What Decks Should You Have as a Beginner?

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I get this question a lot from new students and it makes sense. There are so many tarot decks out there and, for someone new to the game, this is massively overwhelming. I’m still overwhelmed by it and I’ve been reading for 18 years!

This all depends on which system you’re using, so if you’re reading with the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition stick in that realm first until you become proficient, and the same goes for the Marseilles or Thoth traditions as well. This way you won’t get confused when jumping between two of three schools of thought. Each branch of tarot has its own associations, meanings, and techniques. I highly recommend keeping it simple to start with so that you can get a solid foundation before experimenting in other tarot pastures.

Once you’ve decided which style of tarot you’d like to focus on I recommend getting two decks:

Your primary deck - the “old faithful” tarot you simply love. Choose something that jumps out to you and makes your heart sing. If you don’t love it, you won’t use it, and your tarot practice will be short-lived.

A secondary deck from the same tradition - i.e. if you get The Fountain Tarot, a deck based on the Rider-Waite-Smith, then do pick up a copy of that deck! Having the original at hand is a wonderful resource. If you don’t love the artwork or aren’t resonating with the Rider-Waite-Smith, then getting another deck is still advised, just make sure it’s structured similarly.

Why do this?

I’ve found that having a second deck to compare and contrast with your first is helpful for many reasons.

  1. If you’re stuck on a card you can look at another artist’s interpretation which can jumpstart your intuition.

  2. Looking at other versions of the same card can deepen your connection with it and stretch your intuition to new places.

  3. Some modern decks are more tenuously tied to the symbolism and meaning of the older decks. So someone who makes a Rider-Waite based deck might take creative license and, say, draw a choppy lake for the Three of Swords instead of the classic three swords piercing a red heart. Having the original deck allows you to reference these older images which were created specifically for divination. That is, you have much more of a sense for the cards meaning with the stabby heart than the choppy sea.

Gina WisotzkyComment