This is for those of you who don’t have a ton of money but want to get into Magic anyways. It can be an expensive hobby, but if you want to play, that shouldn’t stop you. It WON’T stop you! If you want to break into Magic in 2013, I’ve got all the tips and tricks.
I’ve been a middle-schooler on a meager allowance trying to play Friday Night Magic. I’ve been a high-schooler with part-time summer jobs trying to play in Pro Tour Qualifiers during the school year. I’ve been a broke college student working part-time at minimum wage trying to travel the world playing on the Pro Tour. Through all obstacles, I have played a LOT of Magic since 1995.
How to get into Magic when you’re BROKE
The first step is to ask yourself what you mean by “get into Magic.” That can mean a lot of things to different people. To you, it might mean getting more involved in the community, playing Constructed, grinding Magic Online, having access to more decks (and more expensive decks), or even traveling and playing on the Pro Tour.
So if you want to get into Magic and you’re broke, what do you want to do?
“I want to get into Magic.”
If you just want to get into Magic, you don’t necessarily actually have to, you know, physically PLAY Magic. At particularly strapped times in my life, I haven’t been able to play Magic for months, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading articles every night.
Now is a particularly good time to enjoy Magic without having to actually play Magic. There’s a lot of video content on sites like this one, and through a revolution in MTG streaming. A lot of great and entertaining players stream MTG, LIVE, so that is a pretty sweet way to get your fix without having to spend.
I stream! You can catch me on twitchtv.com/traviswoo. Come in the chat and holler!
“I want to PLAY Magic.”
Ok, so watching and reading Magic isn’t enough. You want to PLAY Magic. Awesome! Well, playing Magic doesn’t mean you have to buy a Standard deck right off. It doesn’t mean you have to draft every time either.
If you just want to play Magic, you could buy a couple booster packs and shuffle in some lands. This is a lot of fun. It can also build your collection—admittedly really slowly. You could also invest in Event Decks or Duel Decks. For a one-time investment, you can play a LOT of Magic without getting bored.
You could build a reusable draft set out of commons. Or you could make decks out of commons. Just make do with what you have!
Point is, if you just want to PLAY Magic, there are a ton of ways. Be creative! You don’t have to spend a lot if you don’t want to. You just need to have the shared desire.
“I want to start playing Constructed but I can’t afford a deck.”
Constructed decks can be really expensive. If you’re BROKE does that mean you can’t play? No! It didn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you either.
The key to getting into Constructed is just talking to people. If you show up at your local game store or any local tournament and express a strong desire to play, you will probably be able to play. Some people tend to have extra decks, and if you are willing to give them a % of your prizes and return their cards in a timely manner, why wouldn’t they just GIVE you a deck to play with?
A lot of people have whacky decks they want to loan out anyways. People like to help. Most importantly, they aren’t going to use that deck, YOU are, and YOU have offered them a % of your prizes. You don’t need to be a great player, you just need to have a desire to play and be talkative.
I have been doing this for years. Obviously a high school kid can’t necessarily afford a thousand-dollar Constructed deck for extremely competitive tournament play. I couldn’t, but I wanted to play at the highest level anyway. The ONLY way for me to do this was to reach through the local network, ask for cards, and offer up my prizes. People were happy to help because the situation was mutually beneficial.
If you want to start playing Constructed but you can’t afford a deck, be determined and ask. People will help you if you help them back.
“I want to start playing on Magic Online.”
Magic Online can be really expensive—but it doesn’t have to be!
My advice for getting into Magic Online always starts with Pauper Daily Events. Pauper is a Constructed format that uses all commons. You can get a competitive deck on the cheap. There are competitive decks in every color, and lots of play styles to choose from. It’s a really deep and complex format—and one of my favorites.
If you like black, I recommend my Stinkweed Zombies—it even comes with a primer. I wouldn’t say it’s the best deck in the format, but it’s the deck I play with. I haven’t updated it in a little while, but I play with it periodically, so I will definitely update it in the future if I feel that it needs work.
Once you have a Pauper deck, I recommend starting to practice with it in the Tournament Practice room for free. You will need to develop your skills with a deck in order to have a decent win percentage. A decent win percentage with one deck is all it takes to begin slowly building a vast collection.
Once you are ready, Daily Events are the way to go. It takes 6 tickets to enter. A 3-1 record gets you 6 packs and a 4-0 record gets you 11 packs. Packs can be traded back into tickets at a rate of 1 to 3-4. Obviously this is a pretty good rate. You can use your winnings to start building a more expensive deck, or to feed into drafts.
Magic Online can be a massive money sink in the short or long term. But if you are seriously broke, it’s possible to have a ton of fun, and slowly play all the formats, with a small investment. The key here starts with Pauper Daily Events!
“I want to test a bunch of decks for a tournament.”
Say you have a big tournament coming up and you want to be prepared, but you have no clue what to play. Obviously you want to try out a bunch of decks, but it doesn’t make sense to pick up the cards until you know THE deck you are playing. What’s a guy or gal to do?
For paper Magic, just use proxies. Sharpie over commons, or put post-it notes on your cards. Yes, I said it. Liberate you and your friends from your collections! You might draw some eyes at the beginning, but as players become more and more competitive, proxies are the way to go. Playing in tournaments is expensive. So if you want to be a tournament player, pick up the cards when you need to. Before that point, use proxies.
For online Magic, there are a couple sweet free services that will let you prepare for upcoming tournaments. You could try Magic Workstation (what I used for years) or Cockatrice. These services aren’t as rich or fun as Magic Online, but they get the job done if your goal is simply to try out decks you can’t afford or test for a major event.
If you want to try out a bunch of decks, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the cards for every deck. Use proxies before you figure out which is the deck you want. Then figure out a way to get the cards.
“I want to travel and play on the Pro Tour.”
So you want to travel and play on the Pro Tour, but you don’t have money. I have done this. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
You need to use all the tricks written about before but there is one more: you have to WIN. You HAVE to win. Winning gets you connections and it gets you prizes to kick back. It also qualifies you for the Pro Tour, and gets you a plane ticket there.
You can be broke as a joke, but if you are tricky with the cards, it’s possible to globe trot with the best of them.
Questions! Comments! Think there’s something I forgot?!
P.S. – Much love to Magic. If you have the money, spend it! It will also save you a lot of time and worry. If you don’t have it, spend that time and worry and play to your heart’s content!