[WotC Main Page] |
[Magic Main Page] |
[Table of Contents] |
The WotC Rules Team, with annotations by Beth Moursund
Learning the Rules
Like most games, Magic: The Gathering is easier to learn from another
player than from a stuffy old rulebook. That's not always possible, though,
so we've tried to make this book as straightforward and easily understood
as possible. Don't let the size of the rulebook throw you; a lot of the
stuff in here can wait until you've played a few games.
Selene says: As if the rules aren't already long enough, my friend
Mathias and I will be popping in to add more comments and examples. Everything
printed in normal type (like the first paragraph here) is part of the actual
rules; when you buy a starter deck of Magic cards, that material
is what's in the rulebook. Everything printed in italics (like this) is
additional explanation, examples of how the rule affects play, or answers
to questions that a lot of players have asked before this book was written.
We'll also point out some of the subtle ways that rules can combine or affect
each other, especially in the places that tend to surprise new players.
Finally, the Magic designers found a few ambiguities that managed
to sneak into the rules; they hope to correct them in future editions. To
make this annotated version match precisely the current rules, we've left
the original text intact but marked these problem areas in this
To start, read through this book until you get to the end of the first sample
game. This should give you enough information to play a little bit and get
used to the game. Words that are hyperlinked have
special technical explanations and definitions associated with them. These
are outlined in the glossary, but you
really don't need to worry about them until after you've tried the game
a few times.
Occasionally, you may run across a card that contradicts the rules. In such
a situation, the card always takes precedence.
Mathias says: That's one of the things that makes Magic so
exciting and so different from most games. You may think you're winning,
but then your opponent may play a card that you've never seen before or
may use a common card you've seen many times in a way that you never thought
Magic: The Gathering is a collectible trading card game created by
Richard Garfield and produced by Wizards of the Coast, Inc. There are more
than three hundred different cards in the core set of Magic: The Gathering,
and new cards are being designed every day.
As a wizard seeking the knowledge of this book, you already know that the
cards in your deck represent the various creatures, spells, and artifacts
with which you will face another wizard and battle for control of a plane
in Dominia. So where do you begin?
Players begin with 20 life each. If you're lucky, you may be able to get
more than that during the game; some spells can boost your life point total
to more than 20. You win if your opponent's
life total drops to 0 or less or if your opponent can no longer draw a card.
You can damage your opponent by casting spells, attacking with your creatures,
or using the effects of other cards in play. When your opponent tries to
damage you, you can defend yourself with other spells, block or destroy
your opponent's creatures, or even turn her own cards against her.
Selene says: Actually, it's possible to go below zero life points
and then recover without losing, if you get those points back quickly enough,
because you only check for losing at certain specific times. Look under
"Winning" in the glossary
for the details. If both players end up with zero or less at one of these
times, the game is a draw.
To play, each player needs a deck of at least forty cards. You can build
your deck from a selection of all of the cards you own; you don't have to
confine yourself to cards from a particular starter deck. You'll also need
some way of keeping score. Some players use pencil and paper, while others
prefer counters or some other method.
It's best to have a large, flat playing area for laying out your cards;
expect a game in progress to take up most of a standard card table.
Mathias says: Depending on which cards you play with, you may also
need some tokens or counters
to represent certain things in the game. Pocket change works fine for this,
or you can use any small objects you happen to have around. We've used jelly
beans, dice, and bits of torn paper, among other things.
To begin the game, both players shuffle their decks. You must also give
your opponent the opportunity to shuffle or cut your deck. Once both decks
have been shuffled, they're put face down on the table. If you're playing
for ante , then each player turns over
the top card and lays it face up. This card is the ante; whoever wins the
game will get to keep both cards. Set the ante cards aside, because you're
going to need plenty of room!
Selene says: Playing for ante is always optional. If you're not
comfortable putting your cards on the line, check with your opponents to
see if they're willing to play just for fun instead. Some players almost
always play for ante; others almost never do. You probably won't want to
play for ante during your first few games, when you are still getting used
to the rules and your cards.
Mathias says: ante, though, is a balancing factor. If you're not
risking any of your cards, then you're likely to fill your deck with all
of the best cards you own. This gives an advantage to whichever player has
the bigger collection. But if you're playing for ante, then you are willing
to risk the loss of any card in your deck, which makes the duel fairer for
a player who has fewer cards. After all, even the strongest deck can be
beaten by an unlucky shuffle!
Each player then draws an opening hand of seven cards from his or her deck.
