Magic: The Gathering
Magic: The Gathering (or just "Magic") is a collectible card game created by Richard Garfield, and introduced to neckbeards everywhere in 1993. Despite the amount of RAGE the game has created over the years, it's still going strong. The game is currently in its 23rd year of production with a large competitive following, consisting mostly of 40-year-old basement dwellers. Magic is notable for being the first CCG of all time, granddady of all Card Games, and its influence can be seen in almost every CCG since. It also has fucktons of fluff that nobody really cares about. Ink-Eyes comes from here, and is only depicted in one card.
You are a Planeswalker, a wizard with near-limitless potential. One out of one million intelligent lifeforms carry the potential of becoming a Planeswalker, called the Spark. The vast majority of those live out their lives without even knowing of their potential. But a very small number of those, again one out of a million becomes far more. After a traumatizing experience or a moment of supreme clarity the Spark ignites, giving the being power beyond nearly anything in the Multiverse.
A Planeswalker has several abilities. First it can travel between the Planes of the Multiverse through the Blind Eternities, the space between Planes in which they drift. Second they have great skill with channeling and using mana to cast spells and summon creatures. The Planeswalkers of old could do even more: they were gestalt forms of will, and could shapechange into anything they want. This also rendered them near indestructible, with their forms being easily replaceable. They were also nigh-immortal, the only thing posing a serious threat to a Planeswalker was another Planeswalker.
The old Planeswalkers were akin to gods, and continued to be so until roughly 4,000 years after the ascension of Urza. Dominaria, the Nexus of the Multiverse had become something of a shithole because of various plotlines having royally screwed up the plane and rifts in time began to appear. After the sacrifices of many Planeswalkers these rifts were sealed in the Mending, an event that changed Planeswalkers for good. No longer gods amongst mortals, they were reduced to the power of mortal casters. They also lost their shapechanging and immortality, something that vexed many surviving Planeswalkers. Some like Nicol Bolas fought with tooth and nail to reobtain their powers, some like Liliana Vess made pacts with powerful creatures to be more powerful, and some like Sorin Markov accepted their loss. Then again Sorin's a vampire and so is naturally damn near immortal anyway, so his loss was rather less significant than others.
Gameplay wise there are five distinct eras:
Where the game started and still tried to find itself. Was broken as fuck; most decks consisted of a combination of Black Lotus, Channel and Fireball for plenty of turn 1 kills, cards were wordy as fuck and the art was between trippy and butt ugly. This consists of the Alpha/Beta/Unlimited editions, the old-timey stand-alone expansions (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires, That Set Which Will Not Be Named, the Ice Age Block (Coldsnap is a special case, while far newer than the other two it is still part of the block) and the first two sets of the Mirage block.
Back then there was not an awful lot of story on the cards (and no widespread Internet), so the main story had to be told through comic books. The story covered the war between two brothers, Urza and Mishra, the ice age that their war brought on, and how that was ended (with magic). All eras after this one are considered as post-revisionist, but that term is not used frequently.
The Weatherlight Saga
The magnum opus of M:TG, the Weatherlight Saga (starting from Weatherlight through the Rath, Urza, Masques and Invasion blocks) details the war between Urza and Phyrexia, the steampunk zombie hell that is trying to invade Dominaria at the behest of its god-king Yawgmoth. This era includes the 5th to 7th editions of core sets, the Portal Starter Sets and the Starter Year sets. From this point onward the story became told through a combination of cards and novels named after their expansion sets, of varying quality. The story is held in high regard by many older fans of the game.
While mostly chronological, Urza's block takes place almost 900 years before Weatherlight. The story is about the crew of Skyship Weatherlight trying to gather the Legacy Weapon, a series of artifacts designed to be able to destroy Yawgmoth. After he manages to invade Dominaria the Legacy manages to do so at a great cost; all but a few of Weatherlight's crewmembers are dead, alongside large swathes of the planet and some of the most prominent Planeswalkers in the Multiverse, including Urza himself.
