How To Play Magic The Gathering: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide


If you’ve ever been curious about playing Magic: The Gathering but didn’t know where to start, then this is the guide for you. Magic: The Gathering is a popular trading card game that has captivated audiences around the world with its depth and strategy. With almost 300 pages of official rules, it can be intimidating for new players to jump in. But fear not! This comprehensive beginner’s guide will walk you through everything you need to know from understanding the basics to advanced play and social events like Friday Night Magic. So grab your cards and let’s get started!

Magic: The Gathering is a complex card game with a lot of rules and nuances. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. If you’re new to the game, you might find our Introduction to Magic: The Gathering helpful. It provides a broad overview of the game and its history, which can give you a better understanding of the game before you dive into the specifics of how to play.

A Magic the Gathering player sitting on the floor, surrounded by cards and tokens, with a laptop open next to them, watching a tutorial video on how to play the game, the room bright and colorful with posters of Magic the Gathering artwork on the walls and gaming peripherals scattered around

Key Takeaways

  • Magic: The Gathering is a popular trading card game that involves using spells, creatures, and planeswalkers to defeat opponents by reducing their life total to zero.
  • To get started with MTG, you’ll need a minimum of 60 cards and a basic understanding of the different types of cards used in the game such as lands, spells, creatures, and planeswalkers.
  • Mana is the fundamental resource in MTG that allows players to cast spells and summon creatures. Understanding how mana works is key to effectively playing the game.
  • While it may seem overwhelming at first, learning how to play MTG can be achieved through step-by-step guides and practicing with friends. Don’t get discouraged – experimenting with different decks is part of what makes the game so fun!

Brief History Of Magic: The Gathering (MTG)

Magic: The Gathering, often abbreviated as MTG, was first introduced to the world by creator Richard Garfield in 1993. As a revolutionary and engaging strategy card game published by Wizards of the Coast, it quickly gained popularity among fans of both fantasy and competitive gameplay.

Over the years, this iconic trading card game has seen numerous expansions and adaptations – now boasting an extensive history with a timeline full of milestone events.

Popularity And Cultural Impact Of MTG

Over the past 25 years, Magic: The Gathering (MTG) has evolved into a global phenomenon with an ever-growing fan base. A large part of its appeal lies in its social aspect; players come together at local game stores or events to compete, trade cards, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being part of such a passionate community.

Pop culture has also embraced MTG wholeheartedly – it’s featured in television shows like South Park and Big Bang Theory, as well as on popular YouTube channels dedicated to games and geek culture.

There have even been collaborations between Wizards of the Coast (the game’s publisher) and other franchises like Dungeons & Dragons for special card sets.

Understanding The Basics

MTG is a card game where players use spells, creatures, and planeswalkers to defeat their opponents by reducing their life total to zero; it features basic game mechanics that build upon the four card types: lands, spells, creatures, and planeswalkers.

What Is MTG?

Magic: The Gathering, commonly referred to as MTG, is a highly popular and strategic trading card game that has captivated players worldwide since its inception in 1993. Created by mathematician Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast, this engaging game combines strategy, fantasy, and an extensive collection of unique cards.

Players assume the roles of powerful wizards known as “Planeswalkers” who summon creatures, cast spells, and utilize various tactics to defeat their opponents. Each match consists of two or more Planeswalkers battling for supremacy using customized decks.

With thousands of cards available across multiple sets spanning years’ worth of releases, there’s no shortage of possibilities when it comes to gameplay or creating a diverse deck tailored specifically to your preferred play style.

The Objective Of The Game

The primary objective of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is to defeat your opponents by reducing their life points from 20 down to zero.

To give an example, imagine facing off against a friend who’s just played a mighty dragon creature card. You might respond by casting a counter spell to nullify the threat or summoning a flying creature of your own for defense.

Basic Game Mechanics

To start with, Magic: The Gathering is a turn-based trading card game that involves two or more players using decks of cards representing magical spells, powerful creatures, enchantments, and other items.

Each player begins with 20 life points and aims to reduce their opponent’s points to zero by attacking them with creatures or casting spells. To play the game correctly, you need to understand the sequence of playing each turn.

On your turn, you must draw a card from your deck and then play one land from your hand onto the battlefield – this will give you mana which is used to cast spells. You can then use this mana to cast creature cards and other spell types according to their mana costs.

