This beginner’s guide will cover the basics of Magic the Gathering such as card types, how to build a deck, how a players turn plays out and key terms you will find in the game.

So lets begin…

Card Types

This section gives a brief run-down of the card-types found in Magic: The Gathering.

Permanent

In Magic, Permanents are the cards that make the main stays of most decks. Since they do not disappear once their effect resolves, they can continue to affect the game. The five major types of permanents are:

Lands

Land cards are the main source of mana, which you need to play every other card in your deck. Unlike most other cards, lands are not considered Spells and they usually don’t have a colour, either. For example, a ‘Swamp’ produces black mana, but it doesn’t count as a black spell when you play it, and it isn’t a black permanent.

Once per turn, during your main phases, you can play a land. Lands have no casting cost; you simply put them into play. A typical land produces 1 point of mana of a certain colour when you tap it. The basic lands come in five types, matching the five colours of the game.

  • Forests produce green mana.
  • Islands produce blue mana.
  • Mountains produce red mana.
  • Plains produce white mana.
  • Swamps produce black mana.

There are many other types of lands, each with unique effects. Most are distinguished as “non-basic” lands, and a number of spells or effects may specify that they affect only basic or non-basic lands.

Creatures

creatures

Creature cards, once cast, stay in play until they die or are removed by some other effect. Normally creatures cannot attack or be tapped (in order to use an ability) on the turn they enter the battlefield. This is known as summoning sickness. Newly summoned creatures are, however, capable of defending (known as blocking). Summoning sickness lasts until the upkeep of your next turn after you played the creature. Creatures have attributes, abilities and type. Often, when building a deck, you will want to stick with a theme like “soldiers and humans” or “vampires”, etc and ‘type’ allows you to do that. There are also lots of cards that refer directly to creature type, so this is particularly important.

In terms of deck building, creatures have a number of attributes to consider. The most important of them are:

  • Casting Cost: This is the amount of mana you must pay in order to cast the spell. It is located at the top of the card, to the right of the name of the creature.
  • Power: Effectively the attack power of a creature. This is the amount of damage your creature inflicts on an opponent or an enemy creature when in combat.
  • Toughness: The defense of a creature. This is the amount of damage, via combat or a spell, an opponent must deal to your creature in order to destroy it. If the amount of damage it receives meets or exceeds its toughness, it is destroyed and sent to the graveyard. Damage to a creature accumulates throughout a player’s turn, but if this damage doesn’t meet or exceed that creature’s toughness, it is reduced to 0 at the end of the turn.

“For example; I attack with my 2/3 creature, my opponent blocks with his 0/4 creature. My creature has a power of 2, and so it deals 2 damage to my opponent’s creature. With a toughness of 4, my opponent’s creature is still 2 points of damage away from being destroyed. I am unable to deal that extra damage, so I decide to end my turn. As the turn ends, the 2 damage I have dealt to my opponent’s creature is removed. It is completely healthy once again and ready to take further damage!”

Another important factor to consider is a creature’s abilities. Many creatures have abilities to go along with their basic power and toughness. Abilities are too broad to explain in individual detail here (we will discuss this later), but are a key factor to look into when planning your deck.

Enchantments

enchantments

Enchantments are quite varied, so can be confusing to new players. For example, some enchantments just enter play on their own, while others must be attached to another card in play, like a land or a creature.

The types of enchantment are as follows:

Enchantment: This is the most common kind of enchantment. Once cast, it sits on the battlefield and can provide either a static effect or an activated effect.

Enchantment Aura: These enchantments must be attached to a permanent of a specific type, and are generally destroyed if the permanent they are enchanting is removed from the battlefield. Enchantment Auras come in the following varieties:

  • Enchant Creature: These are enchantments that come onto the battlefield by attaching to a creature that is already in play. The only basic restriction on these is that there must be a creature to attach them to; otherwise they will just go directly to the graveyard. These cards often give boosts to a creature’s power and/or toughness, or produce other effects such as the ability to gain life when damage is dealt.
  • Enchant Land: Similar to Enchant Creature, but these enchantments are specifically for lands. Most enchant land cards increase the mana produced by that land.
  • Enchant Artifact: There are very few Enchant Artifact cards, but they work in the same way as the others.
  • Enchant Player: These are relatively rare. These enchantments enchant a specific player, and only do things to that enchanted player.

