[Editor’s Note: There is a FAQ and Glossary within. If those are what you seek, ctrl+F to your heart’s content!]
A cheesy and contrived hello to you! I am AJ Sacher, and one of the many hats that I wear in the Magic community is that of a moderator for the live chat that accompanies the live coverage of professional level Magic tournaments. In that role, I’m often tasked with answering questions from the viewers. As it turns out, a lot of those questions are the same. So much so that I created a document of my answers to some of the more common inquiries I receive so that I don’t have to type them out again every twenty minutes or so when a new viewer enters the stream and asks the same thing.
"If only there was a place where all of this information was consolidated. That way I could point curious newcomers there so that they can learn as much as they want to without me having to lift a finger!" I said to myself before questioning my sanity after catching myself talking to myself. Even more than out of sheer laziness, I’ve also seen the occasional potential viewer enter the stream only to be overwhelmed and confused, often giving up and leaving. As a lover of competitive Magic, this breaks my heart. I realized there weren’t any great resources easily available to these interested but uninitiated parties. That is when I decided to take advantage of being a columnist here at StarCityGames.com (one of my favorite hats) and create the very resource whose absence I was cursing.
While the information contained within may not always be entirely up to date, I hope that this can be used as a helpful and informational guide for some time to come.
(If you’re at all familiar with sanctioned Magic, feel free to skip this section since it is very basic stuff meant only for the newest of newcomers. And if that’s you, then welcome to the best game in the world! Please read on.)
Match & Tournament Structure
In sanctioned Magic, matches are always best two out of three games. The only exception to this is the finals of a Pro Tour, where they play best of five. Tournaments are run using the Swiss system, meaning players are matched with opponents of the same [or similar when not possible] records. The number of Swiss rounds played is determined by the total number of entrants. Each win is worth three "match points," while a loss gets you zero. A draw, whether agreed upon or due to running out of the allotted time for the match, gives both players one match point. After the conclusion of the Swiss portion of the tournament, the eight players with the most match points advance to the "Top 8." These players then enter a single-elimination bracket to determine a winner.
That may be a bit overly wordy and technical. Just know that making the Top 8 is what everyone’s aim is; then you’re just a quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals away from being crowned a champion! Short of actually winning it all, making the Top 8 of a tournament is an accomplishment and a statistic that is tracked and carries weight.
In sanctioned Magic, there are a many different formats with varying deck construction rules and restrictions. They are grouped into two categories: Limited and Constructed.
Limited means that the player doesn’t know their card pool before the tournament begins. They are determined by opening packs of fifteen randomly assorted cards. There are two Limited formats: Sealed Deck and Booster Draft, or "Sealed" and "Draft" for short. Sealed is where a player must build their deck out of six packs of the "set," or edition/expansion of the game being used (which is almost always the most recent one released). Players then build their decks out of only the cards they opened and as many basic lands as they so choose to complete their [minimum] 40-card deck.
Draft is a process that is done in groups of eight players. Each is given three packs of the set being played. They each open one of those packs, take one of the fifteen cards and add it to their pile, and then pass the rest to the left. They then take the fourteen cards being passed to them from the player on their right, choose one of those cards to add to their pile, and pass the thirteen others to their left. And so on until all fifteen cards are chosen. Then players open their second pack and repeat the process, only this time passing to their right and receiving from their left. The third pack is the same process but reverses direction back to the left. Each player then builds a [minimum] 40-card deck from their 45 drafted cards and whatever basic lands they choose.
Constructed formats are ones where the legal card pool is known ahead of time and players bring their own deck of 60 cards [minimum] to play with in the tournament. There are multiple different Constructed formats, which are defined by how big the card pool is. Block Constructed is only the most recent block of sets. Standard is the most recent two blocks as well as the most recent core set. Modern is all sets from the modern era of Magic (from Eighth Edition and Mirrodin to present day). Legacy is all of the sets in the history of the game.
All of these formats have their own special "banned list," or a list of cards that fall under the legal sets but are explicitly disallowed from tournament play. There is one more format, Vintage, with its own special legality rules, but it is an unsupported niche format that you are unlikely to encounter until you are fairly deep into the community.
Tips For Newer Viewers
The number one piece of advice I would give a newer viewer would be to have Gatherer open in another window. This is a card search engine and will allow you to look up any cards that you might not know that aren’t explained on the stream. The casters will discuss some cards and bring up graphics of them for you to read, but they can’t do this for every single card played. The players, casters, and most viewers are all intimately familiar with all of the moving parts, and we occasionally take it for granted that we are able to know everything about a card by just a partial name or small pixelated look at the artwork.
