02/18/2010 LD: "Making Introductions"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I kept Sqee's Toy in! Took out Furnace of Rath (the deck's namesakes) and replaced white with Mindless Automaton and Mogg Flunkies. Also 4 x Mogg Fanatic and 3 x Rare? You won't see that quality in a precon anymore.

The old theme decks were much much better than the intro packs. Intro packs are a waste of space, who learns with these things? The 360 game was a really good idea, but I don't know anyone who has started with the intro packs and actually enjoyed them.

My first games were with a small set of Portal cards where we took one colour each and shuffled up out 10 card decks. These days I just introduce people with whatever is in my bag.

The theme decks on the other hand were awesome. I still play my pestilence deck (using the old ruling): "The Plague" that came with Worship and Pariah (big money cards at the time) and my friend still has a highly tuned version of his "Tombstone" deck because well, I guess cheating appeals to him. You also got a deck with 2-3 good rares for the price of a tournament pack (which used to be 3 boosters and 20 land, the boosters had 15 playable cards in them instead of the 14+1 land they have now).

How do new players get land these days anyway? Ah, Intro packs :/ 
This is a subject that really interests me. A while back I built a deck of each color to get my girlfriend into Magic (hasn't happened yet) and I deliberately paid attention to every single consideration he mentioned, except the two-color thing (I thought it would be best to do that after a few games).

I might post some lists of what I would consider a good intro deck if I get a chance. 
The article says:
erdana, sans-serif">Richard Garfield got a shocking amount of things correct, and the way that mana works mechanically is one of them, the notation that he used for mana often confuses new players. The mana cost is most commonly read by new players as "Three mana, one of which is green."”

Not so sure that that can be blamed on Garfield; that’s how the mana system worked in the original playtest. That card would’ve read 4G. I don’t know how/when it changed. To me, the current system is straight forward but I haven’t done any testing.
This article is a good start, but there is no limit to the amount of "how to teach Magic" that we can benefit from hearing.  It's one of the hardest things to do properly IMO; it's so easy to strike a bad chord by accident in the process.  I'm going to share some of my theories here, but it's worth noting that they may be incorrect; it's possible that I'm a very bad Magic teacher, but I think it's more just that teaching Magic is inherently difficult to do properly and I haven't stumbled on the right method.

If I recall correctly, Magic article writers do not choose the images that appear in the article when it's on the web; that is probably Monty Ashley's job, or maybe Kelly Digges (or maybe my info on who does what at Wizards is way out of date).  Whoever it was that chose these images, I disagree strongly with their use of Lightning Bolt as a "yes" - I think it is FAR preferable to teach a player using Shock, because as a newbie they won't know that Shock is strictly worse than Lightning Bolt, they'll just see a spell that does lots of useful things and not know that there's a better way of doing them all.  When you eventually introduce them to Lightning Bolt, you can just say "This is like Shock, only better", and they'll be glad of the upgrade - they get a positive impression of Shock followed by an even more positive impression of LB.  Whereas if they see LB first, they're too new at the game to realize how awesome it is, and then eventually they see Shock and have no idea why it exists.  Cards like Shock exist, among other reasons, TO make it easier on new players as they learn.  Dealing less damage with burn means having games last longer, having creatures be harder to kill (which helps him understand how combat works by keeping creatures on the board), and in a lot of other ways is just good all around.

Additionally, while Knowledge Pool is most definitely a "no", it's hardly the ideal example here.  Nobody can look at Knowledge Pool and think it's a good entry point for the game; this is too obvious to need saying (so why did I just say it? hey, don't ask me man, I just work here).  A better example would be something subtle that advanced players think is obvious but which can confuse the heck out of a newbie, such as a regenerating creature, or the Oblivion Ring mechanic with it's oh-so-unintuitive "if 'this leaves play' triggers before 'this enters play' does" permutation.  Learning how such advanced-yet-straightforward-seeming mechanics work is an important lesson, but shouldn't be an early one.

Good article, Tom...but don't stop with just one.

This week's poll:  The answer is "no" at the moment, but I've been strongly considering it.  It's likely I'll balk for monetary reasons and because I don't like how the decks are built (they are, after all, not for me), but I've been on the fence for a while.  In Scars it was easier to justify not doing it.  My choice for Besieged might change depending on what I find in the couple of boosters I plan to pick up at some point.

