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The basic play of Magic: The Gathering is as follows: Each player starts with a deck of cards (referred to within the game as a "library"), which must contain at least 60 cards[1], and draws a hand of seven to begin with.

Every time you take a turn, you may perform any or all of the following actions:

  1. Untap Phase. Untap all permanents you control. "Tapping" is caused by using land for mana, activating abilities of other cards, and attacking. It generally represents being "used up." Tapped cards can only untap during this phase of the turn[2], and all tapped cards must untap unless something on the card says they can't or don't have to[3].
    • This is a good opportunity to introduce the first, fundamental, underlying rule of Magic: the Gathering: "If a card says it can do something that's against the rules, the card wins." This will be much more important later, as we get deeper into the rules, but just keep it in mind for now.
  1. Upkeep Phase. Some cards say, "During your upkeep, do [X]," and this is when you do it. Things that might happen during this phase vary from recurring mana costs to discarding something which has a limited lifespan.
  2. Draw Phase. Draw a card. The only exception is the person who takes the first turn of a two-player game.
  3. Main Phase. During which, you may:
    • Play one land from your hand. Basic lands generate Mana naturally; it is part of the gameplay and isn't required to say such on the card. They generate one mana of its associated color when tapped. Nonbasic lands sometimes generate a different amount (or color!) of mana, or have completely different abilities altogether.
    • Cast any number of spells from your hand, as long as your lands produce sufficient mana to cast them. Some cards require additional, non-mana costs to cast, such as sacrificing creatures or paying life; some are "fast" enough to be played when it is not even your turn. (More on that later.) The majority of spells summon things such as creatures or artifacts.
      • If a spell costs more mana than you have access to right now, you can't cast it. You can't pay for a five-mana spell by tapping three lands this turn and saving their mana for your next turn; mana evaporates at the end of each phase. [4]
  1. Attack Phase. Attack, once, with any number of creatures you control. You may only attack one player. The defending player gets the choice of tactics: for each creature you're attacking with, he gets to decide which of his creatures, and with how many, to block with. Once blockers are assigned, combat is resolved by assigning damage; in the event that one of your attacking creatures is blocked by more than one defending creature, you get to decide how much damage your creature does to each of his. Any creatures he did not block go on to deal damage to his Hit Points.
    • Attacking and blocking is a fairly significant branch of game strategy. Attacking causes a creature to become tapped, and tapped creatures cannot block, which means they're out of the fight when it's your opponent's turn. Also, if an attacker is blocked, it is blocked; it fights only the creature that got in its way, even if it's a Physical God and the blocker is a Red Shirt making a Heroic Sacrifice. (This tactic is called "chump-blocking.") Knowing when to block (and possibly sacrifice your creatures) versus how much damage you can afford to take from unblocked creatures is key... especially since some of your creatures may have important roles in your long-term strategy, making it dangerous to use them as Meat Shields. Suffice it to say, the combat phase is Serious Business.
  1. Another Main Phase. See above. You can still only play one land per turn, so if you played one during the first main phase, you've got to wait.
  2. End Phase. End your turn. (Okay, there's no "may" about it, eventually you have to end your turn.) If, at this time, you personally have more than seven cards in your hand, you must choose cards to discard until you're back down to seven. These cards go to your "graveyard" pile, which is also the place where dead creatures and expended spells go, and are Lost Forever. (...Unless you have a spell that lets you take stuff back from your graveyard. But let's mess with that later.)

The gameplay mechanics of specific spells provide ways to change just about any of the rules above, including turn order. There are ways to both increase and decrease the base hand size for all players, play more than one land card a turn, draw additional cards, create an additional combat phase and even skip your opponent's turn altogether.

The game can be won in any of the following ways:

  • Reducing your opponent's life total from 20 to 0 (by far the most common)
  • Emptying your opponent's library (known as "decking" him, or alternatively "milling" him, after Millstone, one of the earliest cards to support such a strategy). He will lose if unable to draw a card when required to do so, so if you can somehow manage to force him to draw 54 cards, you've won.
  • Giving your opponent 10 poison counters through cards such as this.
  • Through the use of a variety of cards which set up alternate win conditions. These are what we call "Golden Snitches," and there is a big list of them on the main page.

Magic is largely played in one-on-one duels and multiplayer free-for-all games, mostly because anything else involves new sets of rules which have to be developed and implemented. Having said that, such rules have been implemented, anything from 5-player formats to 3v3 teams or even the simple rule that you can only attack the player sitting to your left (thus resulting in a Dwindling Party until only two players remain), and even Wizards has been known to get involved with alternate methods of gameplay like Archenemy and Planechase.

The spells in Magic are associated with one of five "colors", each with its own ideology and basic land (in parentheses):

The colors are arrayed in a "color pie." Each color has two allies, the colors next to it, and two enemies, the colors across from it. The color wheel follows the order seen above (white-blue-black-red-green). The mechanics of the cards often reflect these relationships; white, for example, has a number of creatures with "protection from black" or "protection from red", as well as creatures who are stronger or have extra abilities when paired with Green or Blue.

When assembling their decks, the player is not required to stick to one color; there have been tournament-winning decks involving two, three, four, five or even no colors (often colloquially referred to as "mono-brown" after the brown color of the original brown card frame for artifacts). Adding more colors allows access to a greater variety of spells, but also makes you statistically less likely to, on any given turn, have spell cards in your hand that you can actually cast with the lands currently available to you. And, just for fun, there are multicolor cards, which mix colors and so bring the strengths of both, sometimes compounding or removing the individual colors' weaknesses. Two-, three- and even five-color cards have been published, in varying combinations.

Mono color decks carry the advantage of an extremely focused deck in strategy and in resources, theoretically every land you draw is a land you can use and every spell supports your theme. A drawback is when a player is able to lock-down a particular color and you might suddenly find yourself with no useful options because you only use that one color. And because of the difficulty of acquiring use of all five colors of mana, cards that need to be cast with all five colors tend to be more powerful for their mana cost. As such, while one and two color decks are more tightly focused, three color decks start to edge into "mana screwed" territory but can still hold onto the usefulness of the variety of colors; five color decks carry an advantage of using the powerful five colored "gold" cards if you can use all five mana. Four colored decks are generally discouraged because they have all the disadvantages of three colored decks without the power of the five colored decks.

Often, the colors are referred to by their initials: WUBRG (pronounced "woo-berg"). "U" is used for blue, since black has already taken "B" (Black is, after all, the selfish color) and "L" was for land. The balance between them and resulting Faction Calculus is one of the defining features of the game.

