Quarter Life Regression, or how to get back into Magic: The Gathering
July 1, 2008 3:34 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to get back into Magic: The Gathering?

I played the game (as well as others) a lot as a teenager and recently my best friend has been introduced to the game and is addicted something fierce.

I would like to join him in his quest but here is my situation:

- I've lost my old cards except for a small handful.

- I would like to get in on the cheap-ish, sub $200 for sure. Where can I get cards for the cheapest either online or in the real world in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada?

- What is my best bet for buying cards? What sets? Starters? Boosters? Boxes of boosters? Boxes of boosters split with said friend?

- Any particularly crushing black themed decks currently? I played a black / blue back in the day that relied on Nightmares to do the heavy hitting and Royal Assassins (before they nerfed with with a cost for their ability) to thin out any pesky attackers.

Thanks for any advice including, but not limited to, "waste of money, don't bother, you are a huge nerd"
posted by utsutsu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You might consider playing online.

I played a bunch as a teenager, then quit for several years, then I got interested again. Playing online was a lot of fun.

The official WOTC page is pretty good for reading about stuff like whether there are "any particularly crushing black themed decks currently."

Royal Assassins were awesome.
posted by Perplexity at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2008

Argh, fixed link for the online game.
posted by Perplexity at 3:51 PM on July 1, 2008

When I used to play CCGs, I absolutely hated playing with premade decks. It was a truism that, no matter how long you spent on your deck, unless you went with a crazy cookie-cutter thing someone would come along with a deck that could do arbitrary amounts of damage on the 6th turn.

So, I took to playing only drafts and sealed boosters. You get to keep the cards when you're done, too, so you can build up a collection if you like. I tended to split the cost with one of my friends and just give them my cards after we were done.
posted by TypographicalError at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2008

i gave away all my cards when i got into college.

i had a particularly brutal black swarm deck that utilized breeding pits, hecatomb, and bad moons. (hecatomb allowed you to tap a swamp to deal one damage to anything, sac 3 creatures on cast)

wish i could wipe the floor with the funky new rules using some 3rd editions, lord of the pit and demonic hordes.. ;)
posted by emptyinside at 4:21 PM on July 1, 2008

Ah, the olden days... my black denial deck, with Hymn to Torach, Hypnotic Spectres, Black Vises etc. The trembling lip of my competitor.

Answering the question, though: online is a good option, as Perplexity says, but has the obvious disadvantage of you paying money and not getting anything that you can even use as a bookmark in exchange.

One thing you might look into is eBay, and do some research on "peon/peasant" decks -- these are formulas for fun, weird, interesting all-common decks. While you're in Canada, if you can get a maildrop south of the border, wholesalegaming.com has some great deals from time to time.

Question: does your friend have a Magic addiction, or just a general CCG itch that needs to be scratched? If the latter, and you're on a budget, I'd recommend you check out Hecatomb, a post-Magic game that tanked due to weird card formats and a theme way too dark for parents to give their kids money to buy. Since it's a retired game, it's crazy cheap to buy, and has much more depth of play than Magic. Caveat: it plays best with 3-4 players. Decipher's WARS game is also a great cancelled game that you can pick up for dollars a box, and has some amazing game mechanics.
posted by Shepherd at 4:53 PM on July 1, 2008

This is a terrible confession but I recently did exactly what you are doing. I got back into MTG.

I'm currently working in a city I don't live in and was pretty bored on weeknights, so I went online and found a local place that did Draft games and Friday Night Magic. You can probably start here to find a place that runs either. Some of the info is out of date. I eventually posted on a MTG forum frequented by Aussies and people pointed me in the right direction. I've been playing draft now for about a month and having a ball.

I've found Draft to be a good way to have fun for a few hours with likeminded people and at the same time collect the newer of the cards. Sure, I'm not winning, going up against professional players, but I've managed to make friends with people I'd otherwise have never met. Two drafts in one night mean about 90 new cards, some good, most meh, but at least it's a start.

If you're purely after cards, E-bay is an excellent way to get a bunch of cards, fast. You can usually buy a bulk lot of commons or uncommons for a not-ridiculous amount of money. Just stay away from the rare auctions and you'll be ok.

A lot of people play online now, but I'm finding more people are dropping it and going back to live play. It's more social, gets you out of the house, and how else are you going to trash-talk the opposition?