(Also, wth was up with last week's poll?  Was it just a silly random thing or are you trying to prove something?)
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I think he proved that most Magic players don't consider dribbling to be an important part of basketball.
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
I think he proved that most Magic players don't consider dribbling to be an important part of basketball.

If only there were more players on each side, Gandalf could make better use of his ability to prevent people from passing.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
The best part about introducing a player to magic and the best product WotC ever printed are the same thing.


And it's not mentioned in this article.

I'm talking about the amazing Deckbuilder's Toolkit. For $20 (That's like... 4 packs!) you can basically say, "Here, play magic", and have a new player experience everything there is about magic and learning how to play at the same time.

You get the joy of opening packs. (nothing quite like it.)

You get the feel of sifting and sorting new cards.

You get a nifty box to store you brand new treasure in (and it's not ENTIRELY full yet...)

You get the awe of seeing puzzling abilities and trying to figure out how they fit into the context of the game. (Flying? Why is that important?)

You get the power of actually BUILDING a cohesive deck (without overwhelming a new player with too many choices.) *sidenote: The fold-out for deck archetypes is awesome for this.

You get the frustration of playing with "bad cards" (inevitably each player is going to build his or her first deck "wrong"), and the subsequent satisfaction of learning how to evaluate cards.

Interesting... there's enough cards in here to build TWO decks?! Coincidence?



Basically, what I'm trying to say is... Please keep updating your Deckbuilder's Toolkits, Wizards of the Coast. It's helped me inspire quite a few new players!

I have some tutorial decks that I've made up from my spare cards. I attempted to represent a variety of play styles (all-in aggro, tempo, draw-go control, mid-range, suicide-black, ramp) and keeping them balanced has been hard. I agree that at least some of them should be 2-color and I don't know why I resisted that.

If you aren't a new player, there is very little reason to buy the Intro Packs. I bought exactly one back when they first started. When a new set comes out, and I buy a product with that set's name on the box, the last thing I want to do is find Pacifisms and Suntail Hawks. Never again. 

 I loved some of the old theme decks, though. They were hit-or-miss, but there was usually at least one per set that was worth getting.

Edited to add: Jimmuh is right—Deckbuilder's Toolkit is a great product.
My usual tool for introducing new players to Magic is a set of five monochrome decks I built out of a box of 8th Edition boosters. I built them with several goals in mind, one of which was to have some simple decks that showcased their respective colours, so, even within the restricted card pool, there are card choices I made not because the card made the deck more likely to win, but because it was an important part of that colour's identity...


As for this week's poll, I used to buy theme decks when they were in convenient boxes that let you store the deck intact. After some time away from Magic, I tried buying some Zendikar intro decks, but the storage-unfriendly packaging put me off - the oversized box with the ridiculous plastic insert there solely to consume space (which can't even hold the deck sensibly once it's unwrapped) may look good in the shop, but it's just a nuisance once you get it home, and is fundamentally dishonest (the same's true of the space-filling corrugated cardboard in the Mirrodin Besieged Fat Pack - used to support the upper half of the storage box to make the whole thing 50% taller than it is in use).

I don't like it when manufacturers deliberately set out to deceive me by super-sizing the packaging of their product. Doubly so when it makes storing the product in (some subset of) its original packaging impractical.
M:tG Rules Advisor
I think he proved that most Magic players don't consider dribbling to be an important part of basketball.

If only there were more players on each side, Gandalf could make better use of his ability to prevent people from passing.




Wow.  Bravo!
Amen on the theme decks! I hate the intro decks - packaging, contents, lack of box. I quit buying Magic when they went to forty-card intro decks, and came back when they restored the sixty-card ones, but it just isn't the same.

As I've said many times before, theme decks and now intro decks are pretty much the only way my family plays Magic. We don't have the time or inclination for deck building. What my wife and son and I do when we feel like playing is go to the Closet of All Theme Decks(tm), pull out a few, and have a blast. (My son particularly loved the Coldsnap Aurochs deck for a long time.)

The new intros are such a nuisance. I've had to go out and buy clear plastic deck boxes, cut off the deck titles from the packaging, and stick those and the decks into the boxes. Not only does that cost extra money, it looks hideous next to all of those old handsome theme deck boxes. If you desperately need large packaging with shiny foils showing, fine, but there's no reason that there shouldn't be a box inside for storing the deck later. That's what the Pokemon World Championship Decks have - there's a flattened box inside that you unfold and assemble (although they stupidly used the same one for all four).