As you get more familiar with the game and the formats, the cards will become second nature to you as well. But at first it can seem extremely daunting and overwhelming, and having access to Gatherercan alleviate a lot of that.
I would also suggest closing or ignoring the chat, at least at first. The game moves fairly quickly at times, and the cards can be hard to understand and follow if you aren’t familiar with them. That’s why I suggest newer viewers try to pay attention to the game and listen to the commentators rather than getting distracted by the chat.
That being said, if you have a question, feel free to ask in the chat. While there will always be some elitist trolls that are snarky, don’t let them bother you or discourage you from learning. We were all beginners at some point; some people have just forgotten. The truth is that most of the Magic community is actually very kind and willing to help.
What is this game? Should I try it? What’s the best way to learn?
Magic: The Gathering is a trading card game (TCG) or collectable card game (CCG) that many consider to be the ultimate game. Whether you like fantasy, strategy, socializing, problem-solving, adventure, puzzles, collecting, or competition, you name it, and Magic can supply it. It is not only fun to play but fun to learn and grow as a player. You see, Magic can be extremely skill-intensive and is played competitively worldwide for large sums of money and nerd fame.
There is really no ceiling to one’s skill level in Magic, but there is also a significant element of luck that keeps the game interesting and makes it so that anyone can beat anyone in a game. Also, new expansion sets come out every few months, keeping the game fresh and new and constantly changing and evolving. Suffice to say, you should give it a try. After all, it is the ultimate game.
There are lots of ways to learn how to play Magic. Whatever you do, do not look up the rulebook in the hopes of learning the game! It will do you no good. Instead, odds are that you know someone that plays or used to play that can teach you. You can also just show up at your local comic book and/or game store and ask about it. Additionally, there is a video game called Duels of the Planeswalkers that is extremely cheap (if not free) and available for multiple platforms, including Xbox, Steam, and Android.
If you would like a little more background information on the game, feel free to read the following FAQ entry as well.
Is this like Pokemon TCG? Or Yu-Gi-Oh! or WoW TCG or Hearthstone or SolForge or Digimon or VS System? And what about Dungeons and Dragons?
Yes! Except older, better, and more popular. Magic: The Gathering is the grandfather of all trading card games. First introduced in 1993, it was the predecessor to all of the above card games and countless more. While other TCG/CCGs have come and gone, Magic is over twenty years old and is as popular as it has ever been with millions and millions of players from all around the world. Magic is a complex and rich strategy game, and it can be overwhelming to see it played the first time. The truth is that it actually isn’t too difficult to learn and is well worth the effort.
If you would like some advice on learning to play, feel free to read the previous FAQ entry as well.
As for Dungeons and Dragons, I would say yes and no. There are certainly fantasy elements in Magic and storylines in the lore of the game. However, they don’t affect the gameplay at all. And while you can play multiplayer and/or casual variants of Magic, the tournament scene is competitive and one-on-one.
Is Magic expensive? How do players afford cards? Is this game just "whoever has the most expensive deck wins?"
Yes, the cost of cards can be a large barrier for entry into the game. This is an unfortunate but necessary factor to keep the game thriving. And while you can build decks out of any old cheap cards and have a blast playing with your friends, the competitive scene often requires a substantial investment. Most players you see in the coverage of big events will either be sponsored by a store who supplies them with cards or are borrowing from friends. Some have their own collections that they build decks from as well. The truth is that once you get to the higher levels card availability or cost is essentially a non-factor and all players have access to the same cards. Magic is a complex and deep strategy game with some elements of chance; the winners are decided through a combination of skill and luck.
Why do all of these players have sleeves/protectors/plastic/covers on their cards?
Some cards are very expensive, and sleeves are generally used to protect them from the wear and tear of shuffling. Besides devaluing cards, that wear and tear can mark the backs of cards in unique ways, making them identifiable in the deck, which is obviously a problem. Even without damage or marking, some cards are identifiable to the trained eye/touch by slight differences in the inking or thickness/curvature of "foils," aka shiny/holographic/premium cards. Uniformed sleeves minimize all of these factors as well as make shuffling much easier.
Before or between games when shuffling, why do the players sometimes lay their entire deck out one by one in facedown in piles like that? Is that legal?
