Magic the Gathering: Building a deck

Anyone can construct a Magic deck, but it takes strategy to win. A good deck has a good strategy to beat the opponent. Firstly, a primer on different tournament format, some cards may be banned or illegal in certain formats.

Wizards of the Coast releases new sets every quarter so there are different formats in which you can build your deck in. Generally, a new block is released every year and a Core Set every two years. Be sure to check the Banned/Restricted list to know which cards you can play.

Edit: I made an article showing a deck I constructed here.

Constructed (Player makes the deck):
Type II (Standard): Is the most popular tournament format. The deck must consist of cards from the most recent two blocks and the most recent Core Set.
Type 1.x (Extended): The deck must consist of cards from the most recent eight blocks and the three most recent Core Sets.
Type 1.5 (Legacy): The deck can consist of cards from any Magic set except the ones on the banned list.
Type 1 (Vintage): The deck can consist of cards from any Magic set except the ones on the restricted list.

Two-headed: Magic for four players. Each team consists of two players who share 40 life each. Everything else is the same, but rules for turns/attacking may vary.
Casual: Basically you can play any magic card you want and the rules vary according to the group of people you are playing with.
Limited (Draft/Sealed): A format where each player gets three/six booster packs, opens them one at a time, picks a card and passes it to the next player. The process goes on until all the cards from the first pack runs out. Then the process repeats until every pack is gone. Then each player adds his/her lands and makes a deck with the cards they picked.

The advice I can give about building a deck is based on Constructed mostly because Limited you have no control over who picks what cards.

There are three main types of decks: Aggro, Control and Combo. Many decks boast a combination of these types. When you are playing a specific type of deck, it’s called an archetype. The variety of different archetypes in your playing environment is your metagame. You want to build the type of deck that fares best in your metagame. A general rule to follow is that, Aggro beats Control, Control beats Combo and Combo beats Aggro.

Aggro decks focus mainly on one strategy: Attack. They have lots of creatures and lots of direct damage. I recommend this type of deck for beginners because it’s simple to play: just reduce your opponent’s life to 20. Green and Red cards are especially suited for this type of deck.
Some examples of the Aggro archetype below:

Aggro cards:
Green – Troll AsceticTarmogoyfChameleon ColossusGarruk Wildspeaker
Red – Goblin PiledriverMogg FanaticLightning BoltBrowbeatGoblin Guide
White – Savannah Lions, Silver KnightBaneslayer Angel
Blue – CloneMorphling
Black – Nantuko ShadePhyrexian NegatorDark Confidant
Multi – SpiritmongerBroodmate DragonSarkhan Vol
Colorless – Aether VialUmezawa’s Jitte

Aggro decks:
Sligh (R)
Affinity (Co)
Blue Green Madness(U/G)
The Rock(G/B)
Fires of Yavimaya(G/R)

Control decks focus on disrupting the opponent and maintaining control. These decks usually take longer to win than other decks. They often include counterspells, discarding, creature kill and defensive cards. Black, White and Blue are especially suited for this type of deck. Some examples of the Control archetype below:

Control cards:
Green – HarmonizeOhran ViperEternal WitnessKitchen Finks
Red – EarthquakeWildfire
White – Path to ExileWrath of GodWorshipWindborn Muse
Blue –  Cryptic CommandFact or FictionBrainstormDazeRedirect
Black – ThoughtseizeDuressDiabolic EdictConsume SpiritDoom Blade
Multi – BlightningTerminateLightning Helix
Colorless – Oblivion StoneMind’s EyeMindslaverBatterskull

Control decks:
Blue White Control(U/W)
Scepter Chant(U/W)
Mono Black Control(B)

Combo decks focus on getting a certain combination of cards to win the game, often very quickly. These decks often require specific cards that have a certain role in the deck, many tutors, card drawing and mana accelerating cards are used. There isn’t one color specifically suited for Combo, as it depends on the cards used. Some examples of Combo archetype below:

Combo cards:
Green – Doubling SeasonAlurenEarthcraft
Red – Seething SongRite of FlameDragonstorm
Blue – Mind’s DesireMind over MatterStroke of GeniusMystical TutorIntruder Alarm
White – ReplenishEnlightened TutorAcademy RectorOrim’s Chant
Black – Vampiric TutorDark RitualYawgmoth’s WillNecropotenceTendrils of Agony
Colorless – Lotus PetalGrim MonolithHelm of AwakeningTolarian AcademyMetalworker

Combo decks:
Oath of Druids(G/U)
Manaless Ichorid(B)

Here’s the Enduring Ideal combo deck in action (my demonstration of a turn 4 kill):

…and the Hulk Flash combo deck in action (a turn 1!!! kill):

How to play Magic the Gathering pt 2

Continued from the previous post…Here are some more advanced terms:

Tokens: Tokens are creatures that are not represented by a card but they are still creatures. The only difference is that when they die and/or returned to your hand, they are exiled instead.

