Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Magic

The Magic of Friendship

(Editors note: This is brought to you by Magic: The Gathering specialist Jason Hill)

I find myself in the twilight years of my twenties, and the sparkle in my wonder-filled eyes has almost disappeared. Everyone seems so focused and enthralled by their Droid or Apple devices that nothing else seems to matter to them, and that’s jacked up. No longer do people engage in face to face conversations, rather they flutter about the coffee shops, shyly peeking over their devices in hopes to find something clever to tweet or instagram. The worst part is that they don’t realize how anti-social they have become. It’s all sunshine and rainbows as they dash about on their daily routines.

On top of that, all the tapping and texting they do is going to give them carpletunnel and/or arthritis someday. Pretty soon they’ll get pinkie cramps trying to eat a piece of pie. To find someone who is not a part of this culture is a real rarity, but not all hope is lost. There is something that can almost force human contact without them realizing it. It’s called Magic the Gathering. [this article doesn’t account for Magic the Gathering Online]

There’s nothing like playing a game of magic with a group of friends. Pitting ourselves against one another, everyone is a little tense at the beginning, not wanting to strike first blood. But finally someone does and it’s a fury of attacks, one after another, shouting at each other trying to justify why we shouldn’t be attacked and why the person to our left or right should. Just when things start to settle down a bit, someone puts down a huge creature, and the game becomes a 1 vs. all match until that person is defeated. The remaining players finish the battle as quickly as possible, and we start again.


It isn’t all about the game though. There is almost a ritual around it. We usually meet up at someone’s house, order a pizza, and start choosing our decks. As we play, we talk about important things, unimportant things, and utterly stupid things. You’re probably thinking that we could substitute any board game or card game and achieve the same results, but you’re wrong, as usual. Magic has a unique quality that somehow brings to light the type of person you really are.


Magic has the perfect balance of skill and luck, just like poker. Although, I prefer Magic because you can customize the deck you play with. Magic decks end up reflecting the person who made them to some degree. For example, some people put cards into their decks not because they make good strategic sense, but because they like the cute kitty depicted in the artwork. Or they put in only dragons that cost at least 6 mana to cast because those are the awesomest.

How someone plays their deck reveals a lot about them, as well. Some people like to use aggressive creatures that don’t cost much mana to beat down their opponents. Those types of people like to take charge of situations. The ones who use their decks to gain life feel a certain superiority when all the damage you dealt to them is undone over the course of 1 turn. The players who build up armies before attacking enjoy feeling in control of the game, knowing that at anytime they could end it if they wished. I could keep going, but I’m not a real psychiatrist. (I know! I almost fooled myself for a second!)

Now, it’s nice to be able to figure things out about people, but if that’s why you play the game, you’ve missed the point entirely. The reason I play magic is to meet new people and strengthen old friendships. Most of the people I play Magic with were acquaintances before we started playing, but playing the game has strengthened our bonds through teaching each other and learning the strategies each person employs. My friends help each other build decks, ask each other for strategical advice, and kick each others butts on a constant basis.

Among my group of friends, I have been playing the longest, which means that I taught most of them how to play. This circumstance set up a neat domino effect. Now my friends have started teaching their friends and I now get to meet new people when they bring them into our circle. (like Google+ but 10 times better!) The best thing about that is that there has never been an awkwardness with the new people. We’re there for the same reasons. To play an awesome game. They learn from me, and I learn from them. I think that’s called a win win situation.

When you play casually in a group, you accumulate “house rules” to make your experiences new/different/more fair/etc. If you’ve only played 1 vs. 1 and want to try some group battles, here are some basic “house rules” to keep everything fun.

  1. The number of people playing 1 game shouldn’t exceed 5. It becomes difficult to focus on what’s going on when there are more than that. If your gang of friends is more than five, split up into different groups. (for 6: 3 and 3, for 7: 3 and 4, and so on)
  2. Switch out decks between games. Using the same deck over and over can become boring or (if your constantly winning) unfair to the others. If you only have 1 deck, ask to trade with someone else. If you have a multitude of decks, bring extra to lend to others who might not be as prepared. This way you’re able to try a lot of different strategies in a single session.
  3. Bring some snacks or beverages with you to share to the gathering. (this isn’t so much a Magic rule as it is a “being a good friend” rule)

So here is the plan for having infinite friends. Step 1: Teach friends and acquaintances how to play Magic. Step 2: Encourage those friends to do the same with their friends. Step 3: Get your friends to invite the friends they taught to play in your circle. Step 4: Become friends with the newcomers and convince them to follow the plan from step 2 on. If you follow these 4 easy steps and if my math is correct, you should have infinite friends in no time. (you may have to multiply by five somewhere along the way) Between you, me, and our infinite number of friends, we will have saved the world from digital social disorders. And all of it is thanks to Magic.

