I spent about £30 on (IIRC) two Tournament Packs, and a pair of preconstructed decks, all from Onslaught, and used these, and some trading with people, to produce a pair of decks which have been winning most of the games I've played.
Okay, I'm not about to win a tournament with one, but I am beating decks Alex put together from rather more favouable circumstances.
It should probably be pointed out that my decks tend to be wacky, kooky, weird, or idiosyncratic, but not necessarily effective ;-) --AC
I've since noticed this effect, when playing against more highly tuned decks... (Hence generally with a fun inner combo, and so on, but less amusing randomness, which I like. cf MTG: Magnetic Web) I still beat them reasonably often, but I've been using something slightly more effective to do so. Just as fun, but admittedly not entry level. -- TheInquisitor
Admittedly, I was a new player only in the sense of not having any cards - I had played before years ago (and rather badly, having looked at the deck I used then), and a few times at GamesEvening since then, but still... I was completely out of date as regards /EnvironmentKnowledge (Madness? What's that?), and didn't have access to my old decks (I have since raided them, but didn't use all that much).
So, is £30 an unreasonable barrier to entry? Considering that I could have done the same for a single deck for about £15 to £20, I have to say that it's cheaper than most comparable hobbies. Certainly, it's comparable with non-collectable card games (Illuminati is retailing for £30 these days!) and board games (£30 gets you a fully functional two-player game, after all).
True, this would have worked less well if I'd not had a few people around to trade with - but that doesn't change my conclusion: The biggest barrier to entry is finding other people who already play, or are also starting.
That is to say, no worse than any other reasonably serious game.
TheInquisitor I find it curious that you're talking about entry into the game in terms of buying cards (although that's a perfectly sensible definotion for the Wizards' marketing department). The players I've introduced to the game tend to use my decks for quite a while before getting cards of their own (if they ever do). Of course this gives me an advantage in that they know very little about the deck I'm using but I know every card in it, conversely it gives me an opportunity to balence things by giving them a better deck than what the rest of the field is playing (assuming the rest of the field is low enough power for my upper end of decks to top it).
Yeah - we probably ought to refactor that into one of the sub-pages again. --Vitenka (cost to play is only one of the barriers)
On a side note - the preceived cost is a major barrier, perhaps moreso than the actual cost. And there's the players who know they're gonna drop a tonne of cash on the game if they start playing. Plus your method require a player to have more than one decent dack built at a time. (Which isn't that unusual, but neither is it always true.) --Vitenka (PPPPS. Playing draft is by far the most cost efficient way to start playing.)
A new player can play their deck against any number of highly-tuned decks, and still win sometimes. They don't have some "need" to know of every card ever printed. Once they've seen a given card that their friends / opponents play with, then they can look for ways to solve it. (Including asking other players what things will beat it, if necessary.) A lot of players enjoy seeing their opponents play with cards, mechanics, or combos that they haven't seen before. If a player doesn't enjoy that, they're free to go and read up on the existing cards.
Vitenka seems convinced that your MetaGame choices (what deck you choose to play) have far more impact on the game than your play inside the actual game. As may be seen on /GameVsMetagame, AlexChurchill partly disagrees. From a new player's perspective, though, presumably the important thing is how much fun they get from playing the combination of game and metagame. I find it very plausible that a proposed NewPlayer? might consider the game itself to be a bit straightforward, but really enjoy making MetaGame deck choices. So the existence of a metagame can't be a Barrier to NewPlayer?s in itself.
With all these said: it's clear that Vitenka hasn't changed his mind, despite having had these objections answered; and that he considers these "answers" not to deal with his objections. So I tentatively propose the following:
MagicTheGathering is rather different to other games, in ways which some people like and others don't. AlexChurchill, MoonShadow and TheInquisitor have found that their friends are happy to learn the game, and that they seem to enjoy it. So the /BarriersToNewPlayers obviously aren't insurmountable. But equally, like any other game, some people will find that they don't like the ways Magic differs from other games. As long as their dislike isn't based on genuine misunderstanding, then far be it from the Magic player to try to force them to play Magic against their will. A rather more fundamental barrier to new players - ChrisHowlett was in Ayr (his county town, reasonable size) for 3 hours today, and decided to pick up a tournament pack of 7th ed, and ferret through the odd commons box. This plan was thwarted by the complete lack of anywhere selling MtG. Although about 6 retailers did stock Pokemon and YuGiOh.