Enchantments may produce a beneficial effect for you alone, or they may affect all the players in the game.

Artifacts

artifacts

Artifacts are machines, or weapons, or anything made of metal really. Originally, artifacts were distinguished by having a colourless mana cost, meaning you can pay its mana cost with any combination of mana and also making them “colourless” permanents. There are now coloured artifacts but the majority remain colourless. This means that, generally, artifacts can be added into a deck of any colour without having to worry about the type of mana required.

The Types of Artifacts are as follows:

  • Artifact: Like enchantments, these artifacts tend to just sit on the battlefield. They can have either static or activated abilities. Many artifacts may tap to produce certain effects, and can do this on the turn that they are played (they do not suffer summoning sickness).
  • Artifact Creature: A creature which is also an artifact! These cards count as both artifacts and creatures and therefore, unlike normal artifacts, still suffer from summoning sickness.
  • Artifact – Equipment: Like Enchantment Aura cards that enchant creatures, Equipment exists to add attributes and effects to your creatures. Unlike enchantment aura cards Equipment cards do not come into play enchanting a creature, and are not destroyed if the creature it is equipped to leaves play. Instead, equipment cards sits on the battlefield like any other Artifact until its “Equip” cost is paid, at which point its benefits are added to the equipped creature; if the creature dies, the equipment is simply unequipped, and may be equipped to another creature. You many only equip creatures that you control and you may only equip creatures at sorcery speed (during your main phases). You may also move an equipment card from one creature you control to another by paying it’s equip cost.

Planeswalkers

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Planeswalkers are considered to be permanents like any other, so cards that target permanents can still target them. They have a number on the lower right corner that represents their “loyalty counters,” which is their own unique resource and is essentially their life total. Most have 3 abilities (although some Planeswalkers have more), and each one either adds or reduces the number of loyalty counters they have as a cost to use it. If they are reduced to 0 loyalty counters, they are sent to the graveyard.

A few key things to note about Planeswalkers, because they are weird!

  • They are not creatures, so spells or abilities that damage creatures cannot target them.
  • They are not affected, by a losing-life effect as they have no life points. However, they are able to be targeted by spells and abilities that deal damage to a player’s life points.
  • They can only activate one of their abilities per turn, and it happens at sorcery speed.

Finally, when a player attacks an opponent that controls a Planeswalker, the attacking player may decide to direct their attack the Planeswalker instead of the player. The defending player may still block as per usual, but any damage that is not prevented reduces the Planeswalker’s loyalty counters instead of the player’s life.

Non-Permanent Cards

These are cards that generally, once cast, have a once-occurring effect and then go to the graveyard.

Sorceries & Instants

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Sorcery is a type of spell which can only be cast on your own turn, during the main phases. Once it is cast and the effect is resolved, the card is placed in the graveyard.

An Instant, on the other hand, can be cast on anyone’s turn, during any phase, as long as you have the mana to cast it. The two most basic (and important) uses of most instant cards are to interrupt an opponent’s action or to alter the state of combat. In most cases Instants can be played in reaction to any other spell, and are therefore generally considered to be the trickiest cards to play in the game. Like sorcery cards, once an instant card’s effect has resolved the card is placed in the graveyard.

Fast Effects & Effect Speed

A wide variety of Instant spells, creature abilities, active artifacts and enchantments can be used during almost any phase of your turn, or another player’s turn. Some fast effects are specific to one phase, like a spell that can only be played during combat, or a special ability that can only be triggered during your upkeep. This is usually stated clearly in the text of the card. Other fast effects are only played in response to a specific trigger, like a spell being cast, or a creature going into the Graveyard from play.

Instants and other fast effects “stack up” when they are being exchanged back and forth quickly. Once no more spells are played you resolve all the fast effects in reverse order, starting with the last one to be declared, and working back to the one that set it off.

Sorceries do not qualify as a fast effect. So if an opponent casts an Instant on your turn, during your main phase, you can’t react to it with a Sorcery the way you could with an Instant of your own. This is because the effects of all instants must be resolved before a Sorcery can be played.

If an instant is cast in response to a Sorcery or any other permanent spell type, the instants always resolve first, in the same last-in, first-out sequence.

There are some other effects which occur at instant speed, and can therefore be played during your opponents turns:

  • Tap Effects: Tapping a permanent in order to produce an effect happens at instant speed unless otherwise noted.
  • “Pay” effects: Permanents other than Planeswalkers with effects which ask you to pay life, mana, or any other cost happen at instant speed unless otherwise noted.
  • Mana Effects: Tapping land to produce mana happens at a speed beyond “instant”. Tapping mana cannot be interrupted in any way.