This is a perfectly legal and fairly common process called "pile shuffling." This is admittedly a bit of a misnomer, as technically it is not considered a proper shuffle; the deck must be sufficiently randomized after the pile shuffle. The misinformed on how probabilities work or what the word "random" means have theories about this breaking up the lands better, but that is nothing more than superstition at best or cheating** at worst.
That isn’t to say that pile shuffling doesn’t have its purposes; many pros do it regularly, as do I. The real reasons to pile are: 1. Count your deck. You want to make sure that you are presenting a legal deck and one of the intended number of cards. 2. Check your sleeves (or card backs if unsleeved). This means making sure that there aren’t any markings that could be used to glean information illegally and that none of them are sticking together, which isn’t always broken apart through traditional shuffling.
**Having your deck sorted into lands and nonlands then piling them into an even distribution is called "mana weaving" and is illegal. Beginners and/or more casual players may do this not realizing it is considered cheating.
Why do the players flick the cards in their hands like that? The clicking sound is annoying, and they’re just moving the same cards around. It’s not like they’re accomplishing anything!
This card flicking, sometimes referred to as Kibler Shuffling, is extremely common among competitive Magic players. It is mostly just a mindless repetitive task. Think of it as the Magic equivalent of shuffling chips in poker, APM spamming in StarCraft 2, or spinning a pen while bored in class. It’s just a fidget that becomes habit. As you watch and attend more events, the sound will turn into a calming white noise or a beloved indicator that Magic is being played. And as you play more physical Magic, you will likely find yourself doing it too!
Besides being a way to keep your hands busy, it does serve some purpose (though the extreme is a bit absurd for it). Card tracking is possible in Magic, and the constant shuffling around of your hand lets you Three-card Monte your way out of giving information away. Take this simple example: if I draw a land and put it directly into play, my opponent would know that I had just drawn that land. But if I were to draw my card, put it into my hand, shuffle my hand a bit, and then play a land, they wouldn’t know whether I had it already or had just drawn it.
Where are their dice? Why aren’t they keeping track of their life total?
While more casual players tend to use a spindown d20 (a twenty-sided die with the values being sequential) to keep their own life total, the competitive scene almost exclusively uses pen and paper to keep track of the life totals of both players. There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, a die is a flimsy thing, and even a small bumping of the table could easily make it move. Secondly, you can more easily backtrack with numbers being written down. This makes it easier to walk back through the life total changes of a game to solve discrepancies. Lastly, many players take notes while in the game, for which a pen and paper are convenient.
A recent technological development in this arena is the advent of phone or tablet apps to keep life totals. In fact, StarCityGames.com has its own app called SCGMobile that in addition to a bunch of other awesome stuff has a Life Management function. These apps are fairly convenient and have been growing in popularity as of late. However, at least for the time being, pen and paper is still overwhelmingly the method of choice.
Why do they take so long to shuffle? And what are they doing with each other’s decks?
While it may be acceptable in more casual environments to give your deck a couple of quick riffles and begin play, there are slightly stricter guidelines in place for events with large cash prizes. This means getting the deck as close to truly random as humanly possible within the time allowed. Think of it as the huddle in American football. It may not make for great spectating, but it wouldn’t be Magic if they didn’t randomize their decks.
Once a player is done randomizing their own deck, they present it to their opponent. They then take their opponent’s deck and shuffle it a bit themself before the game begins. This is to prevent cheating in the form of deck stacking.
Why don’t they start the game already? Why aren’t we watching people play?
The coverage team is not holding out on you. Rest assured, if there were feature matches that could be covered, they would be being covered. Due to the Swiss structure of Magic tournaments, all matches in the round must be completed before the next round can be paired and begun. This means that if the feature matches all finish but another match is still underway everyone has to wait for them to finish before the tournament can proceed. And since you can’t realistically move the match to the camera setup or vice versa, we are left with some downtime.
Unlike some eSports coverage crews that leave you with a blank screen until the next match, most Magic coverage has content for downtime. Whether it is replays of matches covered earlier in the day/weekend, live interviews, prepared video content, or something else, you are not likely be bored all that often when watching.
There’s a time limit? What happens if they run out of time?
To prevent the downtime between rounds lasting indefinitely, each round has a time limit that each match must adhere to. If a game is still in progress when time is called, the players are given five additional turns between the two of them. If a conclusion cannot be reached, the game is ruled a draw. If one player was leading the match, say by having won the first game when the second one is drawn, they are awarded the match win (three match points, zero for the loser). If the players are tied, either neither having won a game or both having won a game, then both players are awarded a draw (one match point each).