Jason Hill tried counting to infinity once, he only made it halfway before forgetting what number he was on.


Magic; The Gathering: Building on a Budget


Greetings PlanesWalkers! Every article I write is related to deck building because I like to consider myself a “Deck Architect”. It may seem funny but I enjoy crafting and brewing decks more than I enjoy playing the actual game of Magic The Gathering. I love to sit around and ponder about which cards have synergy, and how they can work together in a certain deck. I am so excited to put this deck together and test it out, I rush to the local card shop swing open the front door and then reality hits. I stare blankly at my written deck list and think to myself, “I didn’t calculate how much this deck is going to cost.” As we all know Magic can cost a pretty penny. You may not be looking to spend astronomical amounts of money to build a deck, but still want to play with friends and have a good time. It is entirely possible to spend miniscule amounts of money to build pretty decent decks, you just have to look hard enough. Today’s article will be all about building on a budget. I will cover the steps to building a budget deck and even give you two examples of some of my favorite ones!

Step One: There are a lot of card websites that display pricing of cards as well as their descriptions. But I prefer to use Star City Games due to the fact that most retailers price their inventory based upon Star City pricing. When you visit the site near the top of the page hover over the “Magic Singles” tab, then select English. From here you can browse any set ever released! You can see the prices and description/image of any card. Scroll through desired sets and look for the commons, uncommons, and cheap rares. Also be sure to look through your dresser drawers and shoe boxes, because you never know what you will find!

Step Two: If you wish to see “Budget” decks that have already been constructed you can go to Tapped Out. At the top of the page click the tab labeled “Deck Builder”. In the “MTG Deck Builder” box click the pull down arrow thats located on the “Browse By Hub” bar. From there scroll through the list of options until you see the word “Budget”. After clicking “Budget” press the enter key. Tapped Out will then pull up a list of “Budget Decks” for you!

Step Three: After browsing through cards you would like to use, make a list of all the cards you would like to use in the deck. Calculate the costs of every card and add the costs of all the cards together. Only spend as much money as you would like to!

The three steps listed above will help you the most when you are looking to make a “Budget Deck”. Follow the steps and you will be sure to conserve your sweet cash, as well as build an awesome deck! I am going to post two “Budget Decks” below that I find really interesting fun to play. I will also include the total cost of each deck below. (Prices are quoted from Star City Games)

Centaur Stampede



4x Centaur BattleMaster

4x Elvish Mystic

2x Pheres Band Raiders

2x Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice


4x Giant Growth

4x God’s Willing

4x Rootborn Defenses

2x Druid’s Deliverance


4x Call of the Conclave


4x Unflinching Courage

4x Growing Ranks

2x Bow of Nylea


8x Forest

12x Plains

The total cost of this deck is 28.20. This deck is based around making “Centaur” Tokens with “Call of the Conclave” and “Pheres-Band Raiders”. After filling up the field with the mighty Centaurs you can “Populate” the tokens and create a massive army! “Growing Ranks” is a four drop enchantment that allows you to “Populate” every Upkeep. Multiple “Growing Ranks” can be in play at the same time, allowing to “Populate” as many times as you are able! Another card to help “Populate” is “Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice” Trostani allows you to pay three mana and “Populate”, her other ability is “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control you gain life equal to that creatures toughness.” With her out as well as “Growing Ranks” you can create an army and gain massive amounts of life! Once the Centaurs have swarmed the field use cards such as “Unflinching Courage” and “Giant Growth” to make them hit the opponent hard! The pump spells and enchantments can also be used on “Centaur Battlemaster” to trigger his “Heroic” ability.

Gruul Smash!