 

The Realm of Colour

MTG features five colours, each having different strengths and weaknesses. Many players find that they identify with the theme of a specific colour or two, and this is a great way to start building a deck. The first step is figuring out which colour suits your own play style.

Green, the Colour of Beasts

Generally considered to be the simplest among the colours, Green is best described by the term “Hulk Smash!” It is usually known for its ability to produce the most mana, through creatures which can tap for mana, and the ability to search one’s deck for land cards.

Other Pros: Producing many creatures to overwhelm with sheer number, survivability of creatures, enchantment and artifact destruction, cards which damage and destroy flying creatures and the ability to deal damage to players even if your creatures are blocked.

Cons: Green is generally the colour which lacks the most in flying creatures. Green has very few “control” cards (cards which allow you to destroy, remove, or otherwise impede your opponent’s creatures or spells). Green creatures often have some of the highest mana-costs.

Red, the Colour of Destruction

Known for its ability to output massive amounts of damage exceedingly quickly, red focuses on one-shot damage spells that can often greatly damage either creatures or players.

Other Pros: Red creatures often have Haste, and therefore can attack the turn that they are played. The mana-cost of most red creatures is very low. Red also is known for its ability to both momentarily steal creatures from opponents and to sacrifice creatures in order to deal damage to opponents, which can be a devastating combination. Finally, red cards often produce extra mana for a one-turn use.

Cons: Red has very little ability to draw extra cards, and because most red spells have such low costs you may often find yourself with one or no cards in your hand. Red creatures are usually quite weak, and can rarely fight against other creatures one on one.

Blue, the Colour of Shenanigans

The trickiest of all the colours, blue is best known for disruption and control of the field (by countering their spells, stealing their creatures, etc). Blue is also the colour best known for drawing extra cards, and having the most creatures with flying.

Other Pros: Many blue cards can force tap an opponents creatures or land to tap. Blue has the highest concentration of unblockable creatures as well.

Cons: Blue decks have very little ability to produce extra mana, and can often fall behind unless they control the battlefield effectively. Blue creature’s are notoriously fragile. Many Blue creature removal or disruption cards are only temporary.

White, the Colour of Judgement

White decks are best known for their ability to prevent combat, damage, and to remove cards from the game entirely (Even circumventing the graveyard). White is also known for having the most cards that gain the player life.

Other Pros: Cheap creatures with good abilities, powerful flying creatures, Anthem effects (cards that give all of your creatures a power and toughness increase). Field-wide destruction of creatures, including your own.

Cons: White has little card draw and relatively few creatures with high power and toughness. It also has almost no ability to produce extra mana, which means many of the higher costing creatures are hard to play.

Black, the Colour of Sacrifice

Black decks are best known for creature destruction, paying extra costs for powerful effects (i.e. paying life or sacrificing your own creatures for a benefit) and bringing creatures back from the graveyard to the battlefield.

Other Pros: Life drain, forcing opponents to discard cards, the ability to remove damage from your creatures, the ability to search your deck for any type of card.

Cons: Many of the best Black effects have very detrimental costs, so it’s possible to miscalculate and essentially defeat yourself. Many black cards require your opponents to be playing with more expensive creatures to be worth-while, therefore black can sometimes fall behind when dealing with swarms of small creatures.

 

What’s in a Deck?

Learn which cards, and how many of each, to include in your deck. The aim of this section is to enable a beginner to build their first deck.

Building a Deck

The standard minimum deck has sixty cards. You draw seven in your starting hand, then one new card every turn, barring extra card-drawing effects.

In the first five turns, you will see about 12 cards, which is a fifth of your deck if you stick to the minimum card count. If the game goes to 20 turns, you’ll have seen twice as many cards. The odds of getting a good combination increase when there aren’t as many cards to draw from. So, the plus side of a small deck is that it’s more concentrated and reliable. It functions more smoothly.

Mana

The first thing you need in a deck is a reliable source of mana. Without it, you can’t cast spells. The primary source of mana is usually land cards. One common rule of thumb when building a deck is to add in one land for every two non-land cards you put in. With roughly one third of your deck being lands, you usually draw enough of them to cast your spells.

