What is Magic: The Gathering (MTG)?

Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering (colloquially “Magic”, “MTG”, or “Magic Cards”) is a collectible card game created by Richard Garfield and later bought in 1994 by the company Wizards of the Coast, which was purchased by Hasbro in September 1999. Magic inspired an entirely new game genre and has an estimated six million players in over seventy countries worldwide, as well as a successful Internet version. The game is a strategy contest that includes an element of chance due to the random distribution of cards from shuffling.

Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards called “Planeswalkers” who use magical spells, items, and fantastic creatures to defeat their opponents. Though the original concept of the game drew heavily from the motifs of traditional fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Magic bears little resemblance to those pencil-and-paper adventures.

The game has an official tournament system, with tournaments having been played on all seven continents, including Antarctica. The cards themselves are valuable, much like other trading cards, but in the case of Magic, a card’s value is primarily based on its power and utility in game play, not just its scarcity and other intangible aesthetic qualities such as the quality of its artwork.



How you Play Magic: The Gathering

In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in a duel. A player starts the game with twenty life points. The player loses when he or she runs out of life points. The most common method of reducing an opponent’s life is to attack with summoned creatures, although numerous other methods exist. There are other ways to win or lose the game, but loss of life is the most common.

Players also start with seven cards. They duel each other by casting spell cards, using mana or magical energy, typically drawn from land cards. Spells can have a single, one-time effect, set up a lasting magical effect, or summon a creature to fight for its player. More powerful spells cost more mana, or even other resources such as a player’s own life points.

Some spells have effects that override normal game rules (e.g., allow a player to play more than one land per turn). The so-called “Golden Rule of Magic” is that if a card’s text conflicts with the rules, the card has priority. Resolving interactions between conflicting spell effects is one of the more difficult aspects of game play. A detailed rulebook exists to clarify these conflicts.



Magic: The Gathering Deck Construction

A player needs a deck before he or she can play a game of Magic. Beginners typically start with only a starter deck, which is pre-built and ready for play. Two players seldom play with the same type of deck, and decks are customized based on the particular player’s technique, playing style or even the anticipated content of an opponent’s deck.

Decks are required to be at least sixty cards. Players may use no more than four of any named card, with the exception of “basic lands”, which act as a standard resource in Magic. In Limited formats the minimum size is forty cards, and the four-of rule does not apply. Depending on the type of play, some more powerful cards are further restricted, allowing only one per deck, while others are banned outright. Experienced players often play with the minimum deck size in order to make their decks more consistent.

The decision on what colors to use is a key part of creating a deck. Although five colors of spells are available, lowering the number of colors used makes it more likely that a player will draw a correct mixture of spells and land that create mana of the correct color. Since each of the five colors each have different strengths and weaknesses, playing more colors can help create a more versatile and well-rounded deck.



The Colours of Magic: The Gathering

Most spells come in one of five colors. The colors can be seen on the back of the cards, in a pentagonal design, called the “Pentagon of Colors”. Starting from the top, going clockwise, they are: white, blue, black, red, and green. To play a spell of one color, mana of the same color is required. This mana is normally generated by a land with one of the basic land types, respectively: plains, island, swamp, mountain, and forest.

The equilibrium among the five colors is one of the defining aspects of the game. Also known as the “color pie,” the various strengths and weaknesses of each color are attributed to the fact that each color represents a different “style” of magic.

