Now that you understand the role of lands and how
different colors or schools of magic approach the game, take a look
at the types of spells you will be casting over the course of a Magic
game. For the purpose of learning the game, there are effectively
two categories of spells that you to know:
While mostly self-explanatory, this section will explain each
category and begin going over the different kinds of spells that fall
One-time spells are exactly like they sound like: Spells that
can only be used once. After they’ve been cast and their effect is
resolved, they go to a special game zone called the graveyard
which is analogous to a discard pile in other card games. There
are two kinds of one-time spells and how they play differs quite
The first type of spell is what is known as a Sorcery. Each
turn of a game of Magic is broken down into several phases, which
you will learn in greater detail soon. For now, though, just
understand that you and your opponent each take turns
throughout a Magic duel and any Sorcery card can only be played
during your own turn and when there are no other spells being
played. Due to their timing restrictions, Sorceries are often more expensive to cast and have larger effects.
Our second type of one-time use spell is called an Instant. As
opposed to Sorceries, Instants can be cast any time you have
priority. That means on your turn or on your opponents turn
when they are trying to cast their own spells! There are many
types of Instant spells from offensively boosting your own
creatures to defensively stopping your opponent’s spells. Since
they can be played anytime, most instants are cheaper and have
Two important terms that relate to these card types are
Sorcery speed and Instant speed. In Magic talk, the first refers to
a spell that can only be played during the main phase of your own
turn with no other spells attempting to resolve. The latter refers to
anything that can be played on both your or your opponents’ turn
as long as you have priority.
This is also relevant to Permanents because, with rare
exceptions, these can only be played at Sorcery speed, though
often once a Permanent is in play it has abilities that may be used
at Instant speed.
There are several types of Permanents that can be played
onto the battlefield. These have lasting effects that will change the
game until they are removed from play. The different Permanent
t}pes are as follows:
Each type of Permanent has its own abilities and features.
Here is a breakdown of each.
A horse of a different color
One of the more common types of Permanents you will see
in play is the Creature type. Especially in beginning duels, the
most frequent route to victory will involve creature combat. In
addition to that, only the creature cards in Magic have the ability
to attack and block, making their usage more complex and
interesting. Let’s break down a creature card to get an idea of how
to read Magic cards and use them in game.
To begin, you need to examine each part of the card and what
it means in game. From the top-left corner you will be able to get
the creature’s name. This could be an individual’s specific name
or a general creature type. In our example (above), the card in
question is Ancient Hellkite. Beneath the artwork is the type line.
Here you see that the type of card is a creature and, more specifically, a dragon!
Moving back to the top of the card (the upper-right corner
this time), you will see a very important part of every Magic card:
The casting cost. This is the amount and type of mana you will
need access to cast each spell. If you look back at the basic land
types, you will notice each one has a different mana symbol on it.
This symbol corresponds to the type of mana it produces and
shows up again here in our casting cost.
Using this analysis, you can see that in order to cast the
powerful Ancient Hellkite, you will need access to at least three
Mountains in order to produce the three red mana symbols to the
far right of the casting cost. The number four in the gray circle
shows you that in addition to those three Mountains, you will also
need four additional mana sources. These sources, however, can
be from any land type you hc ve access to.
Now take a look at the cards text. The first thing you see is
the word “Flying”. This is a Magic keyword that is used in all sets.
Keywords are frequently added to expansion sets but some are
“evergreen,” which means they will appear constantly. You will
learn more about them later, but for your dragon, Flying means it
can only be blocked in combat by other creatures with Flying.
Ancient Hellkite also has a secondary ability that allows you
to pay one red mana to deal one point of damage to one of your
opponent’s creatures as you attack. This is a repeatable effect and
you can pay as many times want as long as you have Mountains to
produce red mana.
The final thing worth noticing is in the bottom-right
corner. There you will see two numbers divided by a slash. In this
case you have 6/6. These numbers designate the creature’s power
and toughness, respectively.
Power is the amount of damage a creature will deal in
combat to another creature, player, or Planeswalker. Its
toughness is how much damage the creature can take between
combat and spell damage over a single turn before it dies and is
moved to the graveyard.