Mana can also be generated by artifacts, creatures and a few other spells. A deck that includes many of those cards will either produce a quick abundance of mana (handy for casting really big spells) or can be built with a smaller percentage of land cards.

Casting Cost

Another factor to consider when building your first deck is the average casting cost of spells in your deck. Casting costs require you to spend a certain amount of coloured or colourless mana to put the card into play. Colourless mana costs can be paid using any colour of mana.

Cheap spells are easy to cast early in the game, but it can take quite a few turns to build up sufficient mana to cast the higher cost spells. Bigger casting costs usually represent more impressive effects. Later in the game, if you are only drawing one new card each turn, a big spell may provide a more significant advantage than a cheaper card.

If you have too many high-cost cards, it may take too long to get the right mana available, allowing a quicker deck to rapidly tear down your life total. Cards with a lot of colored mana requirements are also harder to cast.

Creatures

After mana, this is the most important type of card to ration into your deck. Creatures stay in play and can attack turn after turn, making them the primary form of offense and defense in most games. As a minimum, you need a way to fend off your opponent’s creatures, even if you plan on using other spells and effects to deal damage.

Combinations

Building a deck around a few themes often let’s you take advantage of combinations of cards that work really well together. This requires a lot of looking through cards, reading their abilities and effects, and considering how they might be used to best advantage. Some combos are really obvious. If you have an enchantment that makes all goblins more powerful, put it in a deck full of goblins to get the most of it. There are a lot of cards that specifically affect a certain type of creature, like goblins, so you can build an entire deck around them.

Every Little Helps

Sometimes you build a deck with a little bit of everything. This gives you ways of dealing with just about anything your opponent throws at you, and it makes you much harder to predict. You can also fill in the fringes of a strongly themed deck by trying to spot its weaknesses and adding cards that help to cover the gaps.

Pre-Constructed Decks

While building your own deck, and developing your own unique strategy, is one of the most engaging aspects of Magic: The Gathering there are a lot of new players who find that a little intimidating and would prefer to just dive right into the gameplay itself. Luckily, over the years, Wizards of the Coast has made it increasingly easy for those people to do so!

Wizards of the Coast now offer a few different styles of pre-constructed decks depending on the reason you want to buy them. Here’s a look at each type and what they bring to the table so to speak.

Duel Decks

duel deck

The MTG Duel Decks take some of the series’ iconic enemies and pit them directly against each other. These sets come with two 60 card, pre-constructed decks along with a beginners “Learn to Play” guide, a strategy insert for each deck, deck boxes and some tokens. As new sets are released and new strategies emerge WotC continues to produce these. A prime example of duel decks would be Elves vs. Goblins, where these age old enemies become the focal point for the decks… you take one, your buddy takes the other and then just that easily you have a game between you.

Each of these duel decks are fully synergized and allow you to try out two distinct strategies as well as providing you a starting point for further customization.

Intro Packs

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Every time a new expansion is released, a new batch of Intro Packs is right behind them. These are single 60 card decks used to highlight the new strategies and cards from the new set. They often have names like “Manipulative Monstrosities” or “Death Reaper” and introduce the new cards in an organized and easy to comprehend manner. They are almost always dual colour and focused on a very specific play-style.

These are great if you have friends who are already playing; you can just snatch one of these up and be able to have a fighting chance against a custom deck. This is much easier than trying to build a deck from scratch, but also very predictable as their contents are set in stone. Every “Psychic Labyrinth” White/Blue deck is identical, so it will be difficult to surprise any experienced players who will have more than likely already encountered this deck before.

Event Decks

event deck

The last of the pre-constructed decks are the Event Decks. Unlike the previous ones discussed, these are aimed at more experienced players and marketed to those who are interested in small tournament play.

They contain a sideboard, life counter, a strategy guide and a deck box in addition to a pre-constructed 60 card deck. The multi-colour decks contain the necessary lands, a few rares and a nice spread of commons and uncommons.

 

It’s just a phase?

How to play through a turn in Magic!

Each turn is divided up into several phases, which always happen in the same order. These phases are:

  • Untap
  • Upkeep
  • Draw
  • Main Phase (part one)
  • Combat (attack)
  • Main Phase (part two)
  • Discard (end step)

None of these phases are optional; they must all be run through every turn unless a card effect states otherwise. However, what is optional are some of the things which you do during each phase.