"Tapping", where one turns a card to a 90-degree angle, represents the usage of the card's available resource (whether extracting mana from a land or attacking with a creature). Players untap all their permanents at the beginning of their turn. Wizards of the Coast has issued a controversial patent on the "tapping" mechanic, and can legally challenge any card game which involves turning cards to a 90-degree angle to show that the card has been expended somehow.

Each card also has (sometimes more than) one of eight card types:

  • Lands are cards that represent your sources of Mana, the magical energy you use to do just about everything in the game; it is almost impossible to design a deck without Lands in it (and can be just as difficult to play the deck if you don't draw enough of them during the game). Lands are tapped to produce mana, but may also have other abilities. Lands don't cost mana to play, but only one may be played per turn. The Boring but Practical foundation of Magic for nearly two decades, Lands have recently been put in the spotlight gameplay-wise and graphically fancified up by the Zendikar set.
    • Mana comes in the five colors; there is also colorless mana. Most lands tap for a specific color or colors of mana, and each spell has specific requirements about what color(s) of mana can be used to pay for it: a "2W" spell, for instance, requires two mana of any color plus one specifically white mana. Colored mana can be used to pay for colorless costs, but not vice-versa: if you have five Islands and one Mountain, you can't play a 4RR spell, because sure, it costs a total of six mana, but two of them have to be red. For that reason spells with more complicated mana costs tend to be more powerful (and vice versa).
    • As mentioned above, at the end of each phase your "mana pool" empties of any mana you didn't use. A bit of the rules now removed was the idea of "Mana Burn": if there was any mana lost this way, you took one damage for each mana. While this was flavorful, it didn't really add anything to gameplay—most players don't have extra mana to activate, and the few who did were experienced enough to not really care if they took a few points of damage—and so the rule was removed in 2010.
      • In 2012 this was revealed to be a Chekhov's Gun as well. By removing mana burn, Wizards can now use a player's life total as a threshold, because you (personally) don't have reliable ways of lowering your own life total. This was first seen in the ability "Fateful Hour," which makes your creatures stronger if you (personally) are at 5 life or less.
  • Creatures (known in older sets as "Summon (creature type)") are the most common type of card -- one set was even entirely composed of creatures -- they represent the magical army summoned by the player/planeswalker to do battle on their behalf. They have two numerical values associated with them, found in the bottom right corner of the card and separated by a slash: "power", the amount of damage they deal in combat, and "toughness", the amount of damage it takes to destroy them. As a rule, any damage a creature takes only lasts until end of turn, and it goes away if the creature is still alive at that point. This leaves it completely unhurt again at the start of the next turn; however, all damage taken over the same turn does add up. Creatures are one of the most popular aspects of Magic, and most decks use them; the few that don't are often notorious for that reason, and treated with some skepticism by newer players. (For the curious, the second-most-popular aspect of Magic, and the only other theme to get an entire set built around it, are the Gold multicolor cards.)
  • Artifacts and Enchantments are the other "permanent" cards, representing magic items and spells with lasting effects, respectively. Artifacts typically use colorless mana & activation costs, meaning that any deck can employ them. They often fall into two categories - Boring but Practical, with features that Word of God felt any color should have access to, but less efficiently than the color that specializes in it (more limited card drawing than blue, more expensive direct damage than red, less aggressive creatures than white or green, etc.), and So Cool Its Awesome, in a deliberate attempt by Wizards to evoke the "Lost Technology" trope. Meanwhile, Enchantments are always colored and can thus be more powerful and specific in their effects. Both types of card might feature abilities that need to be "activated" (by paying mana for them) or abilities that are "always on."
  • Instants and Sorceries are the non-"permanent" spells, in that they provide single-use, on-the-spot effects and go immediately to the discard pile when they've done their task. The primary difference between the two is when they are allowed be played: sorceries can only be cast during your "Main Phase" (that is, While it's your turn, after drawing your card and before you initiate combat). Instants, on the other hand, can be used at basically any time, including during the combat phase and during your opponent's turn, though for that reason they are often weaker or more expensive. They also tend to be the exception to the rule; unless it's mentioned otherwise, assume everything you see here--playing lands, summoning creatures, using Equipment--happens at Sorcery speed during your Main Phase. (The only exception we've glossed over are tapping actions; those happen at Instant speed.)
    • There used to be two other categories of non-permanent spell that were similar to instants. An "Interrupt" was even faster than an instant, allowing them to "interrupt" any other spell as it was being being cast. A "Mana Source" was also "faster-than-instant" speed, as it could be cast to generate Mana while you were paying the cost for another spell that you'd already started casting. As part of a major overhaul of the game rules in Sixth Edition, both of them have since been folded into the Instant category--with the rider that mana-providing abilities or spells in general can't be countered.
  • Planeswalkers are the newest card type, representing a temporary ally in the form of another powerful wizard -- a planeswalker like yourself -- whom you can call on for aid. They come into play with a particular amount of "loyalty" (read: Hit Points), and, on each of your turns, can use one of their abilities at the cost of gaining or losing loyalty. They can also be attacked like players, which also damages their loyalty. Planeswalker cards are supposed to invoke the idea of Guest Star Party Members, with their decks represented by the character's on-card abilities.
  • Tribal: the Redheaded Stepchild of Card Types. There is no singular "Tribal" card; instead, Tribal always has a second non-creature type. Tribal cards exist to make non-creature spells a creature type, such as a Goblin Enchantment or an Elf Sorcery. It is a card type rather than a supertype because it has subtypes. A supertype can't have an associated subtype without causing the rules to explode.

