Essential Magic Articles

Tips and Tricks for Beginners

by Kevin Weber

I started playing Magic less than a year ago and was relativelyself-taught, so there are a great deal of things I learned the hardway. Usually this meant losing a game due to some bone-headed mistake,but the alternative was just as unappealing. Most "experienced" magic players don't find it appealing to helpbeginners learn to play, often because they lack the patience to dealwith all the mistakes.  If you're in any doubt of this, try doing some browsing on the site for combos posted by beginners that don't quite work out and checking the comments posted for it.  As for me, one of my friends tried teaching me about a decade ago, but was impatient to the point that I was scared away from the game for a very long time.  I seem to recall that whenever I made a mistake with tapping mana, instead of gently correcting me, they marked me down for mana burn... not exactly the best introduction to Magic ever.

Below are some of the things I've learned that every new player should take to heart.

1. Learn how combat works

The complete rules of magic are incredibly complex and intricate, which is compounded by the fact that the cards regularly bend or break them as well.  Learning the comprehensive rules is definitely a good thing, but if you have to learn one thing early, I recommend it be how combat plays out.

As a beginner, most of the time I'd play an instant, it'd be first main or second main of either turn.  Combat was just some amorphous step where creatures died.  I became a far better player when I learned the steps, because actions can have drastically different outcomes depending on which part of combat you do them.

A) Beginning of Combat.  This is the last step which a defender can tap or prevent an unwanted attacker.
B) Declare Attackers.  Here's the attacker's last step which a potential defender can be tapped or prevented.
C) Declare Blockers.  Want to do anything before damage is counted up?  Do it here.
D) Combat Damage Step.  There's really two parts to this.  Damage counted, and damage dealt.  You can cast instants and use abilities between these two steps (which is very important.)
E) End of combat.  Nothing major - some cards require doing things at End of Combat.

Let's take some examples from Ravnica, and do a quiz when each action should take place.  Think through each question - when you act is very important when it comes to combat.

Q. You're attacking with a 2/2 creature and your opponent has a 3/3 creature on his side of the board.  You've got a Gather Courage in hand, which is an instant that gives a creature +2/+2.  When should you cast it?

A. After the defenders are declared, but before the combat damage step (also known as "letting the damage go on the stack".)  Why?  If you do it earlier, your opponent is probably not going to block (seeing as how his creature would die.)  What happens if you do it before damage is dealt but after damage is counted up?  Your creature will only do 2 damage (because it's 2/2 when the damage is actually counted,) and even though it will be 'pumped' before taking the 3/3's damage (and thus saved from dying) you could've killed your opponent's creature if you cast the spell at the right time.

Last edited 7/24/2006 2:42:12 PM Page 1 of 5  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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