For example, you must untap during your untap step, you must draw during your draw step, and you must discard down to 7 cards during your End Step. All effects that occur during a specific phase must happen, unless they say that “you may” activate them. Everything else is optional. You don’t have to play land or creatures during main phases and you don’t have to attack during combat step.

During any phase in the game, once the player who’s turn it is takes an action, the other player may respond to them with “fast effects” and other activated abilities.

On to the phases:

Untap

Untap starts your turn. As the name implies, you untap all the cards you have in play, unless an effect prevents them from doing so. All the lands you tapped for mana, creatures that tapped to attack, everything is ready to be used again.

Upkeep

Upkeep is a phase just before you draw a new card. Some permanents in play may have costs or effects that can only be triggered during upkeep. A creature might require you to pay an upkeep cost to prevent it from leaving play, for instance.

Draw

Draw phase is when you normally draw a new card from your deck and add it to your hand. As mentioned previously, the draw phase is not optional. The reason it must occur, is that one of the ways you can lose a game of MTG is to “draw” a card when there are no cards left in your library.

Main Phase (part 1)

The Main Phase is divided into two parts, before and after Combat. If you don’t declare an attack, you just have one Main phase that turn. During your main phase you can put one land into play each turn. You can cast Sorceries, summon Creatures, and cast other Permanents. This is normally the only time those cards can be played.

Combat

Combat begins in your main phase when you declare an attack. Opponents have a chance to react to the declaration with fast effects. Then you declare which creatures are attacking, and tap them. Next, the defending player can assign his creatures to block your attacking creatures, if they are capable of doing so. Finally, combat is resolved as the creatures all deal their damage.

If a creature was blocked, it deals damage equal to its Power to the blocking creature, and takes damage equal to the blocker’s Power. If the damage is greater than a creature’s Toughness, the creature dies and is put into the owner’s Graveyard. An unblocked creature deals damage directly to your opponent.

Going into more detail, the Combat phase is broken up into 5 sections. It seems confusing at first, but it really isn’t. The five sections are:

  • Begin Combat Phase: Effects which specifically reference the beginning of the combat phase occur.
  • Declare attackers: During this step the player whose turn it is declares which creatures they will attack with this turn. Unless otherwise noted, the creatures which are chosen are turned on their side and are considered to be tapped and attacking. Now players have a chance to play fast effects.
  • Declare Blockers: The defending player choose which, if any, of their creatures will block the attacking creatures. Each creature may only block one creature, but many creatures may be assigned to block the same creature, in order to deal lethal damage. Now players may play fast effects.
  • Combat Damage Step: The attacking player decides how his creatures deal their damage to blocking creatures. The blocking player decides how his creatures deal their damage to attacking creatures. Creatures which were not blocked deal damage to the defending player. Important: All combat damage is dealt simultaneously. This means that all creatures which took lethal damage die at the exact same time. After damage is dealt, players can play fast effects.
  • End of Combat Phase: Effects which specifically reference the end of the combat phase occur.

Main Phase (part 2)

This phase is exactly the same as the first main phase, you can play creatures, the first land of a turn, or do anything else you could have done in main phase one. It is important to note that while it is a second main-phase, you cannot play a second land card unless another card allows you to do so. If you’ve not played your first land card of the turn, you can do it then.

End Phase (End Step & Clean-up)

This phase is the end of your turn. This is when end of turn effects take place, followed by ‘cleanup’ where damage and buffs are removed, following which, you must discard down to seven cards if you have more than seven in your hand. Discarded cards are put into the Graveyard. You cannot discard below 7 cards during this phase. You can however, choose which cards to discard down to 7.

 

Glossary of Terms

Useful Keywords

Deathtouch: If a creature with Deathtouch deals any amount of damage to another creature, that creature is destroyed. This does not apply if the creature is Indestructible or has Protection from the colour of the creature with Deathtouch.

Defender: Creatures with Defender simply cannot attack, they can only block.

First strike: Creatures with First Strike deal combat damage before creatures without First Strike. This means that if a creature with First Strike deals enough combat damage to another creature to destroy it, the other creature dies before it has a chance to deal damage to the creature with First Strike.

Double strike: Like First Strike, but simply better. Creatures with Double Strike deal damage twice, once before the opposing creature gets a chance (exactly like First Strike) and once after that. Therefore, if a creature with Double Strike cannot kill another creature with its first hit, both creatures then do damage to each other like they normally would afterwards.

