Hi and welcome (back) to the game!
Since you kindly numbered your questions I'll respond in the same order:
1)To understand "Standard" you have to understand how Wizards (the folks who make MtG) release their product. Wizards tends to break card releases up into Core Sets (released every summer) and Blocks. Each "Block" is released as 3 separate "Sets" that are released at specific times. Each of the "Sets" within a block all follow the same general theme and have a good coherent feel to them when you play them all together (Usually).
Each Set is released one at a time: The Summer Core Set in July (This year it's Magic 2013), the Fall Set in October (This is always the first set of the new block), the Winter Set in February (This is always the second set of the new block), and the Spring Set in May (this is always the third and final set of the new block).
For example this is how the last few years have been released:
Summer 2009: Magic 2010 Core Set
Fall 2009: Zendikar Block: Zendikar Set (Fall 2007 Block and Summer 2007 Core Set rotate out of "Standard")
Winter 2010: Zendikar Block: Worldwake Set
Spring 2012: Zendikar Block: Rise of the Eldrazi Set
Summer 2010: Magic 2011 Core Set
Fall 2010: Scars of Mirrodin Block: Scars of Mirrodin Set (Fall 2008 Block and Summer 2008 Core Set rotate out of "Standard")
Winter 2011: Scars of Mirrodin Block: Mirrodin Beseiged Set
Spring 2011: Scars of Mirrodin Block: New Phyrexia Set
Summer 2011: Magic 2012 Core Set
Fall 2011: Innistrad Block: Innistrad Set (Zendikar Block and Magic 2010 Core Set rotate out of "Standard")
Winter 2012: Innistrad Block: Dark Ascension Set
Spring 2012: Innistrad Block: Avacyn Restored Set
Summer 2012: Magic 2013 Core Set
Fall 2012: Return to Ravnica Block: Return to Ravnica Set (Scars of Mirrodin Block and Magic 2011 Core Set rotate out of "Standard")
The format rotation occurs with the start of every new "Block". Each Set is legal for "Standard" play upon its release and rotates out with it's entire block when the second new "Block" after it is released.
What does this mean for you? Well once Magic 2013 (or M13 as we call it sometimes) is released you will be able to play with any card from the Scars of Mirrodin Block (This means everything from Scars of Mirrodin set, Mirrodin Beseiged set, and New Phyrexia set), from M12, from the Innistrad Block (This means everything from Innistrad set, Dark Ascension set, and Avacyn Restored set), and from M13.
However this massive card pool will be cut drastically when Return to Ravnica Block is released this Fall. While you will now be able to play with Return to Ravnica Set cards, when that happens you will no longer be allowed to play with cards from Scars of Mirrodin Block (This includes Scars of Mirrodin set, Mirrodin Beseiged set, and New Phyrexia set) or from M12. But do note, that if a card that was printed in a set that has rotated out has been reprinted in a set that is still in rotation, you may use your old copy of the card. For example, if you own a Tormented Soul
from M12, you may still use it after M12 rotates out this Fall because this card was reprinted in M13.
This Standard rotation is only relevant to you if you plan to play in sanctioned competetive tournaments. Many people (myself included) just play casually and we use whatever cards we can get our hands on from whatever sets we please.
2)There is only one other rotating format in existance, and that is Extended. However most places don't bother with Extended anymore. Where Standard is just the 2 most recent Blocks and the 1 (and for short periods of time, 2) most recent Core Set, Extended is the 4 most recent Blocks and the 3 (for short periods of time, 4) most recent Core Sets. Extended format rotates at the same time that Standard format rotates. Note that the cardpool for Standard is also part of the cardpool for Extended.
The other existing Constructed Tournament formats do not rotate. They only have a Starting point and a Ban/Restricted list. These formats are:
Legacy: You may play with any card in existance except for those on the Legacy ban list
Vintage: You may play with any card in existance except for those on the Vintage ban list. Vintage also has a restricted list, if a card is on the restricted list you may only have 1 copy of that card in your deck.
Modern: You may play with any card that has the new card frame
as opposed to the old card frame
as long as it's not on the Modern ban list.
The ban lists are here: Linky
3)My answer to you is HELL YES you should go. I do have one question though, is the event "Sealed" or "Booster Draft"
? Sealed is a bit easier for the new player because you don't have to make decisions on the fly. Sealed is just, they give you 6 booster packs and you crack them open and make the best 40 card deck you can with them. While Booster Draft does force you to think on your feet a little bit, it's still not too bad. If you want a little practice with drafting try the draft simulator
. The draft sim won't use M13 cards (yet, that will be updated next week), but you can still get a feel for picking cards. At the end of the Draft Sim there will be a button that says "Discuss", click it and it will lead you to a forum thread here where people talk about the decks they chose and sometimes why they chose them. As for alternate ways to obtain the promo, there are 2 that I know of. First is to trade for it or buy it off someone else. Second is if the store had a few extras left over they may use them as door prizes at other FNMs. Honestly, just go to the Release event. You'll enjoy yourself.