  • White is the color of order, organization, purity, balance, law, justice, community, righteousness, and light (although not necessarily “good”, in the same way that laws and the assumptions behind them can be flawed). White’s strengths lie in protecting its creatures, healing damage, efficient small creatures (rather than large individual creatures), imposing restrictions on players, the removal of enchantments, and the ability to “equalize” the playing field. White’s weaknesses include its difficulty in proactively and permanently removing the opponent’s creatures, its inability to change game plans, and the fact that many of its most powerful spells affect all players equally.
  • Blue is the color of knowledge, illusion, reason, dreams, ingenuity, manipulation, and trickery, as well as the classical elements of air and water. Blue’s cards are best at letting a player draw additional cards, stealing control of opposing permanents indefinitely, returning permanents to their owner’s hands (informally called “bouncing”), and countering (canceling) spells as they are being played. Blue’s creatures tend to be “tricky” and precise; they often have weaker base statistics than other colors, but commonly have evasive abilities such as flying. Blue’s weaknesses include having only limited ways of dealing with opposing threats once they have entered play, a fairly weak set of creatures, and a lack of ways to increase its mana production.
  • Black is the color of death, darkness, despair, plague, selfishness, ambition, greed, corruption, and amorality (although not necessarily “evil”). Black cards are best at killing creatures, making players discard cards from their hand, and raising creatures from the graveyard. Black is also the most flexible color in many ways; it is willing to do anything, which is reflected in being able to cast many unusual out-of-color effects. However, black also tends to utilize or sacrifice resources to achieve its goals, such as creatures, life, or cards. Black’s main weaknesses are its tendency to hurt itself in order to gain an advantage, an almost complete inability to destroy enchantments and artifacts, and difficulties in removing other black creatures directly from the field. This third restriction has been lightened in recent years.
  • Red is the color of chaos, destruction, war, art, passion, and fury, as well as lightning and the classical element of fire. Red shares an association with the classical element of earth with the color Green; Red has an affinity for the nonliving aspects of Earth while Green is focused on the organic aspects. Red is one of the best colors for destroying opposing lands, trading long-term resources for short-term power, and for playing spells that deal damage to creatures or players (colloquially, “burn” or “direct damage”). Red also has the vast majority of cards that involve random chance. Red shares the “trickery” theme with Blue and can temporarily steal an opponent’s creatures or divert their spells. Red’s weaknesses include its inability to destroy enchantments, the random or self-destructive nature of many of its spells, and its generally weak late-game play.
  • Green is the color of life, nature, growth, instinct, and interdependence. Green creatures tend to have the strongest base statistics in the game, and many green cards further increase those. Green also excels at destroying artifacts and enchantments, increasing a player’s life total, and increasing mana-production capabilities. However, green has difficulty removing opposing creatures from play, and it lacks damaging or controlling spells; nearly all of its strategies are creature-based. Furthermore, green shares with red a distinct lack of flying creatures.

The colors adjacent to each other on the pentagram are “allied” and often have similar, complementary abilities. For example, blue has a relatively large number of flying creatures. White and black, being next to it, also have many flying creatures. The two non-adjacent colors to a particular color are “enemy” colors, and are thematically opposed. For instance, red has many aggressive and damaging spells, white and blue have defensive and protective spells.

The R&D team at Wizards of the Coast balances the power between the five colors by using the Color Pie to define each color’s strengths and weaknesses. Every color has its own distinct attributes; the pie is used to ensure new cards are thematically in the correct color and do not impede on the territory of other colors.

Multi-color cards were introduced in the Legends set and use a gold background to distinguish them. More recently, two-color “hybrid” cards that can be paid for with either of the card’s colors (as opposed to both, as is the case with normal multi-color cards) were introduced in the Ravnica set. These cards tend to combine the philosophy and mechanics of all the colors used in the spell’s cost. Due to the restriction of having to play all the colors in the casting cost, multi-color cards tend to be more powerful for their cost compared to single-color or hybrid-color cards.

Artifacts are cards that exist without the colors of magic. They do not require a specific color of mana to play. Flavorwise, artifacts are magical constructs that can be used by any planeswalker. Typically, abilities found on artifacts are those that can be used by any color or are abilities that do not normally fall into any of the color categories. Some artifacts are also creatures, and a few others are also lands.

You can find more information and how to play Magic The Gathering here!


Magic: The Gathering Variant Rules

While the primary method of Magic play is one-on-one using standard deck construction rules, casual play groups have developed many alternative formats for playing the game. The most popular alternatives describe ways of playing with more than two players and change the rules about how decks can be built.



More Information on Magic: The Gathering

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