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Where to Play Magic: The Gathering

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You've heard about this game Magic: The Gathering, maybe you've opened some packs or watched a gameplay video, but where do you go to sling spells and summon creatures? Well that is what this article is for as we break down the different places you can go to become a true Planeswalker.

Get Your Friends Together

The simplest option is to get a group of friends together to play! Magic is a great time around the dining room table with pizza and a drink of your choice. You can buy a play booster box to start a Draft or Sealed pool or get Commander Decks and experience Magic's most popular format! Learn more about the different formats discussed in this article here.

That being said, this isn't always how folks start with Magic: The Gathering, instead opting to try it out Online or at a Local In-Person Event.

The Online Space

It has never been easier to get into Magic: The Gathering from the comfort of your home! Multiple apps exist to let you experience Magic in a variety of formats, such as MTG Arena or Magic Online. You can also find games of paper Magic over the web using SpellTable.

MTG Arena offers a streamlined 1v1 experience along with a built-in tutorial to learn how to play. This is in my opinion the best way to get folks to learn the game as it introduces them to the rules through different game scenarios. MTG Arena brings plenty of formats to the virtual table: Standard, Limited (aka Draft or Sealed), and Brawl along with Arena specific formats such as Alchemy, Historic, and Timeless. Arena also offers events on a weekly basis for a chance to earn promo cards or booster packs to expand your digital collection. MTG Arena unfortunately does not have any multiplayer formats, specifically Commander, but is a great entry point to the game. MTG Arena is free to play, but does offer the ability to buy booster packs just like with paper. MTG Arena is available on mobile, PC, and Mac devices.

Magic Online is a 3rd party, PC only application that offers a more a more robust Magic experience, allowing for more formats, a larger card database, and even multiplayer games. Magic Online is free with a basic account, but most of the things that make it unique such as Trading, Chat, and the full Store stock costs a small fee to upgrade your account ($4.99 USD at time of writing). Magic Online offers Standard, Brawl like MTG Arena, but also includes formats that include cards from all Magic sets such as Legacy, Pauper, Commander, and more! Check the breakdown of each option at the end of this article for a full list of formats or check here. Magic Online also offers scheduled events to help grow those collections or to enjoy a specific format in a tournament style event. As a final note on Magic Online, if earning physical cards is something of interest you can purchase a complete set of physical cards (one of each, no alternate arts or bonus sheet cards) from Wizards of the Coast after you collect the full set on your Magic Online account.

With the quarantine starting in 2020, plenty of Magic players were asking for ways to play their paper cards online with friends. Wizards of the Coast answered by acquiring SpellTable, a web-based app that allows you to find, host, and play games of paper Magic with people from across the globe. SpellTable offers any format that can be played in paper and can track your life totals, deck lists, and even look up cards via WotC's Magic Gatherer database. But how does SpellTable look at your board? Well it uses either a webcam or smart phone camera and looks for the cards based on borders, card art, and colors. So, for most players the deciding factor will be if they have the space for their mat, cards, camera, and a computer or tablet to view the rest of the players' boards.

With SpellTable, there are limited matchmaking options as public games can be hit or miss depending on the time of day you are looking. The Magic community combated this problem by using their existing Discord or other community platforms to offer Looking for Group (LFG) options for SpellTable games. If you are already involved with a MTG creator see if their Discord offers this or check out places like Tolarian Community College which offers a Discord space in the link of every video for finding players to game with!

The Material Plane

Magic: The Gathering of course started as a paper Trading Card Game and is still played as such from local game stores to mosh pits around the globe. Before we start slinging cards at a concert, let's start at our Friend Local Game Store (FLGS). You can locate your FLGS using Wizard's Store Locator and see how close you are to a store along with any upcoming events they have. Most FLGS will have a weekly Commander Night along with Friday Night Magic (FNM). Commander Nights are just that, an evening for Commander Players to come in and play with some stores offering promo cards or packs just for playing! FNM is a bit more involved, offering paid events to join like Standard Showdown or Store Championships, both using the Standard Constructed format, which are more competitive but offer more prizes as you win matches. In my opinion, the FLGS is the best place to find friends to play if you are looking for a group.

Along with your FLGS, like I mentioned before even having one other friend to play with can make a world of difference. I was playing Magic until I lost my play group after college. I then got my partner into the game before quarantine and we've been hooked ever since. We enjoy having an activity that we can both just sit down and play without much scheduling. We continue tuning and learning our decks, and then get to take those to Commander Night at the FLGS or online via SpellTable to continue the fun with friends or strangers alike.

Magic: The Gathering is a community fueled game, and now is one of the best times to get introduced to the game as we see the release of sets like Universes Beyond: Fallout and Bloomburrow bringing in new players from a variety of spaces and interests. Download Arena or grab a Commander Deck and get started, because there is no time like the present to learn a game like Magic.

Where to Play Breakdown

MTG Arena

Cost: Free to Play (In-Game Purchases)

Formats: Alchemy*, Brawl, Historic*, Limited (Draft & Sealed), Standard, Timeless*

Available on: Mobile, PC, Mac

*Exclusive to Arena

Magic Online

Cost: Free w/ Account limitations (In-App Purchases)

Formats: Brawl, Commander, Freeform, Legacy, Limited (Draft & Sealed), Modern, Pauper, Planechase, Standard, Vintage

Available on: PC

SpellTable

Cost: Free (Requires Webcam/Phone Camera)

Formats: Brawl, Commander, Legacy, Modern, Oathbreaker, Pauper, Pioneer, Sealed, Standard, Two-Headed Giant, Vintage

Available on: Anything with a web-browser (support may vary)

Local Game Store

Cost: Free and Ticketed Events

Formats: Anything you can find players for! Most events are Commander or Standard

Available on: The Material Plane (In-Person)


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