As for black themed decks that crush? You'd be thinking about "Dredge" at the moment in Type 1.5. Fast, furious, and will set you back a small fortune to buy the cards. Good luck!
posted by Neale at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2008

I recommend finding nearby gaming venues and seeing if they have either draft or sealed deck tournaments. These are tournaments where, rather than bringing your own deck that you have spent hundreds of dollars constructing, you compete with decks that you construct on the spot from a pool of essentially random cards from the current sets. It is actually quite the intellectual challenge. When you leave, whether or not you won, you get to keep all the cards that you used in the tournament, so if you play two or three of these you will have a fair number of cards to build stronger decks and see what works well together. Most of the small local tournaments I've gone to run about about US$20-25, which isn't bad considering that sealed deck tournaments have leaving with something like 150 random cards. You can also learn the details of the current sets on the Magic: The Gathering website.
posted by Hollow at 5:35 PM on July 1, 2008

Well, first, go read up on all the new abilities.

Call your local gaming shop to see if they have gaming events there or if they can hook you up with a venue that does. Also ask if they sell individual cards. I don't mind buying booster packs, but if you had a color preference, or a favorite theme deck, why not beef up your strength and revisit it, by buying loose cards before buying more widely? I like to have three or so decks that I continually revamp, and having moved to an area where I can play with more people again for the first time in a long while, I'm stoked to pore through the several expansions since my last revamp and find the gems.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:05 PM on July 1, 2008

Oh, and nthing draft nights for sure.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2008

This question reminded me, I have several hundred MTG cards in a a box and in binders in my closet doing no one any good.
They're all at least, maybe, 8 years old, maybe older, but if OP or anyone is interested, memail me and maybe we could work something favorable out for both sides?
posted by baserunner73 at 6:47 PM on July 1, 2008

Best answer: Honestly, grab the fat packs and a couple of pre-constructed decks. WoTC are changing the formats for the pre-cons when the next block releases.

I spend a fair bit of time playing MTG, mostly multiplayer. (See: my site.)

They really have made the game easier to learn; so being semi familiar with it will help.

I'm an old-school player too, I quit in the middle of the Urza block and started playing with the release of Lorwyn. Send me a MefiMail if need be.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:17 PM on July 1, 2008

Oh, and for the record, the Lorwyn mini-block and Shadowmoor mini-block (the second set, Eventide, is currently being previewed and drops in the last week of July).

Lorwyn et all are the most self-sufficient. The new mechanics introduced will make your competitive with a lot of the newer stuff; I regularly lost @ lunch hour to a friend who only has Lorwyn-and-newer stuff.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:20 PM on July 1, 2008

As far as playing online goes, a friend and I used to use Apprentice to test out decks. It doesn't enforce rules, and it's missing the art, but it's got every card. When you figure out what decks you want to use, the Wagical Place has always had cheap singles.

I enjoyed the game, but I don't think I ever want to get back into it. Have fun, though. :-)
posted by adamdschneider at 9:07 PM on July 1, 2008

I did this last spring/summer. I agree with others on draft.

Playing constructed is pointless unless you are ready to netdeck and sink lots of cash into getting the cards to netdeck. No matter where you go there will be people willing to spend more and therefore create ridiculous decks that will frustrate you endlessly. It ended up being a big turn off for me because I never reached that tipping point where my inputs in cash equaled competitive decks (while still managing to spend an embarassing amount).

I also have a bunch of cards collecting dust I would be willing to part with for under what you are looking to spend. I stopped purchasing right before lorwyn though so if you are interested in getting the latest and greatest it might not be good for you. meta-mail me if you are interested.
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:26 AM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: I did this too a few years back and still have a semi-regular weekly game.

At first, you're going to get card-crazy as you pour over the past few years of sets. I'd recommend going to the Time Spiral set for a start as nostalgia is a huge theme there. There are reprints of older classic cards (Prodigal Sorcerer), color shifted versions of old cards (Black Wrath of God, Blue Serra Angel), and peeks at the future of the game all in the three expansions (Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight) of the set.

Plus it's a bit older so prices for most of the cards (except the handful of Power Cards - If you crack a Tarmogoyf, you can pretty much trade it for an entire working deck if you so choose) are pretty stable.