Though no official name exists, the Post-Weatherlight saga consists of four storylines (divided over six blocks) detailing various planes of the Multiverse. These are the Mirrodin, Kamigawa and Ravnica blocks. Two of the other three blocks for the Odyssey (no not that one), a story taking place on the continent of Otaria, which was largely untouched by Phyrexia. Here the Mirari landed, a magical orb that pumped massive amounts of mana into the world but would drive anyone who used it insane. After nearly destroying Otaria its owner, Karn, appeared, fixed it and brought it with him to his home world of Mirrodin. Here he turned the Mirari into Memnarch, which promptly went insane and nearly destroyed Mirrodin. Kamigawa is a world based on feudal Japan and was ravaged by enraged kami because someone had stolen the son of God. Ravnica took place on a world that was one big city: think Sigil but less deadly and bigger. Ravnica was governed by ten guilds, until a number of them tried to upset the status quo and promptly got roflstomped. The final block was that of Time Spiral; which returned to Dominaria. The plane was ravaged by magic and the actions of Planeswalkers, unraveling spacetime and threatening the entire Multiverse. Through the sacrifices of many notable Planeswalkers (including Lord Windgrace, Leshrac Nightwalker and Jeska) the Multiverse was saved in an event called The Mending, but The Spark was fundamentally altered. Planeswalkers were no longer gods: they were just very powerful mages capable of traveling the Planes after a quick ritual instead of on a whim. They also became bound to their bodies, no longer bodies shaped by pure will. The Multiverse was safe, but filled with enraged and depowered gods, like Nicol Bolas. This era also included the 8th to 10th editions of core sets.
This era has six blocks so far: Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, a plane that turns from bright upbeat British fairy-tale with facist Elves to a grim and gloomy spirit world filled with all sorts of nasties. The Alara block details the attempt of Nicol Bolas to slam five parts of a fractured plane together and feast on the released energy to make himself a god again: the slamming is a success but he fails when he is beaten by Ajani Goldmane. Zendikar is Australia on steroids and Call of Cthulhu; everything can and will try to kill you. On this world rested the Eldrazi, a race of non-beings that can unmake anything with a touch. Freed by the machinations of, once again, Nicol Bolas. They are fighting Gideon Jura who beat one to death with his bare hands. Scars of Mirrodin returns to, wait for it, Mirrodin, which is conquered and compleated by Phyrexia. Whoops. They currently have a spy amongst their ranks; Tezzeret, who was sent there by, you guessed it, Nicol Bolas. Innistrad is a world of East-European gothic horror where vampires and werewolves run business. It is one of the best sets ever with stuff like double-faced cards, monsters that get stronger when they die and awesome flavor. At the end of the block the Helvault, a prison for lots of demons, was destroyed. Releasing its contents. This was done by... no not Nicol Bolas. Not this time. It was Liliana Vess, who wanted to kill a demon, Griselbrand, that was trapped inside to get out of a faustian bargain she made with him. Incidentally (as far as Liliana Vess is concerned), this world was going to shit because the angel Avacyn was trapped inside the Helvault too and she was released along side the demons. Then there is a Return to Ravnica, where the Guilds have picked up business once again for the time being, eventually they run a world-wide maze to see who gets to take control of the city in the Jace Beleran does by becoming the guildpact (I'm as confused as you). Finally there is Theros with the awesome flavor of Innistrad but with Greek mythology and awesome mechanics to represent it. Oh and Elspeth is there. This era also set off a new wave of core sets: after every Block was new core set with a year in it, staring in Magic 2010 to Magic Origins (released July 2015) and adding a few new cards every series. This era also introduced Planeswalkers as cards: a new permanent type that functions as a crossover between a player, a legendary creature and an enchantment. The game currently takes place in that era, where Planeswalkers have begun to rise in large numbers with the Multiverse's infinite secrets and powers at their feet. Here you decide what you will be.
The Two-Block Paradigm
This is the new system that officially started in Battle for Zendikar. How to deal with the 3rd set in a block has long been a thorn in the side of Magic R&D. Well they came up with what is hopefully a consistently good solution, "don't!". Often simple solutions are the best, and as such Magic R&D has decided to simply stop making 3 set blocks. Core sets will no longer be released and a Block will consist of 2 sets. Usually the first set will be large and the second set small. There will be 2 blocks per year (Although considering Battle for Zendikar was released in October, it will not a 'January to December' year). Standard will be smaller in this era, both in card pool and how long cards will be there before they rotate out. This will allow sets to be a little more complicated and the metagame will be more fresh. And of course, draft structure will be different as well. Also there is a big shift in story telling. The creative team actually knows what is going to happen quite a bit in advance (compared to before this shift) which, should provide us benefits like better foreshadowing and less retcons. Each set will contain five (although in practice, probably more) cards that show events in the story deemed important. The story will be across multiple platforms such as cards in the set, Uncharted Realms, Duels of the Planeswalkers, ect... Each block will still be on a different plane than the blocks surrounding it, which of course means the creative team is building an average of 2 worlds per year (arguably less so in the cases when returning to a mtg world we've been to before). (Consider that the people who made Avatar spent five years building that one setting. This can't possibly end badly.). There have been some growing pains and because WotC works so far in advance, it takes a while before we get the benefits of the lessons learned applying to Magic players (unless the lesson is to ban cards, in which case, if WotC is correct, Magic players as a whole are getting the better of 2 bad options). So don't be surprised if Standard for the next few sets will suck  (as defined by it being bad, or it being okay, but only because WotC banned some cards, hurting players that bought a playset of those cards).
