Magic for Dummies 1: Words of Power


The problem with any newly evolving Magic: The Gathering community is that all the players don’t start out on the same level in terms of experience. The game is pretty old, but newbies are picking it up everyday. So, being somewhat learned in the art of shuffling, drawing and playing Magical Cards, I figured I’d take it upon myself to offer up some advice for beginners in this, hopefully weekly, column. I’m going to be gearing the specifics, whenever they rear their ugly head, toward the local situation in my hometown, but I’ll try to keep everything vague and generic enough that it can be used universally.


One of the big problems I’ve noticed in trying to level the playing field between the hardcore veterans and the fresh-off-the-theme-deck beginners is getting everyone speaking the same language. While it might be second nature to those of us who have been playing for a while, Magic is actually ridden with complex jargon that might make a beginner go cross-eyed. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is the beginnings of a glossary for MTG noobs:




as in: “Will you let my Thundering Tanadon resolve?”

-No spell takes effect immediately in Magic: The Gathering. The presence of Instant spells and Instant-speed abilities means that any player has a chance to respond to spells as they are played. As such, when a spell finally does what it intends to do, we call that spell “resolved.”


-It works like this:


– Jim casts Steppe Linx. Jim: “Any responses?”


-Ted: “No, Steppe Linx resolves.”




as in: “I’ll tap a Mountain and put a Lightning Bolt on the stack.”

-If you’ve been playing at all against experienced players, chances are you’ve heard this term bandied about. The stack is not a real “place” or location. It’s a metaphor for the way spells take effect. Every time you play a spell, it goes on the stack. The opponent has the opportunity to either respond to the spell, or let it resolve. If he or she responds, the responding spell is placed “on the stack” on top of the previous one. Spells come “off” the stack and resolve in the reverse order of the way they were placed.


Take, for example, the spell “Counterspell” which reads: “Counter target spell.” Using the example above, an interaction might work like this:


– Jim casts Steppe Linx. Jim: “Any responses?”


– Ted: “Yes, I cast Counterspell.”


-Ted’s Counterspell goes on the stack on top of Jim’s Steppe Linx, targeting a spell already on the stack (in this case, the Steppe Linx itself). Because it was the last spell on the stack, Ted’s Counterspell resolves first, countering the Linx. When it’s the Linx’s turn to resolve, it is countered instead, and goes to the graveyard instead of into play.


-You don’t have to respond to a spell with a Counterspell. You could use any instant spell or activated ability. There are numerous reasons why playing your spells in response to another spell might be advantageous to you, but I’ll leave that for you to figure out.




as in: “I’ll tap my Forest to play Llanowar Elves.”

– This one’s pretty easy. “Tapping” a card is a way to indicate that it’s ability has been used for that turn. We tap a card by turning it so that it sits horizontally. There’s a “Tap” symbol used to denote that tapping is part of an ability’s cost. It looks like a curving arrow. Also, we tap creatures when they attack, but not when they block!


Okay, so three terms does not a glossary make, but if you come up with any terms or phrases that are giving you trouble, let me know in person or drop me a line at and I’ll try to work them into a future article. Next week, we’ll break down the parts of a turn!


About incontrol88

I'm a 21 year old senior Journalism and Mass Communications major at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY. Writing and hobby gaming are my two greatest loves, and it is my hope to combine them here for the benefit of the burgeoning gaming community. I'm mostly an RPG/RTS fan, but I play everything from Final Fantasy to Call of Duty! View all posts by incontrol88

2 responses to “Magic for Dummies 1: Words of Power

  • sniper430

    Stack and resolve are new to me. Ill be sure to try and use them tonight! Yayifications for second tourney ever!

  • Katherine


    Maybe you should think about writing an actual Magic for Dummies book. I’ve a serious newbe to magic and I can’t find a decent up to date guide. The stuff I find online doesn’t help at all.

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