Beginner Planeswalker Guide: Card Types

Beginner Planeswalker Guide: Card Types

August 2, 2018 Off By Tifa

This is part 2 of a series of Magic articles aimed at welcoming people into Magic: The Gathering! If you are an experienced Magic player, I hope you can use this article series to help your friends become Planeswalkers. If you are new to Magic, let me show you some things that will help you break into the game.

Welcome back! Today I will be teaching you about the many flavors of cards you’ll play with in your Magic decks.

Before we begin, there are a few terms for the board set-up of Magic that I want to explain first. Your deck of cards is called a Library, think of it as a Library of spells and resources that you are pulling from. Your discard pile is called a Graveyard, because dead spells and creatures go there when they are done being used or killed. Any spells you play in front of you live on what is called the Battlefield, you can think of it as the board for a board game. Your hand of cards is just your hand, no fancy word for that. There is also Exile, which is when spells are “removed from the game”.

There are many types of cards in Magic, and it can feel a little overwhelming at first. Let me break them down into some easy to understand categories to help with the basics of playing the game.

Plains Island Swamp Mountain Forest

Lands: First things first, mana is your best friend. Mana is the resource you use to cast spells and it is primarily produced by Land cards. Spells refer to any card you play from your hand that is not a land, so any other card is a spell. There are 5 basic land types that correlate with the 5 colors of Magic: Plains for White, Islands for Blue, Swamps for Black, Mountains for Red, and Forests for Green. You can (and generally should) play 1 land card every turn. To use a land card to produce mana, you tap it (which is just a fancy word for turning your card sideways) to show your opponent that you are utilizing the Land to produce 1 mana of the color it produces. You can then use this mana to cast a spell.

Spell card types: Creatures, Enchantments, Artifacts, Sorceries and Instants. There are also Planeswalkers, but I’ll save that exciting card type for later. Any spell you play that stays on the battlefield is called a Permanent because it is permanently on the battlefield (unless something destroys it in some way). Instants and Sorceries are the only spells that are not Permanents because they have an immediate effect on the game and go directly into the Graveyard after use.

Before I get into the specific card types, I want to point out that all spells have a cost in the upper right corner. This cost is how many mana is needed in order to cast this spell. To make this easier, I’m going to use the card examples below:

  1. Bristling Boar costs 3 of any color AND 1 green mana, 4 mana total – 1 of those has to be green.
  2. Knight of the Tusk cost 4 of any color AND 2 white mana, 6 mana total – 2 of those have to be white.
  3. Gearsmith Prodigy cost 1 blue mana (total).

Bristling Boar  Knight of the Tusk  Gearsmith Prodigy

Creatures: These are a very important component of the game and should make up a good percent of most Magic decks. Above are 3 examples of Creature cards – you can see the card type in the center left of the card. Creatures are used to attack your opponents in order to deal them damage and they are also used to block damage from your opponent’s creatures. An obvious way Creatures stand out from other card types is that they have a power and toughness in the right bottom corner. The first number you see is the Creature’s power – this is how much damage that creature deals when it attacks or blocks. The second number is the Creature’s toughness – this is how much damage a creature can take before it dies (and moves to the Graveyard). Note: Damage is removed at the end of every turn, so you don’t have to keep track of it for very long.

In all the creatures above, they have some abilities and flavor text. The flavor text is in italics and has no effect on the actual gameplay, but can be very interesting and funny and often ties into the larger Magic: The Gathering story that exists. The abilities will be very important on the gameplay, but we aren’t going to get into these just yet, I just wanted you to see where they are on the card.

As I said, all creatures can attack and block, but I will get more into that in the next article when we learn about Turn Phases.

Ajani's Welcome Oakenform Luminous Bonds

Enchantments (and Enchantment Auras): Enchantments come into play and stay on the battlefield indefinitely, having some effect on the game. The first card above is an example of an Enchantment – once you cast Ajani’s Welcome it will remain on the Battlefield in front of you until something destroys it – Ajani’s Welcome gives you the ability that anytime you cast a creature, you will gain 1 life.

The next two card examples above are Enchantment Auras, this simply means that they enchant a targeted creature (target just means that you select that creature to be effected by a spell or ability). In the case of Oakenform, you would select a creature to benefit from this enchantment until the creature dies or the enchantment is destroyed. You can imagine that the enchantment is attached to that creature and generally you would place the enchantment card physically behind the creature card, but above it to see the name and know that it is being effected by that enchantment. Oakenform would boost your creature’s power and toughness by 3 each! Now, Luminous Bonds is also an Aura that would be attached to a creature in the same way, but this is an example of an enchantment that you’d most likely want to play on your opponent’s creature for a disadvantage. Luminous Bonds keeps a creature from being able to attack or block, which in a lot of cases makes a creature useless. But any abilities a creature has are still in effect.

Crucible of Worlds Field Creeper Marauder's Axe

Artifacts: Artifacts are colorless spells, meaning that you can use any color of mana to cast Artifacts! They have an effect on the game in the same way Enchantments do, or they can be an Equipment card. Some creatures are even Artifacts, but we don’t have to worry too much about that now. Artifacts are permanents, so they stay on the battlefield until they are destroyed.

The first card above is a simple Artifact that has an effect on the game – Crucible of Worlds allows you to play land cards from your graveyard. The second is an Artifact creature, just to show you what they look like. And lastly, this is an Equipment. This works a lot like an Aura, except that it doesn’t immediately attach to a creature when you play it. Instead, you play it and it sits on the Battlefield until you pay the Equip cost to attach it to a creature. Then, if the creature dies, the equipment actually stays on the Battlefield. You just have to re-pay to equip it to another creature. For example, above is Marauder’s Axe – this has an Equip cost of 2. Once it is equipped to a creature, that creature’s power is boosted by 2. One cool thing about equipment cards is that you can actually move them from one creature to another anytime you want by paying the equip cost.

Lava Axe Sovereign's Bite Smelt Strangling Spores

Sorceries and Instants: I’m choosing to group the two non-permanent cards together, because they are very similar in how they effect the game. Both of these spells are cast and immediately their abilities do something to the game. The only difference is that Sorceries can only be played during certain times on your turn (more on that next time) and Instants can be played at pretty much any time during the game, including during your opponent’s turn!  Above is a few examples, so that you can see a variety of ways that these spells effect the game. Just think, the possibilities are endless. Once again, after one of these spells is used it goes into the graveyard.

I hope this helped you get ready to jump into the game of Magic: The Gathering or to help you explain this great game to your friends. Next time, I will actually walk you through the parts of a turn so that you can start playing!