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30 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Magic: The Gathering Basics

For decades, the MTG trading card game has delighted fans (a nice way to phrase "nerds"). With its addictive formula, we're always striving to nab that rare foil card or find a new strategy to improve our deck.

But with variety comes complexity, and with complexity comes questions. Many casual players understandably have lots of queries about the game and its numerous rules. To help alleviate some of the headaches, here are 30 quick answers to some of the most asked Magic: The Gathering questions!

Magic: The Gathering logo

Magic: The Gathering logo

"What" Questions

1. What is Magic: The Gathering?

MTG is arguably the world's most prominent trading card game, rivaled by Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. Players assemble their own custom decks and play in a variety of formats; to the hardcore enthusiast, half the fun comes from meticulously arranging your build to optimize your combos.

2. What Magic color should I use?

It depends on how you want your deck to work. Here's a quick rundown of the colors.

  • Blue is good for control and countering (negation).
  • Green is known for mana ramp and big creatures.
  • White is good for life gain and equipment.
  • Black is great for debuffs and forced discards.
  • Red is known for hasty creatures (often with trample and first strike).

3. What Magic cards are worth money?

The most valuable in terms of price is the famous (and banned) Black Lotus, but in terms of deck construction, pick a strategy and find cards that build on it. Also note that some platforms (Untap, MTG online, etc.) can let you play without having to buy physical cards.

Most sets in standard are legal (it's individual cards that can be banned) with the exception of the wonky expansions like the Unhinged set.

5. What Magic deck is best?

Hard to give a concise answer here. I can tell you red/white blends do well in standard, while blue and green rule in commander. Check out some of the best commanders here to get a feel for some of the top decks.

6. What Magic cards are valuable?

Usually, the older the better. Legendary cards and planeswalkers tend to be more rare and thus more valued. Be sure to keep your cards in good condition; even rare creatures lose almost all monetary worth if poorly maintained.

7. What is Magic: The Gathering Origins?

This was Magic's 17th set, and at the time of release, it was thought to be the last core set. Luckily, that wasn't the case, and the game's still going strong with over twenty million players. The set heavily featured double-sided cards with the "transform" ability.

Friday Night Magic

Friday Night Magic

"Where" Questions

8. Where was Magic: The Gathering created?

Creator Richard Garfield first began work on the game while exploring a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. A prime knowledge of mathematics helps when painstakingly crafting and balancing any card game.

9. Where are Magic cards in Wal-Mart?

Most retail stores have a small section devoted to trading card games. It could be near the book section or toys, but is typically near the front of the store; ask an employee if you need help. GameStop and other video game shops also tend to carry Magic products.

10. Where can I play Magic?

Many local gaming stores participate in Friday Night Magic, a weekly event for Magic players to socialize. Beyond that, Untap and MTG online let you play whenever you want from the comfort of your own home.

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Magic vs Yu-Gi-Oh

Magic vs Yu-Gi-Oh

"Why" Questions

11. Why is Magic better than Yu-Gi-Oh?

Each game has its strengths; I love me some Yu-Gi-Oh, but many fans will tell you that the different mana costs of Magic cards allow for better balance and resource accumulation. But this is a subjective question, and you could argue either way.

12. Why was Magic created?

After being inspired by the board game Cosmic Encounters, Richard Garfield saw the potential of a customizable game since it would change with each game, adding more variety. Eventually, Magic was born, and the rest is history.

13. Why is Magic good?

It offers several different formats, is easy to play in multiplayer (something Yu-Gi-Oh struggles with), has thousands of cards to pick from, and the cards display some fantastic artwork.

14. Why is Magic bad?

I love Magic, but no game is perfect. The cards can be expensive, the rules take time to learn, some cards that need to be banned are surprisingly unrestricted, and new releases mean constantly having to tweak your deck (although you could argue that's a good thing).

Fan-made Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader card

Fan-made Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader card

"How" Questions

15. How do you play Magic: The Gathering?

For beginners, I'd recommend watching a tutorial or having an experienced player help you, but basically the game boils down to playing land cards to tap for mana and spending that mana to cast "spells" (cards). The converted mana cost of a card can be found by adding together the symbols in its upper-right corner.

16. How many Magic cards are there?

As of this writing, there are more than fifteen thousand, and the number is always increasing. If you count reprints and alternate artwork renditions, it's even higher.

17. How many cards can I place in a deck?

For standard format, decks are made of 60 cards; in commander, it's 100. Standard allows up to four copies of each card and commander allows only one, with basic lands being the unrestricted exception. Make sure to match the lands you use with the mana requirements of your spell; green cards need Forests, white need Plains, black need Swamps, red need Mountains, and blue need Islands.

18. How do you draft in Magic?

Drafting is a fun and comparatively inexpensive format that also requires no prior deckbuilding. Players typically buy three boosters each and take turns picking a card from the booster while passing the remaining cards around, eventually forming a 40-card deck from their limited assortment. Give this unique playstyle a shot to experience a new improvised game while also collecting booster cards!

Ob Nixilis, The Fallen

Ob Nixilis, The Fallen

"Does" Questions

19. Does blocking tap my creatures?

No. This common misconception arises because only untapped creatures can block, but they don't actually tap from the act of blocking. In fact, crafty players can perform a "block-tap" by first declaring something as a blocker, then using its tap ability and getting the best of both worlds. However, attacking (sometimes called swinging) does indeed tap creatures.

