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I've heard a lot (of good things) about this game and I'm interested in exploring it; however, I'm slightly worried about the initial cash investment involved.

About how much would it cost to get started with Magic: The Gathering?

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Getting started isn't usually the problem. It's getting addicted. There's no upper limit to how much you can spend, alas... –  thesunneversets Jun 26 '11 at 21:26
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To get the most bang for your buck, go for the Deck Builder's Toolkits. You get 4 packs for the price of 5, but you also get about a hundred commons and uncommons with it too. There are some cards that are simply 'staple' cards: every blue deck has 4 preordains, every green deck has 3-4 cultivates, etc... The toolkits are a great way to help build a decent deck on the cheap. –  corsiKa Jul 5 '11 at 14:54
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Aw, don't worry about that; the first one's always free! –  Task May 9 '13 at 11:30
    
The cost is never ending; I started with a £12 intro deck (that's about 18 dollars I think) but have since spent literally hundreds on cards. I'm very excited about the upcoming Mage Wars; It's set to be Magic without the luck of the draw, and their whole ethos is to not make you keep buying, "it's customisable, not collectable" magewars.com/jsite. And @Task; so true, I love that they do that, and it's genius that the free set they give you isn't enough to play with! –  CLockeWork Aug 12 '13 at 10:17

14 Answers 14

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Getting started: $20 or so for a pair of starter decks. You need one starter per person, and an opponent, so to have a playable start for home use, you need two starters.

Note that starter decks are usually not terribly competitive with collected decks.

A decent collection will be around $50-$500 worth of boosters (depending on your values for decent and which editions you'll get, and your luck). You can probably get 2 or 3 decent decks out of an investment of $300+.

You can save a little by buying people's old cards; often they won't be pretty, but they're playable. That said...

The problem is, cards are constantly being changed as to tournament legality. Many people only play current tournament rules, even for friendly games, so you might have some older cards that are no longer tourney legal, and have upset opponents.

If you play ONLY with your own collection, and only with friends, you can save a bunch by getting unlimited editions of some of the older stuff that is no longer tourney legal.

If you play tourney, expect to spend $30 to $100 per month on assorted stuff... Keeping in mind a common tourney format is a "sealed deck tourney"... you buy a new-in-box sealed deck, and a booster or two (number by tournament rules), then make do with whatever you have there in just those 2-3 items. Typically, it's less expensive to buy them in the tourney ($3-$5 less than MSRP), but still, tournament play can rapidly build a huge collection and spend a LOT of money.

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"Get started"? Nothing.

Around the release of every core set local stores receive 30 card "Sample" decks to hand out for FREE. This are basically only good for trying out the game playing against each other (as a normal structure requires 60 card decks), but they're fun to play with, restricted to cards that are easy to understand, and can provide a base for you to build a stronger deck around.

Beyond that, if you have friends who've been playing for more than a year, they will fall over themselves to give you cards. I need to free up some space, take my commons, please! You won't get the strongest deck out of this, but you can certainly get something you can play with.

Duels of the Planeswalkers is generally considered to be the best intro to learning the game, and you can get it off Steam for very little (£7 UK atm). It'll allow you to practice, learn and get a feel for the game, without being screwed up by the relatively complicated rule system that every player gets slightly wrong. (Magic is a game with a phonebook for a rulebook, and nearly every potential teacher has at least one thing they think they understand and totally don't).

As somebody else has said, you can pick up 2 actual starter decks for roughly $20-$30, and the new Clash Packs allow you to spend $30 for 2 casual decks that can be combined to form a tournament viable (if not dominant) deck.

If you find you enjoy deckbuilding, I recommend Limited formats for picking up cards, beginning with the set pre-releases, where you pay for 6 boosters, build the best 40 card deck you can out of them, and play 5 rounds of Magic. They're great fun, and generally advertised on Wizard's site ahead of time, along with a Store Locator.

As others have said, once started, you may find yourself eBaying your stuff to pay for that last mythic rare to complete your Modern Deck, but that's an intervention your friends and loved ones can have at a later time.

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The problem is not the inital investment, it's the never-ending investment...

Here are two options I'm offering you:

  1. Forget about that, try something else like Dominion or Thunderstone. Gosu was made by former Magicians who realized how many hundreds of bucks they spent on buying cards. These games are deck building games. They work like Magic, but you only pay them once.

