Why there's never been a better time to start playing Magic: The Gathering

Why there's never been a better time to start playing Magic: The Gathering
Images courtesy of Wizards of the Coast

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes


23rd Jun 2023 11:50

As a kid, I collected a boatload of Pokemon cards, but after spending some time with the (delightful) Marvel Snap in recent months, I found myself itching to find a new trading card game to play: Magic: The Gathering.

As it turns out, this 'new' game was one that debuted in the eighties. Drawn to its dark creatures and the mystique of feeling like a cardboard-slinging Planeswalker, I’ve been hoovering up decks and packs since - and I’m pleased to tell you there’s never been a better time to start playing Magic: The Gathering.

From that preface, it should be clear that I am in no way an expert on Magic: The Gathering - just a new player that’s been bitten by the bug.

While that may have experienced Planeswalkers closing this tab, that’s ok - I’m speaking to the newcomers here, with a focus on those coming from other card games or digital versions of them.

Should you play Magic: The Gathering in 2023?

Brisela voice of nightmares card from MTG
Click to enlarge

So, why try Magic: the Gathering in 2023? That’s a broad question with a few answers.

Do you like the look of gnarly monsters that could easily be FromSoft bosses in Soulslike games? Are you interested in one of the many crossovers that range from Warhammer to Lord of the Rings? Or are you simply looking for a fun, portable game you can take anywhere but that offers almost untapped (ha!) strategic potential?

Whatever your reason, it’s a daunting setup. There are literally thousands of cards, and buying more initially feels like a minefield - should you buy cards? Should you buy packs? And what on earth is a Commander deck?

In reality, it’s easier than you’re making it - you can buy the Magic: The Gathering starter kit and get yourself two fun decks to start with.


From there, Wizards of the Coast rotates sets out of 'standard' play, so you don’t have to catch up on three decades of cards. Thankfully, many receive regular reprints, too, and while Magic: The Gathering, like any card game, is an investment, this makes cards a little easier to obtain.

Into the Arena

Magic the Gathering Arena tutorial screenshot
Click to enlarge

Those starter decks come with redeemable codes for Magic: The Gathering’s digital counterpart, Arena.

Because it’s an impressively accurate facsimile of the core card game, it’s a little slower than some of its digital rivals like Legends of Runeterra, Hearthstone, and Marvel Snap - and a little less flashy.

Still, despite the huge number of tutorials on YouTube for learning to play Magic, Arena might just be your best bet. It breaks lessons down into digestible phases of play, culminating in a PvP duel with a deck of each colour of magic (red, blue, white, green or black).

Not only does this give players a basic understanding of keywords, spells, and the standard format, but it also lets them understand the differences in playing with each colour. Would I have known I like to sacrifice creatures to build a zombie army without them? Perhaps not!

Arena also offers a variety of event types, and updates in lockstep with the live game. While you’ll naturally earn cards quicker by paying, it dishes out plenty of in-game currency for playing, too.

Ways to Play

One thing Arena doesn’t offer, sadly, is Commander. It’s one of Magic’s most popular offshoots, to the point where Wizards of the Coast sells preconstructed decks.


The format revolves around highlighting a Legendary Creature to use as your Commander, and building a deck around them. It’s a fun way to play, and being able to pick up a deck relatively cheaply is a great way to kickstart the hobby.

Another option is Jumpstart, which lets players smash together two boosters to form a makeshift deck. It’s another way Wizards of the Coast is lowering the barrier of entry for new players, and while Game Night box sets, which work closer to a board game experience, have received a mixed response from the community, the game is more accessible than ever.

Universes Beyond

box art for the magic the gathering universes beyond lord of the rings starter kit
Click to enlarge

Ok, so let’s say you simply don’t care about Magic: The Gathering’s rich lore and character designs. That’s fine, everyone loves something familiar.

That’s where Universes Beyond comes in. There have been Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and Warhammer 40k crossovers, and while not all of them are easy to find in 2023, the arrival of fantasy legend Lord of the Rings is sure to intrigue many.

Offering its own Commander Decks, Jumpstart Boosters, and even a fresh starter deck, you could feasibly just play the Lord of the Rings set forever - ideal for Tolkien fans.

Magic The Gathering Lord of the Rings cards showing two versions of the One Ring
Click to enlarge

It’s a great place to jump in, with characters from across Middle Earth represented with some truly stunning artwork - and the chance to earn the One Ring and earn a s**tload of money.

In summary, then, there has never been a better time to get started with Magic: The Gathering.

Between excellent crossovers, multiple ways to play, and Arena acting as both a teaching tool and a constant source of card duels, Magic: The Gathering is in a really good place right now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I’m going back to Arena.

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Lloyd Coombes
About the author
Lloyd Coombes
Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.
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