Understanding The Card Types: Lands, Spells, Creatures, And Planeswalkers

To play Magic: The Gathering, you need to understand the different types of cards used in the game. Lands are crucial cards that provide mana, which is needed to cast spells and summon creatures.

Without lands, players can’t do much else. Spells are divided into instant and sorcery categories; they allow for various effects like dealing damage or drawing more cards.

Creatures are summoned onto the battlefield to attack and block your opponent’s creatures or planeswalkers (more on those later).

As a beginner player learning these card types will help guide how you build decks based on what kind of strategy you want to implement when playing Magic: The Gathering.

Getting Started

To get started with Magic: The Gathering, you’ll need a minimum of 60 cards and a starter kit – but before you buy anything, check out our guide to help you make informed decisions about what to purchase.

What You Need To Play MTG

To start playing Magic: The Gathering, you will need the following items:

  1. MTG cards: A minimum of 60 cards are required to play. Beginners can purchase a pre-built starter kit or start with booster packs.
  2. deck box: To keep your cards organized and protected.
  3. Dice or counters: To keep track of damage dealt to players and creatures.
  4. Playmat: Optional but recommended for a smooth gameplay experience.
  5. Friends to play with: MTG is a social game best enjoyed by others.
  6. Knowledge of the rules: Beginners can find rules online or in rulebooks provided with starter kits.
  7. Basic understanding of game mechanics: Understanding how spells, creatures, and planeswalkers interact is crucial for gameplay success.
  8. Mana base: Every deck needs lands to generate mana to cast spells and summon creatures.

How Many Cards Do You Need To Play MTG

To get started with playing Magic: The Gathering, it’s important to have a deck of at least 60 cards. This is the standard rule of thumb for casual and competitive play alike.

While there isn’t a maximum number of cards you can include in your deck, having too many could hurt your chances of drawing the cards you need during gameplay. Remember, each player starts with seven cards drawn from their respective decks, so having fewer than 60 would likely result in an insufficient number of options available to you throughout the game.

What To Buy First In MTG

If you’re just starting with Magic: The Gathering, it can be overwhelming to figure out what cards and supplies you need. To get started without breaking the bank, consider purchasing a starter kit or preconstructed deck.

These are designed for new players and come with everything you need to start playing, including a rulebook and enough cards to build a basic deck.

Another option is to buy boosters and create your own custom deck. However, it’s important to remember that not all booster packs are created equal – some may have rare or powerful cards while others may contain more common ones.

Learning The Game

Learn how to play Magic: The Gathering with a step-by-step guide on using creatures, spells, and planeswalkers, building a deck, and understanding the role of mana in the game.

How To Play MTG: Step-by-step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to play Magic: The Gathering:

  1. Shuffle your deck of 60 cards.
  2. Draw a hand of seven cards.
  3. Decide who goes first through a coin toss or other agreed-upon method.
  4. Each player draws one card from their deck at the beginning of their turn and can play one land card per turn.
  5. Use the mana from your lands to cast spells and summon creatures onto the battlefield.
  6. Use your creatures to attack your opponent and defend yourself against their attacks.
  7. Play instant spells during either player’s turn, while sorceries can only be played during your own turn.
  8. The game ends when a player has no cards left to draw from their deck or when one player reduces the other’s life points to zero.
  9. Keep in mind that there are many different strategies and card combinations that can be used. so experimenting with different decks is part of the fun!

Remember, Magic: The Gathering can be a complex game but don’t get discouraged! There are plenty of resources available to help you learn, including starter guides and detailed rulebooks. Practice makes perfect, so keep playing and have fun!

Understanding The Role Of Mana In The Game

Mana is the fundamental resource in Magic: The Gathering, and understanding its role is crucial to mastering the game. In simple terms, mana represents magical energy that you can use to cast spells, summon creatures or activate powerful abilities.

When you play land cards from your hand, they provide you with specific types of mana based on their color.

The amount and type of mana available to a player at any given time determine what cards they can play during their turn.

How To Use Creatures, Spells, And Planeswalkers

Creatures, spells, and planeswalkers are the building blocks of Magic: The Gathering. Creatures are cards that can attack your opponent and defend against attacks from their creatures.

