How to play magic the gathering?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 3, 2024

Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is a complex and engaging trading card game that has captivated millions of players worldwide since its release in 1993. Whether you're a beginner or looking to refine your skills, this guide will walk you through the basics and some advanced strategies to help you master the game.

Understanding the Basics

Magic: The Gathering is a game where players use decks of cards representing magical spells, creatures, and artifacts to defeat their opponents. Each player starts with 20 life points, and the goal is to reduce your opponent's life total to zero.

The Cards

There are several types of cards in MTG:

  • Lands: These cards produce mana, the resource used to cast spells. Basic lands include Plains, Islands, Swamps, Mountains, and Forests.
  • Creatures: These cards can attack your opponent and block their creatures. They have power (attack strength) and toughness (defensive strength).
  • Spells: These include sorceries and instants, which can have various effects on the game. Sorceries can only be played during your turn, while instants can be played at any time.
  • Artifacts: These are permanent cards that can provide various abilities and effects.
  • Enchantments: These are also permanent cards that provide ongoing effects.
  • Planeswalkers: These are powerful cards that can use a variety of abilities and can be attacked by creatures.

Setting Up the Game

To start a game of Magic: The Gathering, follow these steps:

  1. Each player shuffles their deck and draws seven cards. Players can mulligan (redraw) if they are not satisfied with their initial hand, but must draw one less card each time they do.
  2. Determine who will go first. The starting player skips their first draw step.
  3. Players take turns, consisting of several phases: Untap, Upkeep, Draw, Main Phase, Combat, Second Main Phase, and End Step.

Phases of a Turn

  • Untap: All tapped cards (used for mana or attacking) are untapped, making them available for use again.
  • Upkeep: Some cards have effects that occur during this phase.
  • Draw: The active player draws a card from their library (deck).
  • Main Phase: Players can play lands, cast creatures, and other spells.
  • Combat: The active player can declare attacks with their creatures. The opponent can block with their creatures.
  • Second Main Phase: Similar to the first Main Phase, players can cast spells and play lands.
  • End Step: Effects that last "until end of turn" expire, and players discard down to their maximum hand size (usually seven cards).

Building a Deck

Constructing a deck is one of the most exciting aspects of Magic: The Gathering. A standard deck consists of at least 60 cards, with no more than four copies of any card, except for basic lands.

Choosing Your Colors

MTG cards are divided into five colors, each representing different styles and strategies:

  • White: Focuses on healing, protection, and creating numerous smaller creatures.
  • Blue: Specializes in card drawing, counterspells, and controlling the opponent's actions.
  • Black: Utilizes life-draining, creature destruction, and graveyard manipulation.
  • Red: Emphasizes direct damage, fast creatures, and aggressive tactics.
  • Green: Concentrates on ramping mana, powerful creatures, and enhancing lands.

Deck Archetypes

There are several common deck archetypes in MTG:

  • Aggro: Fast-paced decks that aim to reduce the opponent's life total quickly.
  • Control: Focuses on countering the opponent's spells and drawing out the game to gain an advantage.
  • Combo: Relies on specific card combinations to win the game suddenly.
  • Midrange: Balances between aggressive and control strategies.

Advanced Strategies

Once you're comfortable with the basics, you can explore more advanced strategies to enhance your gameplay.

Mana Curve

The mana curve is a crucial concept in deck-building. It refers to the distribution of cards in your deck according to their mana costs. A well-balanced mana curve ensures you can play cards effectively throughout the game.

Card Advantage

Card advantage is the idea of having more cards available to you than your opponent. This can be achieved through drawing extra cards, making your opponent discard, or using efficient spells that affect multiple cards.

Synergies and Combos

Building a deck with synergistic cards that work well together can create powerful combinations. Look for cards that enhance each other's abilities or create devastating effects when used in tandem.

Playing Formats

Magic: The Gathering offers various formats, each with its own rules and deck-building restrictions.


Standard is a rotating format that includes cards from the most recent sets. It keeps the game fresh and encourages players to adapt to new strategies.


Commander is a multiplayer format where each player builds a 100-card deck with a legendary creature as their commander. It's known for its unique deck-building challenges and social gameplay.


In Draft, players open booster packs and take turns selecting cards to build a deck. This format tests your ability to make quick decisions and build a cohesive deck on the fly.

Game Etiquette and Sportsmanship

Magic: The Gathering is a game meant to be enjoyed by all players. Practicing good sportsmanship and etiquette ensures a positive experience for everyone involved.

Respect Your Opponent

Always treat your opponent with respect. Shake hands before and after the game, and avoid negative comments or actions.

Play Fair

Follow the rules and avoid cheating. If a dispute arises, calmly discuss it or call a judge in an organized event.

Have Fun

Remember that MTG is a game, and the primary goal is to have fun. Enjoy the experience and learn from each match.

Magic: The Gathering offers a vast and intricate world of strategy, creativity, and competition. From understanding the basics of gameplay and deck-building to exploring advanced strategies and embracing the diverse formats, there is always something new to learn and enjoy. As you embark on your journey through the planes of Magic, remember to savor the process, make friends, and unleash the power of your imagination.

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