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How to Start Playing MTG at Your Local Game Store: A Kitchen Table Player's Guide

Tips for easing your transition into a new environment

Card: Johnny, Combo Player | Art: Kensuke Okabayashi

Do you remember your first time playing Magic at a store? I do, and I was a ball of nerves and expectations! But if you have never been, and are thinking about your first trip away from the kitchen table, hopefully, I can give you some pointers that will make the transition as easy as possible.

My twelve-year-old son and I had spent a couple of months playing cards at home and thought we had what it took to compete in a Modern tournament. We decided on a store we had been buying cards at that hosted Saturday morning Modern events.

My son, being younger and newer to the game, took a simple White Weenie deck. I being older and “wiser” took a midrange Naya deck packed with mana dorks, loads of Burn spells, and a few big creatures.

My first match was against Dredge. I explained to my opponent that I had just returned to the game after a twenty-year hiatus; that my son and I were bonding over the game and thought we would try our hand at a store tournament.

Flash forward ten minutes and I lost the match 0-2 and was left wondering “how do you manage all those cards in your graveyard?” or “how did you take so many steps in just two turns?”

Clearly, I had a lot to catch up on!

The guy was nice enough though and spent the next twenty minutes going through my deck and making recommendations, imparting strategy, and generally sharing a good laugh over what had just transpired.

The rest of the afternoon went much the same for me; getting bounced early and then sharing strategies and a laugh with the person who bettered me. My son fared better than I, winning two matches that afternoon and along the way, earning the respect of the store whose participants were FAR older than him.

It’s been several months since that first visit.

My son and I have both graduated to Legacy, have made friends with the “usual suspects” at the store, and have made new acquaintances whom we have invited into our home for casual Legacy nights and strategy-building sessions.

Getting Comfortable in a New Environment

You are going to run into all manner of opponents when you venture into the wild. As fellow BTB writer Bengee recently covered, you are likely to run into a diverse array of players.

With that in mind, get comfortable.

Magic is no different against strangers than it is against the people you’ve been playing with at home. You are in a place where the people you are meeting may be socially awkward. They may be from different income levels or age groups. They likely have differen levels of education and cultural diversity.

The common bond we all have is this game and the love of squaring off against someone with a deck of cards.

Personal Growth

Just like anything else in life, the more you show up, the more people are going to recognize you. Faces will soften and eventually smiles will greet you as you walk in. New acquaintances will ask what you’ve been up to or what you think about the latest set coming out.

More likely than not, there will be juicy meta gossip to talk about. As you become more comfortable with the game and develop a familiarity with old cards that some of these folks know like the back of their hand, the better equipped you will be to jump into a discussion about strategy or debate the merits of why a given card has become the latest candidate to be added to the banned list.

Some of these friends may even offer to loan you their expensive cards so that you can compete at a higher level.

Take all these opportunities to grow. Eventually, you will be the one greeting new players entering the store for the first time.


What should you expect to face off against at a store? More likely than not, there will be a collection of decks that you have read about on the web. Because Magic strategy can be found everywhere, it has become tough to build a great deck that flies completely under the radar. Most people are playing a version of something that you have read about online. This is especially true at competitive events.

There are some savvy people out there though whose idea of fun is a homebrew that is completely off the wall. It may be a combo deck that takes time to develop and when they go off, you’re left wondering what happened.

Don’t panic.

This is the great thing about the in-person experience. You are going to face off against some interesting folks and be introduced to new ideas. Embrace it. You might just learn something that makes you a better player.

Don’t be afraid to tinker with your decks either. Have an idea you want to try? Give your latest combo a chance and see how it works. After all, every good combo you’ve read about started somewhere and had to go through rounds of play before being perfected.


Go into the store with an open mind. This may be the most important piece of advice for Magic players going from the kitchen table to their local game store. If you go in thinking you are going to take down the tournament, you will most likely have a miserable time. The game is supposed to be fun. Entering with a bit of humility will ensure that you have a good time.

Take your lumps. Learn from them. Then go back the next time prepared to deal with that second turn Chalice of the Void that took down your Burn deck.

Parting Words

Remember that this game is fun.

Sure, there will be frustration along the way when you run up against a strategy you have never seen before. There will be difficult people.

But above all else, everyone is there to have fun. Those wanting to welcome you in will outnumber the bad 100-1.

Thanks for reading!


Ready to take on your LGS for the first time? Let us know how it goes in the comments below or tag us on social media!

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