Each player starts with a life total of 20, it is the goal of the game to reduce your opponent's life to 0 or less. Occasionally a player's goal will involve winning through some other win condition (i.e. making the opponent draw when no cards remain in their library, give the opponent 10 or more poison counters, card specific win conditions, or dealing commander damage). Each player takes a turn until only one player is left in the game.
- Mana - Mana is the magical resource of the game, it is what you commonly use to play cards. Mana you have drawn from a source is kept in your mana pool, waiting for you to spend it. However, at the end of each phase and each step in a turn, your mana pool is emptied, so there's no saving up by constantly draining your lands. There used to be a rule called Mana Burn, in which if you didn't use all the mana you had in your mana pool you would take damage, loosing 1 life for each unspent mana. It did a few good things, like give Mana Drain a draw back, but ultimately R&D decided Magic was better off without it.
- Spell - Spells are any card that is currently on the stack.
- The Stack - This, children, is where almost all the real bullshit occurs. The stack is where almost any effect other than those that produce mana go to wait to resolve. whenever an effect (such as playing a card, activating an ability of an artifact or creature, etc.) goes on the stack, all the players in the game receive priority in turn order to respond. When a player has priority, no other player can act. When something is on the stack, only effects that are played at instant speed may be added to the stack, such as other abilities or instants themselves. You never have to put anything on the stack when you have priority, it just gives you the ability to respond to another players move if you choose. Effects on the stack resolve from the one to be put on last resolving first, this means that whenever you respond to your opponents move with, your response will always take effect before his move.
For example if your opponent casts a spell to destroy one of your creatures in play, and you have the appropriate amount of mana to play a counter spell, you can tap your lands and add your counter spell to the stack, targeting your opponents destruction spell. When the stack resolves, your counter spell will be the last effect on the stack, and as such will resolve first, countering your opponents spell and saving your creature. Note that your opponent also receives priority again when you play the counter spell, meaning that it'll be possible for him to add a new spell to kill your creature after you have played the counter spell, meaning he'll kill your creature anyway. But then again, you'll receive priority again as well, and so on and so on.
- Tap - Tapping is the act of turning a card 90 degrees, this is done to indicate that the card has been exhausted. You tap a land when you draw mana from it, you tap a creature to attack with it, and many abilities of creatures or artifacts require that you tap the card as well.
- Ability - Abilities are found in a permanent's text field. Abilities can be either activated or triggered abilities. An activated ability is noted for having a cost followed by a colon followed by the effect of the ability. For example, "Tap : Draw a card, then discard a card ." Triggered abilities however, will be added to the stack whenever a certain condition is met, for example "Whenever you gain 1 life, draw a card". A triggered ability can be triggered as many times as the condition for it is met, and an activated ability can be activated as many times as you can possibly pay the cost.
- Hand - No, not that hand, stupid. Your hand of cards. You can normally only have 7 cards in your hand when your turn ends (any more than that are usually discarded), and your hand of cards is kept so your opponent can't see it. You start the game with a hand of 7 cards, and you draw 1 card each turn, there are cards that let you draw more cards however.
- Library - You library is your deck of cards, it must contain no less than 60 cards, and it is often ideal to not include more than 60 cards either. It also may not contain more than four copies of the same card. If you are asked to draw a card and you cannot because there are no more cards left in your library, you lose the game (or win, if you have Laboratory Maniac out), just as if you had hit 0 life.
- Graveyard - This is where used sorceries, instants and destroyed cards go. Some cards are able to return cards from here, but normally they just stay dead. This is a place of magic and wonder for any deck that runs revive. Until someone plays Samurai of the Pale Curtain...
Structure of a turn
The first step in a turn is the untap step, here all the cards in play that are tapped are untapped. The next step is your upkeep, nothing happens here by default, it is only in place for some cards to trigger different effects at the start of your turn.
After your upkeep is your draw step, here you simply draw a card from the top of your library.
Next is your first main phase, here you can play any spells that are played at sorcery speed, this is things such as artifacts, creatures, enchantments, planeswalkers, land (lands are weird, playing them doesn't use the stack and as such can't be responded to, so one could make the case that in some ways they are faster than instants, also lands can NEVER be "PLAYED" when it is not your turn where as other things considered sorcery speed can be instant speed through things like Flash). and sorceries themselves.