After you get done with Crazy Card Buying, look in to playing limited with friends. In my group, only about a half of us ever played Magic before, the rest are latter-day converts. A limited cardpool is a great way to level the playing field between those that have shoeboxes full of cards and those that don't. Start simple. Everyone buys 5 boosters (of a designated set) and makes a 40 card deck. They play. Every other week or so (more or less depending on your play frequency) two more boosters are added in.

Once you have some form of cardpool behind you, you can start to play formats like Pauper (commons only), Highlander (One only of any card except basic lands), Elder Dragon Highlander (like highlander, but with a General card that determines what colors you can play), and if you have a stable play group, Type 4 (which is a limited/highlander/draft/set pool format and totally awesome).

If you have a color printer, you can make proxies from Magic Cards Info. Just cut out the print outs and slide'm into deck sleeves with random cards. No way legal of tournies and generally frowned on outside of casual play, that's a fun way of building (or re-building) those Super Powerful Decks of Yore.

Word is MTG Online is coming to Xbox Live at some point. My wallet quivers in anticipation.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:09 AM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: I don't know how long you've been out of it, but Magic has a few "constructed" formats nowadays:

Vintage/Legacy: Nearly everything ever printed. Crazy stuff.
Extended: The past 7 years or so. Still relatively crazy.
Standard: The past 2 blocks, plus the newest standard set (Tenth Edition right now)
Block: Just the current block.

The latest Block is composed of 2 mini-blocks, Lorwyn/Morningtide, and Shadowmoor/Eventide.

Eventide is coming out in a couple of weeks, so if you can get your hands on some Shadowmoor cards now, you'll be acquainted enough with them to do OK in a Shadowmoor/Eventide draft. Start with drafts, you won't win for a while, but at least you won't face Mr. Suitcase.

When you've got some cards, fill out a nice block deck with some Lorwyn and Morningtide stuff. Black is pretty powerful, but Blue/Black Faeries has been dominating.

Standard will rotate out the Time Spiral Block in October when Shards of Alara is released, so just keep playing and your Block decks can naturally become Standard decks without too much effort.

I just started playing in February again, and I bought someone's batch of commons. I got a few decent things like the ol' Llanowar Elves, but it's not really worth it. Too many old cards are irrelevant, and they've changed the balance of the game.

If you can, find a nice store that puts on drafts. At my local store, people very often leave their commons behind after drafts because they don't need a 15th of a card. A few friends I've met have also been great about bringing me a spare common or uncommon to fill out a deck. Drafts overall seem a lot more friendly and fun than more serious tournament scenes.

Also, if there's a pre-release event happening in your area for Eventide (July 12), drop the cash and go. You get a lot of cards, and it's tons of fun because the optimal, cut-throat strategies haven't been sussed out yet.
posted by explosion at 6:26 AM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: Perplexity: I considered online but I would want to play for free or close to free if I'm not getting any real cards.

Assorted draft pushers: I had mentioned this to my friend and he said the card shop he had been to runs them, so I will definitely look into these.

Shepherd: Indeed it is an itch solely for Magic. I did find my old Legend of the Five Rings cards and tried to get him to learn the game, but no luck so far.

adamdschneider: Anything like Apprentice that is current? How about somthing only for collection management and deck building?

Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments given.
posted by utsutsu at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: Don't forget that the rules changed pretty significantly in 6th edition. You can get a good taste for them by reading online articles or playing the official client online.

Interrupts are no more, you can play abilities/instants after the stack has started resolving, combat damage now uses the stack, regeneration/damage prevention must be played in advance (or at least in response so it resolves in advance), tapped blockers still deal damage in combat. That's short list of what I think are the most important.

Don't be surprised to find that the thousands of cards that have been released since you played have made the game significantly more complex, expensive, degenerate (at times), and, IMHO, more fun.

I agree with the posters above that draft is a great way to go- you don't spend much per-deck, you get to see a bunch of cards and play with the 'best' without having to spend money on each single card.

Apprentice and Magic Workstation are both current, but they don't enforce the rules. The official client does, but doesn't give you the freedom to play with every card every made for free- you have to collect the cards just like in 'real life'. The on-line cards are much cheaper, at least.

AS of this writing the Official client is going thorough some serious re-invention growing pains. I would only count on it to play casual games.
posted by Four Flavors at 3:29 PM on July 2, 2008

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