Editor’s note: This article was written by Jason Hill.
“LIAR!” you shout after reading the title of this article. “I’ve seen the game being played by some nerds. They turn their cards sideways, and then right ways up again. They put cards on the table only to take them off again later, but sometimes they don’t! They spout gibberish like, ‘Tap this for seven’, and ‘swing with everything’. I’ve even seen them put dice on their cards before. Who does that? And if that weren’t enough, the official online rulebook is 196 pages long, and that’s tiny type! TINY TYPE!” (Stop shouting. There might be people around. Everything will be okay.) Even veterans of the game would call me a liar, and tell me that it’s one of the more complicated games they have played.
Though it may be true that I am a liar, I’m not lying about this. Let me explain. The almost 200 word rulebook are the complete and comprehensive rules to help settle disputes and lay down special rules between more seasoned and serious players. For beginners, the rules that they give you can easily fit on a small sized poster, the type isn’t microscopic, and there are even some pictures to help give examples. I’d be surprised if Monopoly had more characters in it rule book. If you still don’t believe that it’s simple, I will break it down into three simple concepts and two simple goals. The concepts are as follows:
1. Land equals money
2. Play your turns carefully
3. Read the cards (this one is the most important)
Now, to explain land equals money. In Magic the Gathering (MTG) there are spell cards, and there are land cards. Spell cards cost mana, the game’s currency, to play. Land cards produce mana when you turn them sideways. Therefore, to play spells against your opponent, you must have land.
Play your turns carefully. MTG is set up in such a way that not everything can happen at once, but a great deal can happen during your turn. A single person’s turn consists of seven different steps which are explained on the “rules poster”. This is where the strategy comes in, for you can only play one land per turn, but you can play as many spells as you can afford. When you play your spells will be
the key to either your victory or defeat, and it’s not always a good idea to play them all at once.
Read the cards is probably the most important, yet most forgotten concept of this game. According to Wikipedia, there are 12,988 unique cards in print as of January 2013. That’s a lot of cards! There are tons of spells that do multitudes of things. You can do things like summon a creature, or enchant a player, or play a spell that doesn’t let your opponent play a spell, or summon an artifact that you can put on a creature, and the list goes on. STOP! Don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Breathe. Now, read the card. It will tell you exactly what it does.
There might be some numbers and symbols on it that you don’t understand. Don’t fret, the “rules poster” has a picture of an ordinary card and explains what all the numbers and symbols mean. You may stumble along a keyword you aren’t familiar with, like hexproof. It’s okay. The “rules poster” has a small glossary of the most commonly used keywords. If you can’t find the keyword on the poster, a quick google search will answer your questions. Everything else is pretty much common sense. Seeing as how you have stopped hyperventilating, we shall continue.
When playing MTG, you have two goals that you want to accomplish to win the game. They are as such:
1. Don’t die
2. Don’t go insane
Don’t die! Starting a game of MTG will yield you twenty points of life. If ever your life total should reach zero, you will be pronounced dead, and subsequently lose the game. “Who’s trying to kill me?” you may ask. Why, it’s your lovely opponent who wishes for your death. He/she will be hurling spells at you in order to deplete your life total to nothingness. Not all is lost, though, for you shall be attempting the same to them. You must use your wit and the spells in your hand to defend, attack, and trick your opponents before your life becomes naught. An easy task, when you really stop and think about it.
Don’t go insane. In MTG, the deck of cards that you draw from represents your mind. When you draw a spell it’s like drawing from your memory how to cast that spell. Keep taxing your brain over and over like that and eventually you’ll go insane. When you can no longer draw cards from your deck, you have lost the game. You might want to keep a straight jacket handy, just in case.
Words of wisdom to beginners:
• Play other beginners or patient and kind veterans, but you’re better off with beginners for the most part.
• Don’t worry over every little detail. It’s okay if you accidentally fudge some of the details or misinterpret one of the rules. Remember to keep an open mind and play fairly. If you find out you have been doing something wrong, tell those who’ve been playing it the wrong way with you so they don’t look like idiots to others. Lastly, if you let someone take back something they didn’t mean to do, they might be twice as likely to return the favor. (this is all in casual play, of
• Don’t fill your casual decks with game winning, powerful cards. Sure, one or three wont hurt. I’d even recommend it, but if you continually stomp the living daylights out of your friends, one of two things will happen. One is that they will no longer wish to play MTG with you, and one really is the loneliest number. The other is that they will find a card to counter your deus ex machina (and trust me, there is a way to defeat every single card in the game. It’s called balance.) and then you will be on the losing end and have to find a solution to their deck to win
once again. It can become a viscous cycle.
• Set a budget BEFORE buying cards. Your wallet will thank me.
If you have read down this far in the article with out skipping most of it, then you need to try the game Magic the Gathering, or at least give it another chance. I hope you come away from this with a better understanding of the game and a new outlook on those who play it. If you read this in hopes of learning how to get a friend into MTG or how to teach it to others, I’ll write another article regarding that soon.
Is there anything else you would like to know about Magic the Gathering? Are there other things you would like me to try to simplify? (women is not a proper suggestion) Finally, what is the most important detail, if any, that I left out of this article? (I haven’t reached perfect yet)
Jason Hill has bought more Magic cards than his cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents combined.