Magic: the Gathering – How does it work?

First off: I am pretty sure that you guys are tired of tournament reports, so I will be moving away from them soon I think. If you guys really love reading about our adventures, I can continue posting about my cube drafts.  I know that this post is going to be rather… obvious for most of you, but I am writing for those who have heard of the game, maybe have even heard me prattling on about some fantasy rubbish and are somewhat curious about what it’s all about.

Magic is a collectible trading card game published by Wizards of the Coast, these are the same people that produce Dungeons and Dragons and some other TCG (trading card game) called Deckmasters which is apparently very popular overseas. The overall idea behind the game is that you and your opponent are locked within a Wizards’ Duel and are trying to best your enemy. You can do this a number of ways: You can reduce your opponent to 0 life. You can poison your opponent 10 times. You can force your opponent to draw a card after their library is empty.

The anatomy of a magic card:
First, one sees the name of the card, this is in the top bar. Next to the name, is the mana cost. This Goblin Piker costs 1 colorless and 1 red mana to cast. Under the art is the card’s type- Creature and subtype – Goblin. Next to that is is the expansion symbol, in this case, it is a common from M12. The large box on bottom is the rules box, and this is where any abilities would be listed, Goblin Piker does not have any. It does however, have flavor text, which is the italics in the rules box. Then, since this is a creature, in the bottom right hand is the creature’s power and toughness, which I will talk about below.

There are several types of cards split into two categories: permanent and non-permament.
I will be first talking about permaments. Permaments are cards that once they are played, hang out on the battlefield and have an effect on the board.
Land: You can only play one land per turn. Lands produce mana. Mana comes in 6 varieites: red, blue, green, white, black, and colorless. Mana is the fuel that you use to cast spells and use some abilities. Each color stands for something. white is the color of righteousness and light. Black is the color of corruption and death. Red is the power of fire, and is governed by passion. Blue is the color of intellect and is governed by the mind. Green embraces the wild and is goverened by the natural world.
Artifact:  An artifact is an artificial construction that has some effect on the game. The usually only cost colorless mana, so that any mage has a chance to use them in their deck.
Creature: A creature is a monster that you summon to do battle with your opponent. The creatures attack value and defensive value (power and toughness) are located in the bottom right corner of the card. If a creature takes lethal damage, is destroyed, or has its toughness reduced to 0, it is sent to the graveyard.
Enchantment: An enchantment is a permanent that functions similarly to an artifact but is color-specific. They can also be attached to creatures.
Planeswalker: Finally, the most complicated permament type is the planeswalker. These function by adding or removing loyalty counters to use their abilities. You cannot remove more loyalty counters than the ‘walker has. When a ‘walker reaches 0 loyalty counters, it is put into the graveyard. Each planeswalker enters the battlefield with the number of loyalty counters in the lower right hand corner.

Now its time for the not so permament cards!
Sorcery:

Sorcery: Sorceries are cast, do their thing, then are immediately put into the grave yard. You can only play a corcery during your two main phases.
Instant: An instant is a sorcery that can be played at any time. This includes during your opponents turn, in response to a spell or ability, or in the middle of combat.

So, now that you have a basic idea of the flavor behind the game, here is how you get started.
1. Each player shuffles his/her 60 card decks.
2. Decide who is going first (usually a die roll or a coin toss).
3. Each player then draws 7 cards, and decides if they are interested in mulliganing, throwing away the current hand and drawing one less than they currently have.
4. Play begins: A turn progresses as such:

  • Untap: Your cards are spent by tapping them. You do this to attack or to use a “tap ability.” This portion of your turn lets you unspend your cards for the new turn.
  • Upkeep: Various things happen here. They only happen if a card specifically says as such.
  • Draw: You card a card for the turn.
  • Main Phase 1: You can cast Sorceries, Creatures, Artifacts, and Planeswalkers. This is when you can play a land for the turn.
  • Combat! This is when you can attack your opponent or your opponent’s planeswalkers. The combat step is broken down into smaller bits.
    A: Declare attackers, you say who you’re attacking, and what creatures you use to do so.
    B: Declare Blockers, this is where the defending players decide how they want to intercept your
    creature with their creature.
    C: Combat Damage, this is where the attackers and blockers actually hit each other.
    D: Clean Up, anything dealt lethal damage is sent to the graveyard.
  • Main Phase 2: See Main Phase 1.
  • End. This is where damage is removed from creatures and end of turn effects cease.

Well, that about wraps it up for the basic magic tutorial. There are many effects on many different cards and it would take too long to explain everything (the comprehensive rules of magic are very long and no one should ever read them unless they want to be serious about the game). Cards with abilities often have reminder text to tell the player what it does. Once you understand the turn progression and the types of cards, the game explains itself. Follow the directions of the card and you will do fine.

For people just starting to play, I recommend buying the intro decks from the 2012 core set and then working their way up from there.

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~ by Andrew Couture on January 9, 2012.

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