Exile: Exile a permanent means they are removed from the game (as opposed to putting it in your graveyard like a normal permanent).

A counterspell
A counterspell

Counters: Usually a blue card that says counter target spell means that the spell that is countered does nothing, has no effect and is put into the graveyard.

Sacrifice: A card, usually black, that says sacrifice a creature means that a creature of its owner’s choice must be put into the graveyard. Sacrifice does not destroy nor does it target so it can kill creatures with Shroud and Indestructible.

This tribal card helps Soldiers and Bird types
This tribal card helps Soldiers and Bird types

Creature types: The creature type is on the card shown as Creature – type. Many cards interact with different creature types. ‘Goblins get +1/+1’ would be an example of such a card. Cards that interact with creatures are known as tribal cards.

A Legendary Creature
A Legendary Creature

Legendary: Some permanents can be legendary. This is shown in the card type. That means there can only be one of that card with the same name on the battlefield. Planeswalkers are inherently legendary. If two Legendary permanents of the same name are in the battlefield, they both automatically go to the graveyard.

Card Abilities:

A creature with a triggered ability
A creature with a triggered ability

There are two different types of card abilities in Magic. Activated and tap abilities may be indicated with a mana cost and/or tap symbol and you have to use that much mana to use it / tap to use it. They can be used at any time. Any permanent may have activated/tap abilities, but creatures have to wait a turn before you can use their abilities. Triggered abilities have an effect depending on other conditions. ‘when
comes into the battlefield’ and ‘whenever

is tapped’ are examples of triggered abilities that only happens when the conditions are satisfied. Creatures don’t have to wait a turn to use triggered abilities, they just happen automatically.

A legendary creature with alot of abilities
A legendary creature with alot of abilities

Creature abilities:
Alot of creatures have different abilities, tap and activated abilities, but here are some common keyworded abilities that may not have been explained on the card.
Flying: Flying means this creature can’t be blocked except by other creatures with flying.
Trample: Trample means this creature deals any leftover combat damage when blocked to the player. That means, if it has more power than the blocking creature’s toughness, the rest of the damage goes to the player.
Shroud: Shroud means the creature can’t be targeted by spells or abilities. Any spells or abilities that say ‘target creature’ cannot be used on the creature.
Indestructible: The creature cannot be destroyed by any card effects or by combat damage.
First Strike: First Strike means the creature deals combat damage before a creature without First Strike. Normally creatures deal combat damage at same time.
Island/Plains/Forest/Swamp/Mountain-walk: Any of these basic land walks means the creature is unblockable if the defending player controls a basic land of that type.
Lifelink: Lifelink means whenever the creature deals damage, the controller gains that much life.
Vigilance: Attacking doesn’t cause a creature with Vigilance to tap.
Haste: A creature with haste can attack and use abilities the turn they are played. Normally creatures have to wait a turn to attack and use abilities.
Regeneration: Regeneration usually comes with a mana cost. That means the controller can pay that mana cost so that the creature does not receive combat damage and becomes tapped instead.
Reach: Creatures with Reach can block flying creatures. This doesn’t mean that the creature has flying.
Deathtouch: Creatures with this ability destroys any creature it deals damage to.
Protection from Black/Blue/Green/Red/White: Protection from a color means that the creature cannot be enchanted by, blocked by, targeted by, or dealt damage by any spells/permanents of that color.

Block Mechanic:

A Sorcery using the block mechanic Entwine
A Sorcery using the block mechanic Entwine

There’s also ‘block’ mechanics. Allow me to explain. Every few months, Wizards of the coast releases a new Magic expansion and each ‘story arc’ comprises three sets/expansions usually and is called a ‘block’. Along with a block comes different card abilities that are only in that block. These include Imprint, Storm, Replicate, Kicker, Landfall, Entwine, Exalted, Flashback, Madness, Suspend, Cycling, Evoke, Fading, Echo, Buyback, Conspire, and many others.
These usually don’t need to be explained because their explanation comes on the card.


How to play Magic the Gathering pt 1

Ok so alot of people have been refusing to duel me because their excuse is that they don’t play magic the gathering. Well here’s a tutorial I’m gonna write to give people the basics of playing.

Magic: the Gathering
Magic is a card game invented by Richard Garfield and marketed by Wizards of the Coast. It’s the oldest and most prestigious trading card game, having been started in 1993.

Back of a Magic card
Back of a Magic card

The basic rules of Magic is as follows:
1): Each player has a 60-card minimum deck.
2): Each player starts out with 20 life.
3): Each player draws a 7 card hand at the beginning, with the player going second drawing an extra card. Any player may reshuffle his/her hand back into the deck and drawing a new hand at with one less card each time. This is called a Mulligan.
4): There are seven basic card types in Magic: Land, Creature, Enchantment, Artifact, Sorcery, Instant, Planeswalker. I’ll go through all of these later.
5): Each turn, a player does the following in order: untaps all permanents, goes through an upkeep step, draws a card, plays any spells/lands, attacks with any creatures, plays any other spells/lands, discards a card if his/her hand is more than 7 and ends the turn.
6): A player wins if his/her opponent has 0 or less life and/or cannot draw any more cards from their library.

