Play This! Magic: The Gathering

Games with a huge cult following can be intimidating. Take Magic: The Gathering, a card game with long history and popularity. Magic: The Gathering was first released in the 90’s, and my husband has been playing since the first deck. He owns a folder full of rare cards that he must keep safe from our 10-year old’s grubby hands. That’s not to say my husband isn’t excited about our son taking interest in the game. He very much is.

For me, one of the mystique surrounding Magic: The Gathering is the fact that, because of its history, there are so many cards in existence. And the cards look nice. There’s so much care taken into the creation of these cards. Each one features beautiful art and has its own story to tell. But do I need to learn about all these cards to play? Actually, no, not at all. That was just my mistaken assumption.

So, how do you play Magic: The Gathering? Let the official Magic: The Gathering YouTube channel give you a lightening-fast rundown!

Okay, that was a very short video that goes over many aspects of the game quickly. Here are the bare-bones basics of how to play:

The Basics

  • The goal of the game is to reduce your opponent’s life from 20 to 0. Use a 20-sided dice to keep track
  • Your deck consists of a minimum of 60 cards (for legal games, or you can play with less cards to learn the game). 
  • Your deck contains several types of cards. Some core types to know are: land; sorcery; creature; enchantment; instant; artifact
  • Shuffle and draw 7 cards from your deck to begin
  • First, you need to play a land card to earn Mana. Mana is how you cast spells and summon monsters to attach your opponent
  • If you have enough Mana to cast a spell or summon a creature, do so by turning the land card sideways (“tapping”) to indicate it is in use 
  • Let the battle play out (note: any creatures first summoned remain inactive until the next turn due to “summoning sickness”)
  • When the battle phase is over, it’s your opponent’s turn
  • Repeat until a player’s life is reduced to 0 or has no playable cards left

Becca of Geek & Sundry goes into more detail in a more comprehensive how-to for beginners and a play-through with two newbies. There are several subtleties to the rules, so it’s easier to learn the game by playing. I recommend playing with someone who already knows the game or asking for a tutorial at a game shop. (That’s right, no tapping of smartphones here. You have to interact with a real human being! Muahahahaha. Any shops interested in your business should be friendly and excited to have new players, though. I mean really.)

Once you learn the basics, the real fun begins with deck building. The official site has good information on how to build your own deck here. And don’t be shy, once you know your way around the game, enter a competition at your local game store, like 7-year old Dana Fischer. She’s a competitive Magic: The Gathering player! 

What are you waiting for? Run to the nearest game shop!

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