So, you want to start playing Magic the Gathering, but don’t know which products to buy? That’s quite common, as there are just so many products to choose from. But there’s no need to worry, as this Buyer’s Guide for new MTG players is here to help you. We’ll explore the best products for beginners, and find the perfect one for you.
We’ve updated this article in 2024, so you can rest assured our recommendations are up-to-date.
Which Format Will You Play?
Not every MTG product is made with a new player in mind. Even those that are, won’t necessarily work for every beginner. Why? Because there are various ways to play Magic, which are represented by different formats.
Each format uses specific rules, mostly about which cards are legal in that format, and how many cards you can play in the deck. Here’s a list of all official MTG formats.
In order to keep this article simple, we’ll only discuss the most popular ones, that would be a nice fit for beginner. If you already have a play group, simply pick the format that they most commonly play. If you don’t, we’d recommend you to pick one among the following ones:
- 60-card casual
If you already know which format you’re going to play, feel free to jump ahead to the next section.
Commander deck contains exactly 99 card + 1 commander (a legendary creature, that you can always access). All cards in the deck need to be different, except for basic lands.
This format has an extremely high learning curve, which isn’t ideal for a new player. However, it’s probably the most widely played format in many game stores. If you’ll want to play Magic with players outside your playgroup, it’s a good idea to start with Commander.
If you want, you can learn more about this format in Commander Beginner’s Guide.
This is the original way to play Magic, and still a very popular one. Players build decks with 60 (or more) cards. You can’t play more than four copies of the same card in the deck, except for basic lands.
This is probably the best way to learn the game, as you don’t need to learn so many cards and interactions as with Commander. It’s also a great way to play at home with your friends, thus this format is often called kitchen table Magic.
There are many formats that fall under the term Competitive. (Standard, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, etc.) These formats use strict rules about which cards are legal, and use 60-card decks, with 15-card sideboards. The matches are played in a best-of-three mode.
Picking a competitive format is probably best for a player who wants to play tournaments, and is already experienced with other card games.
Among the many competitive formats, we’d recommend going with Pioneer. It uses the smallest pool of cards among all non-rotating formats. (Non-rotating means that your cards never rotate out, but remain legal in the format, unless banned.)
Best Buys for New MTG Players
So, if you’ve decided which format you want to play, it’s now time to pick the best product for that format! Our suggestions are ordered based on which format you’ve chosen.
For New Commander Players: Starter Commander Decks
We talked about how Commander is not the most beginner-friendly format, as there are so many cards and interactions. Even when you buy a single preconstructed deck, you can encounter multiple complex interactions within it.
Thankfully, Starter Commander decks came out back in December 2022. Even though, they are over a year old now, they’re still amazing products for beginners, as their name suggests. They are somewhat less complex, yet they still contain good and solid cards, and are fairly easy to upgrade.
Since all the cards in these decks are reprints, their price is significantly lower than those of the other Commander precons. This is spectacular, especially if you’re a new player, unsure whether you’ll like Commander (or Magic). With the Starter decks, you can make minimal investment and try the game.
There are five Starter Commander decks total:
- First Flight
- Grave Danger
- Chaos Incarante
- Draconic Destruction
- Token Triumph
You can learn more about their contents, and how to upgrade them, in our Starter Commander Decks Guide.
These decks are certainly a great starting point for a new Commander player. If both you and your buddy are getting into Magic, you can purchase a couple of decks, as they are relatively balanced against one another.
Best for Casual Beginners: Game Night Free-for-All 2022
If you just want to learn and play some Magic in its purest form, then you should just pick the Game Night: Free for All 2022. Given its release date, the product might seem a bit dated, but that doesn’t matter for casual play. Especially, since this box contains five 60-card ready-to-play decks. They aren’t too complex, but at the same time, they also aren’t boring.
There is one deck for each of the Magic’s colors (White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green.) All decks are balanced against one another.
Many great things can be said about this product. First, it isn’t fairly cheap, especially since you’re getting five complete decks. Second, you’ll get to experience all five colors, so you’ll be able to find out which play style you enjoy the most. Last, but not least, you can play this, right out of the box with 2–5 players. This way, you’re basically buying a self-contained board game.
You can find more information about Game Night: Free For All 2022 here.
Alternate Casual Option: Arena Starter Kit 2023
An alternate option to the Game Night box is the Arena Starter Kit. It comes with two decks, which contain newer cards. The decks also come with a code that can be redeemed in MTG Arena (online client for MTG), and can be used twice.
Thus, it’s a cool product, if both you and a friend are looking to get into the game. You can split the price, each get a deck, and a code for both online versions of the decks.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of Middle-Earth, you’ll probably prefer the Tales of Middle-Earth Starter Kit. This one was released last year, in 2023 and is full of cards set in the Tolkien’s world.
For Competitive MTG Beginners: Pioneer Challenger Decks
If you want to start playing tournaments right away — or at the very least — very soon, then you should select one of the Pioneer Challenger decks. While these aren’t the best decks in the format right out of the box, they will give you an okay starting point. If you decide that you like them, you can always upgrade them into a very good decks over time.
