Beginner Planeswalker Guide: Phases to VictoryAugust 16, 2018
This is part 4 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.
You step onto the battlefield, face to face with your new enemy. Maybe you had a disagreement, maybe you are lifelong nemeses, maybe your victory will determine who gets the last chocolate chip cookie. Regardless of the reason, you want to get their life total to 0 before yours. It’s figuratively life or death.
Some general notes about playing a game of Magic before we dive deep into the phases of a turn: players pass priority back and forth, meaning that you and the person you are playing with must be crystal clear on where in the turn you are so that they can have the opportunity to respond as things happen. This means that any abilities or Instant spells can be used during the other player’s turn between phases. I won’t be going deep into how priority works here, just know that both players should have a chance to respond as things happen.
Each turn in a game of Magic follows these phases. I’ll provide you with an overview before diving into the specifics. I recommend using this overview as a guide when you start playing or teaching Magic:
- Beginning Phase
- Pre-combat Main Phase
- Play a land
- Cast spells
- Combat (we will get into all the pieces and complexities of combat next week)
- Post-combat Main Phase
- Cast spells
- End Phase
- End step
Beginning Phase – Each turn, you need to make sure your resources are in order and you’re prepared to outwit and overpower your opponent.
- Untap – Any card you used the last turn that was tapped (turned sideways in order to use a resource, ability, or attack), will now be untapped and turned upright again. Think of this as your land refilling with mana and your creatures being fully rested after combat. Everything should be ready to be used again for your road to sweet, sweet victory.
- Upkeep – This is important to acknowledge, but won’t affect every game. Some cards will say, “At the beginning of your upkeep…[do a thing].” This is where that thing would happen!
- Draw – Draw a new card to add to your hand. This is an exciting opportunity every turn to have more power. Note: The first player does not draw on the first turn.
Pre-combat Main Phase – Your main phases are when you can play your lands and all of your (non-Instant) spells. Be sure to play a land every single turn if you have one in your hand. You can only play one land per turn and it’s impossible to have too many lands in play.
You can also play any other card in your hand (that you can pay the full mana cost for with lands), but note that you will also have a main phase after combat. So, if you have a couple different options and want to wait before playing anything, you can do that and make decisions as you go. Waiting until after combat to use your mana also keeps your opponent guessing.
One note I want to make is that creatures played during this phase have Summoning Sickness during their first turn on the battlefield. This means they won’t be able to attack right away because they are discombobulated from being summoned and need a turn to get situated.
Combat – This is where most the action happens. It’s complicated enough that I’ll wait to explain it in full detail until I can commit all your attention to it next week. For now, focus on how the rest of the turn will help you to get sweet victory.
Post Combat Main Phase – This is your second, and last, chance to cast any (non-Instant) spells in your hand before your turn ends and it becomes your opponent’s turn. Do anything you need to do to be prepared to defend on your next turn.
- End step – This is where the turn ends. Any abilities triggered by “end of turn” or “beginning of the end step” happen now (a card will let you know if this is relevant info).
- Cleanup – Just like in life, you have to take a moment to clean up the mess you made. But don’t worry, the mess left over from battle isn’t as hard to clean up as you’d imagine. All the creatures are fully healed back to full health and you no longer have to track the damage that happened. Also, at this point, if you have more than 8 cards in your hand, you have to discard to 8 cards. Then, crack your knuckles, wipe your hands clean and tell your opponent to bring it on!
Join me in battle next week to learn all about combat!