Joe, the new player
By Paul Gulbis
Let’s get gritty! A new player needs to be taught! And his name is Joe this week.
Last time I spoke about how important it is to teach your new player the different parts of the game. And not only to teach them how to tap and play a single thing every turn they can, but to teach them to be interactive and frankly, to enjoy the game.
I am going to focus this article on the brand new player. I will be going through a few points that will comprehensively help your new player to their first FNM. Firstly, before we start, we must make peace with ourselves that not every player is a PPTQ/GPT/WMCQ player – the person you’re teaching might just end up playing kitchen Magic with their own small group of friends or become a Standard FNM player only. Even though it is a dream of every competitive player to breed an army of equally competitive players so that you can sit back and watch them take down those qualifiers and say: “Yeah, I made that.” we are not here to do that. Instead, let’s create a duelling buddy who can tag along to your local FNMs on a regular basis.
What is this? What is that?
First thing’s first, Joe doesn’t know a thing about a Magic card, a Magic deck, or a Magic duel.
Go through the following card types in this order: Land, Creature, Planeswalker, Artifact/Enchantment, Sorcery/Instant – the importance here is the difference between of the card type being a permanent or not and of course a creature’s stats – this is the perfect time to teach Joe the different types of zones but do not spend too much time on these because he will learn these as he plays his own turns. Teach Joe the colours of Mana in the order he wants to know them. Here is a great wiki entry for that. http://mtgsalvation.gamepedia.com/Color_Pie
Show him the steps in a turn – again, only briefly, it is best learnt whilst going through his own turn.
Lastly – show Joe rarities and their meanings. Here is a spiffy article that teaches you the differences of the rarities: http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/184
Granted, Joe doesn’t need to know these things – but it’s cool to know that each rarity has a place for why it’s at that rarity.
If time permits – build a deck of two of Joe’s favourite colours from the lesson above. Otherwise you can have a few learner decks ready. Remember, the importance of teaching good Magic is make sure that Joe’s deck has a little of all card types and rarities. We are learning the game after all.
I draw seven, now what?
Joe has his Black/White deck shuffled and draws his seven cards and looks flabbergasted. Firstly, play with both of your cards revealed all game throughout the first few games. Here is where you go through the turn structure in detail. Briefly explain that each turn has a Beginning Phase, a Main Phase and an End Phase. Then go on to explain, again briefly, what is an Untap Step, an Upkeep step and a Draw step. With time this will come naturally but Joe will need to know a little before it becomes relevant. The Main Phase is the business end of each turn – this is where you can get Joe excited. He finally gets to play his cards! Land drops, creature drops, powerful enchantment drops, oh man! That is so cool! But here is the important bit – try to teach Joe not to play any instants in the Main Phase – no matter how much he wants to – the only response to that is: “There is still time.” The reward here is greater than you think. I cannot stress enough how important this part is.
Teaching the zones are important here, show where each zone generally is and make sure that Joe is comfortable where his zones are relative to him.
The land drop. One land a turn. It is not a spell, it is not casting anything. It just is. It’s a land – get Joe’s Mana on! Even though Joe has no creatures with which to attack, tell Joe that he still has an Attack Phase – and he should try to cast things after the imaginary attack phase because there is another Main Phase. This will resonate with him – and make him understand that phases and steps exist even though he doesn’t experience them. This is not “Pokemon” or “Yu-Gi Oh!” you can do stuff after you attack.
Go back and forth with several turns reiterating the importance of instants, of casting after attack phases and of the steps/phases that are not visible to the game-state itself.
The fine line…
There is a fine line amongst all new players after their few games. If Joe was having fun and understood almost everything you taught him so far, you’ve hooked him! If Joe had fun, but didn’t understand much, he might be put off the game for a while. This is where you’d need to make it fun for your opponent. Don’t push Joe! Never push Joe to enjoy the game, instead, throw a few ideas in the air about decks and themes and leave it for a few days. Joe’s mind will mull over it – and next time he sees you, let him make his own deck – with a little help of course! Here is an extremely comprehensive article from WotC that could help Joe understand building his own deck: http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/academy/3
A little deck-building will go a long way! Let Joe tinker with a variety of pieces and show him neat synergies!
If Joe had no fun playing, whether he understood the game or not, let Joe go – if he is not having fun with free cards, Joe won’t justify paying hundreds of Rands just to get started!
Budget: the good, the bad and the ugly!
The good: A new player usually has a few hundred Rands or upward of a thousand with which to start. Usually people tell them to buy an Event deck and go with it – I’d usually recommend this except for the brand new player with no cards. The reason being is that there isn’t a veritable choice of colours or themes on Event Deck given at any moment – this means that whatever deck Joe buys is the deck and theme he will be playing with a long time. The average Joe won’t have his starting budget as a monthly budget so I suggest let Joe buy singles from the plethora of stores available for cards that he wants to have, to hold and to own! Joe will know his budget, Joe however doesn’t know if there are such things like budget replacements. If Joe likes White and Black then Utter End could be a budget version of Hero’s Downfall, for instance. You have the experience and the insight into Joe’s likes and dislikes – and to a degree, his budget.
Any spare budget that Joe might have could be held for drafts and limited events – but that’s for another discussion.
The bad: There is no mistake about knowing that Magic is an expensive hobby – but from all the luxury hobbies out there, I feel that it is the most rewarding with a certain money back guarantee kind of feel to it. You can let Joe know that. If he is for the long haul, he is not wasting his money!
The ugly: Joe must know that there will be times where he will get screwed out of good deals, get ripped off from experienced traders and lose his fetch or shock lands to the cool new rare right in his colours! This is a part of growing up in the real world of Magic. The experience learned here is worth the few cards that got away.
If you have cards to spare, give Joe your extra cards! The amount that helps Joe is worth more to him than the dust it gathers in your cupboard or garage.
Disclaimer: Joe’s budget is his own and all we can do is to advise through our own experiences. Joe ultimately makes the decisions to his own collection.
The Magic community is a good community!
A common misconception is that the magic community is a bigoted bunch but that solely untrue. As in everything out there, you will have your few bad apples and that is not reason enough to deter Joe from playing competitive magic. Many players are willing to help with many different aspects, be it game-play, deck advice or card generosity. Joe must know that every Magic player wants the game to grow – so Joe is in safe hands. Who knows – maybe Joe might even own a store of his own one day?
Next time I will be going about the intricacies of turn structure, the stack, common rulings and proper use of cards! Hopefully by then Joe has a few FNMs under his belt!