And what is the point of making the intro decks weak and stupid? I don't want to change them after I buy them, I just want to play with a bunch of decks that show off the new set without having to build them myself. Why not just make non-stupid intro decks, then you wouldn't also need non-stupid event decks? (And is there really a can't-be-bothered-but-want-to-play-in-tournaments demographic?)
I think it's less a "can't be bothered but want to play in tournaments" demographic and more a "I want to play in a tournament but I've just started and don't have a deck yet" demographic.
Immature College Student (Also a Rules Advisor)
I'll second Hymie on the theme deck comments. I have one storage box full of theme decks, and will be getting another one soon, because it's the quickest way to a good time for me and my circle of friends.  I enjoy deckbuilding, but those decks usually range widely in power.  My group knows that pre-cons on pre-cons usually = good games. 

I used to buy one of each precon...now that I have literally twelve of them all jammed together in a card box because I don't have those useful deck boxes anymore, I only buy the ones I'm willing to put additional effort into...which usually works out to 1 per block.  Please put the boxes back in the intro decks and not in the fat packs!

One of the best ways I've ever developed a group of magic players was when I worked in retail.  One of my friends already played Magic.  So we played, and others would watch to be entertained.  They expressed interest.  So, I chose 18 cards of each color, paying attention to curve and color identity and such, added 11 basic lands of each color, added in 2 of each of the Ravincia karoos (because I have a metric ton of them...that's the set I came back into Magic for the third time with...thank you Watchwolf!), and gave them the rules of using the deckmaker.  Take two colors, add in the appropriate basics and karoos, and come play with us! 

That was over a year ago, they're still going strong, buying and tweaking decks on their own now.  I feel like a proud papa. 
I think it's less a "can't be bothered but want to play in tournaments" demographic and more a "I want to play in a tournament but I've just started and don't have a deck yet" demographic.



This is actually fairly common, IMX. I currently play at a store that has FNMs that are a very casual alternative to more competitive FNMs at other stores, so we get a lot of people who are new or are returning to the game after a long hiatus. It's not uncommon for these people to need a deck and buy some cards and hastily put something together out of them.

I haven't yet seen anyone use the "tournament ready" theme decks, but I'm sure I will, and I'm glad they exist because I've seen that "well I'm curious and want to join your tournament" person many times. :-)

Also, I like the idea of these decks because my girlfriend lives several states away and enjoys coming to gaming night and playing casually but doesn't play at home. I can make decks for her, yes, but the last time I did the deck I built for her lost with wild consistency and I didn't have anything else to offer. If she could have walked over to the store counter and gone "Huh, let me try something green!" if might have made the night less frustrating. (She enjoyed herself tremendously anyway, but I felt horrid. When did I become awful at building basic burn?!)
 If you desperately need large packaging with shiny foils showing, fine, but there's no reason that there shouldn't be a box inside for storing the deck later. That's what the Pokemon World Championship Decks have - there's a flattened box inside that you unfold and assemble (although they stupidly used the same one for all four).



Funny how this policy seemed to change right around the same time WotC got into the business of selling deck boxes (although, to be fair, the Archenemy and Duel Decks do include fold-up cardboard boxes).
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
Someone above said they had designed monocolor decks to introduce the game.  My instinct was to do the same, but I think Tom's reasons for doing two colors are extremely valid and have decided to adopt the idea of two-color decks for this reason.  They can also include a small number of "lesson" cards, including off-color activations, gold cards, and cards with lots of one color in their cost or an effect dependent on basics or the like.  Seeing how things like that work in the 2-color deck will provide useful instructions on how to push the deck in a new direction, but they must of course be a small minority of the deck, since they are not the bread and butter.  Perhaps put them in a sideboard and teach the player how to swap cards from the sideboard in to fulfill particular roles after a few games.

Anyway, thanks for the article Tom...best thing you've written in a very long time IMO (though admittedly I'm not quite your target audience).  Like I said, though, feel free to expand on it.

If only there were more players on each side, Gandalf could make better use of his ability to prevent people from passing.



Yeah, I hate basketball but you just cracked me up, good job.

My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I agree that this was an excellent article.  In fact, this article should have been done several years ago.

