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Is The Rider Waite Tarot Deck Good For Beginners?

    It’s hard knowing what Tarot deck to pick as a beginner. With so many options available, you quickly get overwhelmed. The Rider Waite Tarot decks are well-known, and there are many reference books and sites to help you.

    As a general rule, the Rider Waite Tarot deck (also called RWS) is an excellent option for beginners. The cards have scenery images and titles, which makes them easier to decode. There are lots of reference books and sites available as well. This makes the deck an excellent choice for a beginner.

    The Rider Waite Tarot deck is the gold standard of the Tarot. The Rider Waite symbolism and structure are used as a reference in most decks. Of course, not all, but most of them. If you learn the Rider Waite card meanings, you will have one leg up if you want to branch out and use other decks in the future. 


    The Rider Waite Tarot deck is an excellent choice for beginners as it is the backbone of most tarot systems. If you can read the Rider White Tarot card meanings, you can read a myriad of other decks as well.

    The Rider Waite deck is a good framework, so when you try other decks, you’ll understand their meaning right away. Many deck creators model their designs after the Rider Waite deck.

    The cards have scenery, numbers, and text. This makes it easier to see what the cards are. With too detailed and busy imagery, it is hard for a beginner to decode the card.

    The symbolism in each card is universal (at least for us in the Western world). We can intuitively decode the meanings as the symbols are a part of our cultural heritage. Most cards do not even need interpretation from a reference book. But of course, most of us start with a bit of help from books or sites. 

    In the example below, you see four different decks, all based on the Rider Waite system. The one to the left is the Rider Waite deck. 

    The Rider Waite deck is clear and easy to understand as the scenery is scaled down. The other decks are gorgeous; I love them all, but more complex and more challenging for a beginner to use.

    As you see, the Rider Waite deck is very straightforward with the telling scenery and prominent wands. The other decks are harder to decode if you’re a beginner. By learning the Rider Waite deck, you learn Tarot overall. You can easily branch out to more visually complex decks, like the others on the picture,  when you know the basics. My Tarot teacher always told me; learn the rules before you break them. I think that’s very applicable to this situation as well.

    As a beginner, you must have great reference books available. This is how you learn the card meanings and primary card spreads. There are tons of literature, sites, and information about the Rider Waite deck. This makes it easy to find a book that speaks to you. 

    In the picture above you notice how easy it is to identify a Rider Waite tarot card. The suit of the card is easily seen in the illustration. The pentacle stands out in the imagery. The identity of the rider is also written in the text; Knight of Pentacles. Easy peasy. What is a bit harder though, is to know the meaning of the card. This is when you consult your reference book. 

    I always recommend the Rider Waite deck to beginners because many obstacles are removed when using cards that are easy to identify and have lots of reference material easily accessible at a price range that suits your personal budget.

    When you get more used to identification and meanings, you can always go with a more complex deck if you want to. Don’t rush the learning process, this is how you grow as a reader. Many readers use the Rider Waite deck all their lives.

    The Rider Waite Tarot deck is very great deck, and that’s why it has become the “standard” of the modern Tarot. 

    This is my favorite classical Rider Waite Tarot deck. It includes a beautiful booklet with card meanings, and the box is lovely. Click the picture or take a look at it here
    In this picture, you notice the benefits of the Rider Waite Tarot as a beginner. There are no unnecessary objects in the illustration.
    In this picture, you notice the benefits of the Rider Waite Tarot as a beginner. There are no unnecessary objects in the illustration.


    The Rider Waite deck is the most traditional as it is used as a reference for most other tarot creators. The Rider Waite deck is not the oldest out there, though. It was created in 1910 by Pamela Colman Smith and A. E. Waite, but it made the backbone of the modern Tarot. 

    The Rider Waite Tarot deck is a classic, and most people are familiar with it. When I read for clients, many ask for the deck as they are so used to it and don’t trust other decks. This is the deck you often see in movies and TV shows as well. No wonder many define “Tarot” as the Rider Waite Tarot. 


    There are alternatives to the classical Rider Waite Tarot deck if you are not attracted to it. There are variations of the original deck that is very beautiful. There are also great alternative decks that use the RWS system.

    These are my three recommendations and personal favorites. I use them all in my practice. As I haven’t used every deck out there, I decided to go with the ones I have tried and owned.


    1. Tarot Vintage
    2. Radiant Rider Waite Tarot
    3. Everyday Tarot Mini Tarot Deck


    The Tarot Vintage is a vintage-looking version of the original deck. It lacks vivid colors and is made to look worn. I love the deck as I’m a vintage lover myself. I placed in the first position due to the wonderful quality of the cards. This deck will give you years of reading. To make it easy for you, I added links to Amazon if you want to check them out.

    Vintage Tarot by Lo Scarebo


    The Radiant Rider Waite Tarot is the opposite of the Vintage Tarot. It has vivid and bright colors. This makes it easy for a beginner to tap into intuition. The colors of the RWS have symbolic meanings, and this deck is great if you want some extra help along the way. I placed it in the second position due to the card stock quality. I don’t think it is as great as in Tarot Vintage. But it is good, not just as good. 

    Radiant Rider Waite Tarot


    The Everyday Tarot Mini Tarot deck is just a lovely deck. It is scaled back and modern but still easy to read for a beginner. The booklet included is beneficial too. The size of the cards is a little smaller than usual. This makes them optimal for shuffling. They fit perfectly in your hands. The package is also a big plus. It’s easy to pop it into your handbag or pocket.

    Another great feature is the gold rim. It feels very luxurious to me. I placed it in third place due to the more abstract imagery. It might be a tad harder to decode as a beginner. 

    Everyday Tarot Mini Tarot deck by Birgit Esselmont and Eleanor Grosch
    To the left is Tarot Vintage, and to the right, Everyday Tarot. Notice the difference in details between the decks. The cards both depict the High Priestess.


    The Rider Waite Tarot deck is an excellent alternative for beginners as it is the gold standard of Tarot systems. Most tarot readers are familiar with the Rider Waite structure, and other deck creators also use the system. 

    Another important aspect is that it’s scaled down to the essentials. This makes it easy for the beginner reader to decode the card meaning. There’s not much fuss and mess, just a clear image with text or numbers. 

    There are tons of reference books and sites available it’s easy to find information about the cards. This might not be the case with other decks. 

    Finally, it is always a great idea to learn the basics before branching out. In this way, you have an easier way of being part of the conversation in the Tarot community. 

    With all this said, you should always pick a deck that resonates with you. If you can’t stand the old-fashioned Rider Waite deck, there is nothing wrong with going for another option. Always do you! 

    Sandra Törnroth

    Intuitive multi-modal tarot reader with a love for crystals and everything esoteric


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