Flash: Cards with Flash can be played at instant speed, no matter what its normal restrictions are. Therefore, Permanents and Sorcery spells which have Flash can be played any time, and not just on the main phase.

Flying: Creatures which have Flying can only be blocked by other creatures that have Flying or that have Reach.

Graveyard: Your discard pile holds all the instants and sorceries you’ve cast during the game, along with any permanents that get destroyed. Creatures go here when they die. If you discard cards from your hand, they also go into the Graveyard.

Hand: These are the cards in your hand are not in play, but there are effects that can target them, forcing you to discard, for instance, or allowing an opponent to look at them.

Haste: Creatures that have Haste can attack and tap to activate abilities the turn that you gain control of them. Normally this is prevented by Summoning Sickness, which Haste ignores.

Hexproof: Hexproof is an ability which can show up on nearly any type of permanent, and can even be provided to a Player. Any permanent or player which has Hexproof cannot be targeted by spells or abilities their opponents control. This means that the controller of the hexproof permanent can still make it stronger/affect it.

Indestructible: A permanent with indestructible cannot be destroyed. This includes effects that literally say “Destroy” and Damage which exceeds the creature’s toughness. Indestructible does nothing to prevent the card being “Removed from the Game,” having it’s toughness reduced to 0 and thusly being put into the graveyard, Sacrificed, or being countered and thusly put into the graveyard.

Intimidate: Creatures with Intimidate can only be blocked by creatures that share a colour with it, or artifact creatures.

Landwalk: Creatures with Landwalk can’t be blocked if an opponent controls a land card of the specific type of the mentioned Landwalk. For example, if a creature has Forestwalk and an opponent controls a forest, they cannot block that creature.

Library: Your deck of cards in Magic is referred to as the Library. You draw your initial hand of cards from here, and another card on the draw phase of your turn. Some cards will allow you to search your library, reveal cards from the top, shuffle it, put cards back into it, or otherwise affect the deck. If you run out of cards in your library and you are supposed to draw another card, you lose the game.

Lifelink: Permanents with Lifelink gain their controller life equal to the damage that they deal.

Protection: Protection is a keyword that always appears as “Protection from ____” when it appears on cards. The “____” represents what the card has protection from. A creature which has Protection from “____” can’t be targeted or blocked by anything that has the “____” quality. Also, it cannot be dealt any damage by a source with that quality.

For example, if a creature has “Protection from Red” that creature cannot be damaged, targeted, or blocked by any Red card of any kind. This counts even if the card is multi-colored and is only part-red. It is important to note that this applies to the controllers own cards and effects as well, so the creature’s controller would be equally unable to target/damage the creature with red cards.

Reach: Reach gives creatures without Flying the ability to block creatures which have Flying.

Shroud: Like Hexproof, except that the permanent cannot be targeted by a spell or ability from any player, including the player who controls the permanent.

Spells: Any card which you play from your hand, except for a land, counts as a spell. Spells can sometimes be countered as they are being cast, before they take effect. They may also trigger effects in other cards already in play. If the spell is a Permanent, it remains in effect once it resolves, and is no longer considered a spell. If it is an instant or sorcery, it is put into the Graveyard after it resolves.

Tapping & Untapping: A permanent card that stays in play once you cast it, normally enters the game untapped. Any exceptions will say otherwise in their text. An untapped card is placed face up in front of you. “Tapping a card” means to turn it on its side, usually in a clockwise direction. At the beginning of your turn, you have an “Untap” phase in which you turn any tapped cards upright again, this resets them, ready to be used again.

Lands tap to produce mana. A tapped land is spent, and cannot produce any more mana until it untaps again.

Creatures tap when you declare them as attackers during your turn. A tapped creature is unable to block on an opponent’s turn, when you are being attacked. Creatures with summoning sickness cannot tap or attack, but they can block.

Trample: Trample allows creatures to deal damage to an opponent’s life even if they are blocked. If a creature with Trample deals damage in excess of the blocking creature’s toughness, the excess damage can be dealt to an opponent directly.

Vigilance: Creatures with Vigilance do not have to tap in order to attack. This is particularly useful as you can attack and then block with the same creature when your opponent’s turn comes around.

Useful Terms Appearing on Cards

Exile: The official MTG word for removing a card from the game.

Fight: Two creatures deal damage to each other equal to their power, but not as part of the combat phase.

