A Basic Introduction to Magic the Gathering

I got into Magic during my senior year of High School. I had a friend who taught me Magic, while I taught him Yugioh. He gave me a mono-red aggro deck, and I gave him an Ancient Gear deck. My Magic playgroup vastly expanded when I got to college. I played Legacy for the longest time, using the decks built with the cards I had lying around. As I played more and more I began to get into the various formats. Anyway, as you already know I draft fairly regularly at this point. In addition I’m still struggling to make a standard deck that I like without spending too much. Anyway, let’s get the introduction rolling.

Goal in Magic

In Magic, you win the game by reducing your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0. To do so you use the following types of cards to battle your opponent:

  • Creatures
  • Planeswalkers
  • Enchantments
  • Artifacts
  • Instants
  • Sorcery
  • Lands

Card Design in Magic

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This is an example of a Creature in Magic. Creatures act as the troops you summon to reduce your opponent’s life total by attacking them. In Magic the cards cost mana to play. To acquire mana you need to generate it using Land cards.

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Land cards are tapped (turned sideways) to generate mana for the player to use while casting their spells. All cards while being played are treated as spells. The player can only play 1 land each turn also. This means that powerful spells cannot be played until the player has placed enough lands on their side of the field to tap for the right amount of mana. For example to cast the card I posted above (Elvish Mystic) it would require 1 mana to play.

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The creatures in Magic can also have effects (usually in the form of keywords). Using the Stormtide Leviathan as an example you can see it has the word “Islandwalk” in its text. This is a keyword that allows the creature to dodge the creatures the opponent has if they control an Island. However, this card has an additional effect that turns all lands in play into Islands. This means that it always can apply its Islandwalk ability when attacking.

So how does attacking work? Well similar to lands, you tap creatures to either use their effects or to attack (For example you can tap the Elvish Mystic to generate 1 green mana). However, in Magic each creature (unless it has the keyword Haste) suffers from Summoning Sickness. This mechanic prevents it can being tapped for its effects or to attack during the turn it is cast. This means that once you play the Stormtide Leviathan you cannot attack with it until the next turn.

The other cards work in the same manner.

Sorcery

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A sorcery is a spell you can play only on your turn. Sorcery can apply a myriad of effects. Sorcery cards go to the graveyard after they resolve usually.

Instants

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An instant is a spell you can cast on your opponent’s turn if you can pay its mana cost. Instants also usually go to the graveyard when they resolve.

Enchantments and Artifacts

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Both Enchantments and Artifacts apply an effect while they stay on the field unless they are destroyed. This card is an example of hybrid card that’s both an artifact and an enchantment.

Planeswalkers

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Planeswalkers are difficult to explain at first. They act like additional entities on the side of the player who casts them. When the player is choosing how they’re attacking they can choose to attack the Planeswalker instead of the player. To kill a planeswalker you have to reduce the number in the bottom right corner of the card. The player who cast the planeswalker can change this number by using the planewalker’s effects.

Combat

When you attack in Magic you always attack the player, not their creatures. The defending player has the option to block attacks using their own creatures or choose to take the attacks directly. Also all of the attacks are launched at once not one at a time.

So that more or less sums up the basics of Magic. I could go into greater details, but I think this is good for now. You can find the full rules for Magic here. I talk about Magic on this blog frequently so I’ll bring it up again soon enough. Thanks for reading.

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