Tom provided excellent reasons for a lot of (previously) befuddling decisions regarding the intro packs. 
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
Someone above said they had designed monocolor decks to introduce the game.  My instinct was to do the same, but I think Tom's reasons for doing two colors are extremely valid and have decided to adopt the idea of two-color decks for this reason.



Yeah, if I were building decks today solely for the purpose of introducing players to the game, I'd probably buy a box of M11 (or wait and buy a box of M12) and build 5 allied-colour-pairs decks. The monochrome decks were also intended for star magic (which my local playgroup played with colour-affiliated decks rather than any old decks) and building them monochrome also meant I didn't have to think so much about building them - "is this green?" is a much easier question than "is this green that works better with white than with red, or white that works better with green than with blue?"

Not everyone building decks for new players is that good at deckbuilding and I'm pretty sure if I'd tried building allied-colour-pairs decks back then, they'd have ended up less evenly balanced than the mono-colour decks did - I know they would if I tried today...
M:tG Rules Advisor
This article overlooks by far the best way to get a player interested in playing Magic: don't have them play, have them watch.

There's good sense in building someone's first deck to be comprehensible, but drawing the balance between comprehensible and interesting enough to hook them is really hard. For some players it may be impossible. By contrast, if a new player watches (say) a game of Commander they will miss most of what's going on, but it hooks their interest much more reliably.

When a player is watching a game you can teach them all the rules without them endlessly losing in a way that risks frustrating them. They'll know when they're ready to join in and if they've spectated a few different formats they'll probably have a good idea about what they want to play, too.
This article overlooks by far the best way to get a player interested in playing Magic: don't have them play, have them watch.



I appreciate your intention here, but this is completely and dangerously wrong. Please never say this again. Seriously.

Have you ever played a new X-Box Live Arcade game? Almost invariably, you will go through a tutorial that tells you step-by-step what to do without explaining any context of each individual action. These tutorials are designed to get you comfortable with each game play action by just having you do them over and over again with a guide.

This is the standard introduction to X-Box games because it works very, very well. 

It is impossible to teach someone how to play Magic without having them actually play. If they express interest, don't make them watch a bunch. Just sit them down across from you with a deck.

Have them play with an open hand. Tell them to play a land. No, just one. You can't play anything this turn, but don't worry about why yet. Pass the turn to me. Okay, I play a land. Now you go. Play one land. Now you have two lands, so you can play things that cost two. Tap your two lands. Play your Runeclaw Bear. I know it looks like it costs one, but the "1" and the "G" are separate. It can't attack because you just played it, so pass the turn to me.

Continue like that. Magic is an analog game, so it's your job to be the X-Box tutorial. Eventually, your friend will get annoyed at you for continuing to tell you things he already understands, and at that point you have won.

Compared to this, having people watch is a waste of time. You want them to watch only as long as it takes to convince them that they want to play. Any longer is inefficient and likely to just overload them with information. 
Hey, look who it is.

Tom: there really ought to be some sort of  regular feature on how to get other people playing Magic. Your development column is an odd place for that but you clearly know what you're talking about. Every other aspect of Magic is covered in some fashion, but this is a deceptively important one.
I appreciate your intention here, but this is completely and dangerously wrong. Please never say this again. Seriously.

I don't mean to attack your sacred cows here, but even though this is the internet I'm not actually theorising. I'm speaking from first hand experience of what causes players to take an interest in games.

Of course, my experience may be atypical, so why don't we invite everyone reading this thread to tell the story of how they personally got interested in the game?

This is the standard introduction to X-Box games because it works very, very well.

Again, be careful to separate your observation from your assumptions. It works very well, as you say, in the context XBox games have to work with. The game designer must assume that the player is playing on their own. He or she cannot receive any feedback from the player in order to customise the tutorial. Further, the designer doesn't know whether the player has been exposed to examples of play or not. So yes, in these circumstances the designer is forced to step very, very slowly through the shallowest possible introductory curve without losing the player's interest.

But the world of video games has a perfect example of the opposite approach too: arcade machines. A player inserts their 50c (or whatever amount) primarily on the basis of the attract mode, a non-interactive display that they can watch for as long as they like until they decide they like the look of the game or walk away. The modern equivalent is online video clips. Minecraft didn't sell a million copies by having a good tutorial. It doesn't have a tutorial at all. Not even any instructions. What it does have going for it is that people can watch what experts do with the game and say "That looks fun! I want to do that!".