  2. Buy Magic: the Gathering. It's only a few whatever your local currency is. You can buy this year's edition, make a friend of yours buy one too and play against each-other, sometimes. But if you want to go and battle against old players, you must know that: you're not rich enough. Because once you are in the Magic circle, you can only get out by not playing at all. Don't imagine you can buy some cards and play. You must keep on getting new cards!

My point is: if your first question about Magic is, "How much will it cost?", you probably don't want this game.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great game! Just a very expensive one.

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Dominion and Thunderstone aren't great suggestions, IMO. They're only tangentially related to Magic: the crucial difference is that you build decks as you play, rather than beforehand. A closer alternative would be a Living Card Game like Netrunner, which adheres to the same play model as Magic, but you know upfront what cards you're getting before you buy a pack. –  Matt Thrower May 30 at 14:04
    
-1; "you must know that: you're not rich enough" terrible advice –  Brian S May 30 at 16:04

You can look on the internet for top tier deck lists to get ideas of what cards you will want and need and what works. Then, when you have a decklist, buy the singles from sites such as manashack.com It saves you a lot of money in the long run as you wont have to keep buying booster packs to get the cards you want.

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A new player doesn't know what they want or why; they still need to learn how to play, and having a bunch of extra (cheap) commons/uncommons will be much more useful to a new player than having a single (expensive) finely-tuned deck. –  Paul Marshall Aug 20 '13 at 22:52

it might not cost much. Maybe, you could buy 3 booster packs for 45 cards. Then, go to a random comic store, and buy a bunch of basic lands. then, you could have a ok 45-75 card deck. then go to a few fnm(friday night magic)s, and trade. once you have a decent deck, I might buy a pack depending on what colors your deck focuses on. In total it would cost...

                               3x$3+ $9 for boosters
                                     $1 dollor on basic lands (about)
                                     $10 for the pack
                               = $20 for everything
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45 random cards plus some lands is an awful deck (that's how I started, because that's what the the old-style "starter decks" were; I successfully cast all of two spells from my hand in my first game). I think it's going to make for a very, very frustrating FNM experience as well. There's no reason to do this instead of just getting an intro pack, event deck, or deckbuilder's kit thingy. –  Alex P May 27 '13 at 2:36
    
@AlexP, On the other hand, some FNMs are run as drafts, where everybody's getting (essentially) 3 packs to make a deck with. (Of course, some players will be better at the drafting portion, and end up with superior decks, but that's part of where skill enters into the game.) –  Brian S May 30 at 16:13
    
@BrianS Well, with a Limited deck, you're playing other Limited decks. Also it's 40 cards. Also you actually you see over 200 cards during a draft. In contrast, this suggestion is straight-up unplayable, in my opinion. –  Alex P May 30 at 17:19

I don't get why many answers focus on the (pointless) booster buying, so I'm going to rectify that.

In MTG there are many formats, which mostly fall in one of those two categories:

  1. Limited
  2. Constructed

Playing in a Limited tournament costs 10-20€, depending on the format, and that cost is the cost of the boosters to play it, plus an extremely small fee. These should be the only boosters that you buy.

In Constructed you get to build your deck: to do that you should selectively buy just the cards you need, and once you have them you can keep using them as long as the format you're playing allows them (forever in Vintage or Legacy).


TL;DR: buying boosters is usually just plain stupid: you either get them anyway in the Limited tournaments, or you'd better buy specific cards for the Constructed.


That said:

  • you might want to buy boosters anyway "just for fun"
  • you might want to buy them as you would buy a lottery ticket (hint: don't)
  • the market could temporarily be "broken" so that the average amount of value of the cards in a booster might be greater than the cost of the booster itself (I guess it never happens, but it might; if it does, it will not last anyway, since the market would auto-adjust itself)
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No one ever explained their downvotes, but there are a few main problems with your answer. You assume that everyone only wants to play in tournaments, when the OP is clearly a casual player. Further, you assume that everyone will prefer the same kinds of tournaments you do (vintage, legacy, and limited) when standard is a quite popular format (even though you think it's horrible). And finally, your knowledge and terminology is wildly out of date - the "type 1/1.5/2" names were changed by 2005. –  Jefromi May 9 '13 at 5:40
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@Jefromi thanks for answering! Actually despite Standard being popular, it is still a Constructed type, were it would be much more convenient to selectively buy the cards anyway. That said, yes, this answer derailed a bit into a rant, not really helpful the way it's worded... –  Lohoris May 9 '13 at 8:36
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One of the big appeals of Standard is that the most powerful old cards don't push out the new ones like they do in Legacy. Also, while you're getting new cards every year, you're also getting to play different decks every year. Having more than one Legacy/Vintage deck tends to be either expensive or time-consuming. The diversity of Standard does vary significantly season by season, though. –  Alex P May 9 '13 at 15:25
    
