The Magic Dictionary: Magic Slang Explained!

Here is the list of Magic slang terms for beginners, folks – got any suggestions? Send ’em in!

How Cards Are Listed

Since most websites can’t afford to have pictures up of cards everywhere, cards are generally referred to with mana costs in this format:

W = One white mana

G = One green mana

B = One black mana

U = One blue mana

R = One red mana

Numbers are colorless. For example, this card:

Anurid Brushhopper - NM/M

Reads like this:

Anurid Brushhopper


Creature – Beast

Discard two cards from your hand: Remove Anurid Brushhopper from the game. Return it to play under its owner’s control at end of turn.


A creature with a”comes into play” ability, like Flametongue Kavu or Nekrataal. Favored among professional players, since they get two effects out of one card. The term”187″ comes from, depending on who you ask, the LA Police code for a murder (Flametongue Kavu and Nekrataal, both tournament staples in their time, killed a lot of creatures), or because Nekrataal was card #187 in Visions.

Alpha Strike

To attack with everything for the win, generally losing a few creatures in the process but doing fatal damage. Many games wind up a race to see who can Alpha Strike past each other’s defenses first; a common novice mistake is to not Alpha Strike for fear of losing creatures, thus giving up the win.


A horribly tough matchup in Constructed; in the days when a deck called Trix was legal, Sligh was often considered an Autoloss to Trix for game one. This was mainly because Trix could gain twenty life off of the enchantment Illusions of Grandeur, thus forcing Sligh to do another twenty damage before it could win, then Donate the Illusions for the combo win… And since Sligh frequently had no way of removing enchantments and very little land to pay the upkeep, it meant certain death. Generally, people who play decks with Autolosses to popular decks are terrible players.


1. Creature-heavy decks that rely on a continual stream of threats to overwhelm an opponent.

2. To keep smashing someone with creatures.

3. A style of play that most decks switch back and forth between, as per Mike Flores‘ classic article”Who’s The Beatdown?” Even a deck classified as a beatdown deck, like Sligh, often plays control in order to win. Read the article; Mike says it better than we ever could.

Best Fattie Ever Printed, the

Verdant Force. Made popular by Jamie Wakefield, a popular internet writer at the time.


If they don’t mention a specific bird, they’re referring to Birds of Paradise.


The sideboard.

Board In

To sideboard in. Well, that was simple, wasn’t it?


Technically, this refers to the card Lightning Bolt, but in practice has come to refer to any cheap (and invariably inferior) burn that does damage – Shock, Fiery Temper, and so on.


A spell that returns a card to your hand, like Boomerang, Repulse, Unsummon, Wash Out and a thousand other annoying blue spells. Incidentally, if a token is returned to your hand, it disappears forever, removed from the game; tokens cease to exist when they’re not in play.

Broken, or”Buh-ROKEN!”

A card that’s overly powerful – usually a card that you can’t afford to play without if you’re playing in those colors. At the time this was written, Flametongue Kavu was legal in Type 2, and pretty much every deck that ran red ran FTK; likewise, Fact or Fiction, also legal, was stuffed into every deck that could run it.

Some cards are broken in one format and not in another; Contract From Below, a staple of 5-Color Magic, is unusable in any other format. Likewise, in Odyssey Limited, Cabal Patriarch was arguably broken, even though it never showed up in a single Tier One Constructed deck.

When a card is officially broken is of some debate within the Magic community; players frequently declare cards they hate to be broken, even if they’re not. (“Counterspell are broken!”) Likewise, it’s a term that’s frequently used sarcastically (“Carnival of Souls? Man, that’s broken!”).


A term popularized by John Friggin’ Rizzo’s articles,”Bruce” was a guy who just needed to lose no matter what. When you’re making a bad decision for no apparent reason – throwing weird sideboard cards in, choosing a deck that everyone says is horrible, et cetera – you’re said to be listening to your inner Bruce. Getting past your Bruce is the first step to better Magic.


Any red spell that does direct damage: Urza’s Rage, Lightning Bolt, Shock, Fireblast, and so on.


Casting Cost. A sum total of the mana needed to cast a spell, irregardless of its color: For example, a Psychatog is a 3-cc spell. Generally used in calculating mana curves.

Chump, Chump-Block

To block a large creature with a smaller one, generally to buy time. A hallmark of a good player is Alpha Striking back when someone’s attacking with a large creature, leaving only a chump blocker or two back on D.


A creatureless deck that kills in a single turn, generally with a set number of cards that work together. The infamous Academy deck, which often caused you to draw your entire library on Turn 1 with Stroke of Genius, is the classic combo deck – though others include Blackjack (Replenish a bunch of enchantments out of the graveyard at once, including Saproling Burst and Pandemonium, to do twenty-one damage in a shot) and ProsBloom (draw through your entire library to power one gigantic Drain Life).