It is impossible to teach someone how to play Magic without having them actually play.

Eventually, of course. But it doesn't follow from this that it makes a good first step. Which it doesn't. Everyone hears music before they try to play their own. Everyone watches sports matches before they play for themselves. Why should Magic be any different?

If they express interest, don't make them watch a bunch.

Sure, don't make them do anything!

Have them play with an open hand. Tell them to play a land. No, just one. You can't play anything this turn, but don't worry about why yet. Pass the turn to me. Okay, I play a land. Now you go. Play one land. Now you have two lands, so you can play things that cost two. Tap your two lands. Play your Runeclaw Bear. I know it looks like it costs one, but the "1" and the "G" are separate. It can't attack because you just played it, so pass the turn to me.

I see what you're going for here, but this is a hugely wasteful process. This isn't how humans naturally learn. Also, whilst obviously I can't speak for everyone, this process looks like a huge heap of no fun to me.

The best part about introducing a player to magic and the best product WotC ever printed are the same thing.


And it's not mentioned in this article.

I'm talking about the amazing Deckbuilder's Toolkit. For $20 (That's like... 4 packs!) you can basically say, "Here, play magic", and have a new player experience everything there is about magic and learning how to play at the same time.

You get the joy of opening packs. (nothing quite like it.)

You get the feel of sifting and sorting new cards.

You get a nifty box to store you brand new treasure in (and it's not ENTIRELY full yet...)

You get the awe of seeing puzzling abilities and trying to figure out how they fit into the context of the game. (Flying? Why is that important?)

You get the power of actually BUILDING a cohesive deck (without overwhelming a new player with too many choices.) *sidenote: The fold-out for deck archetypes is awesome for this.

You get the frustration of playing with "bad cards" (inevitably each player is going to build his or her first deck "wrong"), and the subsequent satisfaction of learning how to evaluate cards.

Interesting... there's enough cards in here to build TWO decks?! Coincidence?



Basically, what I'm trying to say is... Please keep updating your Deckbuilder's Toolkits, Wizards of the Coast. It's helped me inspire quite a few new players!




For the record, my friends and I were out buying some cards (I didn't have any on me and we wanted to play), and one of them saw the Deckbuilder's kit and said "Wow, that looks like a good value" and picked it up.


As for me, I buy intro packs, but mostly to get a high concentration of a new mechanic (like "I want a bunch of creatures with Poison, so I'll buy the Poison deck").  I'm not new at all -- I just want to grab a whole bunch of one new mechanic and play with it.


 


As for teaching, my favorite deck to play against a new guy is a red thing I put together.  It's got a whole bunch of fire breathing creatures in it, but the way it plays is usually to drop one dude out and then attack with him.  My opponents are funny because they count my mana and say "Oh, wow, you can make that guy a 5/2... I think I should block him."


The only other "teaching" deck I have is a spider deck.  It's not all that good at it, though, because my opponents all say "Wow, you must really hate flying" while missing the point of a bunch of spiders.

it's probably better for a new player to watch two friends who know how to play.  that way, both players are making reasonably smart plays, and you can explain how and why you made the choices you did.  they will still make mistakes the first time they play for themselves, but it will work wonders at getting them comfortable with the core mechanics of the game. (play land, turn land sideways to play spell, repeat)

also, it will allow the two experienced players to use more complex strategies, which will add more 'spice' than telling them to put a bonehoard on their runeclaw bear ever will.  i think i speak for a lot of people when i say that the most exciting aspect of a magic game is seeing great plays unfold, even if they use simple spells.  bolt vs giant growth wars, or even better, bolt vs harm's way.  the new player will see the fun you are having and want to experience it for themselves.  if you have them play open-handed and tell them what to play, they are going to miss out on that fun.  having them redirect your bolt with harm's way to kill your goblin is just going to be an 'oh.. ok' moment, instead.


tom doesn't want people to learn by watching magic because you don't have to buy cards to watch

*or IS it...?
I've never had any success teaching a person how to play Magic by having him watch me play against someone else. I think Tom is right here. Give them straightforward cards, get them involved. Making smart plays is meaningless until the player is making plays. And the only way to get that perspective is to have played. I also recommend at least some duplicates in the deck, so that even in that first game a player has the benefit of repetition and extra chances to figure things out on his own.