@AlexP I understand, that makes some sense and I accept that. However, my point (clearly didn't state it well enough) is that regardless of playing standard or vintage, buying boosters still makes no sense. –  Lohoris May 10 '13 at 14:49
    
I've removed the stupid rant against type-2. I considered deleting the answer and posting a new one, but I choose not to. –  Lohoris May 10 '13 at 14:59

There have been many answers to this question, as there are many different ways to handle getting started in magic. Really, the best thing to do is to explore carefully and decide how you are going to play that's the only way to get a feel for how much your initial investment will be.

First and foremost, as others have suggested. Regardless of how you want to play, as a new player, Duels of the Planeswalkers is a fabulous way to get a feel for how the game is played. It's available on many different systems, most consoles and PC, as well as some tablets. It gives you an excellent way to get an idea of what different colours do, how they interact, the beginnings of how to use your resources correctly and the best strategies to employ in given situations. If you want to know whether you will like the game at all, this is the best way to find out.

If you like the game enough to continue from that point to the next step. There are 2 options, Paper magic, and Magic Online (often referred to as MODO). both of these are open to casual and competitive players alike, and the decision comes down to whether you are going to want to play with friends in your local area, with a hard collection to show for your money, or be able to jump in to a game of magic any time of the day or night. Whichever you choose, you will be making a similar level of initial investment, so your choice here really counts!

If you choose to take the online route, then jump onto the internet and make yourself an account, there are plenty of resources out there to help players get started on MODO, and there are bots who will give new players a handful of free digital cards to help grow their collections initially, besides that, you can buy boosters and enter tournaments just like with paper magic. you can even cash out your digital cards from recent expansions into paper copies if you complete a full set. If you go down the route of MODO, your initial minimum investment will be in the region of $10 for an account, from there you can jump straight in to playing some games.

if you choose the paper magic route, then you need to make a decision about what kind of magic you are looking to play. This is a very subjective choice, and depends massively on the player, realistically, without doing a bit of experimenting, you will struggle to figure out exactly what you want to do with magic. I will expand on this below:

Casual Play

There are many players (in fact, the vast majority) who will happily buy a few boosters here or there, and then build whatever decks they fancy out of what cards they have, and battle with their friends. These players get a lot out of every single card they own, and generally open a few boosters here and there a few times a week. Players like this will be playing at home with their friends, round a kitchen or dining table, with whatever decks they put together for that evening, maybe building a deck in a different colour for each of their friends that come to battle.

If that is the kind of magic you are looking to play, then your initial investment will not be sky high, there are many good answers already covering this, so I wont paraphrase them. I will say that sealed product (boosters/starter decks etc) would be your best choice. You would be able to spend as much as you feel you want to to get a collection big enough to build what decks you need to have fun with your friends, this could be as little as $20 as others have suggested, or I would say up to $100 would give you a very good basis to work from for a larger pool of cards to play with.

Competitive play

If casual play at home with friends doesn't sound like your thing, (either because your friends aren't interested, or you are looking to meet loads of new people to play against, or you want to play to win) and you are looking to play in tournaments, then things go a lot differently, both in how to get started, and how much your initial investment will be.

There are many different types of tournaments, Limited formats, which require no prior investment whatsoever, are a good way of entering tournament play without having to spend any money prior to the tournament. You get the same chance everyone else gets, and it all comes down to learning how to play that format (be it draft or sealed) better than everyone else. Entry to these tournaments is often more expensive than traditional "build a deck beforehand" constructed tournaments, but you get to keep the cards you use in the tournament, so its a good way of picking up cards to expand your collection, whilst playing competitively. The cost of draft or sealed tournaments varies, so your local store is the best place to find out more information about this style of play.


If you want to know more about the types of constructed tournaments, and advice about them, continue below, however, there is a LOT of information to process, and if you already feel like casual or limited play is more for you, then this information is of little use to you. have fun YOUR way, and at YOUR pace!


Constructed competitive play is a whole different ballgame. This is where things get different, as in terms of "bang for your buck", you are best off buying individual cards from a reseller, rather than opening boosters and hoping to get the cards for your deck.

