I first began playing Magic: the Gathering after one of my father's coworkers introduced him to the game in 1991-2. Travelling to a local game store (Barbarian Books), I purchased one expansion pack of cards, and found the game quite immersive; the early artwork which decorated the cards was very well drawn compared with the graphics that are common today. In the first days of Magic, Wizards of the Coast did not own the images which appeared on their cards, but now they only use pictures which they have purchased exclusive rights to. This action, which I recall occuring in one of the expansion packs in the 1994s, was marked by a dramatic decline in art quality; today's (fifth edition) decks look more like poor Saturday morning cartoons than the works of art which they used to be. The game, however, is still quite excellent, although there are now books published which give you an easy way to cook up polished decks, and special starter decks made up of sets of cards used in some of the major Magic Tournaments. WotC has also offered a simplified version of the game called Portal for sale. The rulebooks of today have been improved greatly compared to what they used to be, and WotC has a telephone number that you can call for free (except for long distance charges) whenever you have a problem with the rules.
My current collection includes cards from many of the expansion sets available, and consists of three padded boxes and a 8-1/2 by 11 binder filled with some of my rare and uncommon cards. I usually try to play only with cards which are commons due to a painful incident which one of my friends experienced that transformed a $500 card into a $20 card over the course of several games which we played on rough surfaces. Today, I have taken the additional precaution of enclosing even my common cards in plastic sleeves, although this makes it almost impossible to shuffle them. Usually I end up dealing them into five or so piles and interleave the lands and spells after I finish a game to prevent disaster situations such as the "blocked with land" syndrome.
I have always tuned my own decks and have so far managed to avoid reading the Magic cookbooks which I mentioned earlier in order to keep my knowledge of the newer expansion sets as low as possible; I think that half the fun of the game is discovering the bizzare cards which your opponent has gathered in your absence. I would advise new deck tuners to do the same, as the cheat-books are rather expensive, and I would say that the money is better spent on cards themselves. The best way to learn new tricks is to have them done to you, as a painful loss due to a new combination of effects sticks in the mind much better that advice from a book.
Some Deck-Tuning Advice.
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