Ultimate Guide to Magic: The Gathering Collectible Card Game

In this section, we are providing a detailed guide on Magic: The Gathering card game, covering all of the basics for those looking to start playing casually. We hope to give starting point and provide you with local places where you can enjoy playing casually or competitively with friends!

The Ultimate Starter’s Guide to Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is a collectible card game created by mathematician Richard Garfield and first published in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. The game is played by two or more players, each using a deck of 60 cards that represent magical spells, creatures, and artifacts. The goal of the game is to reduce the opponent’s life total from 20 to 0 by using spells and creatures to attack and defend.

In this article, we will cover the very basics of playing Magic: The Gathering, including the game’s rules, the different types of cards, and how to build a deck.

The Game’s Objective and Setup

The objective of Magic: The Gathering is to reduce your opponent’s life total to 0. Each player starts the game with 20 life. If a player’s life total reaches 0, they lose the game.

To start a game of Magic: The Gathering, each player shuffles their deck and draws seven cards. If a player has less than seven cards, they can draw up to seven.

After drawing their opening hand, players roll a six-sided die to determine who goes first. The player who rolls the highest number chooses to play first or second.

Once the first player is determined, each player draws a card from their deck and plays it face-down on the table. This is called a “mulligan” and allows players to redraw their opening hand if they don’t like the cards they drew. After both players have decided to keep or mulligan their opening hand, the game begins.

The Different Types of Cards

There are five types of cards in Magic: The Gathering: lands, creatures, spells, artifacts, and planeswalkers.

  1. Lands are the foundation of a player’s mana base. Mana is the magical energy that powers spells and abilities. Each turn, players can play one land from their hand to the battlefield. Lands come in different colors, which represent different types of mana.
  2. Creatures are the backbone of a player’s offense and defense. They can attack and block other creatures and deal damage to the opponent’s life total. Creatures have power and toughness values, which determine their strength in combat.
  3. Spells are one-time effects that can deal damage, destroy creatures, draw cards, and more. Spells are divided into two categories: instants and sorceries. Instants can be played at any time, even during the opponent’s turn, while sorceries can only be played during the player’s main phase.
  4. Artifacts are special non-creature cards that provide additional abilities and effects. Artifacts can be equipped to creatures to give them additional power and toughness or provide other benefits.
  5. Planeswalkers are special cards that represent powerful mages who can manipulate magic. They have abilities that can be used once per turn to influence the game state.

The Phases of a Turn

A game of Magic: The Gathering is divided into different phases, each with its own set of rules and actions.

  1. The first phase is the untap step, where all of a player’s tapped cards are untapped, and they can use them again.
  2. The second phase is the upkeep step, where players can trigger abilities that require them to pay costs or take actions at the beginning of the turn.
  3. The third phase is the draw step, where players draw a card from their deck.
  4. The fourth phase is the main phase, where players can play lands, creatures, spells, artifacts, and planeswalkers. Players can also use abilities on the cards they control during this phase.
  5. The fifth phase is the combat phase, where players can attack and block with their creatures. The combat phase is divided into different steps: the beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat.
  6. The sixth phase is the second main phase, where players can play additional spells, creatures, or other cards.
  7. The final phase is the end step, where players can trigger abilities that require them to pay costs or take action at the end of the turn.

After the end step, the turn ends, and the play passes to the next player.

Playing Cards and Resolving Abilities

To play a card in Magic: The Gathering, a player must have the required amount of mana and meet any other conditions specified on the card. For example, to play a creature card, a player must pay the creature’s mana cost, which is located in the upper right corner of the card, and have the required amount of colored mana.

Once a player plays a card, it is placed on the battlefield, and its effects take place immediately. For example, if a player plays a creature card, it enters the battlefield with summoning sickness, which means it cannot attack or use its abilities until the player’s next turn.

Cards may also have abilities that can be used at any time, such as activated abilities, which require the payment of a cost, and triggered abilities, which automatically activate when a certain condition is met.

For example, a card may have an activated ability that reads “Pay 1 mana: Deal 2 damage to target creature.” To use this ability, the player must pay the required mana cost and target a creature to deal damage to.

Cards may also have passive abilities that affect the game state without requiring any action on the player’s part. For example, a creature card may have the ability “All creatures you control get +1/+1.” This ability applies as soon as the creature enters the battlefield and affects all of the player’s creatures for as long as the creature remains on the battlefield.

Building a Deck

In Magic: The Gathering, players build their decks using cards from their collection. A deck must have a minimum of 60 cards, and no more than four copies of any individual card, except for basic lands, which can have any number of copies.

When building a deck, players must consider the different types of cards available and how they will work together to achieve the game’s objective. A well-balanced deck should have a mix of creatures, spells, and lands that work together to provide a consistent game plan.

Players may also choose to build their decks around a specific theme or strategy. For example, a player may build a deck that focuses on fast, aggressive creatures to quickly reduce the opponent’s life total, or a deck that uses spells to control the game and prevent the opponent from mounting an effective offense.

In addition to the 60-card main deck, players may also include a sideboard of up to 15 cards. The sideboard is used to customize the deck between games in a match, allowing players to adjust their strategy based on the opponent’s deck.


Magic: The Gathering is a complex and challenging game that offers endless possibilities for strategic play and deck building. By understanding the game’s rules, the different types of cards, and how to build a deck, new players can quickly get up to speed and start enjoying the game.

As players gain experience, they can explore more advanced strategies, such as using cards that manipulate the opponent’s deck or building decks around specific mechanics or themes. With thousands of cards to choose from, the possibilities are truly endless, making Magic: The Gathering a game that can be enjoyed for years to come.

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