First and foremost, Event Decks have been made especially for you. they are more expensive than starter decks, but with very good reason. They contain more rare and powerful cards, and are generally built so that you can have a hope to compete in a tournament with them right out of the box. They even have instructional inserts to explain how the deck is meant to be played, and giving you some tips on how to use the cards that are included to best effect! These decks serve as an excellent starting point to build on.

Playing at this competitive level, especially as someone starting out, it is very important that you start by paying attention to what kind of decks are winning tournaments week after week. There are plenty of websites that will give you a list of the decks (and every card they played) that came in the top 8-16 or so of the tournament. This gives you a very good idea of what kind of decks can do well reliably, and hence what you should be looking to invest your money into building. You can of course disregard this and build whatever you want, but if we are talking about investing $200+ in something, it's probably best to go with a tried and true formula, at least until you have some experience.

you may want to pick one of the cheaper decks that performs well, so you don't have to spend quite so much so soon, and that's fine, cheaper does not mean worse, and you can build something quite playable with under $100 if you pick carefully. You can also replace some of the most expensive cards with something more affordable if you wish, but bear in mind those cards are expensive for a reason, they're good!

There is some key information to remember however with constructed play, and that is the concept of Rotation. Standard is the most popular constructed format, by a very large margin. If someone is playing magic with their own pre-built decks, chances are they are playing standard. One of the key things about standard is that every year, towards the end of summer, several sets of cards are "Rotated out" of the format, meaning they are no longer legal for play. this means if you choose badly how you invest, you may well find that in a few months you are no longer allowed to play your expensive cards and have to spend that money all over again. As a rule of thumb, no card is likely to stay in standard for more than 2 years, and many (those printed in that year's core set named e.g. M13) are only playable for 1 year. On the positive side, this keeps the format feeling new and fresh, however, conversely, it does mean you have to continue to invest in new cards to play.

This puts a lot of people off these formats. Fortunately, there are other constructed formats that do not rotate, however these come with a trade off, as the initial investment is much higher. Eternal formats also tend to have a smaller player base, which means local tournaments are harder to come by, if they happen in your area at all

Eternal formats

Modern - this is the newest and cheapest eternal format, which does not rotate. This obviously provides a massive advantage, in that cards you buy for this format will not ever rotate out of the format. This means that once you buy a deck - with some caveats - you wont have to make a big investment again. The exceptions to this are bannings, and newly printed cards. If the key elements of your deck are banned (such as Blazing Shoal in the infect deck) then you may find you have to invest in an entirely new deck. Similarly, new cards may be printed which become key elements of your deck (such as the new Beck // Call which may well become a core element of modern Elves), however, overall this investment tends to be much more manageable than the continued investment in rotating formats.

Many players dislike modern, and a lot of the complaints raised against it centre around the fact that your investment into the format is not necessarily stable, as if key elements of your deck are banned, you need to reinvest into a new deck. Modern's banlist is relatively young, and as such is still undergoing much more change than in other formats. Modern has seen cards banned or unbanned in most if not all announcements since the format was officially released. This turbulence puts a lot of players off the format.

Legacy - This is a much more expensive, but also much more stable eternal format. The highest value cards in this format are for the most part pretty safe from bannings, as they have been in the format for a long time, and would have been banned a long time ago if they were causing a problem. The main issue with Legacy is that the investment into a deck can easily reach into the region of $1000s. The main advantage is that your investment is unlikely to be invalidated by future card releases or bannings, and for the most part, wont require much (if any) continued investment as additional cards are released.

Legacy has its own problems however, and the prohibitively large cost of the key cards in the format takes its toll, While there are areas with a thriving legacy scene, and even some with higher legacy tournament attendance than any other format, in other areas, the player base is much smaller, and in some areas practically non-existent. Considering the cost of the format, it definitely requires some consideration of your local area to ensure you will be able to play.

Vintage - the most expensive and intense eternal format. This format has a very small ban list (banning only cards such as Contract from Below which reference the "Ante" mechanic which was removed from the game early on, and "Dexterity" cards which require you to practice specifically for that card, such as Chaos Orb) and a "Restricted" list, of cards which you may only include a single copy in your deck. many of these cards cost $100s of dollars each, and their power level makes them almost required in your deck. As a result, Vintage format tournaments are very hard to come by. I would not recommend going into vintage to someone just starting out.

So, having looked at all your options, here is an overview of what you can expect

Casual play - Comparitively cheap, you can happily play with an investment from anywhere between $20 and $100, depending on how many players you want to support. You can continue to invest to add variety, or play with what you have.