Note that a deck that kills you over several turns is not a combo deck; combo decks generally”go off” in a single turn, usually between turn 3 and 5. Also note that combo decks are extremely rare in today’s environments, since Wizards of the Coast has determined that combo decks don’t encourage interactive play. To which we say,”duh.”


1. A style of deck that relies heavily on dealing with threats, generally by countering them, and then dropping a creature backed with some sort of protection to win. New players and casual players alike hate control: Pros love it.

2. A style of play that one adopts during a game. See Mike Flores‘ classic article,”Who’s The Beatdown?


Circle of Protection. Generally of a type; COP: Green means Circle Of Protection: Green. If they don’t mention what sort of COP it is, generally it’s red.

Crap Rare

A rare that is good for absolutely nothing, thus wasting a booster pack entirely. Classic examples of crap rares are Pale Moon, Carnival of Souls, and Wintermoon Mesa. Many believe that to be a crap rare, it must not be immediately useless; it must look like you could break it, but eventually turn out – after considerable playtesting – to be utterly worthless.


Defense. Generally, you play D until you can make a comeback, or you attack with everything but hold one creature back on D.

To Deck

To run someone out of cards. When you can’t draw any more cards, you’ve lost the game.


Nevinyrral’s Disk. A classic artifact that destroys everything but lands, leaving a reset for everyone. Blue used this card a lot back when it was legal, as it was a great way of resetting the board – something that blue was traditionally weak at.


A style of deck that is heavy on counterspells, instants, and control. So called because the only thing they cast during their turn is the creature that kills you; the rest of the time, they draw their card, say go, and then either counter what you do on your turn or cast a bunch of instants at the end of your turn.

Dual Lands

A set of lands, now legal only in Type One and 1.5, that allowed you to get two colors out of one land with no drawback whatsoever – unlike today’s Painlands. They counted as basic lands of their type, which allowed you to search for lands very easily and made it a trivial task to play with three colors or more. (For example, Tithe only got you plains ? but since both Badlands and Savannah counted as plains, it was a common trick in three-color Junk to use Tithe to fetch both Badlands and Savannah to have three painless and instantly-available colors in play by turn 3, almost every game. Likewise, Land Grant only finds forests, but since a Taiga counts as both a forest and a mountain, you could get red mana whenever you wanted it.) The ten dual lands were Savannah, Tundra, Underground Sea, Volcanic Island, Plateau, Taiga, Badlands, Tropical Island, Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author], and Bayou.


Assuming they don’t mention a specific elf, they’re talking about Llanowar Elves.


End of turn. Good players always wait until the last minute to play instants, especially card drawing ones, in order to maximize their options; the last moment that they can possibly do so is at the end of your turn.


Large creatures, generally 5/5 and over. Using a lot of fatties in a deck is considered a Timmy-like quality.


A casual format created by Kurtis“Fat Man” Hahn, Five (officially 5 Color) is an unofficial format where each deck has a minimum of 250 cards, must contain at least 18 cards of each color, and – most notably – all games are played for ante, where you flip over the top cards of your deck at the beginning of the game. You win the match, you get your opponent’s card; you lose, you lose yours. More details can be found at the official 5-Color site, or check StarCityGames’ own 5-Color Tech Center.


Flametongue Kavu.


An indication that your hand has a lot of good cards.”This hand is nothing but gas!” Conversely, when you’re at the end of the game and are low on resources, you’ve run out of gas.


Technically, the card Armageddon. In casual terms, something that blows up all lands, or at least blows up a lot of lands.


A casual form of playtesting; you draw a hand, play against an imaginary opponent who does nothing, and see how many turns it takes to kill a defenseless opponent. If it’s longer than five or six turns on average, you’re in trouble. Also note that goldfishing is no substitute for live playtesting.

Gray Ogre

A generic 2/2. This stemmed from the original Gray Ogre, which was an absolutely generic 2/2 for 2R, and has since expanded to become almost any 2/2 that costs at least 3. A morphed creature, for example, is a Gray Ogre until you flip it over. Any creature with a near-useless ability and costs four or mana is”an overcosted Gray Ogre.” And so on.

Hill Giant

The 3/3 brother of Gray Ogre. Used in the same style.


An affectionate term for the old-school card Hypnotic Specter.

“How lucky!”

A phrase often used by pros to indicate a moderate amount of luck, but generally said to mock lesser players who attribute everything to luck. Drawing the card you needed at the right moment, when you had four left in the deck and thirty cards to go, is only slightly lucky.


