Learn The Rules

The basic rules of Magic: The Gathering are relatively simple. If a player’s health, which starts at 20, is knocked to 0 or below, they lose. A player can also lose if they have to draw a card from their deck when their deck is empty.


To play a card, a player must pay its mana cost, designated on the top right corner. Mana is a resource that can be white, black, red, blue, green or neutral. There are several card types, including creatures, instants and enchantments. Creatures can attack opponents for damage and opponents can block with their own creatures.

Magic Arena has a great rules tutorial that’s slow and patient. There are parts of Magic: The Gathering that are more easily learned in the digital card game, like the combat phases, because they’re more clearly delineated.


Here’s a video of the basic rules:

And here’s a link to the basic written version. (Here’s the longer, official version.)


While the basic rules are easily ascertainable, Magic: The Gathering games get complicated fast. On top of special abilities lots of cards have, good strategy for the game can be harder than chess. I definitely recommend sitting down for a couple games with someone who knows how to play. Playing is the best way to learn.

Learn Some Basic Strategy

There are exceptions to almost every rule of Magic: The Gathering strategy, so along with learning the most important play guidelines, make sure to learn those exceptions, too. Magic: The Gathering had a series of blogs some years ago called “Magic Academy” that still really hold up!


Some important ones to hit:

Another great resource is pro player Reid Duke’s course on good Magic: The Gathering play.


Make Some New Friends

There’s a stereotype that Magic: The Gathering players who go compete at hobby shops are insular and, er, maybe a little weird. Sometimes that’s true. It hasn’t been my experience. Lots of people are excited to help out a new player and share their passion. Only one or two of them might chuckle when you pass the draft pack to the left instead of the right. Stores’ vibes vary wildly, so it can be good to check out one’s Yelp page or ask around before heading over.


Friday Night Magic is a weekly event run at thousands of hobby shops across the country. You can find a local store here.