top of page

How To Play Magic: The Gathering

Updated: 13 hours ago

If you’re looking to get involved with this stimulating and interesting collectible card game, then we’re here to help. We’ve put together a basic guide on how to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG), which will help you get started on your journey to becoming an all-powerful wizard. Over time you will develop your strategy and skills. You’ll enjoy Magic for years to come, and these basics will help you through your first few games of MTG. Remember, if you’re only getting started, don’t worry if you don’t win all the time. The more practice you have, the better player you’ll become.

Getting started

Before you play Magic: The Gathering, you will need a few things.


  • Decide how you will play: Will you choose to play against one person with a 60-card deck (1v1)? OR will it be a group game with a 100-card deck (Commander/EDH*)? You can decide by chatting with your friends, heading to your local games store or trying out MTG Arena online.


  • Your first deck : There are plenty of pre-built decks ready to play out of the box. You could grab a Commander deck, which is a 100-card deck. This is built around a classic Magic character.


  • Someone to play: Whether you start with a friend, at your local games store or learn the rules playing the digital version MTG Arena online, you’ll need an opponent to get to grips with the game.

Magic The Gathering

How does it work?

The rules are relatively simple. Your main goal is to whittle down your opponent's life total. This starts at 20 and, ideally, you’ll get it down to zero by attacking them with various creatures. You’ll also be able to protect yourself from their attacks by using spells, or you can cast spells to disrupt their plans.


Setting up Magic: The Gathering

It's easy to start. Just shuffle your decks, draw a hand of seven cards and you’re ready to go.


  • Decide who goes first.


  • Except for the very first player on the first turn, you normally draw a card at the beginning of every turn.


  • On your first turn, you will play a land. This is the foundation of everything.


  • A land gives you mana, which is your fuel for casting spells. You can play one land per turn.


Then you can cast spells. You’ll find that each spell card has a cost (in coloured mana symbols, on the top right side of the card). To cast a spell, you will need to “tap” a land. This means turn the land cards of the right colours sideways to pay the cost. Some spells will remain on your battlefield, like creatures, for example. Others are one use only and then they’ll be discarded, such as sorceries and instants.


Remember: When you tap a card i.e. turn it sideways, that shows that it has been used for the turn. At the beginning of your next turn, you will turn your land up again.


Combat explained

It’s important to understand how combat works as this is the pivotal part of most games. You will use your creatures to attack but it’s important to be careful.


In multiplayer Commander /EDH*, you choose and declare which one of your opponents you will attack.


  1. Choose your creatures - You will need to tap your creatures to signal that they are attacking. However, they cannot attack in the same turn you first summon them out of your hand.

  2. Blocks - Your opponent will decide whether to block your attack with any of their untapped creatures.

  3. Calculate the destruction - Your creatures have a power score, which dictates how much damage they cause (the left number). They also have a toughness score which dictates how much damage they’ll take before dying (the right number). Remember, if creatures are not blocked, they will directly damage your opponent, meaning their life score is reduced.

  4. A blocked attacking creature will deal no damage to an opponent, no matter how big it is.

  5. Creatures will ‘heal’ themselves at the beginning of the next turn, when you untap them.

Creature abilities

Read each card carefully to find out other special plays from your creatures.

Instants explained

In Magic: The Gathering, you can also play instants (spells) at any phase of the game, even when it is your opponent’s turn. Imagine these as wild cards; you can use them to add the unexpected to combat which may change the game completely.


Each card contains text to explain how it works if you get stuck. You can also access sites such as to read the rules in full.

Ready to play Magic: The Gathering?

Your first game might be a learning experience, but it’s sure to hook you in. There’s no time like the present, so why not get started and start building your magical army of cards today?


Check out our local MTG Events - Wednesday Night Magic - for a fun evening of casual Magic with friends. Or try one of our national MTG Events across the UK.

*Commander format is also known as Elder Dragon Highlander or EDH.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page