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Last updated on January 5, 2022

Cleaving Reaper - Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez

Cleaving Reaper | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez

Looking to give the gift of Magic to a beginner? Not sure where to start with the discontinuation of planeswalker decks and the recent move to EDH precons with each set? Then you might want to consider buying this special person an MTG Arena starter kit!

MTG Arena starter kits are a somewhat new product aimed at newer Magic players. It comes with two ready-to-play decks (for you and a friend) plus two promo codes so you can get the decks on Arena as well. They’re designed so that you and the person you’re teaching can immediately battle both online and IRL with pre-made decks.

Ready to dive into this product? Let’s go!

What is an MTG Arena Starter Kit?

Cyclone Summoner - Illustration by Andrey Kuzinskiy

Cyclone Summoner | Illustration by Andrey Kuzinskiy

Like I just said, the MTG Arena starter kit is a newer take on the classic starter deck model with the major twist being that it comes with two decks instead of one. There have been two Arena starter kits so far: one released on July 3, 2020 and the second was released on August 6, 2021.

The first release was mostly made up of cards from Core Set 2021 and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths while the second mixes cards from Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven, and Forgotten Realms. No future releases have been announced, but I’d expect one around fall 2022 if WotC continues making more of these.

One interesting bit of trivia about this product is that it was originally not intended as a for-sale product. You can read all about that here, but the short of it is that the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named ruined WotC’s plans for a new new player experience, so the product ended up being sold on Amazon instead of being held at local game stores.

MTG Arena Starter Kit vs. Other Precons

As someone who’s played Magic for 8 years, I’ve noted quite a few changes to beginner-aimed products over the years. Before I really played Magic I got a beginner-labeled product with Thorn Elemental and a bunch of terrible cards like Eager Cadet and Sacred Nectar. That product also came with a comic rulebook that showed an example game of Magic playing out in cartoon form with a slick suited man narrating a game between two newer players. You can watch someone open it here if your nostalgia has been piqued.

Structure Decks and Intro Packs

Dragon's Maze intro packs

Expert-labeled starter decks were unofficially referred to as “structure decks” and came with pre-built 75s usually themed around one core mechanic/archetype from a recent set. This eventually gave way to more beginner-focused “intro packs” which were also ready to play outside the box but generally less powerful and complicated than previous pre-built products.

These lasted until Kaladesh when “planeswalker decks” were introduced.

Planeswalker Decks

Core Set 2021 planeswalker decks

The first two planeswalker decks featured Nissa, Nature’s Artisan and Chandra, Pyrogenius as well as a few other Standard-legal cards you couldn’t get anywhere else. To balance this out WotC intentionally made all of these unique cards rather underpowered so that there would never be a bottleneck for tournament play from needing planeswalker deck-exclusive cards.

This product lasted until Zendikar Rising released when they were replaced with ready-to-play EDH decks that come out with each new set.

MTG Magic the Gathering Core Set 2021 M21 – All 5 Planeswalker Decks!
  • The Core 2021 set includes great new planeswalker cards like Teferi, as well as powerful reprints for both new and engaged players!
  • This listing includes all 5 Planeswalker decks.
  • Each deck has one 60-card deck, 1 Core 2021 booster pack, 1 MTG Arena code card, and more! This listing is for all 5 decks: 1 of each version.
  • Release Date: July 03 2020

Spellslinger Starter Kits

Core Set 2020 spellslinger starter kit

Another starter product that I haven’t mentioned yet is the “spellslinger starter kit” which is actually the spiritual predecessor to the MTG Arena starter kits. The primary difference between spellslinger and planeswalker decks is that the former came with two decks rather than just one.

This product debuted in October 2018 and had one other release in July 2019 before changing slightly into today’s offering. The main difference between spellslinger and Arena starter kits is the promo codes that let you download your starter decks on MTGA.

Sale
Magic: The Gathering Spellslinger Starter Kit Core Set 2020 (M20) | 2 Starter Decks | 2 Dice | 2 Learn to Play Guides
  • JUMP INTO MAGIC: THE GATHERING instantly with this two-player starter set.
  • WELCOME THE CHALLENGE. Magic: The Gathering is the deepest strategy card game there is, with endless challenges for new players and veterans alike.
  • PLAY FACE-TO-FACE OR DIGITAL with codes to unlock both decks on MTG ARENA.
  • JUST OPEN AND PLAY. Everything you need is in the box. Follow the quick start guide to learn as you play.
  • CHOOSE YOUR DECK. Pick the red deck to command ferocious dragons, or go with black/green and lead righteous angels into battle.

