Reviews

Magic: The Gathering Starter Kit 2023 review — We all start somewhere

If you’ve always wanted to try Magic: The Gathering, but don’t know where to start, Wizards of the Coast has a product intended to introduce new players to the game: The Starter Kit. This product has a rules guide and two preconstructed decks for two players to ease their way into the world of Magic. Along with that, the Starter Kit 2023 has a bold claim on its packaging which states, “The best way to learn to play.” I wanted to know if this was actually true, so I opened the Starter Kit 2023 with the intention of examining it from the perspective of someone brand new to the game. I have two criteria that I am judging the Starter Kit by: how well does it teach you the game, and are the two decks fun to play against each other?

The included contents of the Starter Kit 2023

Teaching the Game – Recruitment Officer

The included Play Guide does a good job of communicating the basics of Magic: The Gathering. The guide focuses on how to set up and begin playing a game. Other emphasis is on card types and how combat works. The basics of Magic are well communicated. However, once you’re playing there are questions that don’t get answered.

My primary criticism for the Play Guide is that I wish there was more detail about the specific cards included with this Starter Kit. Most of the cards within have reminder text, which is great as new players can reference the card for its own ability. Evergreen keywords such as Flying, Vigilance, and Trample are not covered in the guide. There are also card specific abilities that are not explained and the specifics are always where confusion arises.

For example, “When Archive Dragon enters the battlefield, scry 2.” As far as I can tell, scrying isn’t explained anywhere in the Play Guide and Archive Dragon doesn’t have reminder text for scrying. There’s a link to a Keyword Glossary included in the Play Guide, but it feels lazy to just tell someone, “Go look it up online.” Another card, Dragonwing Glider, creates a 2/2 rebel token creature and that token is not included in the Starter Kit. This seems like it would only create confusion for new players as tokens aren’t covered anywhere in the Play Guide.

If I were new to the game, I would hope to find all the answers to my questions within the very product that is teaching me the game. (This likely comes from my time with board games.) Is it reasonable to think that the Play Guide could answer every question a new player might have? No, but there should have been some foresight about what questions new players would ask upon starting the game.

Playing the Game – Ingenious Prodigy

Here’s the most important part: the two decks within the Starter Kit are fun to play. Included are two sixty card decks, one Blue/Red and one White/Green. As these are sixty card decks, they are emulating constructed format decks where you can include up to four of any card (excluding basic lands). Nothing inside these decks is particularly powerful or game breaking, but the two decks produce fun, albeit fairly basic games of Magic.

For me, they felt more like limited decks, as they both employ creatures in order to defeat their opponent, but there is nothing wrong with that. Creatures and combat are a fundamental part of the game and showcasing this area of the game is a smart decision for the Starter Kit. These decks show off the importance of abilities like Flying, how removal spells can give you an edge in combat, and even how instant/sorceries help you win through combat.

I do have some criticisms of the decks as they only include one full playset (4) of cards between the two. The Blue/Red deck has four Stormkeld Prowlers. I only call attention to this because these are sixty card decks and emulate normal constructed rules. Having four of a card in your deck is how you make it play more consistently, and here you actually can see this. I’m going to leave a link to the Magic Wiki for the Starter Kit here. The White/Green deck has a lot more one or two inclusions of cards and so when you play the White/Green, it feels less consistent than its counterpart. While the two decks are fun, I’d rather have the Blue/Red deck for that more consistent gameplay. At its core, the two decks showcase what Magic is about and why it’s a fun game.

The two face cards for the starter decks

A few last things, while the two decks have deck boxes. They aren’t big enough for the cards if you sleeve them. Do the decks need to be sleeved? No, but I struggle to shuffle unsleeved cards as I’m not that dexterous. A little extra cardboard for the deck boxes would have been nice. The Starter Kit includes Magic: Arena codes for each deck which is a great inclusion. This “doubles” the value of the kit, as you’ll get all these cards on Magic: Arena and it gives you a starting point to play online too. I would like to see more Arena codes in more Magic products, as they offer better value for customers.

Summary

If you’re considering learning Magic: The Gathering, I recommend the Starter Kit 2023. While it feels like some corners have been cut, the overall product does a serviceable job of teaching new players the game. I’d like the included rules to be more tailored to the Starter Kit, but the games inside are a good showcase of what Magic can be. There is fun to be had within this kit. As for the claim, “The best way to learn to play.” I don’t think it quite lives up to that. The best way to learn to play Magic is still with a friend who knows the game, but the Starter Kit is still a decent way to get started too.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a relapsed MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.

75

Good

Magic: The Gathering

Review Guidelines

If you’re considering learning Magic: The Gathering, I recommend the Starter Kit 2023. While it feels like some corners have been cut, the overall product does a serviceable job of teaching new players the game. I’d like the included rules to be more tailored to the Starter Kit, but the games inside are a good showcase of what Magic can be. There is fun to be had within this kit. As for the claim, “The best way to learn to play.” I don’t think it quite lives up to that. The best way to learn to play Magic is still with a friend who knows the game, but the Starter Kit is still a decent way to get started too.

Chris Wyman

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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