They don't often have these "reminder" articlers on getting newbies involved. The last one I recall was "Assume The Acquistion." also known as the prequel to "we're making sets simpler, replacing a spell with a basic land, creating mythic rares, and making theme decks into unplayabe decks where you established players either have to put up with 40-card opponents or feel like jerks." (To their credit, they did fix the last one.)
tom doesn't want people to learn by watching magic because you don't have to buy cards to watch



Alright then. I don't work for Wizards, so allow me to tell you you're dead wrong.
I used to buy precons to get a high concentration of cards with a common mechanic, but that doesn't pan out so well nowadays, because the intro packs are full of 1ofs and 2ofs.  Which, in my opinion, is stupid.

Take, for example, Battle cry.  Twice, you mention Origin Spellbomb as an awesome card for the decks themes: Battlecry needs token and Metalcraft needs artifacts.  So...  we get two of them?  Surely, if you wish to reward them learning these mechanics, you'd put in more of them so that they'd be able to use these newly learnt mechanics more often, right?  Apparently not...
This article overlooks by far the best way to get a player interested in playing Magic: don't have them play, have them watch.



I appreciate your intention here, but this is completely and dangerously wrong. Please never say this again. Seriously.



Looks to me like there are two different things being talked about here.

On the one hand, you have the problem of motivating someone to want to (learn to) play Magic in the first place - before you even get to the tutorial in a video game, you've already chosen to acquire the game and start playing it.

On the other, you have the problem of getting someone to understand how to play the game, which is what the video-game tutorial addresses.

Letting someone watch you play, and answering their questions and explaining things to them as you do them, maybe letting them hold the cards in your hand, or (as they get more confident) suggest things they think you might want to do gradually shades from you playing and them to watching, to them playing and you watching in a much gentler way than giving someone a stack of cards and telling them exactly what to do at each stage. It also allows them to gauge how much of the game's "normal" play they've learned - one problem I've run into with the ongoing tutorial is that when a constant stream of new concepts keeps coming at someone, they start to feel overwhelmed - particualrly when every time they think they've got the hang of the game, something new comes up...

Next time I'm in a position to introduce someone to Magic, I might try the gradual hand-over and see how well it works...
M:tG Rules Advisor
I don't have the personal experience to actually contradict either TomLapille or Bateleur, but I can say on a speculative basis that I believe neither is entirely right.

Tom, the process you describe of walking the player through a bunch of rote actions sounds insanely boring to me.  It might work on some people, perhaps even on most people - because most people are intellectually lazy and don't enjoy thinking or being challenged.  But IMO Magic is not for those people, and Wizards has chosen to believe otherwise only for the sake of making money.  The conscious decision has been made to water down the game's challenging nature in order to make it more accessible to the masses, and I personally disagree with that choice.  It may pay the bills, but it makes Magic less special, less arcane, less magical.  So far we haven't passed a tipping point where it is completely drained of those qualities in order to make it fit for sheeple consumption, and perhaps we never will; I'd like to give the company the benefit of the doubt there and say you've always be able to preserve that certain spark.  But you've sure as hell watered it down in order to move vast quantities of product.

Bateleur, watching Magic get played can be very interesting, but can also be very frustrating.  They may see you doing things that work very counterintuitively because of a rules loophole, and be confused and lose interest.  Or you may be playing decks that win in a very grindy and dull fashion and there just isn't anything for them to see.  Ultimately, though, if you tell them "You shouldn't try to play this yet, watch us some more and try to understand", they'll quite possibly decide you've insulted their intelligence.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I believe that getting rid of usable deck boxes for the intro packs was a big mistake!  One thing that  a new player (or any player) will want is an easy way to keep their deck safe, and to keep decks separate from each other as they build a collection.  As has been stated, the current intro pack packaging is worthless for that.  But I hold out hope that Wizards will start putting a foldable box in these packs soon; they did it with the Beseiged fat packs.  There certainly is room for such a box in the jumbo-sized packaging of the current intro packs.  When they finally see the light and do so, I hope that they commission unique boxes for each intro pack.

As for the debate in this thread about whether it is best to have someone watch first or start playing first to get them hooked on the game, my experiences have shown that it is best to have a very limited amount of watching (one game, or at most one match) , followed quickly by having them play if watching piqued their interest.

