As a continuation of the introductory blog post, I will now delve deeper into Magic: The Gathering (MTG)’s rules and game-play. This will hopefully introduce those who either have not heard of Magic, or, have heard of it, but haven’t had the opportunity to learn to play. Lets take a brief look into MTG’s history, then get into the rules and game-play.

   Magic is the brainchild of Richard Garfield, a mathematics professor and game designer. He came up with the idea of Magic during the 1980’s and into the 90’s while in talks with Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) of developing a new game that wouldn’t have to utilize too many resources and not cost too much to produce. Garfield went and developed the concept of Magic from previous game ideas he had toyed around with. To help test the game, Garfield asked a bunch of friends at The University of Penn to play test the game with him and provide feedback. In 1993, Garfield and WOTC introduced Magic to the world. As they say, the rest is history. Magic has gone on for 20+ years and is widely considered the first massively appealing Trading Card Game, as well as Collectible Card Game.

The Man to the left is Richard Garfield, Creator of Magic: The Gathering. Photo by Chris Brooks

   The game-play of Magic has gone through many different rule changes- from card banning’s, to no longer having damage on the stack (You’ll learn what that is), Magic has gone through changes throughout the years, but one thing remains the same. . . Magic is an easy game to understand, but difficult to master.

   To start, we will introduce a two player setting of play, as to not confuse anyone. The two players will have a 60 card deck, or library, to play with (Some formats have 100 cards in a deck). Each person shuffles their decks a non-specific amount of times. They then set down their decks and draw 7 cards to hand. If a player feels they do not have the adequate cards to play the next few turns, they can Mulligan the hand. The player will then shuffle the hand into their deck and shuffle the deck. They will then draw six cards to hand. A Player can mulligan as many times as the feel necessary. To decide who goes first, players roll a 6-sided dice. The player who takes the first turn does not draw a card. whomever goes second does. Each player starts the game with 20 life points. You can gain more than 20 life during a match. First player to zero is the loser. There is also another win condition, if you can get your opponent to have no cards in their library, they lose. There exists a third way to win, but for now, we will stick with these two Win conditions.

A General Seven card hand to start a match. Photo by Me

   Alright, Magic has 7 different types of cards: Lands, Creatures, Sorcery, Instants, Enchantments, Artifacts and Planeswalkers. Lands are what produce mana and cast any kind of spell in the game. They are a critical component to the game. The other cards in MTG have a Converted Mana Cost. It is displayed in the right corner of the card. If it has a mana symbol, you need that many of that particular mana. If it is a number in a grey circle, you can use any mana to pay for that casting cost. For example, if a creature card has a 1 in that circle, followed by a tree symbol, then the Casting Cost of that card is two mana.

The five different types of Mana in Magic. From L-R: Mountain, Plains, Forest, Island, and Swamp. Photo by Me

Tapping a Forest to play Birds of Paradise with a Casting cost of one forest. Photo by Me 
   Creature cards are what you use to protect yourself and dish out damage to and from your opponent. These cards have a very diverse array of sub-types, from birds, to dragons, to foxes, to bats, and so on. All cards have their own set of unique abilities to help aide you in battle that are also just as vast as the creatures themselves. The Birds Of Paradise in the middle photo, for example, allows you to tap it sideways to activate its ability of allowing to gain a mana of any color of your choice for the turn. It also can fly, which means it can fly over your opponents creatures, unless they have flying or reach, which is an ability that can block flying creatures. 
A Creature card. Birds of Paradise. Photo by Me 
  Instant cards and sorcery cards cause a variety of effects to be in play. From gaining a certain amount of life, to causing damage to a player or creature, to destroying cards from play, the list of abilities they have is extensive.The only difference between the two types is that instant cards are able to be played at any time during game play. Sorcery cards have to be played during your turn.
Getting back to the Stack I had mentioned earlier, if your opponent casts a creature card during their turn, you can play an instant card that can Cancel the casting of the creature, causing it to go to the graveyard. If your opponent has the ability to, they could Negate your cancel ability and still be able to get their card cast. The order on the stack would be Negate-Cancel-Creature. 
A Sorcery card. Duress. Photo by Me

An Instant Card. Heroes’ Reunion. Photo by Me
   Enchantment cards are cards that stay in play and have a wide variety of uses during game-play. These cards stay in play until they are destroyed by an instant or sorcery card, or by a card ability from a creature or planeswalker. As usual, there is also a cornucopia of abilities that these cards can do. Artifact cards are similar to Enchantment cards. 
An Enchantment card. Doubling Season. Photo by Me

   The final type of card we will discuss are Planeswalkers. These cards essentially act as another player during the course of the game. They DO NOT take their own turns. They do have a certain set of abilities that they can do to alter the course of the game. They enter play with a set of counters on them called Loyalty Counters. If during play, you activate one of their abilities, you either add or subtract counters from the Planeswalker. Creatures, Instants, and sorcery cards can affect these cards and can even remove them from play. 
A Planeswalker card. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Photo by Me 
   As stated in the beginning of this post, these are only very simple and basic explanations as to the rules and game play of a usual match in Magic. There are many more complex and demanding rules to the game that are seldom used, but are in place in case a situation were to arise. There are also regulations for tournament play as well, but that is not pertinent right now. 
Hopefully, this post gave a basic understanding to the rules and history behind Magic: The Gathering. There will be a link to a list of the varying rules and regulations of Magic for more in-depth analysis and explanation of the game. Please, do not kill yourself and read the Comprehensive rules. It can get confusing with the formatting. Thank you.


Garfield, Richard. “Magic: The Gathering Rules : Wizards of the Coast.”Magic: The Gathering Rules : Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of The Coast, Oct. 1995. Web. 31 Aug. 2015. 

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