4x Elvish Mystic

4x Burning Tree Emissarry

4x Fanatic of Xenagos

4x Ghor-Clan Rampager

4x Thunder Brute

2x Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

1x Borborygmos Enraged


4x Gruul Charm

4x Giant Growth

4x Flesh/Blood


4x Madcap Skills


10x Mountain

9x Forest

2x Gruul Guildgate

The total cost of this deck is 28.85. Ten dollars can be shaved off of the deck price if you choose an alternative card to replace “Burning Tree Emissary”. This Gruul deck is capable of a turn five victory. On turn three if you play “Fanatic of Xenagos” and the opponent pays his “Tribute” cost he becomes a 4/4. The card “Madcap Skills” gives target enchanted creature plus 3/0 and said creature must be blocked by two or more creatures. This makes “Fanatic” a 7/4 on turn four. On turn five you will have enough mana to unleash the finishing combo which goes in this order; swing in with “Fanatic of Xenagos” for seven, when you swing you will “Bloodrush” him with “Ghor-Clan Rampager”. The Bloodrush from “Ghor-Clan Rampager” will give the Fanatic +4+4 making him swing for 11. At this point you will cast “Giant Growth” giving the Fanatic an additional +3+3 making him swing for 14! Now the finisher is to play “Flesh/Blood” before the damage from “Fanatic of Xenagos” is applied to the opponent.   “Flesh/Blood” states that you can have target creature deal its power in damage to target creature or player. This means you just swung for fourteen damage and hit them for fourteen damage in the face. On turn five the opponent took twenty damage total! If the opponent has removal spells and you cannot finish them off early this deck has plenty of beefy creatures to close out the game. Cards of this nature would be “Ruric Thar, the Unbowed” and “Thunder Brute”. These big guys are meant to finish off the opponent when they hit the field, and they can do just that!

So there you have it, “Budget Decks” are inexpensive and pretty powerful! Some weeks articles will be dedicated to budget building so be on the lookout! Until next time this is Tyler McDuffee. May you walk the Planes with honor!

How to Build a Fun, Casual, Magic Deck

 (Todays article is brought to you by the 4LN Magic contributor, Jason Hill. Please enjoy.)

The holidays are over and a new year has begun. Along with the new year, comes a new deck to build. With thousands of different cards to choose from, how do you narrow it down to a mere 60 card deck? Should you limit it to only 60? The rules say you can have more if you want. Do you need spend a ton of money on new cards? Are older cards better than the newer ones? How much land should this fun deck have? Is it possible to make a deck that doesn’t suck while at the same time doesn’t make your friends hate you? The answers are: yes, no, maybe, the square root of seven, and the holodeck aboard the S.S. Enterprise. Wait, what were we talking about? … Ah, yes!

First, a disclaimer: This isn’t an article on how to make a deck that will beat all other decks. There are enough of those floating around the internet without my input needing to be added. This article is about making a deck that is fun, not only for you, but your friends as well. Unless, of course, you want to be the kind of person who doesn’t want your friends to have fun. If that’s the case, then stop being a jerk! Nobody likes the person you try to be, no matter what your mother says.

Back to the matter at hand. How to build a fun deck.

Step 1: Figure out what you like. There is a card for almost anything you can imagine. Do you like elves? Knights? Giants? Jellyfish? Unicorns? Ducks? Well too bad! Wizards of the Coast hasn’t made any ducks yet. (Come on, Wizards, what are you waiting for?) If this isn’t helping you figure out what you want, think about your play style. Do you enjoy drawing cards? Do you want to do damage that your opponent can’t block? Do you like to make your opponent discard cards? Maybe not letting your opponent do as they please is your thing. Whatever it is …

Jace, Memory Adept

This card will make your friends really hate you.

Step 2: Pick two or three of these things and start building a deck with them. So you want to have a giants and jellyfish deck that makes your opponent discard cards? Sounds like a fun deck to me. Maybe a cat and elephant deck that has a lot of artifacts in it could be interesting. Just don’t go overboard. A zombie, wizard, ninja, shark, and warrior deck that lets you draw cards, gains you life, counters opponent’s spells, and destroys artifacts might be a bit much. A deck that tries to do too much usually ends up doing nothing at all.

Step 3: Try to narrow your selection down to two or three colors. If you need to go into four colors, don’t fret, but try to stay away from going into all five colors. (tasting the rainbow can be a bit spicy) Five color decks are feasible, but difficult to pull off. The more colors you have, the more types of land you have to include into your deck, resulting in a more difficult time getting the mana required to play your spells.