MTG Arena Starter Kits

MTG Arena 2021 starter kit

So your question now is probably ”where do Arena starter kits fit into this big beginner picture?”

It falls to this new product to teach new players Standard-friendly Magic with planeswalker decks gone. While Commander is a great format for players who aren’t particularly skilled yet, it’s still an awkward place to start Magic since it has a lot of quirks and differences from a normal 60/40 card experience.

Whether WotC sticks with Arena starter kits or introduces yet another line of starter products to address new incoming players is anyone’s guess!

Sale
Magic: The Gathering 2021 Arena Starter Kit | 2 Ready-to-Play Decks | MTG Arena Code Card
  • 2 ready-to-play 60-card Magic decks (basic lands included)
  • 1 traditional foil card in each deck—Mind Flayer & Oran-Rief Ooze (Amazon-only, foil cards are different in 2021 Arena Starter Kits found elsewhere)
  • 1 Play Guide booklet + 2 deck storage boxes
  • 1 MTG Arena Code Card to unlock both decks for two people to play online at MTG Arena
  • Game night for two—grab a friend and learn how to play Magic: The Gathering!

What Comes in an MTG Arena Starter Kit?

Both releases so far contain:

  • 2 ready-to-play 60 card decks of Standard-legal cards (1 foil each)
  • 2 first game walkthrough cards
  • 1 Play Guide booklet
  • 2 deck boxes
  • 1 MTG Arena deck code (2-use, unlocks both decks for two players)

The only difference between the two versions (other than the cards in the decks, of course) is that the older version included two spindown dice while the 2021 version doesn’t.

2021 MTG Arena Starter Kit Decklists

Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack is the nickname given to the Izzet () deck included in the most recent Arena starter kit. It’s a creature-heavy precon with a decent mana curve, a sprinkling of rares, and a few instants and sorceries to showcase game concepts like combat tricks, card draw, and removal. The bulk of gameplay between this deck and its counterpart is likely creature combat, which is ideal since that’s where all new players should start.

Mind Flayer and Cyclone Summoner will probably surprise newer players since their effects probably seem completely overpowered at first. This is a good teaching moment, so I think this deck plays well for someone’s first game of Magic.

Rough and Tumble

Rough and Tumble is the nickname given to Sneak Attack’s Golgari () counterpart. This precon has 24 creatures, 27 lands, and a few combat tricks and removal.

This seems to be the weaker of the two decks at first glance since the rares are generally a bit worse (Cleaving Reaper could not be more out of place) and hexproof from Cragplate Baloth seems somewhat wasted on newer players. Still, it’s close enough in structure to provide Sneak Attack’s player with a worthy opponent.

Is the MTG Arena Starter Kit Worth It?

Mind Flayer - Illustration by Daarken

Mind Flayer | Illustration by Daarken

No, the MTG Arena starter aren’t really worth it at all. An Arena starter kit currently costs around $15, but all of the rares cost less than $1 as singles and none of them are Constructed staples on MTG Arena. The commons and uncommons are 100% bulk prices, too. You can’t make any money “flipping” Arena starter kits.

You might want to buy this product as long as you’re buying it to battle with a new player who’s interested in the game. Having a lead-in to Arena is a major draw to this product over past editions since Arena has made Magic much more accessible for new players. Being able to battle in person and then take that experience online should make easing into both experiences more comfortable. Once your aspiring student gets their first taste of Magic, they can learn much more about the game through MTG Arena and even battle from their phones!

If you don’t need a paper aide to teach your friends Magic, there isn’t a lot to recommend about this product. I’d recommend buying the Commander precons for all but the newest players since they have much more in the way of value, exciting cards, and long-term playability.

But MTG Arena starter kits plus a Discord session or two running through some Arena games would be a great start to a true beginner’s Magical journey!

Do Codes in the Older MTG Arena Starter Kits Still Work?

Yes, the codes in older Arena starter kits should still work as long as they haven’t been used yet. If the code has a set expiration date you can read it on the code itself. Keep in mind that the raw wildcard value of these codes is fairly low for the box price so you’re better off just buying more gems if you’re trying to get some rares.

Wrap Up

Cragplate Baloth - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Cragplate Baloth | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Hopefully you enjoyed this brief writeup on Arena starter kits. What are your thoughts on this product? Have you bought it before, or are you thinking of buying it for a new player you know? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re trying to introduce a friend to wide world of digital Magic, make sure they’ve got Arena Tutor at the ready! It’ll help track their decks, offer advice and tips, plus some other powerful and useful tools to help them get the hang of everything.

Until next time, may the players you try to hook on Magic stay with it for years to come!

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