to play against each other.



This is a new concept to me. It sounds like a good idea, and something my brother and I could very well benefit from investing in. I just went to Amazon to see what they have along these lines. There are a lot to choose from. Do you have any recommendations?
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Timothy Young
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logopolys wrote:

Magic Duels is the current app. It contains storylines and card sets going back to Magic Origins.



Hmmm.... I just read on this page that Magic Duels is availabe "for PC via Steam, iPad, iPhone, and Xbox One". Looks like I'm out of luck as far as playing on my Android phone is concerned.
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TIM0THY wrote:
When I played with my brother on his birthday, he built himself a deck, then he built me a deck, then he explained the rules, then we played. And as we played it really felt like the game just played itself.


Sounds like some posters didn't read the "he built me a deck" part.

* Deckbuilding is a *very* important part of Magic. Sure, if you're new, you want to learn how to play the game first, but it's like choosing an army before a war. Depending on what troops you and your opponent chooses, the game may be over before the first card is played. If someone hands you a deck (and some gamers want this), you're missing out on maybe 2/3 of the decisions.

* Commons, at least before I stopped playing, can be as strong as rares and uncommons. I think it's the *variety* of cards that's important, more than the rarity. (At least in the CCG glut, you did have other CCG's whose rares were clearly better than commons.)

* Drafting is another format where you must evaluate the cards, even before playing. Search on "cube drafting" for common formats.

* The decks often DO play themselves. That's actually part of the appeal of Magic for players who enjoy that "winning" stuff. Dunno how many of you kids on the lawn were around when the deck lists started appearing on the internet. Back in the days of the old layout, you made your own decks and tweaked them for hours. None of this "database" stuff. Shouldn't be too hard to build decks, though, that require you to make decisions during play.

* Have you played Blue yet? Blue is best known for interfering and controlling how your opponent plays, but you won't be able to prevent your opponent from playing *every* card he can.

Since you have a thousand cards, eventually try cube drafting. Search on "Magic cube drafting commons". Before then, build decks on your own, perhaps focusing on Blue as you learn the game, particularly mana distribution.
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