Teaching decks

Discussion in 'Casual Decks/Variants/Etc' started by Oversoul, Apr 23, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've been thinking that it might be a good idea to put some decks together for introducing people to Magic...

    If you haven't already seen them, every year WotC produces decks called variously "welcome decks," "sample decks," "demo packs," and probably some other things. These are simple, monocolored decks containing cheap cards and are intended to be given away free to get brand new players started. There's really nothing wrong with them and I'm not trying to do exactly what these decks do. Instead, I want to design decks with the assumption that I'd be there to explain things and answer any questions, so there'd be more freedom to introduce things that the official welcome decks can't pull off. But despite that consideration, it's best to apply the principle of keeping it simple, not overwhelming people by throwing too much at them at once.

    I don't expect to get it right the first time. This is going to be an iterative process. I just sorted my Modern Masters 2017 cards, so I picked through them as a starting point. So far, I have some possible starts for a white deck that employs EtB effects and flicker-type effects for value with damage prevention to stall for time, a blue deck that uses card selection spells and flying creatures, a black deck that has discard and board control, an aggressive red deck, and a defensive green deck. But I've been going about this too haphazardly and need to plan it out more (instead of just pulling cards). So here's what I'm thinking...
    • These decks should be monocolored. They should be 60-card decks, which is the right and true number of cards for a deck.
    • These decks should have some recognizable themes. Still not sure how far to take that, but it seems like something desirable.
    • They should exemplify important aspects of the colors of Magic.
    • They should be reasonably balanced against each other. I want a new person to be able to pick any color and be able to play it against any other color without be having to go out of my way to lose on purpose or anything like that.
    • They should keep things simple. Advanced mechanics can come later.
    • They should showcase cards from sets in different eras (I wouldn't want to teach someone to play strictly with new cards and have that person be completely confused upon first seeing a card with the old frame).
    • They should have some exciting cards. I think that part is obvious.
    • They should have ways to keep the game from becoming drawn out in a stalemate situation.
  2. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I've partaken in such exercises on a number of occasions. What I have found works best is building decks from boosters of whatever the latest set it. Every time I've done this, it's worked better than when I tried to pull from a wide variety of sets. Get a hold of six or eight boosters, open them all and use that pool of cards to create a few decks that will be competitive against each other. The developers at WotC already work really hard to accentuate the strengths and weaknesses of each color and those themes bleed through on every set. There are also, of course, other themes built into every set that are unique to those sets, which allows a new player to kind of discover for themselves different ways that the cards can interact. Don't worry about some mechanics being too "advanced" or not immersing the player in the rich history of the game. There's not usually a whole lot of variety within the confines of a set, so the number of mechanics won't be ridiculously large, making the more complicated things easier to digest. And over time, if the player decides to stick with Magic, more and more of the rules and mechanics will seep in.

    I also find that two-colored decks work best. It teaches new players to pay attention to the color of their mana. It also gives you, as the deck builder, some leverage to create synergies between colors.

    Once a new player becomes more comfortable and you notice that they have a color or theme preference, try to customize a deck for them and make an obviously weaker deck for yourself to play regularly. I find this keeps the games more competitive until they really know what they're doing. When you have two well-balanced decks, you'll probably notice that you win most of the time and with the even match, you actually do need to go out of your way to lose. New players make a lot of mistakes and choices that might seem obvious to someone with years of experience won't be obvious to them. I find it's better to balance by giving them a favorable deck and then I can play as competitively as I'm used to without holding back. They get some confidence and I get a challenge. Otherwise, you will find yourself holding back.

    One last thing: I've noticed there are some themes that new players don't like. Try to avoid playing a lot of counter and discard spells, at least at first. New players get really excited when they identify great cards and can be very discouraged by having those great cards end up in the graveyard before they come into play.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, this gives me a lot to think about. I was, at least in part, basing my notions on the approaches that WotC have taken themselves with this stuff in various attempts (Duels computer games, sample decks, starter products, etc.) and it's possible that it's conventional wisdom that doesn't necessarily line up with the real world.
  4. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I should clarify my post a little.

    First, I didn't mean to imply that my suggestion is the only way to introduce people to Magic, just that it has worked best in my experience.

    I've tried what you proposed (coming up with mono-colored decks specifically for teaching new players). It's quite possible that when I tried making intro decks, my decks were just bad. I was probably a little too conservative, which lead to major issues with stalemate situations. I also realized that creature combat can be very confusing and takes a long time to master. New players will have a very hard time trying to figure out whether to attack and what to attack with when too many creatures end up in play.

    The other approach I tried was lending out my own decks for people to play against me with. This worked a little better, but it only really worked when I lent out aggro decks, where all my opponent needed to do was draw cards, play lands and decide which creature to play before attacking each turn. Combo and control decks did not go over well, regardless of who played them. In my opponent's hands, they were not played correctly. In my hands, they ruined the fun. Again, it could be that my decks just aren't good for this sort of thing. The aggro decks work well enough, but then you aren't really teaching your opponent about all the different aspects of the game.

    So, I found the limited feel of booster decks worked best. I do think that the attempts by WotC (and your approach) probably work well if you have a group of friends who are all new to the game. If that's the case, balance and simplicity are key, since everyone's kind of feeling out the game together. But in a situation where you are teaching one player who is new and expect to play against them, it's critical to give them a favorable deck. I also think simplicity is less important, since you can help explain things, if necessary.
  5. Terentius The Instigator

    I thought the Duel Decks series was pretty good at this.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've done a lot of testing on Duel Decks, although not as extensively as I'd like. My experience with them is, well, a mixed bag. Some of them would be very difficult for a new player to properly utilize. But what is cool about them in most cases is that one of them is very intricate in its lines of play and the other one is more straightforward, which makes for good games if one pilot is at an expert level and the other is still inexperienced (but not brand new).

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