Cards often also have subtypes, which are types within types. Common subtypes include, but are not limited to:

  • Creature Types: Most creatures have at least one creature type, typically their race or Character Class. Creature types can have a significant effect on gameplay, as many cards have effects that depend on creature types (e.g. "This card strengthens all Elves you control"). Creature types are also used to give flavor to common game mechanics. For example, Knights will often have first strike and other combat-altering abilities, Goblins tend to be self-destructive, many Demons are exceptionally powerful but have dangerous drawbacks to using them, and Druids almost always generate mana or manipulate land in some manner.
    • Non-creature cards with the Tribal type can also have creature types, which lets them benefit from Enemy Summoner effects like "tap this Goblin to search your library for a Goblin card and put it into your hand". Previously, this only let you find creatures, but eventually Wizards decided to make it work on spells as well, and created Tribal cards to facilitate this.
  • Planeswalkers have analogous but separate planeswalker types, which are typically their given names; for example "Chandra Nalaar" and "Chandra Ablaze" both have the subtype "Chandra". Only one planeswalker with the same subtype can be in play at any one time because they represent different versions of a single character.
  • Auras: Auras are a special type of Enchantment that are attached to a specific target, usually a permanent but possibly a player, a graveyard, etc. Standard Enchantments are permanents in their own right and have Ontological Inertia; they sit on your side of the table and have their effect. Auras, on the other hand, have No Ontological Inertia and leave play when the thing they are aura-ing is removed. Auras used to have a type of "Enchant ____" (e.g. "Enchant Creature", "Enchant Artifact", "Enchant Dead Creature"), but this got unwieldy, leading to a naming generalization. You can still enchant a dead creature, but the card says so in its text box now instead of its type line.
  • Equipment: Equipment are artifact cards that typically do nothing on their own, but have an additional cost that lets it attach to creatures to give them bonuses or new abilities. Unlike Auras, Equipment can be moved between creatures during your turn, and remain in play if the creature wearing them dies.

There are also supertypes, which can apply to any card type:

  • Basic: This supertype is only used for lands. The four-copy limit does not apply to basic lands, and basic lands are usually the only lands you need in your deck in order to play the game. Plains, Forest, Mountain, Swamp, and Island cards are basic lands, as are the snow-covered lands from Ice Age. Keep in mind that "Island", "Mountain", "Plains", "Forest", and "Swamp" are all subtypes, meaning that nonbasic land cards can have any of these types without being considered a basic land.
  • Snow: The alternate "snow-covered" basic lands in the Ice Age block, as well as some other permanents from the Coldsnap set, are called "snow permanents." Many cards in the block, such as Skred, are interested in snow permanents, and mana produced by snow permanents has the special "snow" quality, which is required to pay for some costs in the Coldsnap expansion, such as Chilling Shade.
  • Legendary: Legendary cards depict figures that, in their own worlds, are spoken of in legends. They are usually more powerful than non-legendary cards, and only one legendary card of the same name can be in play at a time: if another comes into play, they both die.
    • Legendary permanents used to be only creatures, of type "Legend", and lands ("Legendary Land"), all introduced in the Legends expansion set. The "Legend" type was later expanded to "Legendary <some other creature type(s)>" when creatures with multiple types appeared. "Legendary" later became a general-purpose supertype to allow for a few legendary artifacts and enchantments.
    • Originally the rule was that if a legendary card was already in play, no legendaries of the same type could be played. This was changed in the Kamigawa block to encourage the use of legends (a major Kamigawa theme). Now the rule is that legendary cards of the same name cannot be on the battlefield at the same time; even if an opposing player casts an identical spell both cards are instantly destroyed (although, of course, there are ways to circumvent that rule).
  • World: A defunct supertype, World only appears on some Enchantments (World Enchantment) introduced before the Weatherlight block. They represented effects that are so game-changing that no more than one can be active at a time. If a new World Enchantment enters the battlefield, all other World Enchantments automatically leave play immediately. The intent was to represent the flavor of taking your battle to a new world with its own unique set of rules; Wizards would later re-attempt to capture this idea with 2009's Planechase format.

Each player's deck represents the mind of the wizard, with cards representing spells in a Vancian Magic sort of way. As such, the deck being called your "Library" doesn't make too much sense... until you realize that the deck was supposed to represent a Spell Book, as suggested by the "front cover" motif on the back of the cards. The "graveyard" is where cards go when they're used up. Sorceries and instants go to the graveyard immediately after resolving; permanents go to the graveyard when destroyed or sacrificed. Some spells send cards directly to the graveyard from your hand or library, while others can return cards from the graveyard to your hand, to the battlefield, or to the library.

Cards are released in "blocks" of three sets, and each block has a story behind it. For a long time, most of them involved affairs on Dominaria, the hub-world of the "core sets" of Magic cards, and specifically the life and times of the planeswalker Urza, his arch-nemesis Yawgmoth of Phyrexia, and the efforts he took to defend Dominaria from invasion by Phyrexian forces. The individual expansions Arabian Nights and Homelands briefly explored new settings, and the Tempest and Masques blocks had Dominarian heroes visit new planes on their travels, but it wasn't until Mirrodin that it became standard practice for the game to visit a new world every year.

When 'Magic was first released, an "ante rule" was in the official books. This stated that players would add the top card of their deck at the start of the game to the "ante", and whoever won the game would keep the ante cards. Not wanting to turn games into Serious Business, most players just didn't follow the ante rule; in addition, the ante rules fell foul of anti-gambling laws in some US states. Wizards of the Coast made the smart decision to discontinue the rule early on; even the earliest officially sanctioned tournaments did not use ante, and as such banned the use of cards that manipulated the ante.

The complexity of the game comes from the fact that the cards themselves constantly alter the rules of the game: powering up creatures, drawing extra cards, disallowing attack or making it happen twice as often, and so on. As mentioned, the game's "Golden Rule" sums it up: when the cards contradict the rulebook, the card wins. Furthermore, many cards interact with each other in interesting (and sometimes unintentional) ways, leading a wide variety of strategies around which decks are built. Even worse, the game's dev team is constantly tweaking the game in new ways; after 16 years, the Rise of the Eldrazi set has finally introduced colorless, nonartifact creatures and spells, the narrative excuse being that the Eldrazi are Cosmic Horrors that predate the invention of colored magic. (Note that this is not the same as Artifact spells, which have a different card frame. Eldrazi cards have a transparent frame with full art while artifacts are generally a gunmetal color.)

Finally, let's address rarity. Magic cards come in three rarities: "common", "uncommon" and "rare" ("land" gets its own rarity and should not be included). The math is boring, so let's simplify it by saying that cards are printed in huge sheets which are chopped up later, and the three rarities correspond to how many times per sheet the card is printed. In every pack you open, you are guaranteed W number of lands, X commons, Y uncommons and Z rares (where the numbers themselves depend on how many cards are in the pack; you're not going to get 30 commons from a 15-card pack). In general, Power Equals Rarity; this was underlined when Wizards trotted out the new "Mythic Rare" level, which consists solely of planeswalkers and other Game Breakers. Having said that, useful cards come at all rarities; Awesome Yet Practical common staples include Pacifism, Cancel, Doom Blade, Lightning Bolt and Giant Growth. (And we're not even going to start on the uncommons.) Wizards also uses the rarity system to help ease players into the game: they employ the Inverse Law of Complexity to Power and save the confusing cards (not to mention the Junk Rares) for the higher rarities. This stops a beginning player--who mostly sees and owns commons--from being overwhelmed by waves of minutiae and giving up in confusion. (And that's not an idle concern; in reading this page, you've seen the Loads and Loads of Rules for yourself.)

