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How to Play Magic: The Gathering | A Beginner’s Guide

Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is not just a game; it’s a gateway to a vast, intricate world of strategy, fantasy, and competition. Since its inception in 1993, MTG has captivated millions with its unique blend of tactical play, collectible cards, and an ever-expanding universe. Whether you’re a newcomer looking to cast your first spell or a returning player brushing up on the basics, this guide will equip you with the foundational knowledge to jump into the world of MTG.

Understanding the Basics

The Objective: The primary goal in MTG is to reduce your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0. You can achieve this through spells, creatures, and other magical abilities.

The Cards: Cards are the core of the game, representing magical spells, creatures, lands, and other fantastical elements. They’re categorized into several types:

  • Lands: The mana resource used to cast spells.
  • Creatures: Allies that can attack your opponent and defend you from attacks.
  • Instants and Sorceries: Spells with immediate effects but do not remain on the battlefield.
  • Enchantments and Artifacts: Permanent spells with ongoing effects.
  • Planeswalkers: Powerful allies with multiple abilities.

Getting Started

  1. Building Your Deck: A standard MTG deck consists of 60 cards, with a mix of land and non-land cards. While there’s no one-size-fits-all ratio, a starting point is around 24 lands and 36 other spells. You can adjust based on your deck’s strategy.
  2. The Play Area: Set up your play area with spaces for your deck, graveyard (where discarded or destroyed cards go), and battlefield (where creatures, enchantments, and artifacts are played).

The Flow of the Game

MTG is played in turns, with each turn divided into several phases:

  • Untap Phase: Untap your tapped cards, making them ready to use again.
  • Upkeep Phase: Perform any start-of-turn effects.
  • Draw Phase: Draw a card from your deck.
  • Main Phase 1: Play lands, cast spells, and activate abilities. You can only play one land per turn.
  • Combat Phase: Attack with your creatures and use spells or abilities. The combat phase includes several steps:
    • Beginning of Combat
    • Declare Attackers
    • Declare Blockers
    • Combat Damage
    • End of Combat
  • Main Phase 2: A second chance to play lands and spells.
  • End Phase: Wrap up the turn, resolving end-of-turn effects and discarding to the maximum hand size if necessary.

Playing the Game

Casting Spells: To cast a spell, you must pay its mana cost by tapping lands for mana. The mana symbols in the top right corner of the card indicate the cost.

Attacking and Defending: During the combat phase, you can attack with your creatures. Your opponent can choose to block with their creatures. Unblocked creatures deal damage to your opponent.

Winning the Game: Reduce your opponent’s life total to 0, or meet other win conditions specified by certain cards.

Tips for Beginners

  • Learn the Colors: Magic’s five colors (White, Blue, Black, Red, Green) each have distinct themes and strategies. Explore each to find what suits your style.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Play as much as you can. Each game is a learning experience.
  • Explore Different Formats: Beyond Standard, there are formats like Commander, Draft, and Modern, each with its own rules and appeal.
  • Join the Community: MTG has a welcoming and vibrant community. Local game stores and online forums are great places to meet other players and learn.

Magic: The Gathering is a game of infinite possibilities and endless strategies. This guide scratches the surface of what’s possible in MTG. As you delve deeper, you’ll discover your own style, favorite cards, and unique way of playing. Welcome to the multiverse of Magic: The Gathering. Let your journey begin!





Born and raised in West Philadelphia. No relation. I'm a lifelong gamer and an avid movie-monger. My favorite thing in life is sharing Christ through my geeky fandoms.

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