I’ll explain some terms now:
Permanent: A permanent is anything that stays on the battlefield, this means any lands, artifacts, creatures, enchantments and planeswalkers.

Hand: Your hand is where you will keep your cards. Each player has a maximum 7 card hand. If you have more than that, you will have to discard at end of turn.

Graveyard: This is where permanents (creatures, lands, etc) go if they die/are destroyed. It’s also where you discard your cards. Once a card is in the graveyard, you can’t use it anymore unless you have a card that interacts with the graveyard.

Library: Your library is your deck. Many cards interact with the library and may ask you to draw cards from it, search or shuffle it.

Upkeep: An upkeep is a phase of the turn right after the untap phase. Some cards have abilities that occur at upkeep. Other than that, there’s not much to say about it.

A Non Basic Land
A Non Basic Land

Land: A land is a card type that is required for producing mana. Every turn, each player can play one land. You then tap the land to add mana to your mana pool. When you tap a card, you turn it sideways to show it’s being used. The five basic lands are: Mountain (red), Island (blue), Forest (green), Swamp (black) and Plains (white). You tap one of these lands to produce the associated color of mana. You need mana to cast spells, so lands are very important and generally constitute 1/3rd of a player’s deck. Non-basic lands are any lands that are not those five I just listed.

Spell: A spell is anything that isn’t a land. The other six card types are all spells. Casting a spell means playing it from your hand by paying its mana cost.

Mana Cost: The mana cost of a card is shown in the upper right hand corner. It will show the mana color of it and probably a colorless cost. If a mana cost has 5RR for example, it means it requires 5 colorless mana AND two red mana. You need to pay the mana cost of a card to play it and the mana is taken away from your mana pool. It’s important to note that any colored mana can pay for a colorless mana cost but some lands can only add colorless mana and those can’t pay for colored mana costs.

Mana Pool: Your mana pool is how much total mana you have added during your turn (colored + colorless). When you cast spells or use activated abilities, it takes mana away from the mana pool. Your mana pool empties at the end of phases and turns.

An Artifact
An Artifact

Artifact: Artifacts are colorless cards which means they can be played by any color. They stay on the battlefield, they may also be creatures or a special type called Equipment. Equipment is an artifact that can be used on creatures by paying the equip cost and then it attaches to the creature and gives that creature its benefits. If the creature dies, the equipment stays on the battlefield.

An Enchantment Aura
An Enchantment Aura

Enchantment: Enchantments are cards that stay on the battlefield. They may be of a type called Aura, Aura’s are enchantments that can attach to permanents and give them it’s benefits. If the permanent dies or gets destroyed however, it dies along with the permanent and goes to the graveyard. This is how Auras differ from Equipment (other than being colored).

A Multi-colored Creature
A Multi-colored Creature

Multi-colored: A multi-colored card is the same as any other card, they just require two or more different mana colors to play.

Creature: A creature is the most complex magic card type. If you play a creature, it can’t attack or use any abilities until your next turn (unless it has an ability called haste). Each creature has a two numbers in the bottom right corner of the card, in the form x/y. x is the power, or how much damage it deals. y is the toughness or how much health it has. Creatures can attack or block. When it attacks, it taps (turns sideways) and the opponent can choose to block it with another creature or take the damage to his/her life. Blocking with another creature means the attacking and blocking creature deals damage to each other. When creatures deal damage, subtract the each creature’s power from the other creature’s toughness and if it is 0 or less, that creature dies and goes to the graveyard. After a creature is tapped, it doesn’t untap until your untap phase and it can’t block while tapped. Also, two or more creatures can block one creature, they just combine their power and toughness and the attacking creature can choose to split damage between them in any way.

A Multi-colored Planeswalker
A Multi-colored Planeswalker

Planeswalker: Planeswalkers are also complicated. They are permanents that can be used only once per turn, on your turn only. They come with the number of counters specified in the lower right and that represents its hit points. They have three or more abilities, denoted by +X or -X counters. When you use those abilities you add or subtract X amount of counters from that planeswalker. If a planeswalker has 0 counters, it dies. Your opponent can also choose to attack the planeswalker instead of you, and in that case its creature would deal damage to your planeswalker instead. Direct damage spells can also be directed to the planeswalker instead of you.

A Multi-colored Sorcery
A Multi-colored Sorcery

Sorcery: Now for the non-permanents. Sorceries are spells that are played once, and then discarded. You do whatever effect is listed on the card and then it goes to the graveyard. Sorceries can only be used on your turn.

An Instant
An Instant

Instant: An instant is just like a sorcery except for one key difference and that is that they can be used on your opponent’s turn as well as your turn. This makes them much more versatile than sorceries, though the effect is usually less powerful.

That’s it for now, I hope to continue to explain in another article later and post some videos to help new players understand magic the gathering.