ON LEARNING MAGIC
Wesley M. Allison
the most important factors in the growth of any hobby is
the introduction of new members.
Magic: the Gathering is no exception.
The good news is that there are a great many
people, young and old, who would be interested in
playing Magic. The
bad news is that, for the uninitiated, learning how to
play Magic can be a daunting proposition.
One wanders through the local games store
watching the players as they mysteriously slide cards
around the table, only occasionally making monosyllabic
grunts of pleasure or disgust.
Though the desire to understand this intriguing
activity is overpowered by the psychological need not to
feel like a total dweeb.
So, what does one do?
of the Coast, the makers of Magic have gone to
considerable effort and expense to produce a series of
Starter level products designed to introduce new players
to the game. The
most recent of these products is the Seventh Edition
Starter Set. This
set features two very basic game decks and two packages
of more advanced cards to add to them to produce two
forty card decks. Also
included are a step by step guide book and a more
advance rule book. Perhaps best of all, the set features
a CD-Rom demo of the game.
Providing you have a computer, this is a great
production quality is high and it is fun to play, though
with this newest edition, there isn't a great deal of
replay value. The
two forty card decks and the easy instructions make it
easy to figure out the game with a partner if you have
one to play with.
of the Coast also produce several games that could
easily be considered entries into the Collectible Card
Game hobby. Though
they differ in the details of play, both the Poke'mon
and the Harry Potter Collectible Card Games use the same
basic mechanic. Resource
cards, whether they are called energy, manna, or lessons
provide "power" to allow you to send other
cards, monsters or spells, out to attack an opponent or
that opponent's minions.
Though I haven't spoken to anyone at WOTC about
it, it appears to me that the Harry Potter game was
designed more than anything else, to be a gateway into
are so many elements of Magic: the Gathering contained
there-in, all the way back to Vanguard cards that are so
much like character cards in the Harry Potter game.
you start with the Starter Set, should you try one of
the other games first, or should you do something
Educators often divide up people according to
their "learning styles."
It has been known for some time that some learn
by listening, some by watching, and some by doing.
These three learning styles-- auditory, visual,
and kinesthetic-- once understood, can be great tools
for figuring out the most effective and most fun way for
you to learn anything new, and the game of Magic is no
learners enjoy reading aloud, are talkative and love
discussion, and find that they can best remember things
that they have heard rather than seen.
Auditory learners can spell better in a spelling
bee than they can when writing, and while they find
writing difficult, they can tell a story quite well.
Auditory learners often become editors,
librarians, lawyers, secretaries, therapists, and
interestingly enough, writers.
If you are an auditory learner, try the CD-Rom
with the 7th Edition Starter set, or ask the proprietor
of your local game store to explain the game to you.
You might also benefit from listening to the
neighborhood kids tell you about Poke'mon.
learners learn best by seeing, and memorize by using
visual clues. They
tend to be very good spellers because they see the words
in their minds. They would rather be read to than read and they usually
remember what they have seen better than what might have
been said to them.
Many visual learners become architects,
engineers, pilots, photographers, artists, and web
you are a visual learner, read the rules first.
Purchase the 7th Edition Starter Set and read
both books, then look through all the cards before you
try a game. Forget
what Wizards of the Coast says in the packaging about
not opening the advanced card pack until you have played
a few games. READ
IT ALL. You'll
be glad you did. You
might also want to stop by CrystalKeep.com and look at
the comprehensive rules there.
Look at the Pojo message board and see what
people are saying about the game and about specific
all means, check out the Deck Garage articles on Pojo
and elsewhere, paying special attention to the author's
description of how the deck functions.
finally to the kinesthetic learners.
When Captain Kirk tells Saavik that "we
learn by doing", he's talking about these folks,
although I think he may have been mistaken in regards
need only look at their ears to guess auditory learner.
Kinesthetic learners like to use their finger to
keep their place when they read.
The often use body movements to help them
touch people when communicating, and they are very
Kinesthetic learners tend toward active careers
like police officers, athletes, dancers, actors, and
you are a kinesthetic learner, throw away the 7th
Edition CD-Rom. It
is way too structured and talky for you.
And don't read the rules before you play.
Find someone to play the game with-- at school,
at home (with the starter set's two 40 card decks), or
at your local game store.
If you can't find anybody to play with, sit down
and play Poke'mon with the kids.
You can later apply that knowledge to Magic: the
Gathering, but for God's sake, DON'T READ THE RULES.
truth is that we all probably have some combination of
all three learning styles mixed up in our brains, but it
may still be possible to focus our efforts in one
particular way to get the best result.
You can find out more information on learning
styles from your teacher or local librarian. Those interested in studying the subject in depth should
examine the recent scholarship on "multiple
the rest of you, I hope this gives you a few thoughts
about the best way for you to learn the ins and outs of
Magic: the Gathering.
The hours of enjoyment that you will find will
amply repay your time and effort.
the rest of us, we need to help new people learn the
remember, not too long ago, logging on to Wizards.com my
Magic Interactive Encyclopedia to play a game.
I asked one fellow in the lobby if he wanted to
play, and he responded that he would only play "if
I knew the game" since he "didn't have time to
teach" me. I
knew how to play the game, but at that point was
relatively new to online Magic.
I passed. I
can understand not having a whole lot of time, I
suppose, but if you are in a rush, online Magic is not
really the game for you.
Log off and play a little Minesweeper.
person I have been much more fortunate.
At my local game shops and at tournaments I have
played Magic with many people from eight to eighty, both
male and female. At
each of these game nights and tournaments, I have
witnesses experienced players being helpful and generous
to those new players venturing into this new realm for
the first time. But
I have also seen players at school or the library sneer
derisively at someone asking them a question about this
"strange magic they are doing with these really
We cannot afford to shut people out who are interested in learning to play Magic: the Gathering. If we want our hobby to expand and grow, even if we only want the price of new cards to stay relatively low, new expansion sets to continue on a regular basis, or continued organized tournament play, we must encourage new players. Be a friend to a new player. Be a mentor. Be a scholar and a gentleman (or lady). Not only will you feel good about yourself, you will be helping our hobby and ultimately yourself.
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