Magic: The Gathering 🗃 Beginner Guide: From Start to Finish in 4 Steps (2023).

Magic: The Gathering 🗃 Beginner Guide: From Start to Finish in 4 Steps (2023).
Photo by Wayne Low / Unsplash


During the spring of 2022 a friend of mine introduced me to Magic: The Gathering. I had only ever collected Pokémon cards in my glory days.

Put simply, I had collected cards with cool monsters on them before, but never actually played them. I did some research, collected all the information I could find and put it all into this short article for you so you can get a head start.

My friend taught me the game by playing it. Something I recommend you try as well, after reading this article.

1. The Basics 🎲

Everything that's happening on the table, is either happening for you, or to you. Your opponent sitting across the table is trying to bring your life bar from
20 to 0, and you're trying to do the same to them.

In order to do that you have some help from enchantments, creatures, and land.

  • 🏔 Land cards are basically your mana. Every card needs one or more of these in order to be used, and they come in Red, Green, Blue, White, and Black.
  • 🐉 Creature cards are the beasts doing most of the damage to the opponent and their cards, as well as taking damage in your place.
  • 🪄 Enchantment cards have fun little effects with potentially devastating results, and last to the end of the game.

See a list of all card types and how to use them below.

How to Use Each Card Type in Magic: The Gathering
Learn how to play each type of spell in the Magic trading card game!

2. The Table Layout 🗺

In the image below you can see an example of how a  match could look from the ceiling lamp´s perspective. In this section, we will look further into the player hand, the battlefield, the library, and the graveyard.
  • 🤚 Your hand is where you keep your dirty secrets about which cards you´ll play next. When you first draw, you take seven cards from your library to your hand.
  • 🌲 The battlefield contains every card currently in play. These cards are still doing your (or the opponent´s) bidding.
  • 📚 The library is where you keep your remaining cards. Both players usually have 60 cards in their library, and this is also where you draw cards to your hand from.
  • 🪦 The graveyard sound ominous, and it is. This is the place cards go to die. It´s also known as the discard pile, but come on. Who says that?

The cards that are turned horizontally on the table (vertically in the image above) are tapped. That means they are used. Land cards need to be tapped in order to provide mana. Read more about tapped cards here.

Now, there are plenty of details not covered in this article about each of these, but we won´t worry about those details yet. I´ll provide you with links to all the information at the bottom of this article if you really want to get your hands dirty.

3. The Card Colors 🌈

The colors of cards you play define your playstyle. Each color represents its own flavor and faction, with it´s own strengths and weaknesses. The color system prevents any one deck from hoarding every good tool in the game. Pretty smart.
  • Black cards (the skull) wants power at all costs. They do not care how power is aquired, as long as it is aquired.
  • White cards (the sun) have one ultimate goal, peace. They represent community and love handling organizations and laws.
  • Red cards (the fireball) represent adventure. They love sacrificing themselves in the name of love, and see beauty in most things.
  • Green cards (the tree) are in tune with nature. They believe nature should run its course, and don´t need to impose their ideas on others.
  • Blue cards (the drop) see opportunities. They want to uncover the secrets of the world, and value logic and technology above all else.

Get in depth knowledge about every color in Magic: The Gathering here.

4. Your turn 👈

Okay, so far so good. Now it´s time to actually play the game.
There are five phases to each turn. Beginning, Precombat Main, Combat, Postcombat main, and Ending.

We´re going to deep dive into all the phases and their individual steps below. First, take a look at the anatomy of a card in the image below, and get familiar with it.


The beginning phase consists of three steps. Untap, upkeep, and draw.

  • Untap means to flip every card back to a vertical position on the battlefield, signaling that they are ready to be used again. If the game just started, you probably don´t have any cards to untap.
  • Upkeep refers to cards that have the "beginning of upkeep" attribute. Those abilities are now triggered, put on the stack, and the active player now has priority.
  • Draw The active player draws a card from their library onto their hand.

Priority is given to the active player at the start of each turn. Both players need to pass priority for a spell or ability to resolve. (


Now that the beginning phase is done, it´s time to move onto the precombat phase, which is one of the two main phases in a turn.

  1. "Beginning of main phase" abilities that you possess now go onto the stack, and Land cards can be played.
  2. Remember that you don´t have to play all your cards during this phase. You might just want to keep your opponent guessing for a bit longer.


Time for some action. This phase is broken down into five steps.

  • Beginning of combat is when all of your "Beginning of combat" cards are triggered and resolved.
  • Declaring attackers You declare which cards attack.
  • Declaring blockers Your opponent declares which cards block, if any.
  • Combat damage is when you calculate how much damage you actually managed to deal.
  • End of combat is when the creatures that didn´t survive the previous phase go to the Graveyard.


This phase is identical to the Pre-combat phase. All rules that applied to that phase also apply now, before finally moving on to the Ending phase.

Ending phase

There are two steps to the Ending phase. End and Cleanup.

  • End - At the start of this step, the active player has priority, this is your last chance to play any cards.
  • Cleanup - When both players have completed the End step, the Cleanup step starts. If any player has more cards than their maximum limit, they´re discarded, and all damage is removed from permanents.

Read more about turns and rules below.

How to Play | Magic: The Gathering
Learn how to play Magic: The Gathering with rules and an introduction to the game!

If you want to know about which decks are most starter-friendly, take a look at Gamerant´s article on "The Best Starter Decks In Magic: The Gathering Arena"  

There are several ways to win the game. A comprehensive rulebook on win conditions can be found here. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two about how an ordinary game of Magic: The Gathering looks. I´ll say it again, we only just scratched the surface with this article, so if you´d like to know more, Click on the links below 👇

What Magic: The Gathering faction is your favorite, and why?
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