Spells come in many different types and can be used to cast devastating effects against your opponents or help you win the game by drawing more cards or gaining life points.

Planeswalkers are powerful beings that have a unique set of abilities.

When using creatures in Magic: The Gathering, it’s important to choose when to play them strategically. For example, if you need to block an incoming attack from an opponent’s creature, use a creature with higher toughness than its power so it doesn’t get destroyed easily.

Planeswalkers work differently than other card types since they don’t represent any specific action like attacking or blocking but provide special abilities that can be used throughout the match through loyalty counters on each planeswalker card.

How To Build A Deck

Building a deck in Magic: The Gathering may seem daunting, but it can be a fun and rewarding process. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Choose a format: Before you start selecting cards, decide on the format of play you want to build your deck for. There are many formats available, including Standard, Modern, Legacy, Commander, and more.
  2. Determine your strategy: Every successful deck has a clear strategy in mind. Do you want to focus on creatures attacking? Spells dealing direct damage? Controlling the battlefield with enchantments and artifacts? Knowing what you want your deck to accomplish will help you select the right cards.
  3. Choose your colors: Magic: The Gathering features five different colors of magic (white, blue, black, red, and green), each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing which colors to include in your deck will depend on your chosen strategy.
  4. Include lands: Lands are essential cards in any Magic: The Gathering deck as they provide the mana needed to cast spells and summon creatures. A good rule of thumb is to include at least 20 lands in a 60-card deck.
  5. Add creatures and spells: Depending on your chosen strategy, select creatures and spells that fit within that theme while also considering card synergy and mana costs.
  6. Test and adjust: Once you’ve assembled your deck on paper or digitally using tools like Magic: The Gathering Arena‘s Deck Builder feature, test it out against other players or AI opponents to see how it performs in battle. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on its performance.

Remember that building a successful Magic: The Gathering deck takes time and practice but can be incredibly satisfying once you find the right combination of cards for your play style!

Advanced Play

This section covers advanced gameplay, including understanding booster drafts and how to effectively use a planeswalker during play.

Understanding Booster Drafts

In booster drafts, players take turns selecting cards from a set of unopened booster packs to build a deck. The goal is to create the strongest deck possible and win matches against other players.

It’s important to remember that not every card in a pack will be useful for your strategy, so it’s crucial to assess the value of each card and pick accordingly.

To do well in booster draft, it’s also essential to have knowledge of the various card types available and how they can work together effectively.

How To Use A Planeswalker

Planeswalkers are a core element of more advanced decks in Magic: The Gathering and are powerful wizards that possess unique abilities. When using a planeswalker, players can activate one of their loyalty abilities once per turn by adding or removing the loyalty counters from the card.

It’s important to remember that planeswalkers are not creatures and cannot be attacked until your opponent has eliminated all your other defense mechanisms. If you’re struggling with taking down a planeswalker, consider using cards with specific targeting effects on them, such as ‘destroy target planeswalker,’ which will get rid of it instantly.

How To Play A Booster Draft MTG

Booster draft is a popular format of playing Magic: The Gathering.that allows players to build their deck from a selection of booster packs. Here’s how to play:

  1. Gather your players and acquire the necessary boosters.
  2. Each player should open their first booster, select one card, and pass the remaining cards to the player on their left.
  3. Repeat this process until all cards have been selected from the first pack.
  4. Players should then repeat this process with their next two packs in the same manner.
  5. Once all cards have been selected, players use those cards to build decks with a minimum of 40 cards.
  6. Players will then compete against each other in a tournament-style event using their newly drafted decks.

To excel at booster drafts, it’s important to identify signals from other players during the drafting process and adjust your card selections accordingly. With practice and strategy, a booster draft can be an exciting way to play Magic: The Gathering and test your skills against other players.

Playing Socially

Part of the magic community is playing socially, which includes participating in weekly Magic: The Gathering game nights, attending Friday Night Magic events, and even playing online via Magic: The Gathering Arena.

Magic: The Gathering Game Night

Playing Magic: The Gathering can be fun, but playing it with friends on a game night takes the experience to another level. Game nights offer players the opportunity to socialize while enjoying their favorite card game.

You can head out to your local comic shop or gaming store and join in on their Friday Night Magic events. These are casual tournaments where players of all skill levels come together for friendly competition.

