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Magic: The Gathering (MTG) for Dummies

As an avid Magic player, I can't praise this game enough. From its complex mechanics to the beautiful card art, it's truly awesome.

What Is Magic: The Gathering?

Magic: The Gathering, also known as Magic or MTG, is not just a card game for teens; it is considered a critical thinking strategy game for all ages. In Magic, you are a wizard, or planeswalker, set out to destroy your opponent with items, spells, and fantasy creatures. It is also a trading card game, where players trade or battle for cards that they want for their own MTG deck.

Why Play?

Magic is a great way to pass the time and an even better way to start a game that everyone can enjoy. Though the thought of having fun is definitely a plus for playing Magic—it’s far from the only reason.

One of the best reasons to start collecting and playing Magic is for the joy of a quick buck. Magic cards can be worth a lot depending on their rarity and how they play during the game. You can also make money off Magic by playing in tournaments—which many of the best players do.

How the Colors Interact

How the Colors Interact

Starting a Magic Deck: The Basics

Most player’s decks are based off of a specific color; the colors all have certain meanings which will be explained in detail very soon. Another thing players take into consideration when building a deck is how much mana is needed and what they want their deck to be based on.

It is recommended to only use two colors in the beginning and keep the card number at the tournament to a minimum of 60 cards—for a better chance at picking the card that you’ll need.

Now for the colors: white, blue, red, green and black.

  • White is the color for justice and is generally used for restoring the lives of both creatures on the field and the player.
  • Blue is considered the color of wisdom because a player with a blue deck generally knows how to gain control and the upper hand. Their strongest strategy is stopping players from using their cards and letting their opponent steal their cards.
  • Red is considered the color of chaos and the planeswalker that uses red wants to win as quickly as possible with maximum damage.
  • Green is the color of nature, and a player using green focuses strongly on creatures and the force of mother nature.
  • Black is the color of ambition. Black decks have a lot of death within them; the player using black cards are willing to do anything to win a battle.

How to Play Magic: The Gathering

Now for the biggest and most important thing to understand if you plan on playing and not collecting — how to play! I would suggest practicing with friends before actually attempting to compete in a tournament unless it is a beginner’s tournament.

1) Pick the deck you’ll be using for the match; many players have multiple decks with different color combinations.

2) Shuffle your deck and collect seven cards. The rest of the deck becomes known as a library. If you don’t like your hand you can mulligan — shuffle your hand back into the deck and draw six cards instead of seven. You can continue doing this, drawing one less card each time, until you like your hand.

3) Thus begins the first phase. If it is the first round, skip this step: Untap all tapped permanents. No one casts spells or activates abilities.

  • Upkeep: If your card states that an ability will trigger “at the beginning of your upkeep” then allow abilities and instants to be played.
  • Beginning-of-Upkeep Abilities. This part of the turn is mentioned on a number of cards: If something is supposed to happen just once per turn, right at the beginning, an ability will trigger “at the beginning of your upkeep.” Players can cast instants and activate abilities.
  • The Draw Step: The player who goes first skips the draw step on his or her first turn. Players can then cast instants and activate abilities.

4) The first main phase. Cast any sorceries, instants, creatures, artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers; activate abilities; play a land—but remember you can only play one during the turn. The opponent can activate abilities and instants at this time.

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5) Beginning combat. Cast instants and activate abilities; your opponent will be trying to cast things that will prevent your creatures from attacking.

  • Attack. Decide what untapped creatures will attack and what will be attacked. Tap the attacking creatures.
  • Block. Your opponent decides which untapped creatures will block your attacking creatures, if there are multiple blockers for one creature order them to show which is first and so on.
  • Combat damage. Each attacking or blocking creature on the battlefield gives combat damage to the defending player, planeswalker, or creature if it wasn’t blocked. When attacking, if you’re blocked by multiple creature the combat damage is divided out (enough to kill the first, then so on and so forth. If an attacking creature is blocked by multiple creatures, you divide its combat damage among them by assigning at least enough damage to the first blocking creature in line to destroy it before assigning damage to the next one in line, and so on.
  • End of combat. Players can cast instants and activate abilities.

6) Second Main Phase: “You can cast every type of spell and activate abilities, but your opponent can only cast instants and activate abilities. You can play a land during this phase if you didn’t during your first main phase.”

7) Ending Phase: Abilities that trigger “at the beginning of your end step” go on the stack.

  • Cleanup. Discard your cards until your hand only holds seven. Damage on creatures is removed and any effects that are specific to the turn end. Nothing can be cast unless it is triggered for the end phase.

Things to Remember During Gameplay

The more powerful the spell, the more mana you need (that is, the more lands you need). The longer into the game you wait to play them, the more mana you will have to use them. Some spells also require the payment of additional resources, such as cards in play or life points. Some spells have effects that override normal game rules.

While your opponent is playing, if they attack and you cannot block them, then you begin to lose player life. You start off with 20. Whoever reaches zero first, loses the match. If a creature dies it is sent to the graveyard, and cards in the graveyard can only be resurrected if you have another card that says so. When you play a card, not only do you follow the effect it says but you can also attack with it.

© 2012 nightmarenyx


Arthur Marklen on April 08, 2018:

Like it. But what is trample ande energy counters?

Sam on April 17, 2014:

Very nice and simple guide! Would love in pdf or simple text form.

nightmarenyx (author) from Florida on January 17, 2013:

The only reason why I stated it as "Dummies" is because I wrote it as I was learning how to play. I assumed for those viewing this particular hub it would be due to the fact that they were beginning to learn how to play and for the most part knew what a stack was.

Entreri on December 11, 2012:

Not that informative, you used some keywords that people who don't play wouldn't know, such as the "stack" (set of abilities and spells that will resolve in a set order with the last activated first to resolve). Next time you call it for "dummies" make it a bit more basic.

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