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JumpStart: Magic for board-gamers, newbies, and kids

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16 Jan 2021 14:52 - 16 Jan 2021 16:01 #318080 by dragonstout
I know I used to rant about Magic all the time here, years ago, but it occurred to me that some of the people around here who used to not be interested in Magic should know about this new thing before it becomes impossible to come by again.

Brief preamble: I've been playing Magic since 1994, but I care very very much about how new players interface with Magic in part because I've been running a Magic club for five years at the high school I work at. The club is a huge success, with great representation from popular kids, nerdy kids, jocks, shy kids, outgoing kids, boys, girls, nonbinary and trans kids, all getting to know each other and make friends they never would have otherwise made. I have taught HUNDREDS of kids to play Magic in the last few years, including plenty of people who've never played a single hobby game. This is in part thanks to my ruling it with an iron fist to make sure it stays inclusive and low-priced; there's a hard limit on how much they can spend for the club of $5 a month (and I just pay out of my pocket for the kids who can't afford that).

Last year, Wizards released by far the best product for new players ever made (even including unofficial products) JumpStart.

The simple idea is: each booster pack has an entire 20-card half-deck built around a theme. You mash together two decks, a la Smash Up, and voila, you have a deck!

It's available at Target for $8 for a pair of packs, which makes it competitive with any of the other products I'd consider introducing someone to Magic with (like the Battle Decks that Card Kingdom makes), or Keyforge. I've been hoarding them whenever I see them, because once we're back to in-person school, it is the *only* way I ever want to get any kid started with Magic ever again. The decks are neither overly simple or overly complicated.

It is Magic Keyforge-ified, in a way. No more fiddling around taking cards in and out to build a deck. You pick two packs, and boom, you've got a deck; it might not be quite as unique as Keyforge's decks are, but there are 7260 possibilities (there are 121 different half-decks), so I think you're good. Lots of folks are picking up a bunch of packs and treating it as "Magic: the board game".

I believe this format/product is the happy medium between the two other traditional ways of learning Magic:
1) I used to, in our club, give everyone six packs and have them make a deck. Even with only a handful of cards, making a deck is INCREDIBLY overwhelming.
2) Alternatively, folks will often suggest buying preconstructed decks. The problem with this is that it's missing the feeling of discovery: every synergy is built in by the creator of the deck, and you're just discovering what someone else came up with. There's a lack of feeling of ownership, of "I came up with this combination!"

My recommendation is: get FOUR packs of JumpStart for each player, and they can split them into two decks of their choice. That simple choice, of "how do I split these four half-decks into two pairs?" gives a SURPRISING amount of feeling of "I came up with this idea!" The half-decks have names, so you have an automatic name for your deck: my sons have a Reanimated Rainbow deck, and a Garruk Dragons deck, and a Unicorns Above the Clouds deck, or Well-Read Under the Sea.

Even just getting 8 packs total between two people: you now have 210 different matchups you can play, compared to buying similarly-priced 4 Keyforge decks and having 6 different matchups you can play.

There have been some issues with production due to Covid, so it goes in and out of easy availability and is usually super-overpriced at game stores, but at Target they keep the price down to $4 a pack.
Last edit: 16 Jan 2021 16:01 by dragonstout.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shellhead, Gary Sax, Msample, Jexik, birdman37, sornars, Whoshim, BillyBobThwarton, DarthJoJo, Ah_Pook

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16 Jan 2021 15:10 #318082 by Gary Sax
That's an incredible product.
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16 Jan 2021 15:20 #318083 by Ah_Pook
Agreed Gary, if I had an opponent I would pick up a bunch of these for sure.

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16 Jan 2021 17:02 #318087 by Jexik
Hmm, might look into this for teaching my main gaming partner Magic. Thanks for the heads up!

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17 Jan 2021 19:17 #318110 by san il defanso
This looks great! Our older son is almost 11 and is super interested in Magic. I think this would be an ideal way to introduce him to the game. Might pick up a few packs when I'm (hopefully) in the US this summer.

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18 Jan 2021 11:44 #318135 by dragonstout
One thing I regret not making super-clear: while I do say it's the best product for beginners ever, I think it also hits at just the right level for boardgamers aka people who don't want to go all-in on Magic but keep it as one of the games in their rotation. They are definitely more complex than the usual "intro decks" they've made, which really don't have a lot of replayability (I'll probably still be using those to teach folks who've never played a hobby game the *rules*).

Another thing I love about JumpStart: in every other product Wizards has made for beginners, they deliberately include garbage cards that don't fit in the deck, as an open suggestion to get people to start tweaking their cards. In JumpStart, the decks do NOT feel like they're just trying to get you to buy more cards to improve them; they're self-contained.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Gary Sax, Msample, san il defanso

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18 Jan 2021 17:59 #318143 by Msample
This sounds pretty slick - the comparison to KEYFORGE makes sense. The latter game was brilliant in eliminating deck building from the equation to get people playing fast in a casual setting.

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18 Jan 2021 18:06 #318144 by Whoshim
Thanks for the reminder about this. I had wanted to pick some up, but they hadn't made their way to Indonesia. I'll have to check if some places have them in stock now.

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