20. Does playing a spell count as casting it?

No, some cards will let you "play a card" from your hand without having to pay its mana cost, but this will not activate effects that demand you cast it from your hand.

21. Do Planeswalkers follow the legend rule?

Basically, yes. Like legendary creatures, players can only control one of a planeswalker at a time; however, this also applies to planeswalkers sharing a base name. For example, Jace has several planeswalker editions, and although technically separate cards, you can only have one "Jace" out at once. That said, creature and legendary cards don't impact one another; an Ob Nixilis, the Fallen creature and Ob Nixilis, Reignited planeswalker can both exist at once.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

"Which" Questions

22. Which Magic: The Gathering creature is best?

I'm partial to Omnath, Locus of Mana, but ask twenty Magic players and you'll get twenty different answers. If we're talking banned cards, hard to beat the famous Eldrazi Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

23. Which Magic Sorcery is best?

I couldn't possibly pick just one. Check out my 10 favorite sorceries here!

24. Which online site should I use to play Magic?

For a completely-free experience that can also be used for other TCGs, go for Untap. For a more polished official site where you'll need to pay a small price, try MTGO.

A Magic card bundle

A Magic card bundle

Miscellaneous Questions

25. Is Magic: The Gathering Online free?

Not quite. As of this writing, registering an account, which you need to play, costs $9.99. From there, you can buy virtual tickets to increase your cards, but free-to-play players should be able to slowly expand their database through trades without having to shell out more money. Although you lose some face-to-face interaction, this is still far cheaper than collecting each and every paper card.

26. Is Magic satanic?

Oh boy. Unless you think including card types like "demon" is a form of support for Lucifer, then no, magic isn't secretly advocating the devil. Just play white angel monsters if you're really that worried; I'm sure it'll make a difference come judgment day.

27. Are Magic cards worth collecting?

Depends on your perspective. Many gain value over time if kept in peak condition. However, if you actually want to play with your cards, you'll inevitably accumulate some wear and tear. Collectors may need to either keep a second "play set" on hand or simply forgo playing their cards. Although they aren't allowed in official tournaments, your friends may allow proxy cards (self-made "cards" printed onto paper).

28. Will Magic ever end?

No. It'll consume our hearts, souls, and wallets in an eternal cycle of darkness.

29. Is Magic on PS4 or Xbox One?

Some games are, like the lukewarm Magic Duels: Origins, but not as many as PlayStation fans like myself would hope. There are also talks of a Magic MMO that might venture outside the trading card genre and offer a more Skyrim-like experience.

30. Are Magic cards expensive?

I won't lie; they often are, and this isn't a cheap hobby. Buying used cards can help, as can online media, proxies, card bundles, or generous friends who may loan you a deck.

Future of Magic the Gathering

As sets like the Ixalan expansion prove, Magic excels at introducing new cards while paying homage to old classics. As we eagerly await the future of the Magic universe, vote for your favorite MTG color and I'll see you at upcoming trading card countdowns!

Questions & Answers

Question: In Magic: The Gathering, f I attack with Ulamog’s Crusher (who has annihilator 2) and no blockers are declared, does my opponent still have to sacrifice two permanents?

Answer: Yes. Part of why annihilator is so deadly is that it triggers simply by swinging, regardless of whether blockers are used. Check out my Eldrazi countdown for more fierce annihilator ideas!

Question: What are some good choices for aggro tribal decks in Magic the Gathering?

Answer: Merfolk, wizard, zombie, and vampire-themed decks work well. For specific card recommendations, I'll eventually make countdowns of the best from each type; check out the strongest vampires here:

Question: In Magic: The Gathering, when using the Sorcery Card “Prey Upon," what does its effect mean? The card reads: Target creature you control fights target creature you don’t control (each deals damage equal to its power to the other).

Answer: Right, you pick one of your units to fight an opposing troop. This plays out essentially like one blocked the other in combat, as they each deal their power as damage to the other (potentially killing one or both).

However, remember that blocking in Magic is optional; thus, you can use the fight mechanic to force enemies to clash (useful for eliminating support units). Also, neither unit is tapped, letting you attack with your creature in the same turn if you like.

Question: If someone plays a spell targeting a creature and it gains protection, would any other effects on the sorcery happen?

Answer: Protection makes a creature immune to being targeted, but not actually to be destroyed by a certain color. Therefore, if you use a field-wise black spell that doesn't target, like Damnation, even creatures with protection to black will be destroyed.

So, it depends on your card's text and whether it targets or not.

© 2018 Jeremy Gill


Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on July 07, 2019:


Stampede's effect is referring specifically to colorless mana, so dinosaurs like "Raptor's Hatchling" who only have a single colorless slot don't receive the full discount.

Similarly, price-reductions on spells like "Baral, Chief of Compliance" only work with colorless slots. on July 04, 2019:

I have a red, green, and white dino deck with the card "knight of the stampede"

. It says dinosaur cards are(2) less. Does this mean 2 overall mana, or color less? Like if i have a 1 white 1 red dino card, it that a free play? Or does it mean if one is 2 colorless and 2 red, all i pay is the two red?

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