The four newest Pioneer Challenger decks are:
- Orzhov Humans
- Gruul Stompy
- Izzet Phoenix
- Dimir Control
Each deck comes with a 60-card main deck, and a 15-card sideboard. You can discover more about the decks, and which one is the best to pick up, in our Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022 Guide. It’s a shame that no newer versions were released afterward, but hopefully, we’ll get new decks in 2024.
These are also great, if you want a stronger version for your casual 60-card games. If you’re joining a play group that’s been playing for a while, you’ll do better with these decks, than with the ones from Game Night and Arena Starter Kit.
Accessories & Free Stuff for MTG Beginners
We talked about the basic stuff an MTG beginner should get. However, there are other items that can improve your first steps into the amazing game of Magic the Gathering. Some of them you might even be able to acquire for free, or at least for a cheap price. Let’s take a look!
First up, there’s a Welcome Booster. If you’re just starting out with MTG, you are eligible to get it for FREE.
Each Welcome Booster contains the same exact 10 cards, including three rares. For example, early in 2024 the Welcome Booster contains three rares Defiant Bloodlord, Siege Rhino, and Chandra, Heart of Fire. It also contains an MTG Arena code, that can be redeemed for a 60-card digital deck.
So, how and where can one get the Welcome Booster?
Since Wizards of the Coast doesn’t ship these directly to players, you can’t order them online. You can, however, stop by a local game store (find it by using Wizards’ Store Locator) and ask the staff if they offer any Welcome Boosters to new players.
Ask More Experienced Players
Veteran players usually own a lot of bulk cards. Bulk cards are cards that are essentially worthless for an enfranchised player. However, these can still be useful and fun for a beginner.
So, you can tell a more experienced player, that you’re just starting out. Ask them if they would like to get rid of any expendable cards that you could use. Many Magic players will be happy to help you out, whether by giving you cards or helpful tips about the game.
If you don’t know any MTG players, you can probably find some at your local game store.
If the previous option doesn’t work for you, you could always buy bulk MTG cards on Amazon. While this option isn’t great for veteran players, it can be fun and useful for a newbie. Growing your collection from 60 to 1,060 cards opens up a lot of possibilities.
Usually, an okay deal would be to get 1,000 cards under $20. You could also go for a slightly pricier options (like this Collection from Star City Games), which will also contain some rares. However, do not expect to get any money rares in these.
This is probably best as a one-time purchase, as you really don’t want to end up with tons of bulk cards.
Of course, we also need to discuss boosters. This isn’t a product that we’d recommend for a beginner’s first purchase. Even if you buy lots of boosters, you might not be able to build a deck from them — especially, if you didn’t build one before.
Instead, you should at least get a single deck before you start buying boosters. This way, you’ll be able to swap weak cards from your deck with the better ones that you might open in the boosters.
There are different types of boosters available, and that’s why we wrote an MTG Booster Guide. In it, you’ll find all the information you need. If you’re deciding to get some boosters to open, you should go with Play boosters.
So, you’ve got a bunch of cards, and now you’d like to start building some of your own decks. One problem that you might encounter is that you don’t own enough basic lands to support your new creations. The easiest way to get a bunch of lands is to simply buy the so-called Land Station.
It isn’t too expensive, and it comes with 400 basic lands, 80 for each color. Additionally, you can find other ways to get basic lands here.
There are many MTG accessories out there. While you don’t need any of them to play the game, there are two that can greatly improve your experience. The first one are card sleeves.
These serve two functions. First, they make your deck much easier and enjoyable to shuffle. Second, they protect your cards from wear. Some Magic cards can be quite expensive, but their price falls drastically, if they’re in a bad condition. Since you often don’t know which cards are expensive when you’re new, it’s best to just sleeve the ones you play with, and be done with it.
Our favorite sleeves are the ones from Dragon Shield, but you can find other great MTG sleeves here.
The other important accessories are dice. They really do a lot of things in a game of MTG. You can roll them to see who goes first, and you can use them for tracking life total. They can represent tokens, as well as various types of counters (+1/+1, loyalty, infect…)
Our recommendation would be to get a set of 36 six-sided dice from Chessex. These will last you your entire Magic career, and are perfectly sized to use on Magic cards.
What to Buy for MTG Beginner — Recap
Hopefully, you’ve found the perfect product for you, and you’re ready for your MTG journey to begin. If you aren’t 100% decided yet, here’s the recap of our top suggestions, but if you’re still in doubt, feel free to leave a comment below.
- Starter Commander decks (if you want to play Commander)
- Game Night: Free for All 2023 (for casual 60-card Magic)
- Pioneer Challenger Decks (if you want to play in tournaments, or if you want a stronger 60-card deck)
Finally, we’d like to recommend you some articles, that might be useful to you:
- How to Build Your First Commander Deck (100-card decks can be a real challenge)
- How to Build Better Decks (learn how to improve your deckbuilding skills)
- Tips on Getting Better at MTG (it’s a hard game to learn, and even harder to master)
Until next time, have fun, and enjoy playing this amazing game!