Know Yourself: Growing The Pack


When you play magic for a long time, it is inevitable that people close to you will want to see what you are doing. They will be filled with intrigue; what is this strange game that my friend/family is playing all the time, spending money on, going out on weekdays to enjoy? What if I want to be part of that? Well, getting family members into magic is a strenuous task if you don’t know what you’re doing. People in your family won’t understand legacy ANT or modern gifts storm, much less something like affinity or lands. So if you’re looking to get people into magic in a way that is cost effective, and works as a teaching tool, here is what you should do.

First and foremost, before you do anything involving decks, and actually playing the game, just ask them some questions. What do you like to do in games, if you play them? Are you a competitive shooter player, or are you one that enjoys building things like in minecraft? Do they play starcraft or are they more likely to enjoy FIFA? I know this leads people to over generalizations, but it can help. If they don’t play other games, that’s okay too; there are ways to get people into magic even without a frame of reference. If I had to generalize, this is how I would go about assigning the five base colors to people outside of magic:

Red: The new player to games. This isn’t a bad thing, and high level play with burn certainly exists and shouldn’t be forgotten. But, as I have mentioned before, treating magic like a math problem for your opponent to solve is a great way for player engagement to rise for someone not used to games and gaming. “Here is your deck. Your job is to deal 20 damage and win. Have at it.”

Blue: I would align this color to those who really enjoy role playing games and things that involve magical combat. Dispelling an attack in Skyrim and casting cancel on a fireball are similarly evocative feelings for players, and fit well for people who like interesting decisions and slightly more nuanced defensive position. People who might also enjoy this category are board game players and puzzle game players, as the same logical axes are spinning that make you make moves methodically and consider what new problems that might arise. Casting a Ponder and making a choice feels great when you are steeped in a tradition of rolling for perception and deciding the correct choice in a stressed, dramatic situation.

Green and White: I would align these colors more towards the strategy gamers and the tactically minded. Creating and antheming tokens and casting elvish mystics are both, at least to a strategy gamer, similar: They are both developing resources that will eventually overwhelm your opponent. I know that this is a gross understatement overall by any definition of a high level strategy game (League, Starcraft, other RTS and MOBA based entertainment) but the core ideals are the same: develop a position on the board, strategically position your cards to get the most out of them, and defeat your opponent. FPS and sports game players are the same type of players, but I usually don’t use this color to bring them to play magic.

Black: I actually tend to give the more scalpel type cards of black to the first person shooter or action game players, and I’ve had a lot of success getting players invested in the game this way. There is a simple and complicated way to explain this: The simple way is to give the person who kills other players in game access to all the kill spells. This way, they understand how to win the game through a way they understand; killing their opponents creatures (soldiers, enemy camps, etc) and then turning your own resources on them. The long way is that the attrition based gameplay of black is actually paramount to shooting games. Casting sign in blood against a better board than yours is a way that the risk is truly communicated. Using discard gives the player all the information they would receive from something like a kill cam from a shooter. For example, have you ever been playing an online shooter, pinned by a sniper, and crawl around, picking off his squadmates as carefully as possible, and then running up and flanking his position? That kind of gameplay translates to black well. Taking out a key attacker in combat to turn the tide, or crawling your way through a tense game with a few good discard spells and key trades are they engagement that these players crave.

so now that the lofty breakdown is over with, I simply have one more piece of information to pass off to you: what kind of cards should you hand new players?

Staples. Basic cards. Cards you know.

Are they playing green?

Elvish mystic. Hunt the weak. Obstinate Baloth. Terra Stomper.


Lightning bolt. Guttersnipe. Young Pyromancer. Shock. Lava axe.


Duress. Murder. Reassembling Skeleton. Nantuko shade.


Wrath of god. Glorious anthem. Raise the alarm.


Cancel. Divination. Unsummon. Air elemental.

Staple cards give the players basic information about the game in a concise way that helps them digest it. It makes it approachable. There are cards, however, that don’t help. Don’t give them, however: energy cards, cards with alternate costs, cards that go through libraries, cards that exile graveyards or make you select through an opponents graveyard, or cards that have multiple choice effects, like the “collective” cards. Save these for later play when they are more comfortable.

I hope this helps you grow your communities, and helps you do what we all want, which is play more magic!

Let me know what you think!

-Forrest W.


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