After your first main phase is your combat phase, this is broken up into several subphases itself. The first thing to happen is that you declare any creatures you want to attack to attack by tapping them, you opponent is then given the choice of blocking your creatures. Only an untapped creature can block, and a creature can only participate in one block each combat. However, several creatures can be picked to block the same creature at once, meaning that it is possible to 'gang up' on attackers in order to kill them. When creatures are in combat with each other they will deal each other damage at the same time, meaning that two 1/1's will kill each other at the same time. In the case of multiple creatures blocking one creature, the attacker assigns the damage that his creature would deal out to the blocking creatures as he wishes, for example a 2/2 blocked by two 1/1's could deal 1 damage to both creatures and kill them both. Any unblocked creatures will deal their damage to the opponent. Once all damage has been assigned, the clean up step follows, where all creatures that have taken lethal damage will be sent to their owner's graveyards.
After combat you have your second main phase, where you can do exactly the same as in the first.
After the second main phase, you have the end of turn step, pretty much the same deal as with the upkeep, nothing really happens here unless a card says so. Lastly, after your end of turn step, you discard down to the maximum hand size if you have exceeded it, so if you for example have 9 cards in hand, you will have to discard 2 of them to meet the required of 7.
Types of cards
The game of Magic contains several different supertypes of cards:
- Lands - Lands are the player's most basic resource, and they are tapped to allow the player to play their other cards that have a mana cost. You can normally play only one land from your hand per turn.
- Creatures - Creatures are the players soldiers and guardians, they primarily participate in combat, although as with all things in Magic, there are many exceptions this. Creatures have many subtypes, these are commonly referred to as creature types, most creatures have a race and a profession creature type, for example "Creature - Human Warrior". Creatures have a toughness and a power score, portrayed as P/T on the bottom right corner of the card. Power determines the amount of damage the creature can cause in combat, whereas toughness is how much damage it can take before it is destroyed. Damage assigned to a creature is cleared at the end of each turn, meaning that if a creature isn't killed by the amount of damage it has sustained, it'll return to its full toughness at the end of the turn. This means that the same creature will often participate in several combat steps before it is finally killed. Damage assigned to players however, is never healed by any other means than other cards that give the player an amount of life upon being played.
- Enchantments - These are raw magic that you create, they can do all different kinds of things, and generally have a constant effect on the game, until they are destroyed by your opponent. There are global and local variants of enchantments, the local being a subtype called auras, these are attached to other cards in play to enhance them or weaken them. A lot of competitive players dislike auras since they are destroyed if their 'host' is destroyed, meaning that it is easier for your opponent to make a lot of you cards obsolete by destroying one card.
- Sorceries - Sorceries are spells that you can only cast on your own turn, and when nothing is on the stack, they'll have some kind of immediate effect on the game, but they are not persistent like enchantments. This means that it is common for sorceries to simply just destroy something else in play or to give a temporary boost to a creature or something like that. The more massive destructive effects in the game are commonly found in sorceries, such as globally destroying all lands or creatures in play.
- Instants - Just like sorceries, however an instant can also be played in an opponent's turn, they'll often do the same as sorceries, but stuff like counter magic, that is a spell that prevents your opponent's spell from resolving, are only instants.
- Artifacts - All kinds of magic items, like a staff or some other kind of stuff. Normally this is equipment for the player himself, but some artifacts can be equipped by the player's creatures, making them work like auras, only they do not need a 'host' to be in play, and as such are a lot more persistent than auras. Some artifacts are also creatures, this is stuff like golems or other kinds of magical constructs. Artifact are generally colorless, with some exceptions, so almost all of them are suitable for any deck.
- Basic - A supertype currently found only on land cards. A deck can contain any number of the same basic card.
- Legendary - Much like Basic, Legendary only appears together with another supertype. If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards. Legendary cards are often stuff like characters from the plot line of Magic, or somehow else very special things like specific places in the case of legendary lands.
- Tribal - A newcomer among the supertypes, a Tribal card lets a noncreature card have creature types. For example, a card that would allow you to destroy a goblin card would work on any goblin creature, as well as a Tribal Enchantment - Goblin. Sadly the "Tribal" card type is unlikely to be printed on new cards.
- Planeswalker - Another newcomer, a Planeswalker is similar to an enchantment. Planeswalkers come into play with a certain amount of loyalty counters on them. Once per turn a planeswalker can use one of its activated abilities during his main phase whenever he may play a sorcery, either adding or subtracting the indicated amount of counters. A planeswalker can be targeted for either spells or abilities that deal damage, and can be targeted in an attack phase like a player. For each damage a planeswalker takes, instead remove that many loyalty counters. If a planeswalker has no loyalty counters left on it, it is destroyed. Similarly to the Legendary supertype, "if a player controls two or more planeswalkers that share a planeswalker type, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards". Planeswalkers can do some really awesome shit, such as create 5 4/4 dragons or force your opponent to mill 20 cards from their library. Keeping one alive can be a royal pain in the ass.