What is an "intentional draw," why would a player do it, and why is it allowed? Why would a player concede to another? Isn’t that collusion? Why is it allowed?
An intentional draw is when both players in a match agree to a draw for their match and accept their one match point each. Players who are poised to lock up a slot in the Top 8 with that single additional match point will often take the guaranteed pass into the elimination rounds rather than risk missing by playing it out and losing. It is allowed because it is a construct of the tournament structure that is used and would be very hard to enforce were it not allowed, as players could simply play extremely slowly on purpose and create an "unintentional" draw by timing out. While this would be illegal, it is too discretionary and difficult to prove to properly and fairly enforce. So rather than deal with all of that, it is simply allowed.
Concessions are another construct of the tournament structure. Oftentimes one player will already be a mathematical lock for entrance into the Top 8 while their opponent needs a win to advance. In this situation, the locked player may "scoop" or concede the match so that the opponent can advance. There are many reasons one would do this, such as if they are friends with the opponent or if they want that particular player–or the deck they are using—in the Top 8 with them because they believe it will make their path to victory easier.
As long as the player conceding doesn’t ask for anything in return and the player being conceded to doesn’t offer anything in exchange for the win, then it is not bribery or collusion and completely legal. Again, it would be silly to try and enforce a rule outlawing this, as the player who wants to concede could just purposefully play terribly and allow their opponent to win. There is no real way to police that, so it isn’t illegal.
Why are they allowed to look at their opponent’s decklist?
When a tournament reaches the cut to Top 8, those eight players enter a single-elimination bracket. For these elimination rounds, each player is given their opponent’s decklist to examine before their match. This is to prevent a player from having an unfair advantage by knowing the contents of their opponent’s deck but the opponent not knowing the contents of theirs. Whether through word of mouth, scouting between rounds, or the deck being featured in coverage, there are many ways that this information imbalance could occur were it not for this rule.
There are many different types of major tournaments that are covered for your viewing pleasure. Here are the big ones with descriptions so you know what you’re watching:
Hosted by Wizards of the Coast (the Hasbro subsidiary that makes Magic), this is the big one. With a prize pool of $250,000 and the highest number of Pro Points* to distribute, the Pro Tour is what all of the amateur spellslingers of the world are working toward. Competitive players dream of hoisting that trophy and earning a $40,000 payday as well as a permanent place in Magic history. This is it: the Super Bowl of Magic. At different points in the past there have been varying numbers of these "PTs" per season, but as of the time of writing there are four PTs each year.
Competitors must earn the right to play on the Pro Tour stage by qualifying through various means. The most common is by winning a Pro Tour Qualifier, or PTQ, which are individual localized events where the winner receives an invite and airfare to the main event. Qualifications are also given to the highest finishers at Grand Prix events (see below). Lastly, the game’s elite are given invitations based on their standing in the Pro Player’s Club, which is determined by their accumulation of Pro Points.*
Pro Tours right now are mixed format tournaments. The competitors play both a predetermined Constructed format as well as the most recent Limited format in the form of a Booster Draft. They are also multi-day affairs, starting with the beginning of the Swiss on Friday, continuing the Swiss on Saturday, and concluding with the Top 8 on Sunday. Making a PT Top 8 is considered an extremely prestigious accomplishment.
Grand Prix are a part of the Wizards of the Coast circuit but hosted by third party tournament organizers. All GPs are open tournaments, meaning anyone can enter and participate. With a prize purse ranging from $35,000 all the way to $54,000 based on attendance, professionals, amateurs, and casuals alike all battle it out for the $4,000 first prize as well as a handful of Pro Points* and qualifications to the Pro Tour. That’s right, besides the potential cash prizes, you can also win a shot at the big show. While it has changed many times in the past, as of the time of writing qualifications are given to either the Top 4 or the Top 8 finishers, when the event has 1,199 or fewer or 1,200 or more entrants respectively.
A Grand Prix takes place almost every single weekend—sometimes two on the opposite sides of the world! There are 46 GPs scheduled for 2014 spread across 21 different countries. While there are usually side events and attractions on site on Friday, the main event (and thus the coverage) begins on Saturday morning. The competitors fortunate enough to make the cut for day 2 come back on Sunday to finish out the Swiss and play out the Top 8.
