Magic for beginners

Learning cards and colors
By JOSEPH R. THOMPSON  |  May 10, 2006

Like any card game, watching a bunch of professional tournament players and serious amateurs play can be intimidating as the players “tap” cards, “bring out lands,” and “summon creatures” or “spells.” In reality, the game is rather simple once you move past the jargon and just look at how the turns are taken. It's really a matter of forming strategies by learning the specific cards and various strengths and weaknesses of the different colors.

A beginning player will generally buy a starter deck of 40 cards. Later, as the player begins to understand the difference between the colors – for example, green focuses on healing and rejuvenation, while a red deck has fewer creatures and tends to “burn” its opponents, and blue focuses on casting spells that prevent opponents from playing cards – he or she will create their own deck with specific card/color combinations.

To begin with, every turn has five parts: the beginning phase, the first main phase, the combat phase, a second main phase, and an end phase. During the beginning phase, the player can “untap,” or set for reuse, some cards they played previously. They also draw a card from their deck at this point. Next is the first main phase. During either main phase the player plays various summoning spells, to bring out creatures and abilities, while opponents play cards that will try to prevent these spells. After a player brings out a spell, other players are given the chance to respond to it, depending on what’s in their hands. In the third phase, the combat phase, the player chooses which of his or her creatures will attack which opponents. In response, the opponents choose how to block those creatures. Any assault that isn’t blocked causes damage that is absorbed by the target. During the end phase, the player follows the directions on any cards that specify actions to be taken at the end of a turn and can also play certain spells or use different creatures’ abilities to build defenses, hurt opponents, or strengthen the abilities of various cards on the table.

The game ends when all but one player has lost all 20 of his or her life counters, or has run out of cards in their deck.

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