Colors of Magic
As well as having different types of cards, the game of Magic has five different colors to choose from when building a deck. It is important to have the appropriate type of land for the colour of magic that you are playing with, since no basic land except a mountain can produce red mana, which is needed to play red spells. Certain effects are associated with certain colours, and only rarely if ever appear in the others - this is to ensure that the colours feel different to play, and that there is a point of having different colours in the first place. For a more thorough examination of the colors of Magic and their relationships with each other see Color Pie.
- White - This is the mostly goody-two-shoes or zealously genocidal, censoring and totalitarian (be it communist, or possibly other types of extreme) of the colour pie, white often prevents damage to creatures and restore life to players. As excels with instant, sorceries, and enchantments that get rid off opposing creatures, with one of their main schticks being that the remove creatures from the game rather than sending them to the graveyard. They also have a tendency to have powerful creature enchantments to buff their creatures or prevent their opponents creatures from attacking or blocking. It is most notable for having the most non-damage boardwipes in the game. Among it's older cards are cards that create life gain win conditions. It has a general philosophy of having a large amount of small creatures instead a few big ones. White embodies law, order, community, healing, and light. White is the color most like and yet completely different from Black, both being absolute for entirely different reasons.The symbol for white is a sun. The white lands are plains. White's characters are either heroic and otherwise benevolent individuals such as Ajani Goldmane, Elspeth Tirel and Commodore Guff, or fanatical assholes like Konda and Elesh Norn.
- Blue - Blue is the color of logic, thought, observation, prescience, and arcane magic. It is the best color at things like countermagic, drawing cards, and using minor trickery to be a general pain in the butt. These things make blue the most effective color when used on its own, and the most hated by other players because blue played right will keep them from doing anything with their counter cards and will never run out of them, and blue players have a tendency to complain when WotC tries to do something to balance the counter spells. Thankfully, blue's creatures tend to the least effective at killing the opponent, in terms of strength and abilities, and blue also lacks the ability to deal with things if it can't counter them. Of course, Blue makes up for that by having the most cards that allow you take control of an opponent's creature (All the colors have some, having the most in the following order: Blue, Red, Black, Green, and White with exactly 1). Blue is generally the opposite of Red, similar to reason and emotion, and likewise have elements of each other. Thus, the two will generally make the most scientific and steampunk decks when put together. Blue concerns itself with such things as logic, water, science, knowledge, divination, time, and air. The blue symbol is a drop of water. The blue land is an island. Blue's most foremost Planeswalkers include Jace Beleren, Tezzeret and Bo Levar.
- Black - Black is the more diabolical of the colors, in brooding desire for any of the following, not necessarily exclusive of each other: independence in an oppressive world, inordinate wealth, immortality, godhood, control of others, vengeance, veneration of evil, world conquest, by any means. It is the color of self-interest, individuality, moral relativism, classical capitalism, and devil's bargains. It often has the ability to emulate other colors to a lesser degree... for a cost. The more powerful black creatures sometimes turn on their player. It also contains lots of abilities that require sacrificing creatures, forcing the opponent to sacrifice creatures, killing opposing creatures, and the best discard abilities. As an intentional weakness, black lacks any significant artifact or enchantment kill. Black contains such things as sickness, destruction, necromancy, death, murder, blood rituals, assassination, crime, torture, darkness, and corruption. A skull is the symbol for black. The black land is a swamp. Black is the color most like and yet completely different from White, both being absolute for entirely different reasons. Black has spawned many infamous Planeswalkers such as Leshrac, the Walker of the Night; Tevesh Szat, the Doom of Fools; Liliana Vess and Nicol Bolas (well he's actually multi-colored, but the center of his shard is black), the Eternal Serpent and Lord of the Blind Eternities. In addition, it has a few heroic characters such as Sorin Markov and Toshiro Umezawa, proving that it is not inherently evil.
- Red - Red is the color of passion, freedom, and rage. Red contains some of the more self-destructive cards of the colors, but the power of the effects usually make up for it. Many of red's spells focus on directly damaging the opponent, players call them "burn spells", and in fact it's completely viable to run a red deck with no creatures and just burn spells. Creature wise, red has the cheapest in game. Red is generally the opposite of Blue, similar to emotion and reason, and likewise have elements of each other.Thus, the two are generally make the most scientific decks and steampunk decks when put together. The domain of red is such things as speed, destruction, fire, angry mobs (green and white have a fair and smaller share of these), lightning, dragons, and recklessness. Red's symbol is a ball of fire. The red land is a mountain. Some of Red's most famous Planeswalkers are Jaya Ballard, Lord Windgrace of Urborg and Chandra Nalaar.