There is a lot of research in education to back up such an approach, particularly the learning cycle.  You first engage interest (they watch a game), but if you spend too much time on that step the momentum is lost, as it is a very passive stage for the learner.  You quickly move to the explore phase, where they get actively involved in the process.  In education you next move on to have students explain things and instructors help refine understanding; this can mostly be combined with the explore process here, as you help them as needed while they play.  Then in education you move on to extend and evaluate, where the student applies what they have learned in different but similar situations, and assesses the state of their own knowledge - that sounds an awful lot like what Magic players do continually as they go past the beginner phase. 

Parts of the learning cycle can mix between stages, but the gist of what is done should generally follow the cycle.  It works very well.  The key to the debate in is thread is understanding that the engage phase is important, but needs to be short.  With some people it may not even take watcing a game to engage them - just showing them a card or two may do it, especially if they have played other trading card games.  For most, though, actually watching a game will be best.  Do make the game that they watch interesting!

Tom, the process you describe of walking the player through a bunch of rote actions sounds insanely boring to me.  It might work on some people, perhaps even on most people - because most people are intellectually lazy and don't enjoy thinking or being challenged.  But IMO Magic is not for those people, and Wizards has chosen to believe otherwise only for the sake of making money.  The conscious decision has been made to water down the game's challenging nature in order to make it more accessible to the masses, and I personally disagree with that choice.  It may pay the bills, but it makes Magic less special, less arcane, less magical.  So far we haven't passed a tipping point where it is completely drained of those qualities in order to make it fit for sheeple consumption, and perhaps we never will; I'd like to give the company the benefit of the doubt there and say you've always be able to preserve that certain spark.  But you've sure as hell watered it down in order to move vast quantities of product.



As long as this continues to pay the bills, there is no turning back. In other words they are not going back to the place where you have to do mental gymnastics to grasp the so-called "Expert" mechanics.  As I have said before, this decision ultimately cost them my money. But I get why they are doing it. As a business first, game-maker second they have no choice but to make this game more appealing to casual players. The real question is whether or not they will lose too many of the pre-established players to offset people like me with people who won't think about the game in two years.

Now I'd compare this to another medium but I don't feel like being berated by teenagers today. I will say this is the boat we're all currently rowing and that they guys you really want to reach are the bosses of Tom's bosses' bosses. In the meantime Tom's article does address the game they are making today.
You are explaining how to assist new players play magic, and yet MTGO in the one of the most user unfriendly, disorganized programs I have ever worked with.

Please destroy the current build.  Start from scratch, make it user friendly and apply all these princials to the new build. 

AND MAKE IT MAC COMPATIBLE.

Thank you very much,

Josh
You may want to go to the MTGO forums with that. Although I do agree the software is poor on a good day.

For the record, there is a new build in the works. It won't be Mac compatible. Macs are fine machines, but you don't buy them for games. Don't expect to play Magic Online without booting into Windows any time soon.
The news that the new build would not be Mac compatible was what really prompted my post.

I figured that my silence would do nothing.  As someone who loves magic to my core, it frustrates... no infuriates me.

Mac's are not for gaming??? It is not 1998 anymore. This is not the latest twitch shooter.

The game should be browser based - people could play all over the world on crappy old machines, an iPad or a $100 netbook.  Wizards make $$$ - more people play Magic, people rejoice.

They did try a browser-based game. That would have gotten Mac and Linux users on board without any fuss. However it proved impossible and they are now going to make a client which will be Windows-only. I would have liked to see them accomplish this as well but it is not to be. Maybe version 5 will do this.

PC's aren't for Final Cut Pro, and Macs aren't for gaming. You're correct about it not being 1998. Would you like to take a guess at just how many games were released for Windows and not Mac since then? How about just last year? And no, they aren't all button-mash shooters. You should know by now not to be surprised when a game is not released for your platform. This is par for the course, not some exception to the rule.


They did try a browser-based game. That would have gotten Mac and Linux users on board without any fuss. However it proved impossible and they are now going to make a client which will be Windows-only. I would have liked to see them accomplish this as well but it is not to be. Maybe version 5 will do this.

PC's aren't for Final Cut Pro, and Macs aren't for gaming. You're correct about it not being 1998. Would you like to take a guess at just how many games were released for Windows and not Mac since then? How about just last year? And no, they aren't all button-mash shooters. You should know by now not to be surprised when a game is not released for your platform. This is par for the course, not some exception to the rule.