Grand Prix are single-format tournaments. However, Limited GPs use Sealed Deck for day 1 and then Booster Draft of the same set on day 2.
*Pro Points are awarded to players based on their finishes in these professional level events (Pro Tours and Grand Prix). If you accumulate enough Pro Points, you are given certain benefits of the Pro Player’s Club, including qualifications to upcoming Pro Tours, byes at Grand Prix, and appearance fees (aka bonuses) for attending more professional level events. If you get enough, you can represent your country at the World Magic Cup or even qualify for the World Championship.
World Championship & World Magic Cup
These are fairly new additions to the Wizards of the Coast circuit (as of the time of writing there have been two of each thus far), and it’s unclear how they will change in the years to come. But as of now they are once a year specialty tournaments with their own complicated and involved qualification systems. The World Championship is a unique multi-format tournament that has sixteen of the best performing Pro Tour players of the year battle against one another for the title of World Champion and a boatload of cash. This is the grandest stage that the game has to offer.
The World Magic Cup is the new face of the now defunct Nationals—>Worlds system you see in place for many competitive endeavors. It takes the best performing player from each competing country, teams them up with the three winners of local individual qualifying tournaments, and pits them against the other teams from around the world. They then battle it out side by side with their countrymen for big prizes and national pride.
While the program may not be particularly loved by the community in its current form, the end result will always be great TV. No matter what it is called or how it is formed, these "Worlds" team tournaments always have engrossing storylines as well as some high level Magic. They’re certainly fan favorites. If you ever get a chance to watch the coverage of one of these events, I strongly suggest you do—you will not be disappointed!
StarCityGames.com Open Series
This is a tournament circuit that is completely independent of the Wizards of the Coast system. It is entirely run by this very website. There is a StarCityGames.com Open Series nearly every weekend, and every single one of them is streamed live by the elite coverage team of SCGLive. If you enjoy watching lots of Magic, this is your home.
A StarCityGames.com Open Series consists of two separate tournaments, one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Except for the rare occasion when the boys upstairs decide to shake things up, the Saturday tournament is Standard, and the Sunday tournament is Legacy.
Opens are aptly named; anyone that wants to battle can! These indie tournaments boast an unprecedented prize pool of $10,000 for each day. The lion’s share of which is a whopping $2,400 and some hardware to put on the mantle.
If that weren’t impressive enough, Opens can also qualify you for a StarCityGames.com Invitational. These are quarterly (that means four a year), invitation-only tournaments with $50,000 up for grabs, with first place taking home $10,000 and getting immortalized with their likeness on a special token card. These Invitationals are half-Standard and half-Legacy three-day tournaments with live coverage the whole way through.
There is even going to be a StarCityGames.com Players’ Championship tournament at the end of this year, where sixteen of the best performers on the circuit duke it out for a $50,000 prize purse!
Streams & Links
Not the weekend but you need your Magic viewing fix? Fear not! There is always more Magic to be had! On the video game streaming website twitch.tv, you can watch nerds from around the world play Magic Online live and interact with them and other viewers via chat. Besides being extremely entertaining, it is often quite educational as well. If watching coverage helps improve your game (hint: it does), then streams are an extension of that philosophy. You can get inside the heads of streamers, many of which are pros or semi-pros themselves!
You can browse all of the Magic streams on this page. I have my own stream, as does my esteemed boss and some other writers as well.
Pro Tour, Grand Prix, World Championship, and World Magic Cup coverage can all be found from this page. Or if you’re old school cool like me, just type the old address, sideboard.com, into your browser and it will redirect you. The Wizards of the Coast website (aka "the mothership") is notoriously unwieldy and difficult to navigate, so use this backdoor to avoid the frustration of trying to feel your way through that maze.
On the linked page, you’ll have access to both ongoing events and the recent archives. There you can find text coverage and a link to the live video coverage. That direct link to the live stream is simply www.twitch.tv/magic. Note that occasionally a Grand Prix will be hosted by a third party website, such as the one you are on now, and they will handle the coverage. In those cases the stream will likely be hosted on their twitch.tv page instead of the main one.
Speaking of which, StarCityGames.com Open Series coverage can be found directly at www.twitch.tv/scglive. Unlike the other channel, this one has its chat disabled. While you lose a bit of the connectivity with the community, you also don’t have a troll-filled chat room detracting from the show. It is certainly two different types of experiences, and I wouldn’t say one choice is strictly better than the other. If you like the social aspect of it like me, I suggest doing what I do and starting your own chat room on Facebook or IRC with friends to discuss the games amongst yourselves.
