Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants: The Classic Articles That Every Magic Player Must Read
So you've just started Magic. There you are, the stars in your eyes, eager to see what happens next.
Good for you! You're on your way.
But keep in mind that Magic is the most complicated game ever created. Entire books have been written about Magic; StarCity alone routinely publishes about twenty to thirty pages of strategy and advice, just on Magic, every day.
In short, if you want to get better at Magic, you'd better expect to put in the time.
Listed here are the best articles for beginners ever written on Magic... Ever. Not all of them were published at StarCity, but all of them outline the fundamentals of the game in a way that will make you look at the cards you're holding in a different manner. Your approach to Magic? It'll be changed forever, and we're not kidding. If you're a fast reader, it might take you a day to get through all of them...
But damn, are they worth it.
This is the collection. The quintessence of strategy that you need to know. The best of the best. Once you read through all of this, we guarantee you'll be a better player than you were when you started.
In short, we envy you. We wish we could read them for the first time.
Good reading... And good luck!
To Play The Game Better, Read:
The Basics Of Playing The Game: Paranoia Is Good
By Peter Jahn
Peter discusses why bluffing is good, revealing your hand is bad, and the main reason you should almost never play anything during your first main phase. The beginning section of this may be slightly advanced for players who don't understand some older decks... But the last third of the article is easy to read and well worth your time. Read this, and understand why casting everything as soon as you draw it is the sign of terrible play!
Tempo And Card Advantage
by Eric"Danger" Taylor, also known as EDT
Probably one of the most fundamental concepts there is, this historically-significant article deals with two basic concepts of Magic play: Tempo and Card Advantage. EDT puts it as elegantly as one can put it, explaining why one Wrath = three creatures, and why a bizarre card like Memory Lapse can be extremely powerful in the right deck.
Who's The Beatdown?
By Mike Flores
Mike, a rogue deck player from long ago, discusses how most matches put players into one of two modes: Beatdown or Control. Understanding who you are at any given moment and knowing when to switch from one mode to another is an important element of high-level play.
The Control Player's Bible, Parts I - XV
by Oscar Tan
Why would you bother to read fifteen articles on a deck that costs almost $1200 to build and isn't playable at your Friday Night Tournaments? Mainly because it's the most complex deck in the world to play... And Oscar outlines how to play control decks from top to bottom, outlining the strategies that make up the fundamentals of control play. It'll take you a damned long time to read, but when you're done it'll be worth it.
Oscar has continued to write articles about The Deck, which can be found in his archives.
The Archives Of Sheldon K. Menery And Our Judge Database
by Sheldon Menery
Building a deck around a combo that doesn't work is bad. Losing a match because you didn't understand how a card worked is worse. You can avoid most of it if you know the rules.
Sheldon, a professional judge, goes over the rules step-by-step, explaining the essential concepts with panache. We suggest you start with"State-Based Effects" (2000-07-31) and work your way upwards until you hit"Announcement" (2002-09-12), which will give you a sound primer on how Magic cards work together. Then, if you're having any worries about a particular effect - like, say,"madness" or"sacrifice" - simply plug in your term to our Ask The Judge database on the right and see what it turns up.
The Danger Of Cool Things
by Chad Ellis
A cautionary tale about waiting for the right play during a game, and throwing away the win in the process.
Stuck In The Middle With Bruce
by John Friggin' Rizzo
John never won any sort of PTQ or finished high at any event during his Magic career... But he knew why he lost. In a sick way, Rizzo needed to lose, needed to screw up big time - and in many ways, so do you. A rather philosophical essay on why that one-land hand will never turn out well, and how your trusting to luck is listening to Bruce.
To Build Better Decks, Read:
The School Of Sligh-Kimes
by Frank Kusumoto
This one's slightly hard to read, since it's in plain text format... But it introduces you to several vital concepts of deckbuilding, including the Mana Curve (the concept that you should try to cast a creature or spell every turn over your first four turns), Card Advantage, and the advantages of going mono-color.
In many ways, this"School" is obsolete, mainly because Wizards has slowed down the environment so much; although you could create a modern Standard deck that cast a spell every turn for its first few turns, the one-drops are now so weak that it's generally not worth it, and mono-red decks are now not strong enough to survive without support from another color. But still, just because you can't play classic Sligh doesn't mean you can't create a form of Sligh-style deck with today's cards.
Mmmmmmmmmana...Five Rules For Avoiding Mana-Screw
by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar
If you had to read one article in this whole bunch, I'd have to say it would be this one. While others give some excellent high-level overviews, Jay gets down to the nitty-gritty, summing up a simple method that tells you how much land, and of what type, you need to put in a deck. Possibly the best article on mana bases ever written, and useful for Sealed and Draft decks as well!
The Schools Of Magic
by Rob Hahn
The Schools are slightly outdated now, sadly, since they haven't been updated in seven years... But the core concepts still stand, and stand strong. Check out"Principles Of Deckbuilding" first, then"A Theory Of Deck Speed," and finish up with"The Art Of Sideboards." Concise and worth your time.
Finding The Tinker Deck
by Mike Flores
At first glance, this article might seem like a history lesson; why the hell would you care about past history like CounterSliver or Necro? Then you realize that Mike is discussing the various approaches effective decks have taken to win... And you may well discover that it's not your deck, but your deck idea that needs streamlining. Highly recommended.
Examining The Theories Of Card Advantage And Quality
by Will Rieffer
What kinds of cards create card advantage? Will takes EDT's classic concepts and runs with them, going into more advanced concepts like return on mana investment and"Virtual" card advantage. After all, if you cast a card like Teferi's Moat and stop an entire army from attacking, haven't you gotten card advantage of a sort?
Clear The Land And The Fundamental Turn
by Zvi Mowshowitz
One of Zvi's earliest and most influential articles, Zvi discusses a simple method to tell whether a deck is too slow for the environment.
Is This Your Card?
By The Ferrett
A corollary to Chad Ellis's"The Danger Of Cool Things," The Ferrett discusses how players can become irrationally attached to certain cards, picking apart the mundane logic of"But it won me a game!"
Advanced Strategy Articles:
Sullivan Library: How To Do Your Own Metagame Analysis
by Adrian Sullivan
Want to know what decks are going to show up on a given day? Want to try to figure out what deck you should choose in order to beat the rest of the field? Watch Adrian break it down for you.
Not essential reading right now... But come back and take a look at it later, after you've made your first serious stabs at creating a deck that could win a tourney. Mike talks about how he created a deck, what approaches he took to beating the environment, and how things turned out in real life.