Tutorial Tuesday – How to play Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering is one of the earliest Trading Card Games and arguably the largest one to date.

This tutorial will cover the very basics of Modern Magic: The Gathering playing including card types, order of play, and basic game mechanics.

There is a simple concept that is very important when it comes to MTG, the rules apply unless a cards say otherwise (this is very important to remember).

There are a few ways to win the game. There is the obvious, deplete your oponnents life from its starting value of 20 to 0. At the beginning of a player’s turn, that player must draw a card, if they are unable, that player loses the game. And then there are cards like Laboratory Manniac that have specific circumstances that cause a player to win or lose the game.

Game Concepts

There are a number of basic Game Concepts that are vital for play Magic: The Gathering. In this Tutorial, we’ll be covering Mana, Casting, Tapping, Attacking, and Blocking.

Tapping is the act of depleting a card of the ability to perform different actions. This is usually represented in some way by turning the card from portrait to landscape. Tapping can be used as a cost for different spells and abilities, and is also used to declare an attacker. Untapping is the act of reversing tapping by turning tapped cards from landscape to portrait.

Mana is the essence in which a player pays for spells and abilities. Certain cards can add mana to your mana pool by tapping or other means. If a spell has a mana cost, it can be found in the top-right corner of its card, that amount of mana must be paid for that spell to be cast.

Casting is the act of putting a card onto the battlefield by paying its mana cost.

Attacking your opponent is attempting to deal combat damage to them. You attack your opponent by declaring your attacking creatures and tapping those creatures.

Blocking is using your own creatures to counter the damage of your opponent’s attacking creatures. A blocking creature may block only one attacking creature at a time but an attacking creature may be blocked by any number of blocking creatures.

Card types

Magic: The Gathering has 5 colours (white, black, red, green, and blue) and 6 types of cards that each pertain to a single or multiple of these colours. These card types are: Lands, Creatures, Instants, Sorceries, Enchantments, and Artefacts (Cards display “Artifact” due to their American origin).

Lands are very simple, you can play one each turn within your main phase, and they can be tapped (turning a card from portrait to landscape) for the type of mana that they display. Mana is basically the value that you pay to play cards. For example, if a card requires 3 Mana, then you will need to tap lands or acquire mana in other ways to add up to 3 Mana in order to play that card. Mana can either be colourless, or can pertain to a particular colour (cards generally require a combination of these), any colourless mana cost can be paid for by any colour of mana. Each of these colours has a corresponding basic land (Plains, Swamp, Mountain, Forrest, and Island).

Basic Lands:

Creatures are your basic means of attacking and defending, you can summon as many as you want during your main phase as long as you can pay the cost. There are 4 main attributes that every creature has: Colour, Mana Cost, Power, and Toughness. The colour of the creature is determined by what colour Mana is in the Mana Cost, this is usually reflected in the border of the card. The mana cost of a creature is displayed at the top-right corner of its card, you need to pay this mana cost in order to summon this creature. The Power of a creature is the amount of combat damage it can deal under normal circumstances. The Toughness of a creature is how much damage it can take under normal circumstances, if its toughness reaches 0, that creatures is destroyed and is sent to the graveyard. Creatures can also have different attributes and passive and active abilities that I will go into in more advanced tutorials.

Basic Creatures (colloquial unofficial name):

Instants and Sorceries and are your basic spells that can be cast for the effects displayed in their cards. Just like Creatures, they require a certain mana cost to be paid in order to “cast” them. Basically, once they are cast, their effect comes into play. The only difference between the two is that Sorceries may be played during its owners Main Phase, whereas Instants can be played at any time as a response to anything. When spells are cast, they go onto “The Stack”, at this point, any player may respond with any number of instants they can afford and then the spells resolve in order of play from most recently played. Unless the effects of an Instant or Sorcery state otherwise, once it has resolved, the card is sent to the graveyard.

Enchantments and Artefacts (Artifacts) are somewhat special in that they remain on the field and often have continuing passive effects. Artefacts are played on their own and remain on the field without need of other cards. Enchantments however, must enchant a specific thing (whether it be a creature, land, player, etc.) if specified. If the thing that you have enchanted leaves play (is destroyed, sent to the graveyard, or exiled), then that enchantment is sent to the graveyard.

Getting Started

At the beginning of the game, each player will shuffle their deck, and in competitive play between two players, opposing players will split each other’s decks, if you’re playing casually, you can go ahead and skip that step if you want. Afterwards, you’ll draw your starting hand of 7 cards from the top of your deck. Each player will then choose whether or not they would like to keep their hand or take a mulligan. A mulligan is the act of shuffling your hand back into your deck and re-drawing a starting hand of one less card, this process can be repeated as many times as a player likes. There is also a casual variant of the mulligan called a “free mulligan”, in most casual tournaments, players are allowed to take one free mulligan which is mulliganing without drawing one less card. By a decision-making process between you and your opponent (die roll, coin flip etc.), decide who chooses who takes the first turn. The person they choose then takes the first turn. The only difference between the first turn and all other turns is the player who takes the first turn does not draw a card on that first turn.

Order of Play.

Each turn is split up into 5 phases. The Upkeep, precombat Main Phase, Combat Phase, postcombat Main Phase, and End Phase. During the Upkeep, the active player draws a card, and untaps all cards on their side of the battlefield. During the Main Phase, the active player may play any cards that he/she has the mana to play. During the combat phase, the active players declares attackers (attacking creatures), the other player then declares blockers (blocking creatures) on attackers, and combat damage is dealt between attackers and blockers. After the Combat Phase, another Main Phase occurs and then the End Phase which is basically just for cleanup (resolving any effects that lasted for the turn etc.)

I hope you’ve found this useful, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below. You can find the full comprehensive rule list here. Check back next Tuesday for more Tutorials.

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