To intentionally draw in tournament play. If you’ve won enough matches, late in the day you can often choose to draw with your opponent; your current win record, bolstered by a draw, will guarantee you a berth in the Top 8 without having to waste time actually playing. Whether one should ID or not is a topic of minor debate among players, but it is utterly legal.


Substandard cards.”Who plays with that jank?” Of course, quite often it’s said when someone’s getting the living crap beaten out of them by”substandard” cards.


A deck that looks bad and/or thrown together. Most decks that look janky do actually suck in practice… But some are quite good. Telling the difference generally involves having your face smashed in by one.


The Moxes (Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, and Mox Sapphire) and Black Lotus, which are famed for being expensive and overpowered. Beginning players often don’t understand why these cards are so good; for a tutorial and an explanation, check this article out.


A style of player who wants to win via the coolest way possible, preferably with cards that nobody else has seen before; it has been said that Johnny doesn’t mind losing nine games in a row as long as his five-card combo comes together in the tenth. (For the record, any card combo that needs four cards to win is unworkable; a three-card combo can work, but it had better win you the game outright when it does.) The name was coined by Wizards’ R&D department as a way of defining the types of players and the cards they like; Timmy likes ’em big, Johnny likes ’em cool, and Spike doesn’t care what it is as long as he takes the prize.


A.k.a. land destruction: A deck that wins by destroying all of your land. Generally, decks like these are all or nothing; either they win completely after they destroy everything, or they lose horribly after the opponent sneaks a few lands past the slew of Pillages and Stone Rains. As such, most serious players don’t bother with LD.

Mana Curve

A concept that all beginners must master: A good deck has a number of low cc cards that ramp up to a very few number of higher-priced cards. A common newbie error is to create a deck with all high-cc creatures and few lands, thus guaranteeing you that you’ll never be able to do anything in the early game… And by the time the late game comes and you’re ready to cast your big fattie, the other guy already has either beaten you or gotten you down to one or two life. For perhaps the best tutorial on mana curves and the like, check this out.


Understanding the number of specific decks that will show up at a given tournament. The metagame is difficult to describe, and even harder to predict properly, but it involves knowing what decks are likely to appear at a tournament on a given day, then choosing a deck that is likely to beat those decks.

For example, in the beginning of the Extended 2002 season, Sligh was a very popular deck because it was cheap and easy to build… But it lost a lot of matches to Trix, a deck that beat Sligh routinely. Trix was, unfortunately for Sligh, also a popular deck – so according to the metagame, Sligh was a bad deck to play because you were almost guaranteed to run into the omnipresent Trix, which would beat you.

Later on in the season, another deck – called Miracle Gro – emerged, which beat Trix handily. As a result, Miracle Gro decks became far more popular than Trix, and Miracle Gro decks began to show up everywhere at tourneys. As it turned out, Sligh beat Miracle Gro… And people who understood the metagame began running Sligh again, because their likelihood of facing an unbeatable Trix deck was low, while facing the easily-dispatched Miracle Gro was high. Thus, Sligh became popular again near the end of the season.

Mirror Match

When you play against an identical, or near-identical, netdeck at a tournament. If a deck is popular and you play it, you can expect to face mirror matches all day long.


1.”Might as.””Mise well attack with everything, amiright?”

2. To get something you didn’t deserve.”And then I drew the only card I could save me! Mise!

3. To get something in general.”We mised some cheeseburgers.”

4. A trite, cliched term, which stands for almost anything, that most Magic players wish would just go the hell away.

Mox Monkey

Gorilla Shaman. So called because its cheap artifact-destruction ability allows it to destroy all of the Jewelry for a single mana.


A short-hand phrase for all five of the Moxes: Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, and Mox Sapphire. Generally used for an old-school deck that has all five of them.


A decklist copied off of the internet, generally because it won a tournament. Netdecks, due to their virtue of being designed by better players and tweaked by the pros, tend to be far better than what most people can design on their own. Thus, many people hate them. The disadvantages of netdecks is that people often know their contents at a glance -“Two swamps? Oh God, you’re playing Dougherty Mono-black Control?” – and the pros who design netdecks never share their creations with other people before major events, leaving you always a couple of steps behind the curve. For an example of what Netdecks look like, just select our Deck Databases from the menu above.

Nuts Draw

The best seven-card hand you could possibly hope for. The hand you never get when you want it.

Old School

Generally referring to people who play with older cards and with older styles. A slightly nebulous term, but if they’re playing with cards you’ve never heard of that look frayed around the edges, it’s probably old-school.


A set of nonbasic lands that do damage to you when you tap them. There are a slew of them, but for examples, see Adarkar Wastes and Sulfurous Springs.


A style of deck that is heavy on counterspells and control. So called because you have to ask when you cast anything:”Mother, may I?”