- Green - Green associates itself with nature and the cycle of life, growth, exploration of the wilds, and brute strength. It usually has the most powerful and straight-forward creatures, which also have the best ratio of power and toughness for the mana cost. Green contains cards that can increase the strength of your creatures, cards that give you more mana more quickly and give you access to the other colors of mana, and cards that let you create and profit from large numbers of small creatures or small numbers of very large creatures. Green is the least common color run on its own because it needs to use small easy to kill creatures to get shit done, but is commonly put in other decks as a side color. The green symbol is a tree. The green land is a forest. Green's famous Planeswalkers include Garruk Wildspeaker, Nissa Revane, Kristina of the Woods and Freyalise.
- Colorless - Colourless (Grey) mana is composed of two things: non magic-artificial creations including some robots and laser cannons, and Cthuhloids. Mana of any color can be used for colorless mana costs. This is useful to ease the stress of colored mana requirements in multicoloured decks, and making cards that can fit in decks of any color - Artifacts are usually colorless. Artificial creatures cannot become Planeswalkers (but this does not stop them from trying to become them, as Memnarch has demonstrated), but they can inherit or obtain the power somehow: Karn the silver golem is as far as known the only one to have done so. The only other colorless planeswalker is Ugin, who's basically Magic Buddha because he's so enlightened that he's transcended the five colors.
- As of Battle for Zendikar, colorless has its own land type, which is Waste, and its own symbol, which is a grey four-pointed star. This specifically-colorless mana is used primarily for the Eldrazi, which are the freaky babies of Cthulu and Galactus. The Eldrazi are so ancient that they precede the planes and color itself. Yeah, that's right, they're older than even the game and fluff itself can even comprehend.
It is possible to build decks that are a mix of more than one color - in fact there are many spells that require anything from two to five different colors of mana to play. It is however not advisable to have more than 3 colours in a single deck unless you know what you are doing, since it'll begin to become a problem to get access to all the different colours of mana you need during play. This means you'll be left with a hand full of cards you can't play, and a table full of lands you have no use for - not a good position to be in. The full extreme of this is to have all five colors in your deck, which is something referred to as WUBRG (after the letters for each color). Unless (and even when) you know exactly what you're doing and built a deck around the concept, WUBRG is very difficult to play.
The developers of Magic have put out their 3 archetypes of players:
- Timmy - The player who just wants to experience something cool, something you can tell stories about. Often it's through casting gigantic creatures and game-changing spells, not caring that they're frequently too expensive to be much good at winning the game. Social gamers or even griefers can also be considered a type of Timmy; after all, the story you're telling doesn't always have to be about the game itself.
- Johnny - A combo player, these are the guys who'll spend days looking through cards to find a bizarre combo of cards that makes them win the game if they can pull it off. They often end up building decks that don't participate in the game itself, and are more oriented on getting their combo into play, turning the game into a sort of solitaire.
- Spike - The competitive player of the bunch. They'll build decks to win and only play to win, their fun is in winning, and sometimes turn the game into an obnoxious competition, even outside of tournaments. Needless to say, they're highly disliked at social games when they even bother showing up outside of a competitive setting, even when they mean no harm. On the other hand, it also means that their decks are made to work effectively and will win more often than not. That isn't to say Spike will put up with everything just to win. Spikes hate it when only a few strategies are viable or when games might as well be decided by a coin flips.
The three archetypes mix and match, meaning that it is possible to be a Johnny-Timmy player, aiming to make some kind of combo that'll give you a million life and an army of 100/100 creatures or some other kind of stupid nonsense.
Recently, it has come to light that there are 2 more pseudo-archetypes, though these aren't really archetypes proper. The types here are on a separate axis than the aforementioned four. They are as follows:
- Vorthos - Vorthoses care about flavour and the story part of the game. They'll build a deck that re-enacts the forces Urza rallied to fight the Phyrexians. Fluff is of key importance in the mind of a Vorthos. Stories, art, flavour text, and block novels are all things that a Vorthos focuses on. As a result, it can be considered to be a close relative of the Timmy, with the emphasis on "cool things" being replaced by a stronger focus on fluff-accuracy. As a result, their decks tend to vary wildly in their efficacy.