Regenerate: Creatures with Regenerate can remove all damage from themselves. While there is usually a cost associated with it (such as tapping and/ or paying mana), a creature which has been regenerated is removed from the current combat, tapped, and has all damage removed from it.

Sacrifice: An effect that puts a creature you control into the graveyard. The only person who can sacrifice a creature is the creature’s controller, although they can never do so unless an effect or card prompts them to.

Less-Basic Abilities

Annihilator: Appearing on cards in the form of Annihilator X, with X being a specific number, Annihilator forces the defending player to sacrifice X permanents on the battlefield each time a creature with Annihilator attacks them. So if I am attacked by a creature with Annihilator 2, I must sacrifice 2 permanents before I can even declare blockers. This is one of the most devastating abilities in MTG, and luckily it is mostly confined to a few ridiculously expensive to play creature cards.

Battle cry: When a creature with battle cry attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until the end of turn. That means that if I attack with 2 battle cry creatures and one normal creature, each battle cry creature would get +1/+0 and the normal creature would get +2/+0.

Bestow: Creatures that have Bestow can be played for either their normal cost, or their “Bestow Cost”. If you pay their Bestow cost, the creature comes into play as an enchant-creature enchantment and gives the enchanted creature a buff of some sort. If the enchanted creature is ever killed, the Bestow enchantment becomes its creature form automatically, instead of going to the graveyard like other enchantments.

Cipher: Sorcery or Instant cards that have Cipher are played as they normally would be, except once their effect resolves you have the opportunity to “encode” them onto a creature you control by exiling them from the game instead of putting them into the graveyard. When the encoded creature deals combat damage, you are able to play a copy of the “encoded” card for no mana cost. The creature remains encoded until it is removed from the battlefield in some way.

Detain: When you Detain a permanent, it cannot attack, block, or activate its abilities until your next turn.

Devotion: A card with Devotion has an effect related to the number of specific mana symbols among permanents you control. For example, a card with Devotion for red will have an effect related to the number of red mana symbols among your permanents. These effects vary from creature to creature, ranging from power/toughness boosts to one-shot effects that occur when the creature enters the battlefield.

Evolve: When another creature you control enters the battlefield and has a higher power and/ or toughness than a creature with Evolve, You may put a +1/+1 counter on that creature. (+1/+1 counters permanently affect the creature’s power and toughness unless they are removed or the creature is removed from the battlefield).

Exalted: When a creature attacks alone, it gains +1/+1 until the end of turn for each permanent you control with Exalted. The creature does not have to have Exalted to benefit from the effect, they only have to attack alone.

Extort: Whenever you play a spell, you may pay one black or white mana for each permanent you have on the field with Extort. You gain life equal to the amount of mana spent in this way.

Heroic: When the player controlling a creature with Heroic targets it with another spell, an effect happens. Many creatures with heroic get temporary or permanent boosts to their power and toughness, but the effects vary from drawing cards to forcing your opponents to sacrifice creatures.

Infect: Creatures with infect do not deal damage normally. Instead, they deal damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters (which permanently effect the creature’s power and toughness until the counters themselves or the creature is removed from the battlefield). They deal damage to players in the form of Poison Counters. If a player receives a total of 10 poison counters over the course of a game, they lose the game.

Monstrosity: Appears on creatures as “Monstrosity X” where X is a number. When the specified cost is paid, creatures with Monstrosity gain a number of +1/+1 counters equal to their monstrosity number. Monstrosity can only be activated on each creature once.

Scavenge: If a creature that has Scavenge is in the graveyard, during their main-phase its controller may pay the card’s Scavenge Cost. If they do, the card is exiled and they put a number of +1/+1 counters onto a creature they control equal to the Scavenge creature’s power.

Scry: Appears in the form Scry X, with X being a number. Scry lets you look at the top X cards of your library and put any number of them onto the bottom of your library in any order. You return the rest to the top of your library in any order.

Undying: If a creature with Undying has no +1/+1 counters on it when it is put into the graveyard, return it to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. This means that the card will basically return once after dying, and it will be stronger. It will not return again because if it dies while it has a +1/+1 counter on it, undying does not trigger.

Unleash: A player may choose to have a creature with unleash enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. If a creature with unleash has a +1/+1 counter on it, that creature cannot block.

Wither: This is exactly like Infect except it deals normal damage to players and -1/-1 counters to creatures.