How to Choose a Tarot Deck for Beginners

April 6, 2020

How to Choose a Tarot Deck for Beginners | Happy As Annie

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If you want to start reading tarot, you’ll need a deck. There are so many out there though! What’s the best tarot deck for beginners?

Here are four simple suggestions for finding the perfect beginner’s tarot deck for you.

Tip #1: Just get the Rider-Waite deck.

Back in college, I got my then-boyfriend a harmonica one Christmas. He had mentioned he wanted one, so I went to Guitar Center and asked the guy behind the glass case of about a dozen harmonicas, all tuned to different musical keys,  which one I should get. He picked one out and said, “This one’s in G. It’s my favorite.” So I said, “Alright, G it is. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Since my then-boyfriend had no idea what he was doing, I threw in a copy of Harmonica for Dummies and called it a day. The book, however, assumed your harmonica was in the key of C (the standard, default musical key). Not G. So the book meant nothing to my then-boyfriend, which meant the harmonica was completely useless, and our relationship ended soon after that.

My point is that you want to start with the most basic, default iteration of something that can get real fancy and real complicated real fast. When it comes to Tarot, I say start with the classic Rider-Waite tarot deck. It is the equivalent of the key of C for tarot. (You thought that ex-boyfriend story had no point, didn’t you? How dare you doubt me.)

Thus, it is the perfect tarot deck for beginners.

The classic Rider-Waite tarot deck is a great deck for beginners.

Also known simply as the Rider deck, the Rider-Waite deck is one of the earliest and certainly the most popular tarot deck upon which all modern tarot decks are based. This means that nearly all websites, tarot dictionaries, and guide books will refer to the Rider-Waite tarot deck when explaining the meaning of each card.

So, choosing the Rider-Waite deck as your beginner’s tarot deck will be extremely convenient and educational.

Tip #2: If you hate the Rider-Waite deck, consider a close parallel. 

The Rider-Waite deck is old. This means that its imagery is steeped in gender binaries,  heteronormativity, and Judeo-Christian imagery. If this sounds way too traditional and patriarchal and offensive to your sensibilities, I understand. There are other decks that are close enough in their imagery to the Rider-Waite deck to make them great tarot decks for beginners.

For instance, I’m obsessed with the new Modern Witch Tarot Deck. It is a more inclusive, modernized, millennial-friendly spin on the classic Rider-Waite deck. Because it is a close parallel to the Rider-Waite deck, it is a really cool and fun tarot deck for beginners.

Take a look at the comparisons below. The traditional Rider-Waite deck is on the left, and the Modern Witch deck’s analog for each card is on the right.

The Modern Witch Tarot Deck is a fresh, multicultural, more inclusive, and millennial-friendly update to the classic Rider-Waite tarot deck.

The Modern Witch Tarot Deck is a fresh, multicultural, more inclusive, and millennial-friendly update to the classic Rider-Waite tarot deck.

Once you have mastered the imagery of the cards, you can branch out to a more modern or minimalist deck because you’ll already know that the 3 of Swords means heartache or pain and you won’t need the quite literal photo of three swords stabbing into a heart to remind you.

Tip #3: Fine, get an artsy deck. Just make sure it comes with a guidebook.

The reason behind Tips 1 and 2 for finding the perfect tarot deck for beginners is purely practical. If you are just starting out reading tarot, you will be looking up a lot of things. I want your searches to be fruitful. So, if all of those sources are referring to certain imagery, I want your cards to contain that imagery so you’re not confused.

However, if you are called to a really beautiful deck that’s modern or minimalist, or really stylized or Game of Thrones-themed, that’s okay too! After all, tarot emphasizes feeling and intuition more than memorizing esoteric laws.

Wild Unknown Tarot Deck and Guidebook

I would just suggest, though, that you get a deck that comes with a guidebook. Many of them do. At least that way you’ll have something specific to your deck to help you out at first.

Although I don’t own it, I know the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck, pictured above, is a popular deck. It’s quite different from the Rider-Waite but it comes with its own guidebook and lots of people love it.

Tip #4: Make sure you are getting a tarot deck, not an oracle deck.

Last but not least, if you do decide to branch out and get a novelty deck, just make sure that it is in fact a tarot deck and not an oracle deck or something else entirely.

Tarot decks have 78 cards: 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards (14 each of 4 suits).

Oracle decks, angel cards, affirmation cards, and all sorts of other cool but non-tarot decks also exist. So just be careful that you are in fact getting a tarot deck.

Your tarot cards are an extension of yourself.

Tarot cards are a valuable self-discovery tool. They help you dive into your psyche, connect with your deepest desires and fears, and make better decisions. In other words, the tarot cards aren’t giving you any answers. You are giving yourself answers. The cards just act as a medium or go-between to help us put our answers into more accessible terms.

So, at the end of the day, you could make any tarot deck work as long as you tune in and follow your gut.


Let me know which beginner’s tarot deck you decide to get, and if you have any more questions about getting started!

1 Comment

  • Reply How to Cleanse Tarot Cards - Break In New Tarot Cards - Happy as Annie May 6, 2020 at 10:39 am

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