A big part of what makes Magic coverage so great is the fact that the game is made up of so many amazing personalities and fantastic stories. It is a game with a rich history and a wonderful community. Knowing the names and stories of the guys behind the mics can make following the webcasts much more enjoyable. I invite you to read the profiles of the Wizards coverage team (scroll down) as well as of the SCGLive crew.
Following your favorite players is another great part of getting to watch Magic live streams. Getting to see two of the game’s best go head to head or seeing a young up and comer take on an old veteran are the storylines that give the coverage suspense and drama. When you follow the game, read strategy articles, and watch videos or streams from pros, it’s cool to be able to watch the person you’ve been studying showcase their craft in a high-stakes match under the lights. Knowing these people and their stories gives the coverage of the game that much needed human element.
The casters usually do a pretty good job of explaining who the players being featured are and what they have accomplished, though sometimes it is easy to take it for granted that us diehards already know who a player is and operate under the assumption that everyone else does too when it may not be the case for some. So I invite you to read up a bit on some of the players. While there is a Top 25 Magic Pro Rankings list, there sadly doesn’t seem to be any profiles or blurbs on these players. I would think this resource would exist and be easily accessible (say, linked from the rankings page or on the rankings page). I hope such a thing is created—I even offer my services—to make these players and by extension the coverage more accessible to a wider audience.
Thankfully, there is such a compendium for the Magic Hall of Fame. These are the greatest players to play the game, many of whom still actively play and regularly show up in feature matches, so know your pros!
Another factor that is interesting to watch for at Pro Tours and [to a lesser extent] Grand Prix is that of the teams that work together to test and practice for the event. There are some rivalries between teams (some friendly, some not) that add extra spice to a match when opposing members are paired against one another. There is also a very unique and interesting dynamic when two players from the same team are paired against each other, both knowing the other’s deck (and often playing the same deck!) and how they play. These things make for very interesting games and storylines to follow. Rich Hagon provided some blurbs on the major teams going into Pro Tour Born of the Gods this weekend in his PT preview article.
It seems somewhat less pronounced nowadays than it has been at different points in the past, but there is also something to be said for national pride and rivalries. With the USA seemingly dominating the Pro Tour these days, can number two Japan retake the throne? Or perhaps it’s time France reigns supreme? The Czech Republic has been looking pretty strong for quite a while now, but do they have what it takes to be considered the number one Magic nation? Canada has quietly (and politely) been putting up some impressive numbers lately as well. Meanwhile, Brazil has all but fallen off of the face of the Magic world; is it time for a comeback?
Glossary Of Terms
Magic has a rather expansive lexicon full of strange slang and internal references. Context alone isn’t always enough to decipher what one of these alien terms or phrases means. While language is learned best organically (and you will pick it up naturally in no time flat if you watch enough Magic), I think having a glossary for some of the more commonly used terms and phrases is a worthwhile thing, if only as a reference point. I don’t expect—or even recommend—for anyone to read through this studiously. Rather I am composing it so that if someone is watching a stream and hears something they don’t understand they have a place to come and have it defined for them. That is to say I expect ctrl+F to be the sole form of navigation from here to the comments section.
I would also like to state that this is by no means a comprehensive list; it will not include things such as the rules text for Magic’s keywords, shortened card names, or anything that’s meaning should be easily discernable in context or is similar to its English definition. This is meant only to be a resource to define some things that are regularly said in coverage that may confuse a newer player.
Bear – From the card Grizzly Bears: A 2/2 creature, usually used in reference to one that costs two mana.
Wrath – From the card Wrath of God: A board sweeper or board sweeping effect. Also as a verb, "to wrath" or "wrathed," meaning to have killed all [of one’s] creatures.
Mill – From the card Millstone: To put cards from the top of one’s library into one’s graveyard (or exile them), sometimes in an attempt "to deck" an opponent, or get rid of their entire library so they lose the game when they can’t draw a card.
Bounce – The effect of returning a permanent to its owner’s hand. Also as a verb, "to bounce" or "bounced." Coined for the act of "dropping" something and having it come back up.
Fetch or Fetch Land – Arid Mesa, for example. A cycle of lands commonly used in older formats. Activating one can be either "cracking a fetch" or "fetching."