Step 4: Land ho! Put some land in that deck. Land, being the main mana producer, is incredibly important to balance. It ought to be about a third of your library, meaning anywhere between 18 and 24 cards of your deck. A recommended ratio of spells to land is usually 36 spells : 24 land in a 60 card deck. While this is an excellent mark to build most decks by, each deck is different and that ratio might not suit your selection of spells.


Here is a good representation of what each mana type will do, and how they can work together.

I usually use between 20 and 22 land in most of mine. There are 2 exceptions for me, one for more and one for less. When I use more, (24 – 26) the spells I’m using usually rely on having land as basis for the rules of that particular spell. Example: “Gain 1 life for each land under your control” or “… deals 1 damage for each Mountain you control.” When I use less, (18 or 19) it’s because most of the spells in my library cost less than 3 in their converted mana cost, and I’m able to fit more spells in.

How much of each color is going to depend on the spells you have chosen. If you have kept your spells to one color, then it’s pretty much a no brainer. Just add the number of land you need and start playing. If you have more than one color, a little more work is involved. First separate out your spells by color. If you have 2 colors, try to split your land evenly unless you have mostly 1 color and only a few of the other. If that is the case, use mostly the land of your prominent color with 2 – 5 of the lesser color and maybe one or two multicolor land that share both colors. If you have 3 colors, again try to split the land evenly, but use common sense, and definitely put in a couple of multicolored land or an artifact that can give mana.

If you have more than 3 colors you should rely on multicolored lands fairly heavily along with mana giving artifacts and creatures. This should help keep you from getting the wrong colored mana when trying to cast spells. It sucks having nothing but plains and islands out with a hand full of forest cards. A word of warning though, most multicolored land have to come into the battlefield tapped, so you aren’t able to use them that turn.

Step 5: Keep your deck as close to 60 cards as possible. Yes, I know, the rules say you can have as many as you like over the 60 card minimum, but they advise that you stay as close to the minimum as possible for a reason. The reason is the more cards you have in your deck, the less likely you will come across them in a game. Now if your deck consists of 61, 62, or even 65 cards, no one will come and force you to go to magic kindergarten or exile you and put you in a dungeon in the land you were exiled to. You may relax and have a whimsical time with the deck you have made. If you have something in the realm of 75 or more, then you might want to start making some cuts. If you don’t, it might be real difficult to get out that awesome minotaur you built your deck around.

Step 6: Play with friends. Time to test out your final creation. See which cards you enjoy drawing, and which cards you aren’t so excited to see. Switch out what works with what doesn’t, and remember, this deck is about having fun, not about always winning. Anecdote time!


Don’t get so competitive that no one wants to play with you.

I remember this one specific moment where my friends and I were having a 4 on 4 free-for-all battle. I was using an earlier incarnation of my Angel deck. I don’t remember what decks they were using, but I do remember that they kept killing my angels. Angels, for the most part, are expensive. So I was only able to get one out per turn, and each time I did, someone else would get rid of it. After my third angel was Doom Bladed, I was frustrated and fed up.

I tapped 4 mana and slapped down the last card in my hand. I said, “Fine! If that’s how it is, then destroy all your creatures!” It was Day of Judgment and the text on the card literally says “Destroy all creatures.” Everyone was flabbergasted. None of them had seen the card before and didn’t realize that all creatures could be destroyed at once like that. The room filled with exclamations of “What the …?!” and “No way!” The card was read by each one in turn and they put all their creatures in their graveyards. I didn’t win that game, but I will always remember the look on their faces.

Now to settle the dispute of which is better, old cards or new cards. The answer is both. New cards are awesome, but don’t dismiss the older cards thinking that they are outdated. The possibilities with combining the old with the new are endless and can have awesome, weird, or just down right hilarious results. Also, good decks don’t have to cost millions, they don’t have to be filled with mythic rares, they just simply need to reflect you and how you define fun.

My goal in building decks is to build a deck that can win, but isn’t one that is to be feared. When I have a deck that is feared, I either find myself the target of everyone playing me (I usually play in group free-for-alls) or not being played against at all. My philosophy is “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s the memories you make playing.” So play on, and have fun!

(While Jason Hill excels in building fun, casual decks, he fails spectacularly at building fun, casual card houses.)

How Do I Get My Friends Into Magic; The Gathering


Editor’s note: this article was written by Jason Hill.

The question that has plagued man since the dawn of time. Well, 1993, to be precise, when the game was invented. I know, some of you that think 1993 was the dawn of time. (kids these days) The sad truth of it all, is that Magic the Gathering is for nerds … and the occasional devil worshiper … but mostly for nerds. Real nerds, and everyone knows this. Even the old grandmas who only leave their rooms for bingo know this.