Alternatively, you could host your own game night with friends at home.

Friday Night Magic Events

Friday Night Magic (FNM) events are social gatherings where players can come together to play MTG in a friendly and competitive environment.

These user-friendly events offer different formats for players to choose from and provide an introduction to more competitive events. Whether you’re looking to test your skills or just want to shuffle some decks and have fun, FNM is the perfect place to do it.

Playing Online Via Magic: The Gathering Arena

One of the best ways to play Magic: The Gathering is through its online platform, Magic: The Gathering Arena. This free-to-play digital platform not only teaches players how to play the game but also automates all the rules during gameplay.

Players can customize their profile and choose their deck before picking a play mode in MTG Arena. With updates every few months, players can collect cards from an immense library while enjoying competitive play with other MTG enthusiasts around the world.


In conclusion, Magic: The Gathering is a complex and rewarding game that offers endless possibilities for players of all levels. With the right tools and knowledge, anyone can learn how to play and enjoy this beloved collectible card game.

The Appeal And Longevity Of MTG

MTG’s appeal and longevity lie in its complexity, strategic depth, and ever-evolving meta-game. This trading card game not only challenges players’ skills but also encourages them to constantly improve by adapting to the shifting dynamics of each match.

Furthermore, MTG has a massive community that spans the globe with events held regularly at local gaming shops all the way up to international competitions.

Encouragement For New Players To Start Playing

If you’re interested in learning Magic: The Gathering, there’s never been a better time to start. With numerous formats and endless deck possibilities, the game offers flexibility for players of all levels.

Brawl format is particularly beginner-friendly as it only requires one copy of each card in a deck. Plus, Magic: The Gathering Game Night and Friday Night Magic events provide opportunities for gameplay with others, whether online or in-person.

Don’t be intimidated by the statistical aspect of the game or expected outcomes – learning comes with practice and experience.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Play Magic the Gathering and Win Big!

What is Magic the Gathering?

Magic: The Gathering is a trading card game that combines strategy and a bit of luck. Players build decks of cards representing magical spells, creatures, and artifacts and then use those cards to defeat their opponents.

How do I play my first game of Magic the Gathering?

To play your first game of Magic the Gathering, you’ll need a starter kit, which comes with everything you need to get started. It’s recommended that you read through the instruction manual before playing your first game to familiarize yourself with the rules.

What are the basic card types in Magic the Gathering?

The five basic card types in Magic the Gathering are lands, creatures, artifacts, enchantments, and spells. Each card type has its own unique abilities and is used for different purposes during the game.

How do I play my first land card?

During your main phase, you can play one land card per turn. To do so, simply drag the land card from your hand and place it onto the battlefield, making sure to tap it to indicate that it has been used.

What is mana used for in Magic the Gathering?

Mana is the energy used to play spells and creatures. You can tap a card that produces mana to add that color of mana to your mana pool. The amount of mana you have in your mana pool determines what spells and creatures you can play.

How do I play a spell or creature card?

To play a spell or creature card, you must have enough mana to pay for the card’s casting cost. To do so, tap the cards in your mana pool to produce the necessary amount of mana and then drag the card from your hand and place it on the battlefield.

How many cards do I start with in a game of Magic the Gathering?

Each player starts the game with seven cards in their hand.

How long do cards stay on the battlefield?

Unless a card specifies otherwise, cards will stay on the battlefield until they are destroyed or removed from play.

What does it mean to attack with a creature in Magic the Gathering?

To attack with a creature in Magic the Gathering, simply tap the creature and declare it as an attacker. The defending player can then choose to block the attack or take the damage.

How do I draw a card from my library in Magic the Gathering?

At the beginning of each turn, you draw a card from your library. To do so, simply click on the library and drag the top card to your hand.

Can I discard a card in Magic the Gathering?

Yes, you may choose to discard a card from your hand at any time during the game. This is often used when you have too many cards in your hand and need to make room for new ones.

Alex Caldwell
Alex Caldwell

Alex, a former professional card player, brings his extensive knowledge and passion for card games to Progamecards. He believes in the power of strategy and the thrill of competition, values that are deeply embedded in our company culture. Alex's vision is to make Progamecards a community where card game lovers can not only learn and improve but also share their love for the game.

Articles: 19