Book Review: “Magic The Gathering Strategy for Beginners” by Alexander Norland
Who knew there were so many books about games and this hobby we love? I didn’t but I’m so glad I found out.
Okay, so this needs a little bit of backstory. In order to understand why I am reviewing this book you need to understand three things.
The first is that I am on a quest the understand the world famous game “Magic the Gathering”. So far it is fairly alien to me and, as a game blogger, I feel I need to have at least some grasp of the game. You can read my first article about the game here.
Secondly, at the end of last year I grew addicted to Audible. My commute to work increased around a year ago. This is a review of the audible book, and subsequently the narration there of.
Thirdly, I’ve never reviewed a book before, not properly at least, so let’s see how this goes.
The Magic the Gathering Strategy Guide for Beginners is, to be blunt, exactly that. It is a clear and concise guide to strategy, covering the basic elements of the game and going into detail of the kinds of decks that a player can play.
Only 27 minutes in length, this book is more of an essay, designed to touch on the different aspects of the game in a bite-sized chunk. Since I like listening to Audible through my car radio on my way to work, this was the perfect length for the commute, covering the whole subject in a clear and concise way.
In the essay/book (which only cost me around £3 on Audible), Alexander Norland discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each type of play, different concepts for decks, and the benefits of each strategy.
There are three main deck types that Norland explores in the Magic The Gathering Strategy Guide for Beginners. These are Aggro decks (early game decks), Control decks (late game decks) and Combo decks (decks that use different cards to benefit one another).
The audio book was narrated by Alex Lancer, who does a superb job with a very British accent. His voice actually reminded me of Alexander Siddig (when he played Dr Julian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and added a real clarity to the material.
As I mentioned, the book cost me £3.89 on Audible, it is free on Kindle, or the 28-page paperback is £13.48. Personally, I would recommend the audio book, if only for Alex Lancer, who does a fantastic job narrating.
Although the paperback is phenomenally expensive, I would recommend reading/listening to Magic the Gathering Strategy Guide for Beginners whether a magic fan or not.
I am a fan of the Game of Thrones LCG by Fantasy Flight, and I have to admit I found this book rewarding, even though I don’t know a huge amount about Magic the Gathering. The whole concept of each deck, seeing how each deck plays (Aggro, Combo, or Control) taught me a lot about how to perceive card games in general. There are so many lessons that can be taken away and applied to other card games, not just Magic the Gathering. For instance, it is easy to see a Greyjoy Aggro deck, or a Lannister Control deck, or a Baratheon Combo deck.
Thinking this way seems to transform how card games, in particular, can be seen and add a new level of strategy to them that seemed inaccessible before.
The book is, in my opinion, a little short. In fact, as I have already said, it isn’t really a book. It is an essay that happens to be split into two to four minute chapters. These are easily accessible and, to be frank, I can’t imagine it as much longer due to the nature of the content without it becoming more than just a beginner’s guide.
Alexander Norland does a great job at keeping the subject matter engaging, on track, and targeted at his beginner audience. This, for someone who was completely new to the game, was valuable.
On an almost (but not quite) unrelated note, one thing that did make me chuckle is that the publisher must have insisted on a disclaimer at the end of the book. Alex Lancer spends a good couple of minutes exploring how the book should not be taken as medical advice and that you should always seek a doctor rather than take advice from a book alone. It’s a book on MtG – I’m not taking it into surgery. The publisher kind of dropped the ball on that, but it is amusing nonetheless.
I’m going to have to come up with a way of rating things properly as, at the moment, none of my reviews have numerical rating systems on them. That being said, I did hear about a guy recently who only asks one question when he wants to review films – did he enjoy it?
In that vein, I’m going to ask three questions.
- Do I regret spending £3.89 for the audio book?Even though it was only 27 minutes long, I do not regret spending money on the book. It was an interesting introduction and I would recommend it.
- Did I come out the other side feeling like it had bettered my experience of the game? Yes, I believe it did. It helped me get my head around different styles of deck building, no matter whether in MtG (hey, look at me, using the lingo now) or in other card games. This meant that I was always listening and trying to imagine how it would apply to other games. It was a really interesting experience.
- Would I recommend the book?Not on paperback – because £2.08 per page is a bit ridiculous; however, I would wholeheartedly recommend it on Audible, especially for those of us who are new to the world of Magic the Gathering.
Awesome. Alexander Norland wrote a series of these essays which I am now working my way through, and I’ll write reviews as and when – all in the name of discovering this gaming world of Magic.
In the meantime, can you recommend me any books about gaming which may be interesting? Which books do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.
Well I think if you want to understand M:TG the best way is to jump in and play 🙂 Be warned it is one of the most addicting games out there though. I started playing it from the very very beginning, got totally out a couple times, came back to it, and have finally kicked the habit for good. I think.
If you know someone who plays they would be happy to set you up with a deck and play you. Or nowadays you can buy the pre-constructed decks; get yourself two of those and a buddy and go to town. But tread carefully, for it’s a long and expensive road… 😉
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I’m almost daunted by it at the moment. I bought the starter decks a few weeks ago, but all I know is the legendary status that surrounds the game, as such, I still haven’t played it! It feels like a giant monster to tame.
Thanks for the advice! I shall tread as carefully as I can!