Limited - No initial "hump" of investment to be able to play, but quite high continued investment for tournament entry.

Constructed

Standard (Rotating) - reasonable initial investment (approx $50-300), with similar investment to be made at least every 1-2 years.

Modern (Eternal) - medium to high initial investment (approx $150-$500), good chance of investment being stable, but good chance you may have to continually invest to keep current.

Legacy (Eternal) - high to very high investment (approx $250-$2000), quite stable investment, continual investment requirements small or non existent.

Vintage (Eternal) - Extremely high investment (approx $1000-$5000+) very stable investment, continual investment requirements highly unlikely.

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I've recently been in this situation, I haven't played in almost 20 years and my girlfriend was interested in playing because one of her friends played.

If you want to learn the rules get the Magic the Gathering Game Duels of the Planeswalkers for the iPad/XBox/PS4/whatever the free demo should give you a pretty good basis in the rules.

Once you are sure you want to continue buy a set of "Dual Decks", they are cheap well balanced decks and they usually have some good cards for you to pilfer once you start actually playing. Sorin Vs Tibalt is particularly fun to play.

I was told to get the event decks and I bought a bunch of these to get the cards, I wasn't that impressed to be honest, the card selection for the duel decks was much better.

I've also bought a couple of the 2013 "Starter Decks"

You might want to invest in the "Deck Builders Toolkit", it provides you with a lot of cards, some boosters, and crucially land.

Deck Builder's Toolkit

If you go to your local gaming shop's Friday Night Magic evening you might find some people are willing to give you some commons chat with people, I had a friend turn up at my house with two shoe boxes of commons with the instruction to take whatever I wanted.

It's also worth picking a format, I've grown to really like EDH/Commander and Legacy because I have a lot of old cards. But if you are just starting Modern might be a good idea.

If you are going to deck build look at decks on Tapped out for inspiration and the Reddit Magic Community are surprisingly helpful.

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In addition to the already-cited Intro Packs, the manufacturers have started releasing Event Decks for each block. These are pre-constructed decks built for the level of competition you'll face at the typical low-level tournament. They retail for $25, and are a pretty good investment as a starting player.

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I've never bought any Magic the Gathering cards but I have experience with plenty other CCG's. If you're not willing to sink a couple 100 $ into new cards every year don't even start!

Every year there is a new Core Set with 250-450 cards as well as about three expansions totaling around 500 cards. The game I played the most did not have anywhere near that amount of cards coming out but I still bought about 300$ worth in each set (over a longer period though).

If you like the idea of card games like MtG but don't like the business model you should look into Games with more fixed card sets like Blue Moon or Summoner Wars.

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-1; "If you're not willing to sink a couple 100 $ into new cards every year don't even start!" Bad advice; such investment is certainly not a requirement. Also, these days ~250 cards is the size of a "large" set -- you're not going to see a set with 450 cards. Each year is generally going to see a core set (large), three expansions (1 large 2 small @ ~170 cards), and a summer multiplayer product (usually precon decks) –  Brian S May 30 at 16:09

To get started, is about 30 bucks - that'll get you two theme decks. If you get them from the same set, they'll be generally balanced against each other (they're not guaranteed to be balanced against decks from older sets).

If you're looking to play competitively, it depends at what level - Magic runs several constructed formats, differentiated by how old the cards can be. The two most common formats are Standard (roughly the last two years worth of cards) and Extended (the last seven years worth of cards). Costs will vary accordingly.

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I don't know why this answer has been downvoted. It's not the best answer, but it isn't bad. Extended format has been phased out in favor of Modern, but that didn't happen until after this answer was posted (August 2011). –  Brian S May 30 at 16:16

Here's my suggestion: before you plunge headfirst into the dizzying money pit that is paper Magic (at least it can be, for those of us without enoug self-control!), try getting hold of Duels of the Planeswalkers on PC, XBox or PS3. It's not "real Magic", in a few ways that I'll mention, but it's an inexpensive way of getting close enough to it that you'll be able to tell if you like it. DotP 2012 has just come out, contains lots of cards from up-to-the-minute and even yet-to-be-published sets, and will let you get to grips with the rules of the game against a reasonably good AI, or even play against other humans if that's your preference.

