Advice for Beginners

I have been playing Magic for some six-odd years (non-consecutively) and feel safe in saying that I am no longer a beginner. But I do remember what it was like when I was. Trying to cobble together decks from your random assortment of cards you gathered from booster packs and intro decks, making play mistakes that would seem rather obvious now, and lusting after those elusive cards that everyone else seems to have but evade your grasp. So I would like to talk about some things that I feel will help a lot of beginners improve their game and their gaming experience.

This information comes from my years as a player as well as from sources that I have read, which I pass on here. One of biggest things that I want to stress to anyone that plays this game is have patience. Getting frustrated tends to lead to more mistakes while you are playing, and can make the game seem less fun than it is. Keeping a calm composure and focusing on the fun parts will help greatly. Another extremely important thing to remember, especially when you play in tournaments, is sportsmanship. Being a good sport is crucial to everyone having a good time. Even if you lose, thanking your opponent for a good game is a great way to feel better and to make friends along the way. A hand shake is always a great way to maintain the fun factor. Lastly, when you start out you may lose a lot. That's okay because the decks that you can put together when you first start out may not be top caliber. But just have patience and your card collection will get there. Also, keep you eyes and ears open. Sometimes people will quit the game for one reason or another and will sometime abandon their collections for cheap. I remember being able to pick up collections of hundreds of cards for way cheap back when I first started to play.  Another way to score cards is sometimes more experienced players will end up with a bunch of cards that they have no real interest in, and will often times sell them or if they are really cool like me will just give them away. I recently gave a whole fat pack box of cards away simply because they were just sitting around doing nothing. I am not much of a collector so I don't like having bunches of cards gathering dust.

Now I want to move onto talking about some other things that may help you in your future Magic endeavors. There are three basic types of players: Johnny, Timmy, and Spike; and three basic types of decks, well maybe four.

Johnny players tend to be more like the smart one, or nerds of Magic. They play decks that tend to be a little more complicated than most other decks. They like proving to other people just how good and smart they are, and like cards that interact in very unique ways.

Timmy players are more like the drama geeks of Magic. They like experiencing something fun, and tend to like cards and decks that do big splashy things. Dragons and angels and other big creatures or spells tend to be their favorites.

Spikes are probably the jocks. They gravitate towards the cards they feel are the best ones to play. They scrutinize and evaluate every aspect of the game and build the decks they feel would perform the best.

Now the three (or four) deck types are Aggro, Combo, and Control. The fourth one might be called Ramp, but more on this in a bit.

Aggro decks are based on the idea of being fast. They play lots of cheap small creatures, usually costing 1, 2, or 3 mana to play. Spot removal spells are popular as well as spells that tend to benefit all of your creatures. A subtype of this kind of deck is known as Tempo. Tempo decks try to maximize their game by taking advantage of something known as The Mana Curve. I'll talk more about this in a little later on.

Combo decks are what Johnny players tend to like the best. These kinds of decks can do some pretty crazy things, utilizing cards that interact with other cards in very specific ways. Combo decks can and will win the game instantly as soon as the specific cards are all used. This is a little hard to explain without talking about specific cards. So in the current Standard environment there is one card called Myr Galvanizer. When you have two of these in play along with a couple of mana producing myr, such as Golden Myr, you can make infinite mana (but when you play you actually have to say a real number, like one million or something). Here's what you do: Tap your 2 Golden Myr, or any other myr that makes mana, then use one of your mana to activate Myr Galvanizer's ability untapping you mana myr. Then retap them for more mana. Then use you other Galvanizer to untap you myr, including the first Galvanizer. Then if you keep doing this you will eventually have all the mana you could ever want. What you do with that mana is completely up to you.

Control type decks use cards that prevent your opponent from doing the things that they want to do. Cards that counter your opponents are a staple of this type of strategy. To counter something basically means to prevent it from happening. Other types of cards that these decks like to use are board sweepers or spells that destroy lots of creatures, cards that allow them to draw cards so they can get to the cards that they really need, and other spells that allow the deck a way to win, usually a large creature. Control decks are for the patient ones, because games can usually take a long time to complete.

The last type of deck I guess would be called Ramp. The reason why I was hesitant to classify this deck is mainly because it can use elements from the three previous types. The main strategy this deck uses are spells that either produce mana, or allow them to search for lands from their deck. They can sometimes be more like aggro decks, especially if they use elves. Sometimes they end up being more like a combo type deck, like the popular Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle deck. I've even seen control type decks use Ramp as a basis. Ramp decks like playing large creatures usually, since they tend to produce a large amount of mana quickly which makes it easier to cast larger spells.

Okay so now that you know a little bit about each type of player and deck, I hope that you can start to identify with the types of strategies that you like best. Now you may not necessarily fit any one description to the T, because even I identify with each type of player. I like to think of myself as a Timmy/Spike with a little dash of Johnny. My favorite type of decks to build are probably Aggro, but I will still play the other types from time to time. Okay now let's talk about something I had mentioned earlier, The Mana Curve.

The Mana Curve is the basic principle that game revolves around, I would say. The idea is that on turn one you usually have one land to work with, then on turn two you would have two and turn three you would have three, and so on and so on. Now there are ways to work around this restriction depending on the type of cards you play. Now a lot of players tend to take this land restriction into play when they build their decks. Usually you'll want to have between 20-24 lands, or more or less depending on certain things. Then you build your deck according to the Mana Curve. This means you tend to want more cheap things to play earlier in the game and less expensive things for later as you acquire more ways to produce mana. Aggro decks have a low mana curve because they rarely have anything that costs more then four mana, and can usually get away with playing around 20 lands. When I say low I'm talking about if you plotted your deck on a graph, that it would start low and not curve up very much. Combo and Control decks can have low to mid or low to high mana curves, depending on the cards that are used. They tend to run more lands, more around the 24 mark, or even more. Ramp decks are similar and usually have the highest concentration of lands, sometimes as much as 26 lands. This might be a little hard to grasp at first, but a good rule of thumb is you should be able to play at least one card every turn.

Well I hope all of this helps you in some way, and remember to just have fun.

Spencer Adams

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