To discard a card, generally for some benefit; you pitch cards to Wild Mongrel, Forbid, and Survival of the Fittest.


A land-destruction deck; originally, this was a very specific land destruction deck, but has since expanded to cover almost any red-based LD deck that uses burn.

Power Nine

Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, Timetwister, Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, and Black Lotus – all cards printed in the first sets that were ridiculously overpowered, and have not been reprinted since. A classic debate among old-school players is whether you need the Power Nine to be competitive; the answer is, if you’re playing seriously in tournaments, damn straight. To see why these cards are so powerful, check this insightful article out.

Power Ten

The Power Nine, plus a random card – usually it’s Library of Alexandria, but runner-up contestants for the infamous Power Tenth are Mana Drain, Force of Will, and even Morphling. Check your local listings.


Yes, it is possible to play Magic for a living. No, most people don’t get rich at it. Those who do play Magic for a living, or have done well in professional events, are called pros. They are worshipped and feared.


A shorthand term for”protection from x” – for example, Scragnoth is pro-blue.


A player of no distinction; a slightly insulting term, generally indicating that he wasn’t much good, either.


Shorthand for Red Elemental Blast – a card that’s not legal in anything but Type One, but is a very cheap answer to many of the Power Nine.


A deck designed by the person who plays it, as opposed to netdecks. Rogue decks at their best are decks that come out of left field, shaking the current metagame up, and causing the best decks to have to reconfigure themselves in order to beat them. At worst,”rogue” is a pathetic excuse by someone who can’t make a deck that will beat the best decks in the field.


To sacrifice.


Sideboard, either as a noun or as a verb.


To attack, as in”I served for five (damage).”

Sex Monkey

Uktabi Orangutan. So named because in the background of the card, should you look closely, there is a monkey helping out his friend. For an even more Freudian analysis of a Magic card, there is no greater phallus than Ekundu Cyclops.


One of the first modern tournament decks, Sligh is a mono-red deck with a low mana-curve, a boatload of threats, and the ability to burn a player out quickly. Sligh shows up in every format sooner or later, even block formats, and always has some success, though it hasn’t been a top-tier deck in years. Still, Sligh is an enormously consistent deck and can get insane draws – and as the saying goes,”Sometimes Sligh just wins.”


A style of player who enjoys winning, and nothing else. The phrase was coined by Wizards’ R&D department in order to define the types of players and the cards they like; Timmy likes ’em big, Johnny likes ’em cool, and Spike doesn’t care what it is as long as he takes the prize.


A derogative term for a player of no fame and no accomplishments, generally meaning they sucked:”We drafted with Turian, EDT, and three sticks.”


A mono-green deck consisting of outrageously-cheap fatties, generally with a mana curve topping off at two. Several Stompy decks run only nine lands total; by comparison, a lean Sligh deck wouldn’t dare run less than eighteen, and most tournament-quality decks run a minimum of twenty-four.


Swords to Plowshares. A tournament staple that will never see print again. Trust us; even though the opponent gains the life, getting rid of any creature, permanently, at instant-speed, for a single mana, is well worth the price.


Morphling. So called because Morphling, perhaps the most overpowered creature ever printed, can do anything.


To attack.”I swung with everything.”


Swords to Plowshares. See StP.


An abbrevation for Type 2, or Standard tournament play.


An abbreviation for Topdeck; to draw the card you absolutely needed at that time.


1. Getting decks or advice from people better than you.”I didn’t know anything about Onslaught block, but Shvartsman lent me his tech.””I found the latest tech on that at StarCityGames.com.”

2. A card or set of cards that’s put in a deck in order to beat a specific matchup:”I was teched-out for the mirror match.”


A fairly complex concept in Magic that’s a little too in-depth to get in to here; you can find a solid introduction on Tempo, written by Andy Johnson, here, and EDT also has a pretty good intro to it.

Tier One

In any given tournament scene, there are decks that are just plain better than others. These decks are referred to as Tier One decks. In a wide-open metagame, there may be as many as six or seven decks vying for the top deck; in a choked metagame, like Odyssey Block, there may be only two.


Prodigal Sorcerer. So named because he looks like the wizard from the Holy Grail; well, no he doesn’t, but he’s been called that anyway.”You may call me… Tim.”


A style of player who enjoys beating down with BIG creatures – the bigger, the better. Most pro players look down on Timmies, mainly because by the time he gets up to the eleven mana it takes to cast Polar Kraken, he’s usually dead from the hordes of smaller and more efficient creatures they’ve cast on turns 2 through 5. Still, Wizards knows that Timmy exists, and is always trying to find a way to satiate his large and bizarre urges.


To draw the card you absolutely needed at that time. Used as a noun or verb, depending on how you feel at the time.