Wizards’ School—Ally: Vampires, Zealots, and Dragons, Oh My!

By now you know that I enjoy teaching Magic: The Gathering to new players. And if you’ve read anything I’ve written before this you likely know that I love talking about M:TG. Since coming back to the game last April, I have to say that nothing has made me feel healthier or younger in a long time. I keep weird hours. Between working in a bar on the weekends and being a freelance photographer, my schedule is… well, let’s just say Tuesday is my Friday. So, I tend to run in social circles that don’t often include other planeswalkers. Without being a total bore I insert MTG into the convo from time to time. If I’m asked about my week or how I’m doing (a lot of friends know I play; and, though they don’t understand the game, they know it’s something I do), I sometimes tell them I won a tournament or picked up some sweet cards or, like this week, that I’m really excited for the Modern PTQ at Twenty Sided Store. My friends from time to time see how much fun I’m having or how my demeanor has changed over the last year and sometimes they wanna know what it’s all about. That’s where Ally comes in.

Ally works with me over at Spritzenhaus. We work the weekends together and see each other every shift I work. So of course she endures the brunt of my MTG “gamedropping.” A few weeks back something rubbed off and she asked me if I’d teach her to play. Color me excited! Of course, I snap said heck yeah!

Armed with a humans deck and the red/black list we met at Twenty Sided Store to play some games.

Once again we started with my patented “Let’s play with our hands open for the first game, we’ll always attack if we can” method of intro. I feel like this is one of the easier ways to show someone the game. Here’s why: They are getting a feel for what the heck they are doing here. If you can help them by asking questions like, “Do you see any land cards in your hand?” or “Does anything cost two red mana to play?” they start to understand the mechanics of the game much better.

Also, I like to play my first game at a scrub level. This means no talking about what plays are good or if they should maybe play that instead. Strategy comes later. We are teaching the game, not how to become a pro-level guru. Also this means you can make some bad plays. I like to make sure that if they have a removal spell I have a creature for them to use it on. Few things in Magic are as fun as killing your opponent’s big guy and attacking freely without having to worry about your guys dying.

Another thing I tell someone I’m teaching is that we should imagine that we are both wizards on two different mountains… right at the top. This normally gets a chuckle out of my pupil. But there’s a reason why I say this. It’s easy to explain combat, tapping to attack, and flying to a new player this way.

A creature taps because he’s climbing the mountain to hit me, then walking home. Flying creatures go right over the valley and then the ones that can’t fly can’t stop them. It’s a visual I’ve found incredibly effective in teaching the basics of combat.

After the first game (which she won on the back of Thundermaw Hellkite) Ally was ready to jump back in! This time we played with our hands up and we could decide each turn whether to attack or hold back. The first game’s lessons carried over well and she started to put together why I would hold guys back to block with them. Still, there wasn’t much blocking on her end—all those hasty dudes (and ladies, such as Ash Zealot and Falkenrath Aristocrat) were too much for my humans to fend off.

The third game I was on the attack and I would have had her but then she went turn four Aristocrat into turn five Hellkite. Oh the beats! After the game, Ally was in love with Thundermaw Hellkite. More importantly she wanted to play again soon. Just this week she wanted to have me help her pick up some cards. Dear Serra, I think I sparked a red mage. Have mercy on us.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

7 Responses to “Wizards’ School—Ally: Vampires, Zealots, and Dragons, Oh My!”
  1. Jesse says:

    haha awesome post Zac! After my shift working at 20SS on friday this young woman came in, she was 19 or so and said she had played in highschool a little but all her friends have gone separate ways. We spent the next 45 minutes playing a game after I encouraged her to get a red gatecrash intro pack. It was great! Playing with new players is super fun – it reminds me of the excitement of the game without tournament/draft pressure that sometimes arises 🙂

  2. Sean Nelson says:

    Thundermaw: Even more addicting than Shivan Dragon!

  3. Matt Jones says:

    You need to do more of these! People want to learn!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] other topics, Jess Stirba explained her process for building a Commander deck. Zac Clark found his first official pupil for his new Wizard’s School column and Matt Jones discussed how […]

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