The three basic deck types are:

  • Aggro, the Zerg Rush deck. These decks are carefully designed so that they draw a land to play every turn, cast as many creatures as they can every turn, and attack (successfully) every turn; since the creatures are typically smaller, low-cost ones, these are also called "Weenie" or "Weenie horde" decks. The best designs in this strategy can secure a victory in four or five turns. Aggro's biggest flaw is that by turn six, it has run out of steam. Red is the best at this strategy, followed by White, Green and Black; Blue can do it sometimes, but not often. Some of the most popular variants include:
    • Red Deck Wins (also named "Sligh" after the player who popularized it) seeks to overwhelm the opponent with fast, undercosted creatures and burn spells, using all the mana available to it every turn. It was one of the first decks to be designed with efficiency at the forefront: statistical analysis was used in choosing the combination of land and spells so that it was impossible for the Random Number God to give you a hand from which you could not play a land and spend every mana you controlled, every turn. Its success made that sort of math necessary for successful tournament play; as such, it arguably represents the point when Magic first became Serious Business.
      • In modern times, "Blightning Aggro," named after its most prominent card, is a Red-Black deck that, while sharing some of Sligh's properties, tempers the loss of gas a typical aggro deck faces by forcing the opponent into card disadvantage as well (either through combat tricks or, well, Blightning.)
    • Though Sligh is the most famous version of aggro, "White Weenie" is the oldest and most popular. It swarms the opponent with cheap creatures with evasion abilities, often pumped up by enchantments. "Stompy" is a similar archetype built around Green rather than White. They are not nearly as fast as Sligh, but have a lot more staying power.
    • Because red and white are typically the best colors at aggro, the two will occasionally be combined into "Boros" decks ("Boros" being the red-white guild in the Ravnica expansion, when the deck type started becoming popular). In the vein of similar red decks the prior year, it was called "Boros Deck Wins." It often utilizes cheap, efficient creatures and removal spells to achieve victory. Prime amongst them was Lightning Helix which offered a six point swing in life totals for two mana.
      • Some years later, Boros returned in Zendikar with a Landfall variant. Landfall is an ability that improves your creatures or spells in some way (usually an increase in power and toughness) if a land enters play under your control. It combined incredibly cheap Landfall cards with a number of effects that allowed you to play multiple lands in a turn. This buffed your cheap creatures at little cost to you, making them very powerful very early.
    • Suicide Black decks have a "win at all costs" philosophy, utilizing powerful creatures with big drawbacks and hoping they win before they self-destruct. Winning with 1 HP is the same as winning with 20, so why not use those 19 life as a resource? Suicide Black does exactly that. With the help of a couple Life Drain spells, it can even succeed.
    • Black also has a variant called "Reanimator," which uses cheap spells that bring dead creatures back from the graveyard. This allows you to get around the usual requirement of "hard-casting" your Awesome but Impractical 8-mana Badass creature; instead you find a way to put that creature card directly into your graveyard, with the express intent of using cheap zombification to get it onto the battlefield. Players using the most successful Reaminator decks do this long before their opponent has 8 mana of his own for an effective defense. And, even if he does manage to kill your creature, well, you can rez it again! Hilarity Ensues! (Fortunately for the opponent, there are spells that make creatures Deader Than Dead.)
      • The other popular deck from Ravnica block was a black-green Reanimator variant that utilized the Dredge ability. When its creatures died, they could be brought back by putting cards from one's deck into the graveyard instead of drawing a card. This would likely put more cards with Dredge into the graveyard, and the cycle would continue until you ran out of cards or the game ended.
    • Stompy is a mono-green weenie deck that uses the hyper-efficient green critters such as Scythe Tiger, Garruk's Companion, and Leatherback Baloth to power through any early-game defenses, as well as mana-producing critters such as Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise to ramp up the mana supply, while using the new breed of green card draw spells such as Lead The Stampede to refill the hand and keep up the assault. The main drawbacks of the deck are that 1) Green does not have much in the way of removal and 2) does not have many creatures with evasion abilities, meaning it has trouble breaking through stalemates.
    • Zoo is a tri-color Red/Green/White deck that plays on synergies between the three colors of weenie beatdown to cause pain to their opponents. It relies on creatures that get better if they have allied lands in play (Kird Ape, Wild Nactal, Loam Lion), efficient multicolored beasts (Loxodon Hierarch, Wooly Thoctar), and answers for any other permanent type (through the artifact and enchantment hate of green and white, the multiple Exiling spells of white, or the direct damage of red) available. Zoo can edge into Aggro-Control at times.
  • Control, the Stone Wall deck. Control decks focus around limiting the opponent's options and gradually establishing a complete lockdown; the bulk of the deck involves spells which accomplish this. Sometimes the method used to establish "control" is also the method used to win; other methods still rely on creatures, generally large and/or hard to target and block, which just stroll over and mangle the opponent at their leisure. Because it isn't much fun to be on the receiving end of this strategy, Wizards has been watering it down in recent years.
    • "MUC", or Mono Blue Control, is exclusively ("mono") Blue, though some variations exist which get help from White. They rely on "counterspells," which create a Phlebotinum Breakdown in a spell your opponent is casting; his spell fails and his mana is wasted. These have been called "Draw-Go" decks because that's what your turn consists of ("I draw a card; your turn, go"), and also "Permission" decks because the opponent feels like he needs to have your permission before he does anything. However, don't try to play this unless you're Genre Savvy to the Metagame; you need to know which of his spells to counter, which means knowing what his deck does. (And no, you can't just blithely counter everything he casts; you don't have the mana, and your supply of counterspells is limited anyways.)
    • Board Control decks are almost always Black and/or White, and rely primarily on destroying creatures using Kill'Em All-style apocalypses, with the logic that that's how most decks win. They tend to be good at that particular job, but are slow and have a hard time dealing with big splashy spells or combo decks, making them almost the opposite of Blue Control. Many decks have successfully hybridized these strategies, though.