When you summon a creature, you are basically pulling
that creature from its natural area to fight by your side. This
means that unlike other types of permanents, creatures are
affected by “summoning sickness”.
In game terms, this means that the turn you summon a creature, it cannot attack or use any ability preceded by a tap symbo in its text.
The creature can block an opponent’s attack, but the rest of
its abilities will not become available until it begins a turn under
your control on the battlefield.
Tapping is something that comes up often in Magic. It
shows that a resource has been used up for that turn. Whenever a
land is used to produce mana, a creature attacks, or an ability
preceded by the tap symbol is used, turn the card ninety degrees to
the side to denote it is tapped for the rest of the turn.
The other types of permanents are not nearly as complicated.
Artifacts are powerful relics created by Planeswalkers to contain
and use magical energy. Unlike creatures, these can generally be
used the same turn that they are played, assuming you have the
mana to do so. Their uses are varied and vast, so experimenting to
find the best way to augment your strategy is essential!
Enchantments are long-lasting effects that generally help you
turn the tide of battle by either hindering your opponent or
boosting your own creatures. There are two types of
enchantments: Those that go directly onto the battlefield and
affect the entire board and those that attach to a specific creature.
The latter are known as Auras and can be beneficial to your own
forces or catastrophic for your opponents’.
Another very powerful type of card is the Planeswalker.
These cards allow you to bring forth other sorcerers as allies to
assist you in your quest for Victory. Instead of toughness like
creatures, Planeswalkers measure their strength in loyalty. This
shows how Willing they are to stand by your cause.
Each Planeswalker you summon has a starting loyalty printed
in the bottom-right, where you would find a creature’s power and
toughness. They then have abilities that allow you to either gain
or lose loyalty based on your needs. When their loyalty is used up,
the mage will abandon you to your own deydces and be placed in
Planeswalker’s abilities may only be used at sorcery speed and
they may be attacked or targeted by your opponent. You may use
your creatures and spells to protect your allies in the same way you would use them to protect yourself
Now that you have the basic idea of What the card types are
and how to use them, take a look at the zones of play before
getting into what makes up a turn. There is no official game board
for Magic: The Gathering. This allows you to take your cards
anywhere and set up a game.
As discussed earlier, the game starts with a randomized
library. Each format has its own rules for deck building that speak
to the size of your deck, but for this example, the minimum is 60
cards. Those 60 cards will make up your library, which will
remain face down in front of you. From the library, you will draw
the top seven cards to comprise your opening hand. Seven is the
maximum number of cards you can hold in your hand at any given
All the action of a game takes place on the battlefield. Most
players define their battlefield by playing their lands out directly in
front of them and all other types of permanents (creatures,
artifacts, enchantments, and Planeswalkers) above their lands.
This is not defined by the rules of the game, so layout your
battlefield in a way that is most comfortable for you and your
opponent to read. Auras should be placed atop the creature they
enchant. All of your permanents must be accessible to you and
your opponent, so you can both easily see if they are tapped or
The graveyard is your discard pile and is where things will
move from your hand or the battlefield most often. If any
permanent you control is destroyed, if a spell or effect causes you
to discard, or if anything is sacrificed or countered, the card in
question will go to the graveyard. This zone should also be Visible
to both players, so place cards in this area face up.
Remember, if creature dies in combat by taking damage
equal to or more than their toughness in a single turn, they will be
destroyed and must go to the graveyard. This is also the same for
Planeswalkers that use up all of their loyalty counters.
Some cards will mention a specific effect known as
“exiling”. When this comes up, the card exiled is not placed in the
graveyard, but instead removed from the game. This can be
shown by turning it face up somewhere away from the boundaries
of your battlefield. Unless a specific effect alters the rules, the
exiled card is inaccessible to either player for the remainder of the
The final zone is one of the most important: The stack. The
stack is where spells you cast go in order to resolve. For now,
realize that both players get an opportunity to respond to every
spell cast over the course of a Magic game. The order in which the
spells resolve is handled by the stack, which is a public zone
shared by all players.