Tarot can be an excellent learning tool about history and different occult practices, in addition to it's obvious use in divination. If you look at more "beginner" decks (like rider waite, although I'm not sure it's a deck exclusively for beginners, and more like it's just good for beginners to start with) the clear symbols and meanings in each card have a rich history in the occult, spirituality, paganism, mythology, astrology, etc etc... If you seriously decide to dissect each card to learn from it, you will learn a ton- even if it's not about your path. If you're a book worm - which, obviously I'm not *sarcasm* - it can be fun, and you can absorb information like a sponge. For example, Boaz and Joachim in the older high priestess cards; what do they mean, why are they even there...? Where does that veil lead, and why is she in front of it? Whats with the moon? (rhetorical questions, but my point is that basic questions like this can help you learn about things you never knew about older spiritual traditions and how magick had been historically done in different groups)
More modern decks that use the spirit of these cards, and have these meanings more subtlety (or not at all explicitly drawn in the cards) can be good because it forces you to understand your deck personally rather than these concrete meanings -which some people find obscure - and start relying on your intuition. I think this is what many people in the thread have been saying; to listen to the "voice behind the cards" which ultimately is your own voice coming to surface. Heck, you don't have to learn the history of the cards to do an accurate reading, if you:
-get to know your deck
-let the cards speak to you, and
-start learning to develop and trust your abilities...
That's my two cents *shrug*.
As far as I know, the Rider-Waite deck creation was the beginning of 'modern' tarot decks. There are many clones (with some variation) i existence today.
I don't think the RW deck is a beginner deck, although many new to tarot start out with it. Many long time and professional readers still like to use the RW deck. I also do not think the symbolism in other decks is more subtle than the RW. I like to use the Druidcraft deck. It is a RW clone, but with some differences. I'm not druid or wicca, but on the whole I like this deck.
I think the reader has to 'like' the Tarot deck in order to have good readings with them.