      • In particular, Board Control decks these days are generally one descendant of either "Mono-Black Control" or "Dead Guy Ale" or another - That is, Discard & Board Control together. MBC decks are, well, pure Black, and rely on discarding, coupled with spells which force your opponent to sacrifice his creatures. Dead Guy Ale, on the other hand, is a White & Black deck relying on most of the same cards from MBC, especially the discarding cards, but uses white for more versatile field control; this can be anything from just adding in 4 copies of a single multi-colored spell called Vindicate, to making half the deck white to add in the best spot-removal cards in the game as well as strong creatures whose damage causes you to gain HP, in order to offset the life you'll be paying to draw extra cards.
    • Land Destruction destroys lands in play, on the theory that, if the opponent has no mana, he can't do anything. Most such cards are Red, though Black and Green have a few options as well. Wizards has been watering down the strength of such spells in recent years; the archetypal land-destruction spell, Stone Rain, is a second-turn cast if you used your first turn to drop an artifact source, and (if you went first) would destroy your opponent's only land in play. Rinse, lather, repeat. Your opponent is unlikely to be entertained, and now land destruction spells typically cost 4 mana or more.
      • Prison decks accomplish the same thing but by different means. Instead of blowing up your opponent's land with spells like Stone Rain or Wildfire, Prison decks usually use artifacts with permanent or recurring effects, such as Winter Orb, Trinisphere or Smokestack, to make their opponents' lands useless.
    • Discard is almost exclusively Black, because Black has most of the spells which force the opponent to discard cards from their hand. It strikes even lower on the food-chain than does Land Destruction; after all, if your opponent has no hand, he can do even less. Because the point of Discard is to take cards from your opponent's hand and put them in the graveyard, it is essentially immune to Permission: even if he counters your discard spell, a card from his hand has still gone to his graveyard!
    • "Milling" is named after the card Millstone which provided the original effect. It forces the opponent to take cards from their library and put them in their graveyard. As Millstone is an artifact, this tactic is technically colorless, but Blue now has (colored) spells which do this sort of thing. It also may not seem like a "Control" tactic, but it limits what your opponent can play and it definitely isn't an Aggro or Combo tactic, so it goes here for lack of a better option.
      • Strictly speaking, mill does fall under control. It's not really found as a pure deck much, since milling an entire deck takes times and often requires you to have some method of controlling the board too. It is most often found as a hybrid of control method and win condition depending on situation. Combo decks (by definition) need a specific set of cards at the same time to 'go off' and if you can deprive the player of them before he has the combo set up then you are in a good position. These decks are always around in one form or another, but are seldom top tier decks, simply because they have very bad match ups against aggro decks who are very fast and difficult to disrupt that way. They can be successful in block (and even more so in draft) formats where the card pool is much more limited, which slows down aggro and makes combos more convoluted and likely doesn't provide the support (mana acceleration, deck-search cards) to make them reliable wins. Particularly drafted decks are often sub-optimal due to the random nature of the cards, meaning that they lack a solid answer to discard/mill attacks, as players focus on creatures.
  • Combo, or the A Simple Plan deck. A combo deck is one that relies on a combination of cards, that, when used together, produce an extremely powerful and hopefully game-winning effect. Because Magic has so many different cards, all of which can be played in the same deck (assuming the tournament format you're playing hasn't restricted or banned some of them), combo decks in ways that other decks can't hope to match. On the other hand, combo decks often end up being Awesome but Impractical, because there are many ways to stop a combo from coming together: use Anti-Magic on a critical component, or Kill It with Fire if it's a creature; or even just shoot him while he's putting his IKEA Weaponry together. If you don't, then you deserve to be stuck with the Overly-Long Fighting Animation of your opponent's Wave Motion Gun.
    • Because there are Over Nine Thousand Magic cards, trying to list every type of combo that has ever been used in a deck would be futile. However, here are some of the most famous:
      • Magic's oldest combo was Channel and Fireball, both of which were in Magic's very first set. Channel lets you turn life into mana, and Fireball does damage equal to the amount of mana you spend. Together, they result in one really big Fireball and one dead opponent. Notably, you could do this on the first turn using Black Lotus, a rare and absurdly powerful card that also appeared in Magic's first set. (Today, Black Lotus is illegal in almost every tournament format; the only exception is Vintage, which restricts it to one copy per deck.)
      • The first really famous combo deck was "ProsBloom", using Prosperity (draw more cards the more mana you pay, at a 1-1 ratio) and Cadaverous Bloom (get 2 mana for every card you exile from your hand) to work its way up to a gigantic, game-ending Drain Life. With Squandered Resources (sacrifice lands for mana) and Natural Balance (everybody gets exactly 5 lands), the deck could go off as early as turn 3.
      • Decks using the combo of Illusions of Grandeur and Donate once dominated the tournaments where it was legal. "Grandeur" gives its controller 20 life when it comes into play, but when it leaves play, its controller loses 20 life - and it will leave play, because you have to pay interest on it in the form of a mana cost that gets larger every turn. So, cast it yourself, to gain the 20 life, and then use "Donate" to make your opponent its controller. You get to keep the 20 life you gained, and your opponent gets to worry about losing 20 life (and, hopefully, the game) when s/he runs out of mana.
      • Many combo decks have been built around cards with the "Storm" ability, especially Mind's Desire. When you play a spell with Storm, it creates an extra copy of itself for each spell played earlier in the turn. Each copy of "Mind's Desire" lets you play a random card from your deck for no mana, so if you play a bunch of spells and follow them with Mind's Desire, you get to play even more spells. If those spells happen to make mana or draw extra cards, this can get out of hand really, really quickly. When it's time to actually end the game, either Tendrils of Agony or Brain Freeze can do the job pretty well.
        • It's also worth considering that unlike most combos, due to the way they work, spells with Storm are immune to the biggest nemesis of combo players : counterspells (except two of them, actually) (i.e : if you try to counter a spell with Storm, you end up only countering the last copy of the spell. Therefore, the spellcaster just has to always cast one extra spell before the Storm finisher to avoid failure). The whole "gathering enough mana + casting enough spells" still can be thwarted, though.