How is DotP not like the actual game? Most importantly, you don't have full freedom to build your own decks. You start off with one of a dozen or so decks that are in the game, and by winning duels you unlock more cards that you can swap in for old cards, giving you the power to personalize your game, and get rid of cards you hate. But you CAN'T take the red deck and the blue deck and mash them together into a crazy combination of both. You're pretty much stuck with what you're given.

And that's the great thing about real Magic. There is no other game with such infinite potential. I mean, this game has tens of thousands of "pieces" stretching back over 20 years of history, and quite a few hundred more cards being printed every year. You can play it in about a dozen different officially sanctioned or semi-sanctioned ways, and there's something here for everyone. But all of this comes with a price, and that price is money. If you want to just get two precons and play them with a friend, that's $20. But that's just a tiny sliver of the fun you can have with Magic. Play Sealed Deck and Draft tournaments! Take part in six-player multiplayer extravaganzas! Try out Two-Headed Giant, or Commander, or Archenemy! Make the huge financial investment required to compete effectively in Standard tournaments, or sell your house and car to scrape together the "Power Nine" cards required for a Vintage tournament! The sky really is the limit.

You may get to that point, you may not. However, if you want to get a taster of the game for less than about ten bucks, Duels of the Planeswalkers is almost certainly your best option currently :D

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It's hard put a price on getting started, as many have said, it's never ending; even for those who think they have self control. It is however possible one of the best games of all times. If you want a similar feel, but something with more of a definite price and future expense amount, I would recommend looking at Fantasy Flights line of "living card games."

Current lines which are of similar theme to magic are warhammer invasion, a game of thrones, and lord of the rings. Pretty much the best part is you don't get in the trap of magic where you can't help but want to buy the high $ cards. With living card games, if you buy the expansion you get all the cards in the set rather than having to mine booster packs.

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use to play Magic back in the days (almost 20 years ago) and it was already a money pit. I always wished that they went for the The "LCG concept". Because a huge part of the fun in M:tG is the deck building aspect, well for em it was, more then actually playing. But man can it cost you, since when deck building you quickly determine potential combos, cards that work well together and then you go and buy boosteror singles to try and complete your deck. It's almost a neverending circle. I'll definately look into Fantasy flight games –  LittleViking26 Apr 16 '13 at 15:55

I'm a recovering M:TG addict, so I haven't played in a while. But assuming the game hasn't changed too much, you might want to look into actually stopping into a card shop and building your own "common" deck for cheap.

The rarity on M:TG cards is a large part of the price. Super-rare combo cards with the gold stamp are sold out of glass cases for high $$$, but usually next to them is a big box marked "commons," which I've seen go for as little as $.03 a card. Stick to one color and you'll only need "basic" lands, which I've actually seen given away at certain card shops.

The most common "common" builds when I played were:

White or Green "Weenie" - Focus on cheap creatures that you can play for 1-2 mana at max and try to overwhelm the opponent early.

Red Burn - Use a mix of cheap red creatures and direct damage to win as quickly as possible.

Suicide Black - At the time I was playing, there were several commons that hurt both you and the opponent, but hurt them more, which again lead to decks that worked to win as quickly as possible.

Green "Stompy" - Focus on surviving long enough to get huge but expensive creatures out.

Mono-Blue Control - A handful of damage-dealing cards mixed in with a ton of counterspells, ala Randy Beuhler's "Draw, Go" http://www.wizards.com/magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/rb63

That was the deck that made me love magic, as he took it to 12th place at World's despite the fact that at the time you could build the whole deck for under $15. And it's fun to make your friends cuss.

Anyway, assuming you do build entirely out of the 3-cents-a-common box, you'll spend about $1.80, $2.25 if you include a basic sideboard as well. Following one of those builds, even loosely, should give you a playable-enough deck. But even better, you'll find they're very easily upgrade-able when the opportunity to buy better cards comes up, and often it only takes swapping out a few cards to change the face of the deck entirely. My much-beloved blue control deck was basically just a "base" that I could swap differing sets of spells into to make 5-6 different decks, which saved on card purchases quite a bit.

tl;dr: You can get started for very cheap, but the more you spend, the better your deck will get. Good luck and have fun.

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If you know the right sort of Magic players, you may even be able to get the commons for free. Certainly when I was regularly drafting at my local store, a lot of folks would just pick out the rares at the end and leave the rest of the cards lying around on the table. If you have any friends into that scene, my best is they'll have hundreds of commons and uncommons basically just taking up space in their lives, that they'd be only too happy to part with! –  thesunneversets Jun 27 '11 at 0:28

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