- Melvin - On the opposite side of this spectrum lies Melvin. Melvins love to deconstruct the rules, find out why things tick. A Melvin will base a deck on shit like banding that average players don't pay attention to, or some sub-clause of an obscure part of the comprehensive rules. They differ from the typical munchkin in that they love reading the logs and development process of various cards and learning what led to a given rule being changed or the rationale behind said rule change, rather than simply exploiting said rules for its own sake. They're similar to Johnnys in their eccentric hacker spirit.
It should be noted that a Vorthos-Melvin is probably a philosopher. Spike-Johnnys are sometimes great gaming partners for Johnny-Timmys, since one is a competitive combo user, and the other is a combo user who is in it for fun, and one or both of will either have a lot of respect for the opponents' combo, or be quite irritated that it interrupted theirs. Johnny-Vorthos-Melvins will have the most difficult time putting together a deck they can play at all, let alone one that can be viable in a tournament setting, but those that do so find it highly rewarding when they make it work for them.
Building a Deck
Alright so you've read this article, looked at a few cards, maybe even gotten yourself a few booster packs or a hand-me-down collection. What now?
The process of deckbuilding can, at first, seem like an extremely difficult one, and in many ways it is. You have possibly hundreds of variables to consider depending on what you're building for and thousands of cards to sort through to find the best ones for the job.
But before you overwhelm yourself, look at what you have in your stuff and find a card you like. It doesn't even have to be a powerful one, just something that catches your eye and gets the gears turning. For this example, we'll use something flashy yet robust, the card Fireball. A classic design and very easy to find, Fireball is a card that can generate truly explosive results and kill your opponent in one shot. Awesome! What now?
Well, let's think of what we want to do here. Let's say in this case we want to use Fireball as our win-condition. For this, we'll need obviously Red Mana to cast it, but also additional Mana to make it lethal. So now we're going to look for things that feed into that concept; making more Mana for a bigger Fireball. This is the process referred to as focusing the deck, and is essential to building a successful one. The more streamlined and tight your focus is, the more of a chance the deck will do what you want it to do. Trying to do too many things at once will leave you lacking in all of them, so it's usually better to have a strong theme to accomplish your Plan A.
So focusing, we need a way to make Mana for our Fireball. Land is of course the most basic way of generating Mana, so we should play more lands to make more Mana! Right? Well perhaps, but by filling up the deck with too much land, we're not going to be drawing any spells. Too little though, and we won't be able to cast the spells that we draw. Finding that balance is another key part of deckbuilding and takes a lot of time to get the right feel for it. In general though, your deck should contain 24 lands, adding in 1 or 2 for a slower deck with big mana threats, and removing 1 to 3 for a faster more aggressive deck.
In this case let's start with 24 lands, and 4 Fireballs. We have 28 cards, so we need 32 more to make a legal deck. Since we want the greatest chance of drawing the cards we need as possible, we won't exceed 60 cards here. In most cases in fact, you should never play more than 60 cards. Every card you add is keeping you one card away from drawing the one you really need. A common mistake for many new players is to just keep piling on cards until they make some 78 card monstrosity, don't do this. Treat 60 as the minimum and maximum for every deck you make, it will make your deck faster and more consistent. So what will we add into those 32 slots?
We have Mana to cast a Fireball that can deal up to 23 damage at once, which is lethal, but would require every land in our deck to do so. Sounds kinda slow, right? So what can we do to speed it up? Since we're playing a Red deck, we should start by looking at the options Red has to generate more Mana. Red has access to a few Ritual cards, which can make mana fairly quickly but only in single shots. This means that to make this path work we'd need a lot of these Rituals, and to get lucky by drawing enough of them to make a lethal Fireball. Not the most efficient option, but it can work! Our other obvious option in Red is Artifacts that generate mana. We can play something as small as a Fire Diamond, or something big like a Gilded Lotus. These also feed into each other, but come with the downside of clogging up our deck when we have enough mana to make a lethal Fireball. So a step in the right direction, since this mana is renewable, but still not quite as fast as what we need. But we're out of options in Red, what now?
Now we look at our other colors, of course! The best place to start is to look at the color wheel on the back of a Magic card. Notice the arrangement of the colors on the wheel. Any color that is adjacent to another on the wheel is "allied" with that color, which is to say that they work well together. Red is allied with Green and Black. Many Black cards let you draw cards or even search your deck for specific ones, which could be helpful for the deck to find the cards it needs when it needs them, but since Green has some of that too now and since Black is more about making little aggressive dudes, killing things, bringing things back from the dead and giant demons, let's skip it and look at Green.