Additionally, there are two common hybrid types that draw on both Aggro and Control:

  • Aggro-Control is based around playing a few fast creatures while using control elements to protect your resources and take out your opponent's. For instance, the "U/G Madness" deck archetype (not to be confused with a webcomic named after it) uses Blue counterspells and removal to keep the board clear while Green creatures press the attack. This style is sometimes also referred to as "Countersliver", which replaced the Green creatures with a Swarm-style family of creatures called "slivers." (Slivers have the additional useful quality of making themselves stronger with every copy you play, which can get Off the Rails fast.) The Faeries archetype is the most recent example of a powerful aggro-control deck.
  • Midrange or Midgame is sort of like Aggro-Control's reciprocal: it plays defense for the first few turns, uses some control elements to stall the opponent while building up a lot of mana, and finally unleashes some huge creatures that dominate combat. White and/or Green are the best colors at this strategy. A popular deck of this archetype that was the other dominating deck of the Mirrodin era is the mighty Tooth and Nail archetype, which focuses on accelerating rapidly to nine Mana to unleash the signature spell, but can also win simply by hard-casting its powerful suite of creatures, thus playing both combo and midrange.

Nowadays, it's rare to find a deck that focuses on only one strategy without wandering into another strategy's territory at least a little. Most Aggro decks have a few cards which help them control enemy threats, most Control decks keep creatures around just to be safe (or to finish off a now-helpless opponent), and most Combo decks use elements of one or both for defensive purposes while it puts its Wave Motion Gun together. This is especially true as the game gets older and cards get, on average, more powerful and flexible. For example, Erhnam Djinn was thought of as powerful and severely undercosted in 1996 and saw a lot of play in Magic's first Pro Tour; by the time "Ernie" was reprinted in the 2002 set Judgement, the balance of the game had changed to the point he was barely played at all.

Card Effects

Every card tends to be unique in itself, but every set introduces new game mechanics that alter the natural order of battle, usually an ability unique to a certain set of cards. Some of these effects eventually transfer over into much later sets and become a commonly used effect, sometimes to the point where it gets a name shorthand to explain a more complicated power. Listing all possible card effects would take up more space than is really necessary (there's 57 of 'em), but here's some of the more common effects that have been used in more than one set:

  • Banding: That One Rule of Magic. Possibly the Trope Codifier. Intended to be I Am Legion, on the offensive, it allows any number of banding creature and ONE additional creature to attack and be blocked as a single unit and allowed the attacker to assign damage to his creatures rather than the controller of the blocking creature as normal. On the defensive, same as above, only the defender chose how the attacking creatures dealt damage to the defenders, not the attacking player. The problem is that other creatures have abilities like First Strike, Trample, Fear, Flying, and these were NOT transferred to the rest of the Band, so tramplers automatically did all damage through to the defender, flying creatures broke off and continued attacking as normal, all first strike creatures broke off to become a second Band while still being blocked by the current blockers... When Wizards realized it added NOTHING to the basic strategy of the game besides allowing players to decide how damage is done to their own creatures, and created mass confusion otherwise, they publicly dropped it like a brick. And There Was Much Rejoicing. Originally mostly white, and intended to be white's trademark move (since it's dropping First Strike has become basically white's signature ability instead)
  • Bloodthirst X: If any damage was dealt to any opponent at any point in the current turn before this summoning resolves, this creature comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on itself. Is primarily a Red, Green, or Black ability, given its savage nature.
  • Cycling: just about the only word on this list that does not affect how a creature acts on the battlefield, "Cycling" is essentially an alternate mode of casting. All spells have a mana cost and an effect that results if you cast it: "Pay [X] to discard this card and have [Y] happen." A card with Cycling has a second effect: "Pay [Z] to discard this card and draw a new one." It allows you to get rid of something useless and replace it with something (hopefully) useful.
  • Deathtouch: Any creature that is dealt damage by this creature will be destroyed regardless of the toughness of the creature. Generally green and black. [5] Deathtouch has been a bit controversial in the community.
  • Defender: Creature cannot attack, but is able to block. Typically, because of this limitation, they have a larger-than-average power and toughness for their mana cost (ie, 2 mana for a 2/3 creature is unheard of normally). Beforehand it was an innate ability of creatures called a Wall, who are now retroactively considered to have the Defender ability. Generally white and blue, though found in all colors.
  • Fear/Intimidate: The original keyword, "Fear," meant that when attacking, the creature with Fear cannot be blocked except by black or artifact creatures (the idea being that these creatures are so fearsome that only black creatures, unafraid of death, and artifact creatures, with no mind of their own, are willing to do battle with them). It appeared almost exclusively on Black creatures. It has since been reworked into an ability called "Intimidate," which makes the creature unblockable save for artifact creatures and creatures that share a color with the attacker--a subtle difference, but one that allows the developers to put it on more cards. Intimidate now appears on Red and Green creatures in addition to its original Black.
  • Firebreathing: Denotes a specific activated ability which is allows the player to spend any amount of mana to pump up the creatures' power by 1 for each mana spent for the remainder of the turn. Usually takes the form of "R: (This) gets +1/+0 until end of turn," but variants have existed through Magic's history. Is most usually associated with the Dragon subtype. Almost always a Red ability, and is often considered Red's most devastating combat ability - an unblocked Firebreather with a lot of untapped Red mana behind it can potentially end the game right there.
  • First Strike: Under normal circumstances, when two creatures fight each other, they hit simultaneously; a creature with First Strike gets to assign damage before everyone else. Such a creature might be able to deal its opponent lethal damage before it has a chance to hit back. This is particularly useful in warding off enemy creatures whose abilities activate when they deal combat damage, like Deathtouch or Lifelink. (If two creatures with First Strike fight each other, basically the effect cancels out and damage is dealt normally.) Generally white and red.
    • Double Strike: When attacking, creature will deal First Strike damage in addition to hitting during the "normal" phase. This essentially doubles the creature's power when in combat, as a creature with power 3 would deal 6 damage when attacking. Also generally white and red.
    • An honorable mention to "Firstest Strike," the ability on the Urban Legend of Zelda card "Throat Wolf." This card does not exist, but you can basically guess what it does.
  • Flash: this started out as a modifier on creature cards, which, like sorceries, can only be played during your turn. "Flash" allows them to enter the battlefield at "instant speed" and at any time. Gradually "Flash" began to appear on artifacts and enchantments as well, and Mark Rosewater is now on record as beleving the entire Instant category to be superfluous, since the intent can be accomplished by just printing "Flash" Sorceries. Until (and unless) that day comes, you'll mostly find Flash spells in green, blue and white.
  • Flying: A creature with flying, for fairly obvious reasons, can only be blocked by other creatures with Flying (or with Reach; more on that later). This is one of the oldest "evasion" abilities - ways to make a creature harder to block. Note that creatures with flying can block landbound creatures. All colors besides green get flying; blue and white get most of them. (Failed attempts at replicating Flying include Flanking, Shadow and Horsemanship, which is practically identical to Flying but still fell flat because the word itself is not self-explanatory.)
  • Haste: Normally, creatures must wait a turn upon being summoned before using a tap effect or attacking. Haste allows creature to do either on their first turn. This has lead to some first turn victories. Mostly in red; green and black can have it as well.
    • Another honorable mention: Super Haste. This ability, found on Joke Card "Rocket Powered Turbo Slug", let the creature attack the turn before you played it. (Although it was originally a joke, the mechanic was recycled completely seriously in the Time Travel-heavy Time Spiral block, albeit not for creatures.)
  • Indestructible: Creature cannot be destroyed by card effects or combat damage. Creature is still vulnerable to non-destruction effects (return to hand, take control, sacrifice creature, and others), and can be slain if enough -1/-1 counters are placed on them to reduce their toughness to zero. Mostly found on green, white and artifact cards.
  • Landwalk: A creature with landwalk becomes unblockable if opposing player controls a land they are affiliated with. For example, Islandwalk allows that creature to directly attack a player who controls an island. All colors but white get landwalk commonly. (Honorable mention to the joke card Hurloon Wrangler, which has "Denimwalk" and can't be blocked by an opponent wearing jeans.)
    • Landhome: a creature with Landhome could not attack a player unless that player controlled a [Land], and must be sacrificed if you don't control a [Land]. This was predominantly Blue (Island), representing seagoing leviathans which would be helpless out of water, but appeared so infrequently that Wizards un-keyworded it, preferring to just spell out the two sentences instead.
  • Lifelink: Damage dealt by the creature adds an equal number of hit points to the controller's life total. Generally white and black.
  • Morph: Allows creatures (later, other cards as well), to be played face-down, a-la Yu-Gi-Oh!, for 3 colorless mana, and count as a colorless, creature-type-less 2/2 creature. It can then be turned face-up at any time if its Morph cost is paid (usually in the form of mana, which is often far less than the normal mana cost of the spell itself, but other costs exist as well, such as discarding cards). Typically, this allows for the quick play of creatures which would normally be Awesome but Impractical due to excessive mana costs. Found in all five colors and then some, but Blue makes the most effective use of it.
  • Persist: When a persistent creature dies in its natural state, it comes back immediately, albeit slightly weaker. Specifically, the rules are, "If this creature dies and does not have a -1/-1 counter on it, return it to play with a -1/-1 counter on it." (By default, if it dies the second time, it's a Final Death.)
    • Undying: The polar opposite of the above - when an undying creature dies, it comes back stronger, with a +1/+1 counter on it.
      • It's already been announced that Persist and Undying will never be in the same block.
  • Protection From X: Protection conveys a number of resistances: The thing with protection cannot be damaged, enchanted, equipped, blocked, or targeted by what it has protection from. (The acronym DEBT is a good way to remember this somewhat random assortment.) Protection, however, does not stop effects that don't target the creature itself (which is part of why Diabolic Edict is so useful), or ones that don't deal damage (like the classic Wrath of God). Many cards allow the player to choose a color of protection, and others protect against artifacts or even a chosen card. Mostly a white ability, though found in all colors.
  • Rampage X: A retired ability, and for a good reason; rampage ups the creatures offense by X for each creature blocking it IN EXCESS of the first - this means it only fires if 2 or more creatures block this creature. It's confusing, so now they just opt to have a creature say "gets +X for each creature blocking it". Still, it lasted for almost 4 years.
  • Reach: Green's answer to its lack of flyers, creatures with "Reach" can block flying creatures despite not being fliers themselves. Typically, this is represented in the card art as them having a bow and arrow, or by being a giant spider that weaves dragon-snaring webs. Nearly always in green; if not, it'll be white.
  • Regeneration: When a creature with Regenerate takes damage that would normally destroy them, you can pay a mana cost and keep them alive; they never enter the graveyard. However, this only works when the creature is destroyed, which is different than you asking your own creature to "sacrifice" itself as part of a Thanatos Gambit spell. Found mostly in green and black.
  • Shroud: Creature cannot be targeted by spells or abilities, including your own. As with Protection From Whatever, this doesn't stop non-targeting effects or wide-scale spells that affect more than one creature. Generally green and blue.
    • Hexproof: The Magic 2012 Core Set provided a powerful update to shroud. Previously called "troll-shroud" by players due to its presence on the popular Ascetic Troll, hexproof means the creature that has it can't be targeted by spells or abilities... but only the ones your opponents control. You can target it all you want, with all the offensive and defensive implications that brings along. It's primarily in green, but it's found in white and blue as well .
  • Trample: Normally, any excess damage in combat between two creatures is ignored; "You Shall Not Pass," played straight. A creature with trample doesn't fall for this: if it has damage left over after its blocker is dead, that damage does go through to the defending player. This only works if the creature with trample is attacking; if you block with it, the excess damage is still wasted[6]. Trample can be found in all colors, but green has the most.
  • Unblockable: Creature cannot be blocked in any way, including spell abilities. Their damage still can be negated through other means once it is applied to the player, though. Mostly in blue; red occasionally gets this or a variant through preventing blocking.
  • Vigilance: Attacking does not cause a creature to tap. This is useful because, as mentioned way up higher in the article, tapped creatures cannot block. Generally white and green.
  • Wither: All damage done against enemy creatures is done with -1/-1 counters, which means that damage remains after the turn it was caused in. Mostly commonly black or green.
    • Infect: an elaboration on "Wither," Infect deals damage as -1/-1 counters to creatures, and to players as poison counters[7]. Any player with 10 poison counters loses the game.

Formats of Play:

There are many different "Formats" in Magic - i.e., specific guidelines for deckbuilding, usually meant for some manner of Organized (read:Tournament) Play, which define how many cards must be included in a deck, how many copies of each card are permitted, and, in some instances, what specific cards are, and are not, permitted. Changes to restricted lists and banned lists are announced quarterly. In addition to organized formats, casual play is also popular, using general deckbuilding rules and possibly "house rules". What follows are the major formats of play, by their proper name and what sub-category of Format they fall into, according to the DCI:

  • Standard (Type 2) - (Constructed)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than basic lands.
      • Legal Sets: The most current "block," the prior "block," the current "core set," and, for about 3 months every year until the next block is released, the prior "core set." A "block" is generally three consecutive sets released within one year with a shared setting, style and storyline, and a core set is a set released annually with a more generic storyline, meant more for beginners. Earlier versions of currently legal cards (the newer ones denoted as "reprints") and any Promo versions of currently-legal cards are also legal, as long as they are either white or black bordered and have a proper Magic: The Gathering back.
      • Banned Cards: Currently none. Banning cards in Standard is rare, but not unheard of.
  • Block - (Constructed)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than basic lands.
      • Legal Sets: The designated block.
      • Banned Cards: Varies depending on the block. Current list.
  • Extended (Type 1.X) - (Constructed)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than basic lands.
      • Legal Sets: The blocks and core sets published in the past four years.
      • Banned Cards: Current list.
  • Modern - (Constructed)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than basic lands.
      • Legal Sets: All sets from 8th Edition onward.
      • Banned Cards: Current list.
  • Legacy (Type 1.5) - (Eternal)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than Basic Lands.
      • Legal Sets: All sets and promo cards printed with white or black borders and a proper Magic: The Gathering back.
      • Banned Cards: Current list.
  • Vintage (Type 1) - (Eternal)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than Basic Lands; some cards, denoted as "Restricted" are only allowed 1 copy each.
      • Legal Sets: All sets and promo cards printed with white or black borders and a proper Magic: The Gathering back. Many "Non-Sanctioned" tournaments also usually allow a specific number of "Proxy" cards - cards that are used to take the place of other cards in a deck (i.e., saying the single Forest in your White deck is a Black Lotus).
      • Banned Cards: Approximately 12 cards, all which reference either a) anteing cards, b) flipping the cards themselves and interacting with the cards they touch when they land, or c) "subgames" of Magic which have been historically used to drag the games out to time and force a draw. There is also a list of "restricted" cards, limited to 1 copy per deck and sideboard combined. Current list.
  • Draft - (Limited)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: During play - tournaments begin with players in "Pods" of typically 4 to 8 players, each with 3 packs of cards. Each player simultaneously opens one of their three packs removes the "filler" card (either a rules insert or token), chooses a single card from the pack, and passes it to the player to their left. All cards are chosen this way until the packs have been completely passed, then repeated for the next pack but passing to the player to the right, and then again for the third player, again passing to the left. All players are left with 45 cards, and must construct a deck with only those cards and any Basic Lands they choose before the matches begin.
      • Deck Size: 40 cards
      • Card Copy Limit: Unlimited for any card, as long as you have drafted them (i.e. you may have 6 copies of a card, as long as you chose all 6 of those copies during the actual drafting)
      • Legal Sets: Any sets featured in the Draft. Usually the current Block, the most recent Set, or the most recent Core Set, depending on the tournament specifics.
      • Banned Cards: No Banned cards in Draft play.
  • Sealed - (Limited)
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1 or Two-Headed-Giant
    • Starting Life: 20 for 1v1; 30 for THG
    • Deck Construction: During play - Each player receives 6 packs of cards prior to the tournament. During preparation, all players open all packs they own and must construct a deck using only those 90 cards they opened, plus any number of basic lands.
      • Deck Size: 40 cards
      • Card Copy Limit: Unlimited; it is highly unlikely to have even 4 copies of any one card in only 6 packs, let alone more, but you are allowed any number if you do receive more than 4. In THG matches, however, you may share cards with your teammate, so it is more likely to have multiple copies of any one card.
      • Legal Sets: Any sets featured in the tournament. Usually the current block, the most recent set, or the most recent core set.
  • EDH / Elder Dragon Highlander / Commander - (Officially-Recognized Casual)
    • Playstyle: Typically either 3-to-6 Free-For-All, or 1-on-1, but can be anything the players decide.
    • Starting Life: 40
    • Deck Construction: prior to play
      • Deck Size: Exactly 99 cards in the deck plus 1 Legendary Creature, denoted as the "General/Commander".
      • Card Copy Limit: 1 copy of each card other than Basic Lands. No card may be of any color other than the colors of the General, may not contain any colored mana symbols not present on the General, and no lands (including basics) may be included that produce colored mana other than the colors of the General (for example - a Red and White General allows only cards that are Red, and/or White, and/or Colorless in nature, and/or include Red, White, or Colorless activated abilities or produce Red, White, or Colorless mana; you may have creatures that are purely Red, purely White, Colorless, or both Red and White together, but any creature that is Red, White, and Black is illegal, as are any cards - including Lands - which contain any colored mana symbols other than those found in your General's mana cost). Lands or abilities of permanents which say "Add one mana of any color to your mana pool," or variants thereof, are allowed, but can only provide mana of the same color(s) as your General (special note should be given to cards which say the physical word, instead of show the mana symbol - for example, if you have a card in a blue-only deck which says, word for word, "add 3 green mana to your mana pool" and it hasn't been errated to say "add GGG to your mana pool," it is allowed, but the provided mana will immediately become colorless).
      • Legal Sets: Any sets and promo cards which have White or Black Borders and proper Magic: The Gathering backs. Cards featuring Gold borders or are squared with non-standard Magic backs may also be allowed, depending on the play group, though rarely are cards with Silver borders (these are from the Un- Sets and are joke sets not typically meant for serious play, though some groups may make an exception if all cards in the deck besides basic lands are from the Un- Sets).
      • Banned Cards: Current list. These typically are cards which vastly upset the intended Multiplayer nature of the format.
  • Pauper
    • Playstyle: 1-on-1
    • Starting Life: 20
    • Deck Construction: Prior to play
      • Deck Size: Minimum of 60
      • Card Copy Limit: 4 copies of each card other than basic lands.
      • Legal Sets: Any sets and promo cards which have White or Black Borders and proper Magic: The Gathering backs, as long as those cards have been printed at "common" rarity.
      • Banned Cards: Everything that has never been printed at common plus Cranial Plating (which is horrendously powerful for a common) and Frantic Search (which is just horrendously overpowered in general).


  1. The early days of Magic set the minimum at 40
  2. Except for a few special ones which have untapping as an ability
  3. Some cards say, "Tap me to tap something your opponent controls," and under those circumstances you might want to keep them both tapped. Said card will not untap during your opponent's turn, because your card trumps standard rules
  4. It used to be the case that if you had unspent mana, not only did you lose it at the end of a phase, you took damage as you did so; this was eventually removed.
  5. Originally this effect had much greater limitations on it as it was a triggered rather than passive effect and was limited to combat damage. Combos that involve doing a single point of damage to lots of creatures become game altering when the source has deathtouch.
  6. imagine that, when attacking, creatures travel to the enemy territory, and it becomes obvious why a blocking creature wouldn't trample over
  7. For example, if the creature would deal two damage, the player would get two poison counters instead
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