Wizards Asks: 2/2/2010

Posted in Feature on February 2, 2010

By Wizards of the Coast

When you teach someone Magic, how do you start?

Dave Guskin

Dave Guskin: I find the most important starting points for teaching new players are to get them using creatures as quickly as possible, introduce the major themes and how cards are played, and finally teaching them about the basic parts of the turn (untap, draw, spells, attack, done).

The reason creatures, and in particular creature combat, is a great place to start is that the power and toughness of a creature are pretty intuitive to grasp in a simple this-Runeclaw Bear-fights-that-Warpath Ghoul kind of situation. Since the power and toughness numbers are not explained on the cards themselves, getting to it earlier rather than later is better so that the new player isn't overwhelmed trying to process every piece of the card at once. Creature combat is also fun—a kind of tactical mini-game inside of the larger strategy game—so the new player is likely to be more interested after understanding how creatures work. I'm generally well-served by prefacing my introduction to creature combat with "You win the game when your creatures deal enough damage to reduce the opponent from 20 life to 0," because everyone always asks the natural question "How do you win?"

Before going through the parts of the turn, I'll usually transition through some of the overall themes of the game—the color wheel, and a small overview of mana costs. My introduction to mana cost almost always goes like this: (1) creatures and spells cost mana; (2) you get mana from lands, and you can play one land a turn (and show them basic lands to illustrate the point); (3) the more total mana it costs (converted mana cost), the bigger and better the creature or spell usually is; and (4) the more colored mana there is in the cost, the more aligned that card is with the color's philosophy.

Runeclaw Bear
Kalonian Behemoth

This is also a good point to introduce two hooks to get them interested in playing and building decks for themselves: the nature of monocolored vs. multicolored decks (consistency vs. flexibility), and the power of expensive cards vs. the speed of cheaper cards (control vs. aggro).

One last note, for when I introduce the regular turn progression: I try not to spend time talking about how there are two main phases, or the upkeep, or about how the game passes from phase to phase as priority is passed. Many players will feel most comfortable learning Magic as a semi-solitaire game: you draw your cards, you play your creatures and spells, you attack and see what happens. The interaction will be low at first, and that's okay. As I get into lessons two through infinite and introduce specific cards that encourage interaction (Giant Growth, Lightning Bolt and Cancel are good starting examples), I start adding to my previous statements about the turn and bring the strategy of when to play one's cards into the equation.

Above all, when you teach someone new, show how much YOU enjoy Magic and help make the new player comfortable with game at the pace they are comfortable with.

When you teach someone Magic, how do you start? Click the Discuss link below to tell us your story and then see what everybody else has to say!

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