After you draw your initial hand, the rest of your deck becomes your draw
pile, or library . Near your library,
leave some space for a graveyard ,
or discard pile. Most of the cards you bring into play will go into your
territory , or your half of the playing
surface. A few of your cards may go into your opponent's territory instead.
If you play cards in enemy territory, be sure to retrieve them when the
game is over. As some experienced players have discovered many times, this
is an easy way to lose a great card!
Selene says: I usually keep a pad of stick-it notes handy while
playing. If one player's card goes into another player's territory, I just
tear off a strip of a stick-it note and stick it onto the card. If we're
playing a multiplayer game (see "Sequence of
Play: A Quick Reference Guide" ), we all write our initials on
the strips to make it easier to keep track of who owns what.
Mathias says: Sometimes I play with people who use plastic card
sleeves to protect their cards while playing. This makes it easy for both
of us to see when one of their cards is in my area, and this keeps me from
accidentally shuffling their cards into my deck... though some of mine still
get shuffled into theirs occasionally.
You are now ready to start a game, or duel
. Determine randomly who goes first. If you and your opponent duel again
afterward, whoever loses this duel will get to go first next time.
There are two basic types of cards, spells and lands
. lands are easy to spot: they say "land" in between the picture
and the text box. lands are the most common kind of card in Magic,
since they usually provide the mana , or
magical energy, for all your spells. You can lay out one land per turn,
and you may use the land for mana as soon as it is in play.
When you get mana from a land, you have to tap
that land. tapping a card means turning it sideways. This indicates to you
and to your opponent that the card's effects have been temporarily used
up. Don't worry; your cards will untap
at the beginning of your next turn. The symbol (tap)
on a card indicates that if you use that card to generate a particular effect,
then you have to tap it (turn it sideways). The particular effect that card
generates is listed right after the symbol.
When you tap a land, you get a point of mana to add to your mana
pool. You can then use this mana to cast spells.
Selene says: Actually, there are a few special types of land that
don't give you mana . For example, Oasis is a land which can tap to prevent
a point of damage to a creature, but it doesn't give you any mana . Always
read the card if you're not sure; if a card can be tapped for mana , it
will say so. If it doesn't say so, then it can't. Remember the very first
rule: if a card contradicts the rules, then the card always takes precedence.
Mathias says: You only get mana from a land when you tap the land
for mana . If some spell happens to tap one of your lands , the land doesn't
generate any mana . Also, the land can only produce mana at the time you
tap it; if something forces the land to stay tap ped, then the land can't
generate any more mana . tap ping a land for mana is always done at interrupt
speed; we'll explain what that means later.
There are five different types of basic lands
, each of which produces mana of a different color. Correspondingly, there
are five different colors of spells, each
of which has a particular character (see "Color Chart" below).
There are also colorless and multicolored spells. We'll discuss spell color
in greater detail a little later.
Black Magic: Black magic's power comes from the
swamps and bogs; it thrives on death and decay. Many wizards shun black
magic's self-destructive nature even as they long for its ruthlessness.
Black's traditional foils are green and white.
Blue Magic: Blue Magic flows from the islands
and thrives on mental energy. Other wizards fear the blue magicians' ability
with artifice and illusion, as well as their mastery of the elemental forces
of air and water. Blue's traditional foils are red and green.
Green Magic: Green Magic gets its life from the
lush fecundity of the forest. Like nature itself, green Magic can bring
both soothing serenity and thunderous destruction. Green's traditional foils
are blue and black.
Red Magic: Red Magic feeds on the vast energy
boiling deep in the heart of the mountains. Masters of earth and fire, red
magicians specialize in the violence of chaos and combat. Red's traditional
foils are blue and white.
White Magic: White Magic draws its vitality from
the untouched, open plains. Though white magicians focus on spells of healing
and protection, they also devote plenty of time to the chivalrous arts of
war. White's traditional foils are black and red.
Selene says: Note that mana and land are not the same thing. mana
can come from other places besides land, such as from Llanowar Elves, which
taps for one point of green mana , or from Apprentice Wizard, which taps
to convert one blue mana into three colorless mana . This is why the rules
refer to "green mana," "blue mana," and so on, instead
of "forest mana," "island mana," and such.
The Cards, Continued
Now that you've identified the land cards, the other ones must be spells.
Notice that none of them actually say "spell" on them; that's
because there are six different types of spells and it's important to know
which type you're casting. So spells are labeled as instants, interrupts,
sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, and summons. The differences between
these various types of spells will be discussed in detail later on. The
main differences are as follows:
Mathias says: There's a lot to say about each of these types of
spells, but we'll wait until the more detailed discussion.
