Magic The Gathering Game Rules: How to Play It!

 Kevin Brown
  Dec 21, 2018

Magic The Gathering is a game with deep strategy, its beautiful worlds, and strong characters. To start the game each player needs a deck of at least 60 cards. Players start the game with 20 lives each. The objective of the game is to reduce your opponent’s life total to ‘0’.

Magic The Gathering

Magic The Gathering Rules:

You should first understand how to read Magic The Gathering cards. The following information is mentioned on every magic card:

  • Name: Each card possesses a specific name that acts as its identifier. There can be four copies of a card with the same name in many magic formats. Two cards with the same name always function similarly.
  • Mana cost: Mana is used to cast spells in Magic. Every spell card has certain mana cost mentioned in the upper right corner. For example, according to Serra Angel’s mana cost you need to pay three mana of any kind plus two white mana to cast it.
  • Type line: There are different kinds of cards in every deck, most basic ones are mentioned as follows:
    • Lands: land cards allow you to generate mana which is the magical energy you will need to cast spells and activate abilities. You are able to play one land during the main phase at each of your turns. To play the land card, place it in front of you on the battlefield. Your land cards untap (reset) at the beginning of each turn so that you can use them again. In each deck, there are basically 5 types of land, and each land can make one mana of a specific color. Plains make white mana, islands make blue mana, swamps make black mana, mountains make red mana, and forests make green mana. Each color of mana possesses different strengths and abilities.
    • Creatures: in combat phase, your creatures attack an opponent during your turn and defend you from opposing attack at your opponent's turn. You are able to cast your creature as a spell during the main phase of your turn and it stays as a permanent on the battlefield. Creatures enter the battlefield with summoning sickness which means your creature can’t attack until it starts your turn
    • Artifacts: artifacts are machines and magical objects. During your main phase, you can cast an artifact as a spell just like creature and it stays on the battleground until it is destroyed, exiled, sacrificed, or removed. Most artifacts are colorless which implies that they don’t need any particular color of mana to cast.
    • Enchantments: Enchantments possess the lasting magical effect that affects the game as long as these cards are on the battlefield. Same as creatures you can cast enchantment during your main phase and it remains on the battleground until it is destroyed, exiled, sacrificed or removed.
    • Sorceries: you can cast sorcery cards only during your main phase. These cards possess only one-time effect which means once the effect sorcery card happens, you have to put the card into the graveyard.
    • Instants: you can cast instant spells at almost any time, during either player’s turn, even during the combat. Instants also have the one-time effect like sorceries and then you can put them into the graveyard.
  • Text box: abilities of a card are mentioned in the textbox. Sometimes there is a reminder text within parenthesis to explain what the card can do. The card can also have flavor text printed in italics that gives story information of the character but this text does not have any effect on the gameplay. Abilities of the Magic The Gathering cards are generally divided into three categories:
    • Static abilities: static abilities are always true when the card is on the battlefield. There is no need to activate the static ability, it just does what it says.
    • Triggered abilities: a triggered ability activates when some particular event happens during the game. Triggered ability generally starts with the word “whenever” “when” or “at”. You do not need to activate the triggered ability; it is automatically triggered when the mentioned conditions are fulfilled.
    • Activated abilities: these are the abilities that you can activate whenever you want, as long as you are able to pay the cost. The format of the activated ability is always the same, Cost: effect. Some activated abilities have tap symbol in their costs which means that you need to tap the card to activate that ability. You can’t activate the ability if the permanent is already tapped or if it a creature with summoning sickness.
  • Power/ toughness: there is a box in the lower right corner of every creature card that indicates power and toughness of that card. The first number indicates power whereas the second number indicates toughness. A creature’s power indicates the amount of damage it deals in combat and creatures toughness shows the amount of damage that must be dealt to it to destroy it in a single turn.
  • Expansion symbol: Expansion symbol lets you know which magic set the card belongs to. There is a specific symbol for each magic set and color of the symbol tells you about the cards rarity.

Magic The Gathering Play Area

Magic the Gathering game board is divided into different zones:

  • Library: your library is your draw pile that stays face down throughout the game. If you are forced to draw a card but your library is out of cards, you lose the game.
  • Hand: a player begins the game by drawing a hand of seven cards. If you have more than seven cards in your hand when your turn ends, you must discard one card to make it seven.
  • Battlefield: Both players share the battlefield. Permanents are the cards that go on the battlefield. Lands, creatures, artifacts, and enchantments are permanents. Instants and sorceries never go on the battlefield. Arrange your permanents such a way that your opponent can see all of them.
  • Graveyard: Graveyard is nothing but your discard pile. Creatures that die, enchantments that are destroyed and cards you discard from your hand go into the graveyard. Each player possesses their own graveyard.
  • Exile: When a card gets exiled by an ability or spell, it is set aside from rest of the game.

How to Play Magic The Gathering

  • Tapping and untapping: Tapping a card means turning it sideways to indicate that it has been used for the turn. You carry out tapping when you use a land to make mana, you use a creature to attack or you activate an ability having tap symbol on it as a part of its cost. When your turn starts, untap your tapped cards so you can use them again.
  • Casting spells: For casting a spell, you need to pay its mana cost by tapping lands (or other permanents) for making the amount and game actions type of mana which the spell needs. When you cast a spell with an instant or sorcery, you follow the instructions and put the card into graveyard. But when the spell is cast with creature, artifact or enchantment, you need to put the card on the table which means it is on the battlefield.
  • Attacking and blocking: attacking is when you attack the opponent with one of your creatures. If the attacking creature is not blocked by the opponent, it deals damage equal to its power to the opponent. In combat phase, you choose a creature for attacking the opponent and choose which opponent you will attack. You must tap your creatures to indicate they are attacking. The opponent player will then choose the creature to block this attack. Tapped creatures can’t be used for blocking. Now, once the blockers and attackers are chosen, they will simultaneously deal the damage equal to their powers.
    • If an attacking creature is not blocked, it will deal the damage to the player it is attacking.
    • If an attacking creature is blocked, it will deal damage to the creature or multiple creatures that are blocking it.
    • When the damage is dealt to your opponent they lose that much life.
    • When the multiple creatures block attacking creature, you need to decide how to divide combat damage between them. Keep in mind that you must direct enough damage towards first creature to destroy it before you assign damage to the second creature and it follows so on.
    • When a creature is dealt damage equal to or greater than its toughness during the single turn, the creature is destroyed and goes to the graveyard. If the creature takes the damage which is not enough to destroy it in a single turn, the creature remains on the battlefield and the damage wears off till the end of the turn.

You can play Magic The Gathering online using same rules. If you want to play it offline, you can get the Magic The Gathering card deck at any online store.

Magic The Gathering Game Rules: How to Play It!

Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is a journalist at his own start-up, born and residing in Seattle, Washington. He has a knack of reading up newspaper articles and coming up with summaries and points of view, hence taking up a profession similar to his interest. Simply covering events and activities is something he can do as good as a professional, but he seems to enjoy writing on events that need viewpoints and suggestions.

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