Maybe Wizard should make a Cartoon/[Anime]! That would boost Magic sells... Afterall, it works for inferior CCGs. I know I'm wading into a several-year-old debate here, but as a long-time non-player and now new player, I'm probably in a good position to comment on the /BarriersToNewPlayers. (Of course I realise that, given Alex's existing card collection, I'm in no position to comment on the financial barriers to new players, but I can comment on the psychological ones.) I always thought Magic was a game I could potentially like, but didn't get into it for three main reasons: 1) To me, the perceived potential fun of the game was mainly in deck-building (I had previously played maybe three games of it ever, with borrowed decks, and I wasn't particularly grabbed, but could see the appeal of constructing them myself). But I couldn't see how to get started without knowing far more than I had the capacity to invest in learning. 2) I felt I didn't have the mental stack space to cope with all these unfamiliar cards on the board which all had effects. In conventional games like PuertoRico, I go through a phase where I'm still learning what all the elements of the game do, and then a phase where I enjoy it and develop strategy; and I felt like in Magic I'd be stuck in phase 1 forever and never start enjoying it or getting good at it. 3) Too much randomness, with the whole deck thing. I don't like randomness.
And this is what I think of those points now: 1) Firstly, objection 1 is a different "encyclopaedic knowledge" objection from the "encyclopaedic knowledge" objection discussed earlier on this page. That one is the objection of the proto-Spike new player: "How can I win if I don't know all the cards my opponent might pull out on me?" But this is the objection of the proto-Johnny new player: "How can I build cool decks if I don't know what elements are available to me?" I don't much care if I win or lose as long as I see some cool interactions, whether played by me or my opponent. In a sense you almost want to lose; it's like the insult sword fighting in MonkeyIsland, where you're better placed to learn new tricks by losing to them, and then you learn responses to those tricks by trying them out yourself and seeing others' responses to them. Also, I figured out that you don't need to know everything that's out there to build a deck. It might not be a very good deck at first, but it's like writing: you don't need to be a brilliant writer to write, but writing is a good route to becoming a brilliant writer. Practically speaking, I got over the barrier by drafting. We drafted Champions of Kamigawa, and the set of cards I saw in the draft was just about small enough for me to wrap my brain around sufficiently well to build my first Limited deck. Then we did it again, then we added the rest of the block, and then I made an attempt at a Constructed deck, which was just an enhanced version of something that worked in one of my draft decks. Then we drafted Shadowmoor block, and I built a deck based on my Shadowmoor draft deck, and we drafted Lorwyn block, and about then the set of cards I'd been exposed to, in drafts and in the constructed decks played against me, had reached critical mass, so that I could come up with an idea for a deck that wasn't directly tied to any draft deck.
2) Playing Agricola and Dominion, which both have lots of cards which change every game, helped expand my mental stack space, and break down the strict division between the figuring-out and enjoying phases of a game. Repeated (and very much enjoyed) games of both of those was what made me say "well, maybe I could cope with Magic after all..."
3) Well ... there is too much randomness. I think I'd like it more without. (And I still have absolutely no interest in things like Planechase, which add extra randomness for no apparent benefit.) But I can see that there's skill and strategy in countering the randomness and cushioning yourself against its effects.
Objection (4), which I didn't realise before, was that the rules are insanely complex, and I can completely see that, in the absence of an expert, it could well "usually end up in arguments about the rules", which I'd find extremely frustrating. Luckily Alex knows the rules and is good at explaining them.
I conclude that the best situation for a new player to be in is to be the partner, housemate or close friend of a Rules Advisor who owns a metric bucketload of cards. --Rachael