Shock or Shock Land – Sacred Foundry, for example. From the card Shock, as you can have the land cost you two life ala Shock.
Dual or Dual Land – Any land that can add two colors of mana.
Man Land – Mutavault, for example. A land that can be activated and turned into a creature.
Bob – Dark Confidant, named after Hall of Famer Bob Maher, who won the Magic Invitational (a now defunct tournament whose prize was to create your own card) and made it. His likeness appears in the art from its original printing in Ravnica: City of Guilds.
General Magic Slang
Brick – A useless card. Also as a verb, "to brick [off]" or "bricked [off]," meaning to have drawn something irrelevant or missed what they needed.
Scoop – To concede, coined from the motion of "scooping up" all of your permanents when you lose a game.
Punt – A blunder. Also as a verb, "to punt" or "punted," meaning to have made a costly mistake. Coined from American football, where punting is giving the other team the ball (much like how a costly mistake in Magic is giving your opponent the game or at least a substantial advantage).
Tank – Slang for "think" from the term (not the card) Think Tank. Used in a sentence: "I’ll tank on it" or "he tanked" or "she’s tanking." The "[think] tank" is also commonly used more metaphorically. A player goes "into the tank" to think deeply, is "in the tank" when they’re thinking deeply, and is "coming out of the tank" when making a play after thinking deeply.
Gas – 1. Having multiple good cards in hand. Conversely being "out of gas" means having no relevant cards left. Coined under the metaphor of "action" cards being a player’s "fuel" in a game.
2. An adjective meaning very good. A bastardization of the first definition.
Broken or Busted – Overpowered. Used hyperbolically for "very good." General gamer slang term for something that is too good, so much so that it "breaks" or ruins the game with the imbalance it creates.
Tilt – A borrowed poker term meaning to be angry or upset to the point where it affects one’s judgment and begin making suboptimal decisions due to their emotional state.
Mise or Mize – An archaic slang term from a bastardization of the phrase "might as well." It has a variety of potential uses, some nonsensical. The two most common uses however are genuinely, as in "sure, why not?" and sarcastically in regards to luck, such as "oh sure, mise draw your best possible card there."
Strategy & Theory Terms
Meta (short for Metagame) – 1. The composition of the variety of different styles of decks or "archetypes" in a given format or tournament.
2. As a verb, "to metagame," meaning to make a certain deck choice (or fine tune one’s deck) due to expecting to play against a specific makeup of opposing strategies.
Curve or Mana Curve – The distribution of casting costs of the spells in one’s deck. A concern in deckbuilding (specifically in Limited) in order to optimize the pace at which you can deploy your cards balanced against the power of those cards [under the assumption that generally speaking more expensive spells will be stronger]. Also as a verb, "to curve [out]" or "curved [out]," meaning to have spent most or all of one’s mana every turn for multiple turns in a row at the start of a game.
Burn – Direct damage, such as Lightning Bolt. Named for the red nature of such spells and red mana’s resemblance to a burning fireball. Also as a verb, "to burn" or "burned" (not "burnt"). Also the name of the archetype based around a strategy to kill the opponent using direct damage spells almost exclusively.
Reach – Besides being a keyword ability that allows creatures to block as though they had flying, it is also a term used to describe an aggressive deck’s ability to close out a game once the opponent begins developing their slower but presumably more powerful game plan. Reach in this context is almost always direct damage to the opposing player in the form of burn spells.
Competitive Terms, Slang, & Nicknames
Block Constructed, Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Booster Draft, and Sealed Deck – The various formats of competitive Magic (excluding Extended, which is essentially a nonentity). For more information, ctrl+F "Sanctioned Formats."
Platinum, Gold, Silver, Pro Points – All terms pertaining to levels in the Pro Player’s Club, each with their own thresholds and benefits.
"The Train" – Qualifications for Pro Tours. If one is "on the train," then they are qualified for the foreseeable PTs. Coined from "Gravy Train," a term meaning one having "made it" and is reaping the benefits. A somewhat outdated term that was more appropriate when qualifications rolled over in a corresponding manner rather than by season.
MODO – Slang for Magic: The Gathering Online aka Magic Online aka MTGO. It’s an acronym from the early days of the program standing for Magic Online Digital Objects.
PV or PVDDR – Nickname/initials of Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa.
LSV – Nickname/initials of Hall of Famer and occasional guest commentator Luis Scott-Vargas.