3a)I'd trust the lady at the counter. Game store owners tend to know their crowd, especially if it's a smaller game store. I know I've been the guy to hold up the line in draft sometimes, just don't let it get to you. If you take more than a few minutes they may ask you politely (or teasingly, depending on the crowd) to make up your mind, but it should NEVER be truly hostile. To help reduce the time it takes to evaluate which cards you should pick in the draft I suggest you get familiar with the cards in the set through the Card Image Gallery
3b)For Booster Draft: You will be seated at a table with (most likely) 7 other people. Each person will be given a booster pack. When the Tournament Organizer says "go" you each open your packs. Select one card from the pack that you would like to keep and pass the rest of the pack to the person on your left. Once the entire pack has been depleted the T.O. will give everyone a new pack. This time you will open the packs, pick one card from it and pass the rest of the cards from that pack to the person on your RIGHT. Once all of the pack 2s have been depleted you will each be given one last booster pack. You will open the packs, pull one card from it and pass to the left again.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Later in the draft you will have your stack of cards that you want to keep sitting in front of you: Be very careful that you do not accidentally pass your stack of cards instead of the remains of the booster pack.
3c) Tips for building a deck in Limited (Be it Sealed or Booster Draft):
A)Try to stay as close to the 40 card minimum as possible. You'll note that this number is less than the typical constructed deck of 60 cards. This is simply due to the limited number of cards you are working with. You may go over 40 cards, but it's not recommended.
B)You will want your deck split the following ways:
15-17 creature spells
6-8 non-creature spells
C)Try to stick to 2 colors, maybe splash a 3rd color. Splash means just use 1-3 lands of the off color, take very few cards of the off color, and only take cards that have a single colored symbol of that off color type in their cost. Cleaver Riot
is a splashable card, Wild Guess
, not so much.
D)Try to keep at least half of all your spells to a casting cost of 3 mana or less. I usually try to take it a step further and make sure that half of my creature spells cost 3 mana or less AND half of my non-creature spells cost 3 mana or less. Otherwise you run the risk of technically having half your spells cost 3 mana or less but if they are most or all non-creatures then you will have trouble with having no proactive creature plays for the first few turns.
E) A good beginners trick for evaluating cards is the acronym BREAD: Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Attackers/Abilities, Defensive. This is the order of importance with which you should weight the cards in your pack. A "Bomb" is a big huge creature or finisher spell, usually a rare or mythic rare creature like Thundermaw Hellkite
, and is the top priority for selection. Removal is a spell that gets rid of an opposing player's creatures or permanents, can be any rarity, Oblivion Ring
fall into this category. Evasion means a creature that is harder to block, can be any rarity, the most common form of evasion seen is flying
but there is also trample
, or straight up unblockable
among other things. Attackers/Ability creatures are creatures that allow you to be proactive on the battlefield, whether it be through just normal attacking like Knight of Glory
or can actively provide you with some benefit like War Priest of Thune
blowing up an annoying artifact or enchantment. Defensive creatures are ones that typically have a very large toughness compared to their attack power like Guardian Lions
. This acronym is just a suggestion and there are many exceptions, but it's a good starting place.
3D)How you select cards is up to you, but I personally try to evaluate cards primarily on what will work best in my deck that night. Sure if I see 1 or 2 cards that are either huge money or I know I want later and I know I can't play in its color(s)
tonight then I might pick them up anyway. But for the most part it's all about having fun and building the best deck you can. Mind you, one of the awesome things about draft is that if you open up a pack 1 pick 1 (or even pack 2 or 3) money card like Ajani, Caller of the Pride
you can often try to actively pick cards to help you build around it in that very same draft.
4)an Intro deck and Boosters is fine for your first event. Don't forget to bring a pencil and paper to keep track of your life total in game. Or, if you prefer, buy/bring dice with you to track your life total. Booster Draft is usually $16, the Intro packs are MSRP $15+Tax.
The contents of the Intro packs are here
. From what you said below in item 5+, if you buy any of the Intro packs at all I'd recommend buying the B/W Exalted deck "Sole Domination". You said you don't like counters, tokens, or goblins and that's pretty much all Krenko's "Mob Rule" deck is. Sure there are 3 burn spells in there, but I wouldn't pick it up if those are all you're interested in. If all you want is a straight up mono-red burn deck then you can just skip the intro packs all together and just buy single cards.
5)As for what deck to make. If you are talking about for the draft portion, that depends entirely on the cards that get passed around. The "Best" deck in a draft is not a single given archetype or color combination, it's whatever colors are open to you as you pull cards out of the deck.
On the other hand if you're talking about constructing yourself a deck outside the draft you have LOTS AND LOTS OF OPTIONS!
Judging by what you've said a sort of Green/Red midrange deck is what you're looking for. If you want ideas I suggest browsing the Gatherer
For cool idea starting points try Magmaquake
, Mindclaw Shaman
(although thraggy here is a bit pricey on the singles market right now ~$12).
There, I think that hit all your points.