If you’re a nerd of a certain age, there are three trading card games that have been a near constant in your life, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering. While you might not have played all of these games – or even any of them – you’re most likely well aware of their existence and probably know a handful of people who play at least one of these big three titles.
With massive legacy series like these, trying to pick them up can feel a little bit daunting. With such a huge history and constant new releases, where do you even begin? As we approach the end of the year, picking up a new game is a great way to stay busy during your break and really kick off 2023. To help you get there, here’s how and why you should consider picking up Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering for the first time.
Start playing Pokémon
The Pokémon Trading Card Game – it’s not just for YouTube unboxing videos or another way for rich people to spend absurd amounts of money. If your favourite part of the Pokemon games is the battle strategy, the TCG takes that experience to the next level. It’s tactics all the way down. Even if you’re more of a “gotta catch ’em all” type, the game leans into the collectable-aspect plenty. If you’ve also been somewhat disappointed with the last few game titles, the Pokémon Trading Card Game is a great alternative.
Like any game, the best way to learn how to play is by doing. So either grab a friend or, if you can’t wrangle an IRL game, jump on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. This free-to-play game includes enough tutorials that will walk you through the game’s core mechanics. You can check out our in-depth guide for playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game here.
Unlike the Pokémon games, where your team is usually put together based on favourites and having a good spread of type advantages, the card game doesn’t really facilitate that level of variety. Most decks are built around one or two types, to help ensure you have a steady flow of Energy cards on hand so you can actually use your Pokémons’ abilities.
That might be a bit restrictive for some, but everyone has a favourite Pokémon type that they gravitate towards, so you should lean into that. There are plenty of prebuilt themed decks available, so we’d recommend grabbing one that fits your favourite type.
Alternatively, we’d also recommend grabbing the Build & Battle Box from the latest Pokémon TCG set, Silver Tempest, which includes a 40-card deck that’s ready to play with, along with four booster packs, so you can pull a few extra cards to add to your deck.
Start playing Magic: The Gathering
For years I found the thought of playing Magic: The Gathering to be daunting. It just seemed like such a dense game that getting into it felt like jumping into a bottomless pool. Turns out, it’s more like a hot bath – stings a bit as you lower yourself in, but a nice time once you settle in.
Magic is the biggest card game in the world for good reason. But as big as it is, I found getting into it to be comfortably welcoming. While it is a tactical and strategic game, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve never had a dry experience with it – although the occasional game where I get absolutely shredded isn’t great.
The game is built around five different coloured mana, each with its own kind of play style. Do you enjoy striking hard and fast? Then try a Red deck. Prefer to base your strategy around countering and controlling your opponent’s moves? Then try Blue.
When starting out, you’ll probably want to stick with a single-colour deck to get a handle on play-style, but certain colours can be complementary with one another, so you can build out a two-colour deck once you’ve gotten a better handle on things. You can check out our in-depth guide for playing Magic: The Gathering here.
So where do you start? Every year Magic releases a starter kit that includes two prebuilt decks and a rulebook, which is designed to encourage new players to pick up the game. It’s a smart idea and the two decks really encourage the in-person social aspect. The set also includes two digital code cards that you can redeem to get each deck in Magic Arena – which is an incredibly handy resource for learning the rules – so you can teach yourself while playing online if you can’t get a local game going.
Start playing Yu-Gi-Oh!
After the unfortunate passing of Kazuki Takahashi earlier this year, I sat down and binged the Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duelist manga. I’d never given it a proper read and had a great time with it – great enough that it made me curious about looking into the trading card game, something I haven’t touched for almost two decades.
If it’s also been a while between games, or you want to ease into playing, don’t stress, because there’s a dedicated game mode for you. Speed Duels is an alternate version of the main Yu-Gi-Oh card game, which, as its name suggests, is designed to be played quickly with a simplified rule set and smaller decks. It’s a nice way to teach yourself the basic rules before graduating into the traditional Master Duel style.
This Speed Duel box set includes eight ready-to-play decks based on the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX series, along with 23 additional Common cards and eight Secret Rares. With this, you’ll have a pool of about 200 cards to use if you want to start making custom decks, plus the multiple decks make it a great option if you want to get some friends onboard too.
Similar to both Pokémon and Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! has its own free-to-play online game, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel. If you want to teach yourself the modern rule set and strengthen those tactical muscles in-between matches with your friends or local game nights, Master Duel is a good way to learn the game.
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