This is a game based on another, very popular game, and also a game that's been undergoing constant updates since it came out a very long time ago. I'm not a Mac user but even I think it's a bit ridiculous.
It's not good to exclude users, no. I am sure they regret that themselves. But that's reality. You can't play DOTP on a Mac either. Or the old Microprose game. Or the Magic Battlegrounds game. Or the new Magic Tactics game. That's the reality of Games for Mac. I don't blame them for being disappointed, but surprised? No. For the foreseeable future Mac users can dual boot if it is that important to them to be able to play certain games. That includes this one, which we can probably all agree is a continual work in progress.
As long as this continues to pay the bills, there is no turning back. In other words they are not going back to the place where you have to do mental gymnastics to grasp the so-called "Expert" mechanics.  As I have said before, this decision ultimately cost them my money. But I get why they are doing it. As a business first, game-maker second they have no choice but to make this game more appealing to casual players. The real question is whether or not they will lose too many of the pre-established players to offset people like me with people who won't think about the game in two years.



In my experience, the main reason people quit the game is that they run out of people to play against.  The only way to retain players is to make the game as accessible as possible to new players.

Also, I think you're drastically overestimating how "complex" the game was then, compared to now.  Magic doesn't get dumbed down.  It only ever gets more complex.  The mistake many people make is to assume that "different" is synonomous with "stupid". 
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
..... After some time away from Magic, I tried buying some Zendikar intro decks, but the storage-unfriendly packaging put me off - the oversized box with the ridiculous plastic insert there solely to consume space (which can't even hold the deck sensibly once it's unwrapped) may look good in the shop, but it's just a nuisance once you get it home, and is fundamentally dishonest .



Couldn't agree with this more, I hate the new packs, luckily the fat pack (now) includes two boxes which will hold an intro pack deck AND the booster that comes with it (or sideboard)

.....the same's true of the space-filling corrugated cardboard in the Mirrodin Besieged Fat Pack - used to support the upper half of the storage box to make the whole thing 50% taller than it is in use).

.



If the pack was smaller, what would protect the players guide, or would you have that be smaller as well? This arrangement is the only one I have know, having bought fat packs since zendikar (full art lands) What I don't like about the fat pack is the tray insert in the lid which a) makes it difficult to repack the fat pack and b) can bend the end cards stored in the pack later.

As long as this continues to pay the bills, there is no turning back. In other words they are not going back to the place where you have to do mental gymnastics to grasp the so-called "Expert" mechanics.  As I have said before, this decision ultimately cost them my money. But I get why they are doing it. As a business first, game-maker second they have no choice but to make this game more appealing to casual players. The real question is whether or not they will lose too many of the pre-established players to offset people like me with people who won't think about the game in two years.



In my experience, the main reason people quit the game is that they run out of people to play against.  The only way to retain players is to make the game as accessible as possible to new players.

Also, I think you're drastically overestimating how "complex" the game was then, compared to now.  Magic doesn't get dumbed down.  It only ever gets more complex.  The mistake many people make is to assume that "different" is synonomous with "stupid". 



I've stayed away from phrases like "dumbed down." Terms like that get readers to ignore the rest of the post no matter what it says. However, the all-upside, no-tension mechanics they currently offer take a significant amount of complexity away form the game. Further, they've told us a number of times about the process of choosing and refining recent mechanics and how they've been avoiding complicated games states when possible, something they didn't even do back in Lorwyn's "Pick Your Tribe" days.

Magic will always be complex at the highest level and sometimes at lower levels. The rules make sure of this (yes, even after M10). The sets, however, do not always do their part, and they haven't since R&D started homing on on reducing complexity. This started with Shards of Alara and continues to this day. Under no circumstances is Standard more complex now, or a year ago, then even just a few years back with something like Ravnica-Time Spiral. It's not even close.

Now I get why they do what they do. And why they made the decisions they did. Businesses need to take steps to grow and maintain product sales. This is what I was saying to Willpell. If the game that I personally like is not selling, I know that they need to make a game that will. But I maintain that they did trade a significant amount of not only complexity, but depth as well, to find what may be the corect balance for them financially.

Now the last time I made a comparison to another medium I got berated by a teenager. I won't make that mistake again. But I will say that in order to make your product accessible to more casual fans, you will always risk alienating some of its more intently devoted fans. Magic is not immune to this, and in fact that has actually happened.
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