How to Play Magic: The Gathering

Hi there. Jimmy here to walk you through your first game of Magic: The Gathering. The first thing you’re going to need is a deck. If you don’t have one, see if your local game store has a Welcome Deck.

Some stores offer them for free to new players. They come with two 30-card decks so you and a friend can learn to play. You can also pick up a Planeswalker Deck. A 60-card deck built around one of the many iconic characters in Magic.

You win a game of Magic by reducing your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0. And that’s usually done by attacking them with your creatures and using spells to make sure their creatures can’t attack you. To start a game, shuffle your decks and randomly decide who goes first.

Usually people roll dice. Draw a hand of 7 cards and whoever won the dice roll goes first. In a one-on-one match, the player who goes first doesn’t get to draw an additional card.

But every other turn starts with the player drawing the card. The first thing to play is a land. You get to play one land every turn.

Lands represent the mana you use to cast spells. Every spell you cast has a casting cost, which tells you the number and color of mana needed to cast them. This spell requires 1 white mana and 2 of any color. While this spell needed 2 green mana and 4 mana of any color. This line tells you what kind of spell you’re casting. Some spells stay on the battlefield, like creatures, artifacts, enchantments, Planeswalkers, and equipment.

Some spells, like instants and sorceries, have an effect and then go to your graveyard. To cast any of these spells, you use your lands for mana. To use your lands, you turn them sideways, or tap them. Tapping is very important because it shows the card has been used for the turn.

At the beginning of your next turn, before you draw a card, you’ll untap all of your tapped cards. On your turn you can cast spells before and after combat. These two main casting phases of your turn are when you get to play a land that adds mana, summon creatures to fight for you, or use other kinds of spells. One type of spell, called an Instant, can be cast at any time. Such as during combat or even during your opponent’s turn. So, think of your turn this way Your turn starts and you get to untap your cards and draw a new card for the turn.

You can then play anything you have the mana to play. Then you can attack your opponent with any creatures you have. Then you can play any more spells you have the mana to play. Your turn ends and then your opponent’s turn begins. There’s no difference between the main phases that happen before and after combat.

You can even wait to play your land until after combat if you prefer. Now let’s talk about what happens during combat. Because the goal of Magic is to reduce your opponent’s life total to 0, creatures you control will only attack your opponent. Normally creatures will never attack another creature, although there are some advanced spells that allow this to happen. In combat you declare any creatures you want to attack your opponent by tapping those creatures.

Remember, a tapped creature can’t block when your opponent attacks you. Also creatures can’t attack the turn they are played, because newly cast creatures suffer from Summoning Sickness. After you decide which creatures are going to attack your opponent then gets to choose which creatures the block with, and who blocks who. Then damage happens all at once. This is a creature’s power. Creatures deal damage equal to their power during combat.

This is a creature’s toughness. If a creature takes as much damage as its toughness, it dies. If a creature isn’t blocked, that damage goes to the player. All creatures that were damaged, but not killed, heal back to full toughness at the end of each player’s turn. Alright, let’s look at an example. This is also a great opportunity to show you how instants work.

Say I’m attacking with a Runeclaw Bear. And my opponent chooses to block with a Summit Prowler. Normally my creature would die. But I have Ornamental Courage in my hand, which is an Instant. At any point during the Combat Phase I can play this Instant. I pay the casting cost and cast Ornamental Courage on my Runeclaw Bear once my opponent has chosen their blocker.

Now my creature has 3 power and 5 toughness, which should be enough to turn the tides. But then my opponent plays Highspire Infusion on their Summit Prowler. Another Instant, in response. Your opponent can respond with their own Instants if they have the mana to play them.

Now their creature has 7 power and 6 toughness. My Runeclaw Bear still dies. Once combat and your two main casting phases are over you pass the turn to your opponent. And those are the basics of play. Every Magic card is different and affects the game in different ways.

Each card also explains what it does. Take a look at Serra Angel. It has Flying and Vigilance and the reminder text explains what those words mean. If you’re ever not sure what a card does, you can visit gatherer.wizards.com and search for that card for its full rules.

Now that you know the basics, get out there and challenge your friend to a duel.