How To Play Magic the Gathering Card Game

Learn More About this Popular Game by Wizards of the Coast

I have a suggestion to make for anyone who likes card games or someone who enjoys playing strategic games such as chess: check out the Magic the Gathering card game by Wizards of the Coast.

This game is the ultimate strategy game for those who don't want to play online.  It was the forefather of the new collectible card game genre. The game was invented by Richard Garfield, a mathematics professor and board game creator. Many other games have come along trying to capitalize on its success. However, after all the dust has settled, it remains the most played and successful of the genre. Magic the Gathering falls under the category of "easy to learn, difficult to master." The game can seem intimidating to a new player so here is some information about how the game operates so that you won't be clueless when you play your first game. Here are some of the rules and game tips.

  1. The premise of the game is that two wizards, you and your opponent, are having a magical battle. Your cards are your spells. The deck size for tournament play is a minimum of 60 cards. Most regular players use this standard as well. The deck can be larger than 60, but remember that the more cards you have, the less chance you have of choosing the card you need.

    Each player starts with 20 life. If there are creatures in play, they protect the players by taking the damage for them. If there are no creatures, the player is hit with the damage. The damage varies depending on what card or creature is being played against him. Once a player reaches 0 life his opponent wins the game.

  2. There is not usually a consequence for losing a match. The players can just start another one. There are two circumstances, however, where it makes a difference.
    • Sometimes both players will put up an "ante." This means that both players will draw a card randomly from their deck. Whoever wins the match gets to keep both cards.
    • The other circumstance where it matters is if you are playing in a ranked game. An officially ranked game will move you up or down on the ladder depending on whether you win or lose. This will affect your chances of getting into top tournaments.
  3. Knowing strategy will help you win the game. You get to pre-construct your deck. A player can have no more than four of one specific card in a deck. This prevents a player from loading up on powerful cards and simply tearing through an opponent. Both players have to shuffle their deck before play begins. Drawing the cards you need becomes a matter of "stacking the deck" and playing the odds.

    There are two basic types of cards in a deck -- spell cards and land cards. The spell cards do anything from summoning a creature to hitting another wizard for direct damage. Land cards are used to get mana. This is the substance that you need to use in order to play your spell cards. The number of spell cards you can play is limited by how much mana you have. More powerful spell cards have a higher mana cost.

  4. There are five separate colors of cards. Each color has its own focus. Here are their general purposes in the game.   
    • White -- White's purpose is to heal and strengthen creatures and players. White cards are excellent at restoring the life of both creatures and players. It is hard to kill someone with a strong healing deck as she can just regenerate her health.  
    • Blue -- Blue lets a player steal her opponent's cards. They can also stop another player from playing his cards. In essence, Blue is about control. 
    • Green -- Green is all about creatures. The green creatures are some of the strongest in the game.  
    • Black -- Black cards raise creatures from the dead and make your opponent discard his cards. Black is not for the faint of heart.  
    • Red -- Red is all about quick damage. If you want to hurt something and hurt it now, red is the way to go.
  5. There are two ways to play. You can play with traditional cards or you can play online. Be aware that playing online is not any cheaper as you have to buy the decks and cards for the same price you would buy them in a store.
  6. To learn about the online game and more about the traditional card game, go to Magic Online. There is also a great tutorial that will run you through the game at Magic: The Gathering.
  7. There is a very active tournament circuit. In order to play in these tournaments, you will need to be very good and have a good collection of cards so that you can build a competitive deck.

Magic the Gathering is an extremely exciting game that is as strategic as they come. If you are daunted by the idea of collecting cards and building a deck of 60 out of hundreds or even thousands of cards, don't despair. Wizards of the Coast sells pre-built decks that will get you started. Plus, you can research tips for building a Magic deck as well. So grab a deck and a friend and start dueling.    


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I was addicted to this game back in high school.

By Jason Acidre