Green is the color of nature, and as such has cards that revolve around the generation of mana. Perfect for our goal, and once you start looking you'll notice that green has a ton of cards that are dedicated to making more mana. They come in two flavors; abilities that put mana in the pool, and cards that pull lands from the deck itself. But which flavor do we need? In this case, the ones that pull lands from the deck itself are the ones that we want. This is because they thin our deck out, eliminating lands and reducing our chances at not being able to draw spells. Afterall, what good is having tons of mana if you have nothing to cast with it? Some common options in this slot are Rampant Growth and Cultivate, so we'll add 4 of each to the deck.
Now we have 4 Fireballs, 4 Rampant Growths, 4 Cultivates, and 24 lands. We have 36 cards and need 24 more. Since we still have space, we can add some of those cards that add mana to our pool. Elves tend to be very, very good at this, so we can rock a tribal theme with these guys to generate a lot of mana very quickly. Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystics, and Elvish Archdruid are easy to find solid slots in this section. With 4 of each in play at once we can generate a potential 4+4+(16x4) mana per turn. Quite lethal for casting a Fireball. So let's add 4 of each!
Now we have 4 Fireballs, 4 Rampant Growths, 4 Cultivates, 4 Llanowar Elves, 4 Elvish Mystics, 4 Elvish Archdruids, and 24 lands. We have 52 cards and need 8 more. Wow, that was fast, suddenly we have only 8 spaces left! This is where we add the extra utility stuff to get our deck fully streamlined, and since we absolutely need to draw our Fireballs to win, we should add spells that draw cards. Sadly this is neither Green nor Red's strong suit, but we do have a few choices.
Since we're already ramping lands out of the deck, we might not need a powerful draw engine anyway. A solid option in Green for straight card draw is Harmonize, but it clocks in at 4 mana. If we get a good start, this is nothing though, so we can rock 4 of these guys with not too much worry. Now we have 4 slots left, so how do we top it off? Well, we do have a lot of Elves, why not add in Elvish Visionary? 4 of her gets us to 60!
Now you have a deck that is streamlined to win off Fireball, but can also win by playing a ton of Elves and beating face! A Plan A that just so happens to have a solid Plan B! By playing with the deck you'll probably start to find it could use some fine tuning to beat what you play against, but what matters here is that we have a solid foundation to build from. When making tweaks, be sure to keep the central idea of the deck in mind. And of course, keep practicing making decks and test them to see what works for you.
- Magic Formats
- Vampire: The Eternal Struggle - Another card game by Richard Garfield.
- Magic: the Gathering RPG - a /tg/-made RPG with mechanics based on the game.
- Magic: The Gathering Gameplay Principles
- Space: The Convergence
- Your Friendly Local Game Store
- ABU Games
- TCG Player
- Card Kingdom
- Magic Card Market Europe - Part of the Europian card market specifically dedicated to MTG, amazingly cheap, just remember to order in the right language
| Apples to Apples - Cards Against Humanity - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Dominion |
Dvorak - F.A.T.A.L. - Mafia - Magic: The Gathering - Mahjong - Munchkin
Netrunner - Pokémon - Poker - Race for the Galaxy - Tanto Cuore - Tarot - Yu-Gi-Oh
|Settings of Magic: The Gathering|
|Pre-revisionist:|| First Magic Sets - First Urza Block - Arabian Nights |
Legends - Homelands - Ice Age - Mirage
|Weatherlight Saga:|| Portal Starter Sets - Second Urza Block |
Tempest Block - Masques Block - Invasion Block
|Post-Weatherlight:||Otaria Block - Mirrodin - Kamigawa - Ravnica - Time Spiral|
|Post-Mending:|| Lorwyn - Alara - Zendikar - New Phyrexia |
Innistrad - Return to Ravnica - Theros - Tarkir
|Two-Block Paradigm:||Kaladesh - Amonkhet|
|Never in a standard set:||Fiora (Where the Conspiracy sets take place)|
|Planeswalkers of Magic: The Gathering|
|Original Five:|| Ajani Goldmane - Chandra Nalaar|
Garruk Wildspeaker - Jace Beleren - Liliana Vess
|Alara:||Elspeth Tirel - Nicol Bolas - Sarkhan Vol - Tezzeret|
|Zendikar:||Gideon Jura - Nissa Revane - Sorin Markov|
|Scars of Mirrodin:||Karn - Koth of the Hammer - Venser|
|Innistrad:||Tamiyo - Tibalt|
|Return to Ravnica:||Domri Rade - Ral Zarek - Vraska|
|Theros:||Ashiok - Kiora - Xenagos|
|Tarkir:||Ugin - Narset|
|Kaladesh:||Dovin Baan - Saheeli Rai|
|Commander 2014:||Daretti - Freyalise - Nahiri - Ob Nixilis - Teferi|
|Pre-mending:||Bo Levar - Commodore Guff - Jaya Ballard - Urza|