Learning Magic From Dinosaurs In Ixalan

Come For The Dinosaurs, Stay For The Fun

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the dinosaur expansion for Magic was coming. There are lots of reasons to give Ixalan, the aforementioned Magic expansion with dinosaurs, a try. Magic is very easy to learn, the art on the cards is incredible, and it’s relatively inexpensive. I’m going to try and convince you personally to play, but you can also use this to convince someone else. There’s something for everyone to read here, or at least card are eye candy to ogle at.

Find Your Hook

For me, it was the dinosaurs. I like tabletop games already, but when I saw that amazing card art and I was sold. Obviously if you’re here at this website, you like dinosaurs too, but there are also pirates, vampires, and merfolk in this expansion. Additionally the theme of ‘magic’ is ever present for you Harry Potter fans out there. Maybe one of your friends plays Magic?

Easy To Learn

The gameplay is broken up into just five phases. You can either write them down real quick and take with you, or print out this picture to the right. It’s from the Magic official rules PDF. The order of the phases is very important to the game, so you’ll need to know the order. Below I give a quick synopsis of what each phase means in laymen terms.

  • Beginning Phase – Straighten your cards you used last turn. Whenever you ‘use’ a card, you ‘tap’ it by turning it sideways. Land, Creature, etc. Then you can draw your 1 card per turn.
  • Main Phase – Play your cards during this phase. Most importantly is placing your Land, which is your money. Other cards like Sorcery, Creature, or whatever come in this part also.
  • Combat Phase – Attack with available creatures.
  • Main Phase – Any additional Sorcery, Creature, etc cards you want to play.
  • End Phase – Nothing really happens mechanics wise in this phase. All your creatures heal, and the turn passes to the other player.

There are more rules, but this is the major core of the game. The rest is just little stuff you can pick up as you go. It’s really not worth going over every single rule because the little rules will change based on your opponent. The core above never do.

Check Out The Cards

All cards follow the same format, so after reading this you’ll know how to use any card.

  1. The white section shows you the card’s cost. In this case a total of 6. The little icons mean that it requires one each of those specific mana to cast, so in this case 2 red mana. The 4 means the the last four can be of any color.
  2. The red section tells you what kind of spell it is. This one is a creature, and a dinosaur. Others may be Sorcery or Instant or something else. This mainly tells you what phase you can use this card in. The overwhelming majority of cards get played during the Main Phase though.
  3. The blue section tells you what special things, if any, the card can do. You only have to pay attention to the normal text. So basically this card will hurt your opponent, when someone hurts it. Sweet. The italics are just little bits of story in them to go with the picture. This one kinda tells the whole Jurassic Park raptor story.
  4. Finally the green section only shows up on Creature cards. It tells you the Attack / Defense of the creature. How much damage it deals, and how much damage it can take. Whenever this card takes 4 or more damage, it dies. Pretty straightforward.

The rest of the card can be completely ignored. While it may look like a lot at first, it’s a very simple design if you know what to look for. Don’t let it stress you.

Magic Can Be Inexpensive

Magic is pretty cheap for a tabletop game. Events will run you $25, but you get $25 worth of cards every time. You take the cards with you after the event, and can use them for casual play outside of events. That’s a pretty sweet deal, even if you just want to collect them and put them in a binder to look at. Casual play is just sitting down with other players and going head to head. That’s free, and only costs you gas money to your local game store.

Magic Events

Events generally take place on Friday nights (Fright Night Magic or FNM) and Saturday mornings. There are three types of events, Sealed Deck, Booster Draft, and Constructed. I recommend you avoid constructed, as those require some experience with the game and might cost money to enter. Look for Sealed Deck or Booster Draft, these are $25 and $15 events respectively. Both are a lot of fun. The beauty of these types of events are that you can even do them at home with just your significant other, or with a small group of friends. Nothing special required!

Sealed Deck

Sealed Deck gets you 6 packs of cards. Then you open those packs and take the cards you get to make a deck right on the spot. It’s really fun to be forced to use only what you have on hand. The randomness helps level the playing field between veterans and new players, and lets you play some wacky card combos that you might not otherwise get to play.

Booster Draft

This format is just like Sealed Deck with a twist. You open each pack one at a time, and everyone picks one card out secretly. Then everyone passes their pack to the next person in a giant circle. You still end up with the same amount of cards, but there’s an added twist of secrecy, and you have a little more control over cards you want for your deck. You pass the packs along until all 6 packs are gone, then you make your decks just like Sealed.


You’re going to lose a lot initially. Every game has a learning curve. Don’t be afraid to tell your opponent that you’re new to the game and might need a little help. I haven’t met anyone yet that wasn’t understanding. Occasionally you’ll find that great player that will actually help you strategize how to beat them! These the people who you remember to play them again. Casual play in Magic has been very relaxed and friendly. At the end of every game people generally say ‘Good game’ and/or shake hands. Don’t be intimidated by the community! While Magic is mostly played by men, there are a lot of women that play as well. Initially I was going to miss the Ixalan pre-release events, but a last minute change of plans gave me the opportunity. I hadn’t played Magic in 10 years, but I had a great time anyway, losing and all. I hope you’ll give Ixalan a shot, and you have a great time too. Share your experience below!

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