There seems to be this barrier present in all our lives. A barrier in which, once crossed, there’s no coming back. Everyone seems to be afraid to enter the labyrinth of mana and spells. It takes a special, select few, who are brave and adventurous enough to take on this card game. But how did we do it? How do we convince our friends, loved ones, and strangers who don’t immediately run away from us to do it as well? Strap in because we have a lot of work to do.

The real problem is that Magic the Gathering has been lumped together with LARPing and D&D. People, even those who consider themselves nerds, see us and say “Oh, no. What are they doing? Do they realize how idiotic and weird they look (and or sound)? I’ve got to steer clear of this mess!” Now, to be fair, when an outsider sees all the different cards; hears all the complex jargon; surveys all the dice counters, card sleeves, and deck boxes, it can be a little scary. So it’s our job to raise this game from where it lies! Elevate our peers’ understanding of our obsession! We must imbue our ways as good and right among the populace wherever we may stand! Now that you’re motivated, we’ll move on to the solution.

Fair warning: You cannot force someone to play Magic the Gathering. Okay, don’t twist my words. I’m aware that you could physically force someone to do something against their will, but if the movies are anything to go by, nine out of ten nuns frown upon that line of thinking. If a person does not want to play, they won’t. The trick is to get them to want to play.

I can almost hear you shouting at your screen, “I’ve already tried this, and it totally backfired!” First, shouting at your screen makes you look like a lunatic. Please stop. Second, no one says “Totally” anymore. Finally, you went about it the wrong way. Let me guess, you were really excited and were telling them all about the cool cards, mechanics, and what not. Blurting out all the cool keywords that came to mind. Then they looked at you like you were not of this world and tried to leave as quickly as possible. I’m pretty close, aren’t I? You can’t do that. It’s like trying to convince a timid person to enter a haunted house by telling them how scary and realistic the monsters are.


You have to use a little reverse psychology. Cool off. Don’t talk about it for a while. Only mention it casually. Like if they ask you where you’re going or what your plans are. Now, if you’re not a Blurty McBlurterpants and start off this way, then they will probably start asking you about it and maybe show some curiosity toward your hobby. This is where it gets difficult. The temptation will be to not only answer their questions but explain everything else the way only old Blurty knows how. Your goal is to answer as concisely as possible and ease any worries or fears with out more information than is necessary. The beauty of MTG is in the discovery. The more they learn on their own, the more likely they will want to be involved. It is good to be a source of information when they need it, but only when they need it.

Right, time to run the scenario where you scared them off. Follow the instructions in the above paragraph. Your path will diverge when you get a scoff instead of a question. This is going to take a bit more work. For the time being, leave that person alone and start working on someone you’re both acquainted with. The more amicable the relationship between the three of you, the better. Once that person starts playing, you have a chance again. The person who was scared off might be more willing to give it a try if he or she knows another friend is also into it. The more friends he or she has playing Magic, the more likely they will want to join in.

There will always be someone who will not play no matter what. Be it principal, religious reasoning, or just plain stubborness, they will abstain from the experience until the end of time. If this

is the case, do not continue to pester them about it. This will only strain the relationship. Conversely, do not abandon them for their refusal of a game that you love. For friendship is much more important than any game could ever be.

For the time being, let’s assume that you were successful in persuading a friend to join you for a game. What was that? No one has ever assumed that you would be successful before? Well, I ah … you see … I mean, I’m sure someone … It’s funny how words can be so illusive in an akward situation. Anyway, you got them around the table. What’s the next step?


Teaching Magic 101

Lesson 01: Let them play. Finally, after all the pleading, bribery, and agreeing to seven months of dish washing duty, you have your self a student. The last thing you want to do is bore them to death by going over the rules. Showing is easier than telling. Give a quick tutorial by drawing a hand, laying down land, explain that tapping the land lets you use spells, (show an example spell) and try to make the connection between tapping land for mana and the spell’s cost. That’s it. Shuffle and play. Explain everything else as it happens. (without a condescending tone) It’s a good idea to have a glossary handy. That way you don’t have to explain all the keywords yourself. (remember, discovery is vital)

Important: Watch the face of the student during the tutorial. If confusion runs across it at any time, stop the tutorial. Say, “You’ll understand it better when we’re playing.” and start the game. There might be some confusion at first, but it’s easier to retain information when you’re doing instead memorizing.

Also Important: Go first. It’s a lot easier to imitate someone’s actions than go it alone. It also gives them more confidence knowing how a turn works before hand.

Lesson 02: Use casual decks. You don’t want to lend them the perfectly crafted, super complicated tournament winner your so proud of. Your storm deck will be useless in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the storm mechanic. Their best bet will be to get a pre-made starter deck, but there are those who would rather not spend any money on an experience they are unsure of. If this is the case, try to lend them a deck that has only one or two mechanics in it. (flying and unleash for example) Basically, remember that while your student may not be an idiot, they might get overwhelmed easily.

Lesson 03: You don’t want to win. You don’t want to lose. No, I’m not suggesting a Platinum Angel / Abyssal Persecutor combo. (look them up. I promise not to tell anyone you didn’t know what they were) I’m saying that you want to control the game, but not with a control deck. What you want to control is the tempo of the game. You don’t want to crush your student in their first game. They will more than likely walk away, never to return to MTG. You don’t want to let them win either. They might feel pitied or inept, which might also lead to them walking away.

What you want is for them to have an experience. A chance to do some cool things during the course of the match. Let them drop a 6/6 bomb and try to answer it with your creatures before you Doom Blade it out of existance. There needs to be a sense of accomplishment with almost every action they take. There needs to be no fear on their part on whether or not they should play a spell. You’re fighting an epic battle, where both sides are nearly equal and one side has to eek out a victory or die trying. This takes a very keen sense of awareness. Don’t try to anticipate their moves, but rather react to what they do in such a way that doesn’t completely all down any avenues of strategy.

Lesson 04: Grace goes a long way. Beginners are going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Way more than you remember making when you first started. Now you’ll have to step down off you high horse for a second, cause you’re not on the Pro Tour yet. (If you are on the Pro Tour and your reading this, could you sign my hat?) If they ask for a re-do or if they can take something back, go ahead and let them. On

the flip side, if they’re losing pretty bad, you might want to make some “mis-plays” to give them a slight edge. If they’re down to 5 life, maybe you might “forget” the trigger that makes them lose a life or discard a card. The game becomes a lot more interesting when you do, trust me. You will also find yourself explaining the same things multiple times. Have patience. Once they get the hang of it, it’ll be worth it.

Lesson 05: There is no Lesson 05. Don’t overthink this one. It’s supposed to be very zen like.

Lesson 06: The first game is one on one. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to put your student into a group setting for their first game. There is one exception to this rule. If the group is focused on beginners, as in more than one beginner and more than one veteran, and the veterans are there only to help the beginners, then it’s okay. You may think, “But my Magic buddies are all really friendly and really helpful. My student will love them.” This might be true later on, but for the first couple of games, the student will be overwhelmed. Your friends will end up being too helpful, and with all those decks and mechanics working against eachother, it’s too much to information for a newbie to take in all at once.

Congratulations! You have just completed your first course in Teaching Magic. Unfortunately, these credits won’t transfer. However, you now have a 28% better chance of getting a friend, loved one, or complete stranger into a card game that you love. Best of luck.


Do you have any tips or tricks that I may have missed? Are there any aspects of Magic that you’d like me to write an article on? Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks.

Jason Hill has spent many years trying to earn a PhD in Magic the Gathering, and eagerly awaits it to be a real degree.

Magic is Simple

Editor’s note:  This article was written by Jason Hill.

“LIAR!” you shout after reading the title of this article. “I’ve seen the game being played by some nerds. They turn their cards sideways, and then right ways up again. They put cards on the table only to take them off again later, but sometimes they don’t! They spout gibberish like, ‘Tap this for seven’, and ‘swing with everything’. I’ve even seen them put dice on their cards before. Who does that? And if that weren’t enough, the official online rulebook is 196 pages long, and that’s tiny type! TINY TYPE!” (Stop shouting. There might be people around. Everything will be okay.) Even veterans of the game would call me a liar, and tell me that it’s one of the more complicated games they have played.

