BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Toys & Games

The best Magic: The Gathering deck

Which Magic: The Gathering decks are best?

If you’re interested in Magic: The Gathering, but feeling overwhelmed or intimidated about where to start, you’re probably not alone. The first Magic: The Gathering cards were printed in 1993 and the game has grown in popularity ever since. The growing library now has over 20,000 cards. Luckily, game maker Wizards of the Coast has created numerous starter decks that make it easy to learn how to play. 

If you’re looking for a good deck to start with, the Core Set 2020 Spellslinger Starter Kit includes both an angel-themed and dragon-themed deck.

What to know before you buy a Magic: The Gathering deck

How to play Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering, also known as Magic, can be a relatively complex game. You’ll be in a good position to get started by learning the basics. Magic is typically played with a deck of around 60 cards, roughly 20 of which will be “land” cards. Land cards are the backbone of any Magic deck, as they produce “mana,” which is necessary to cast the other spells in your deck.

  • Each turn starts with the “untap” and “upkeep” phases, in which you untap your cards from the previous turn. 
  • You then draw a card from the top of your deck and enter your first “main phase.” 
  • During your first main phase, you can choose to play a land card from your hand. You may also play any cards that have a casting cost equal to or lesser than your available mana.
  • Once you’re done with your first main phase, you enter the combat phase. During combat, you can attack your opponent with the creatures you have on the field. It’s important to remember; most creatures can’t attack the first turn they’re cast.
  • After your combat phase, there is an additional main phase where you can once again play cards from your hand.

Most starter decks include instruction booklets that help you play through your first couple of games and better understand the mechanics of your new deck.

Abilities in Magic: The Gathering

There are numerous abilities in Magic: The Gathering, but some are more common than others. Many cards have static abilities, which are abilities that are always-on and don’t require an activation cost.

In addition to static abilities, some cards have triggered abilities that activate according to a specific scenario laid out in the card’s rules text. For example, triggered abilities might activate when a creature enters the battlefield or when you draw a card. Other cards have activated abilities that might require you to pay mana, discard cards or tap your creature to activate.

Magic: the Gathering accessories

Many Magic players like to have a 20-sided die to keep track of their life total, but you may also want to pick up dice to keep track of things like +1/+1 counters and creature tokens. You’ll likely want to put your cards in sleeves to keep them from getting damaged and may want to buy a deck box to make your deck easier to pack around with you.

What to look for in a quality Magic: The Gathering deck

A good win condition

The most important part of your deck is your “win-con,” or how you intend to win the game. Some decks may be designed to play powerful creatures that can overpower your opponent’s creatures, give your opponent 10 “infect tokens” or use cards like Laboratory Maniac that have their own win conditions printed on the card.

A reasonable mana curve

Your deck’s mana curve is essentially the balance of casting costs in your deck. If you build a deck that only has cards that cost one or two mana to play, you’ll essentially be able to play any card in your deck early in the game, but your opponent may be able to overpower you with cards that have higher casting costs later in the game. On the other hand, if every card in your deck costs six or seven mana, you won’t likely be able to do anything on turns one through five. Having a deck with a good ratio of lower and higher casting costs is an excellent way to ensure your deck is competitive.

Speed in Magic: The Gathering

Speed is an essential factor in winning games. The speed of your deck will be impacted by things like the casting costs of the cards. In general, if your deck contains several cards with high casting costs, you’ll likely want to add cards that let you play extra lands or create additional mana so you can play those cards as early as possible.

How much you can expect to spend on a Magic deck

The cost of a deck depends on its popularity and the number of included accessories. Starter decks are usually $20-$50.

Magic: The Gathering deck FAQ

How do I improve my deck?

A. The best way to improve your deck is to play it often and make note of the ways you win and lose the game. When you lose consistently, think about why you lost and buy cards to prevent that from happening in the future.

Where can I play Magic: The Gathering?

A. Outside of playing with friends and family, your local game stores likely host tournaments and other Magic events. Attend one of these to meet new players and develop new strategies.

What’s the best Magic: The Gathering deck to buy?

Top Magic: The Gathering deck

Core Set 2020 Spellslinger Starter Kit 

What you need to know: This kit includes two different decks to choose from, making it perfect if both you and a friend want to learn to play.

What you’ll love: Choose from two different decks with two of the game’s most powerful creature types — angels and dragons. Includes two 20-sided dice, two quick-start guides and a rule book to help you get started.

What you should consider: The included Magic: The Gathering Arena code is hit and miss.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Magic: The Gathering deck for the money

Rowan, Fearless Sparkmage Planeswalker Deck

What you need to know: This fun red and white deck allows you to use the power of a planeswalker to overpower your opponent.

What you’ll love: Rowan’s powerful final ability lets you take control of all of your opponent’s creatures until the end of your turn. This deck is a fun introduction to the game’s planeswalker mechanics.

What you should consider: The Rowan Planeswalker deck doesn’t include dice or accessories.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Liliana, Death Mage Planeswalker Deck

What you need to know: This black deck lets you use your graveyard against your opponent.

What you’ll love: The Death Mage Planeswalker Deck includes a Lilliana planeswalker card with powerful abilities. The starter deck has creatures with powerful static abilities such as death touch, which allows them to destroy other creatures regardless of the amount of damage they deal toward them.

What you should consider: Several reviews state the deck arrived damaged.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: