The Biggest Obstacle to Teaching Magic

June 12, 2017 | 3 min to read

The difference between a good Magic tutorial and a failed one is not ambiguous. The success of a player's first match can be measured by exactly one thing: do they want to play a second?

At Hour of Devastation Open House, your goal is to get as many players as possible interested in a second match. And your biggest obstacle, the one that's most likely to sabotage you, the huge disadvantage you begin with, is your own expertise.

When you're full of Magic knowledge, you're naturally inclined to use it. But for a successful tutorial, one that grows your base and earns new customers, you've got to resist that inclination—especially these three common tics:

1. Teaching Too Much

Magic is complex, and that's a good thing. Complexity makes Magic the lifelong hobby that it is: it scales beautifully for players of different experience levels. Even the most inveterate pros encounter new in-game dilemmas and challenges.

But foregrounding that complexity is probably the best way to botch a Magic tutorial.

A good rule of thumb is, only teach what's necessary to play. Magic's rules are full of corner cases. Skip that stuff entirely. They need to know how Mighty Leap gives creatures flying; they don't need to know in which layer the effect occurs.

Magic Welcome Decks are built with that in mind. The decklists balance simplicity and excitement. They're even ordered to guarantee a decent mana curve in game one. They come in your Open House kit, and you can contact us if you need more.

2. Teaching Strategy

Maybe the most common form of over-teaching is advising new players on strategy. Don't do it.

Instead, let them explore whatever interests them. Maybe that's just chipping away at your life total. If they want to want to burn a Mighty Leap for inconsequential damage, let them. They need to know how combat works; not how to calculate profitable attacks.

Use this interactive tutorial

Open it on a tablet for a visual aid, or give players this link for a mobile-friendly cheat sheet once they're on their own. They can also open the tutorial by scanning this QR code:


3. Teaching Jargon

As long-time Magic fans, we share a private language. It's one of the ways we connect with other players. Our Mighty Leaps don't give our creatures flying; they "jump" them. It's our secret handshake.

But for a beginner, it's hard enough to absorb basic keywords without juggling their slang synonyms in your head at the same time. So moratorium on "jump." Creatures don't "swing in the air;" they "attack with flying."

Of course, the vernacular is part of the joy of Magic. So is the strategy. So is the intricacy.

But the goal in game one isn't to introduce those things. In game one, your only goal is to get them interested in game two.

If you can do that, they'll end up absorbing everything you leave out—from layers to card advantage to jump effects—at event after event as their investment in the game grows.

Remember that at Open House next month: keep it simple and focus on the fun.