Though it may be true that I am a liar, I’m not lying about this. Let me explain. The almost 200 word rulebook are the complete and comprehensive rules to help settle disputes and lay down special rules between more seasoned and serious players. For beginners, the rules that they give you can easily fit on a small sized poster, the type isn’t microscopic, and there are even some pictures to help give examples. I’d be surprised if Monopoly had more characters in it rule book. If you still don’t believe that it’s simple, I will break it down into three simple concepts and two simple goals. The concepts are as follows:

1. Land equals money
2. Play your turns carefully
3. Read the cards (this one is the most important)

Now, to explain land equals money. In Magic the Gathering (MTG) there are spell cards, and there are land cards. Spell cards cost mana, the game’s currency, to play. Land cards produce mana when you turn them sideways. Therefore, to play spells against your opponent, you must have land.

Play your turns carefully. MTG is set up in such a way that not everything can happen at once, but a great deal can happen during your turn. A single person’s turn consists of seven different steps which are explained on the “rules poster”. This is where the strategy comes in, for you can only play one land per turn, but you can play as many spells as you can afford. When you play your spells will be
the key to either your victory or defeat, and it’s not always a good idea to play them all at once.

Read the cards is probably the most important, yet most forgotten concept of this game. According to Wikipedia, there are 12,988 unique cards in print as of January 2013. That’s a lot of cards! There are tons of spells that do multitudes of things. You can do things like summon a creature, or enchant a player, or play a spell that doesn’t let your opponent play a spell, or summon an artifact that you can put on a creature, and the list goes on. STOP! Don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Breathe. Now, read the card. It will tell you exactly what it does.

There might be some numbers and symbols on it that you don’t understand. Don’t fret, the “rules poster” has a picture of an ordinary card and explains what all the numbers and symbols mean. You may stumble along a keyword you aren’t familiar with, like hexproof. It’s okay. The “rules poster” has a small glossary of the most commonly used keywords. If you can’t find the keyword on the poster, a quick google search will answer your questions. Everything else is pretty much common sense. Seeing as how you have stopped hyperventilating, we shall continue.

When playing MTG, you have two goals that you want to accomplish to win the game. They are as such:

1. Don’t die
2. Don’t go insane

Don’t die! Starting a game of MTG will yield you twenty points of life. If ever your life total should reach zero, you will be pronounced dead, and subsequently lose the game. “Who’s trying to kill me?” you may ask. Why, it’s your lovely opponent who wishes for your death. He/she will be hurling spells at you in order to deplete your life total to nothingness. Not all is lost, though, for you shall be attempting the same to them. You must use your wit and the spells in your hand to defend, attack, and trick your opponents before your life becomes naught. An easy task, when you really stop and think about it.

Don’t go insane. In MTG, the deck of cards that you draw from represents your mind. When you draw a spell it’s like drawing from your memory how to cast that spell. Keep taxing your brain over and over like that and eventually you’ll go insane. When you can no longer draw cards from your deck, you have lost the game. You might want to keep a straight jacket handy, just in case.

Words of wisdom to beginners:

• Play other beginners or patient and kind veterans, but you’re better off with beginners for the most part.
• Don’t worry over every little detail. It’s okay if you accidentally fudge some of the details or misinterpret one of the rules. Remember to keep an open mind and play fairly. If you find out you have been doing something wrong, tell those who’ve been playing it the wrong way with you so they don’t look like idiots to others. Lastly, if you let someone take back something they didn’t mean to do, they might be twice as likely to return the favor. (this is all in casual play, of
• Don’t fill your casual decks with game winning, powerful cards. Sure, one or three wont hurt. I’d even recommend it, but if you continually stomp the living daylights out of your friends, one of two things will happen. One is that they will no longer wish to play MTG with you, and one really is the loneliest number. The other is that they will find a card to counter your deus ex machina (and trust me, there is a way to defeat every single card in the game. It’s called balance.) and then you will be on the losing end and have to find a solution to their deck to win
once again. It can become a viscous cycle.
• Set a budget BEFORE buying cards. Your wallet will thank me.

If you have read down this far in the article with out skipping most of it, then you need to try the game Magic the Gathering, or at least give it another chance. I hope you come away from this with a better understanding of the game and a new outlook on those who play it. If you read this in hopes of learning how to get a friend into MTG or how to teach it to others, I’ll write another article regarding that soon.

Is there anything else you would like to know about Magic the Gathering? Are there other things you would like me to try to simplify? (women is not a proper suggestion) Finally, what is the most important detail, if any, that I left out of this article? (I haven’t reached perfect yet)

Jason Hill has bought more Magic cards than his cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents combined.