- Instants and interrupts (both of which are considered
fast effects ) are one-time effects that
go to the graveyard as soon as they
are cast. You can cast fast effects during your opponent's turn.
- Sorceries are also one-time effects
that go to the graveyard as soon as
they are cast. You can cast sorceries only during your own turn.
- Enchantments (including enchant
worlds ), artifacts , and summons
(creatures) are permanent spells that remain in play when cast. Once a permanent
is in play, you don't have to pay the casting cost again. The permanent
will remain in play until it is destroyed. You can cast permanents only
during your turn.
Let's take a look at a sample spell card, the Hurloon Minotaur. We'll look
briefly at each of the labeled sections, then come back and look more closely
at some of the concepts involved.
Card Name: In this case, the card's name is Hurloon Minotaur.
Don't count on the "summon" line to give you the complete name
of a creature.
Selene says: Don't confuse the name of the creature with the "type"
of creature, which will appear under the picture.
Casting Cost: This is the
cost, in mana , to cast the spell that the card represents. The cost to
bring the Hurloon Minotaur into play is . This stands for two
red mana and one "extra" mana . The "extra" mana in
a casting cost can be paid for with mana of any color or with colorless
mana . For a more detailed explanation of casting cost, see "Basic
Border: The border serves as an easy visual reminder of the
color of the card. A spell's color is technically defined as the color of
the mana required to cast it, not counting the "extra" mana .
The Hurloon Minotaur requires red mana , so it is a red spell when cast
and a red creature while in play. The border helps you remember its color.
Mathias says: Notice that the "color" of the card is defined
by the color of the mana in the casting cost, not the border. Cards with
no colored mana in their casting cost (or no casting cost at all) are defined
as "colorless," not "brown" or "gray"; that's
why artifacts and lands are colorless.
Card Type: This card is a summon spell ("Summon Minotaur"),
so it is a permanent. Once cast, summon spells remain in play as creatures.
Selene says: For Summon spells, everything after the word "summon"
is the "creature type." Other types of spells don't have that
extra sub-type. Furthermore, some cards will affect all creatures of a particular
type; for example, the Goblin King gives all Goblins a bonus. The type is
the only thing that matters for these effects. The Goblin Rock Sled looks
like a goblin, and even has "goblin" in its name, but the card
type is "Summon Rock Sled" and not "Summon Goblin."
This means that it isn't really a goblin and that it isn't affected by the
Goblin King. Similarly, the Goblin King itself is "Summon Lord,"
so it doesn't affect itself.
Card Text: This text box will contain extra information about
the card, describing any special abilities it may have. The Hurloon Minotaur
doesn't have any special abilities, so the text box is filled in with flavor
text. Flavor text is written in italics and has nothing to do with actual
game play. We just put it in there to let you know more about the history
and multiverse of Dominia.
Artist's Name: In this case, the artist is Anson Maddocks.
Power and Toughness: Only creatures will have power and toughness
ratings, so any card with numbers in the lower right corner is a creature.
The numbers indicate the creature's power
, or attack strength, and toughness
, or defense strength. The Hurloon Minotaur has a power of 2 and a toughness
of 3. Power and toughness are explained in detail under "The
Care and Feeding of Creatures".
Mathias says: It's important to remember that only certain parts
of a card have any bearing on its gameplay. The card's name, art, flavor
text, artist's name, and border don't influence what a card actually does.
For example, if you look at the picture on a Frozen Shade card, it looks
as if the creature is floating. This may fool you into thinking that a Frozen
Shade can fly, but since the card text doesn't say "Flying," the
Shade isn't considered to be flying for game purposes. And even though the
flavor text on the Gray Ogre says something about refusing to eat vegetarians,
it can still damage other creatures and your opponent, no matter what their
eating habits are.
Selene says: Also, cards don't interact in strange ways based solely
on their names. Ironroot Treefolk doesn't take extra damage from a Fireball
and Water Elemental isn't immune to it, even though trees burn well and
water doesn't. You can play Terror against a Wall of Stone, although it
might seem odd for a block of stone to die of fright. An Air Elemental can
benefit normally from Firebreathing, a creature can have both Holy Strength
and Unholy Strength at the same time, and so on. Just keep in mind that
it's "Magic," so it doesn't have to make sense... or rather,
the rules have to make sense, but the story told by the cards doesn't have
[WotC Main Page] |
[Magic Main Page] |
[Table of Contents] |
[Next Page] |