How to Play Magic: The Gathering: The Absolute Basics

Welcome to the first part of our discussion and introduction to the world of Magic: The Gathering. In these articles, we’ll be trying to explain the rules of the game in a logical and easy to follow fashion, explaining potential points of confusion along the way.

What is Magic: The Gathering?

Magic: the Gathering was one of the original Trading Card Games available in the West and has had enduring appeal. Players take on the role of Planeswalkers, drawing energy from the places across the multiverse which they have visited, summoning creatures and casting powerful spells to earn their victory. In game, this translates into players playing Land cards to generate ‘Mana’ which is then used to play other cards. Players win when they achieve one of several win conditions, including reducing the opponent’s life to 0 or by removing all of the cards from their opponent’s deck (milling). Magic: The Gathering has several formats, but most notably a competitive scene based around its ‘block’ system, which limits the cards usable in decks to those released within the last year.


There are a few different kinds of cards in Magic with various different sub-types. The primary distinction is between Permanents and non-Permanents – this simply tells the player whether the card stays in play after it is used. Permanents include Lands, Creatures, Artifacts, Enchantments, Equipment and Planeswalkers; non-Permanents include Sorceries and Instants. It’s best to have a look at a few cards to get used to what they look like:

IslandThis is an example Basic Land. All decks require land as it is what produces Mana, allowing other cards to be used. This card simply has a title (‘Island’) and a portrait. The water droplet in the bottom middle of the card depicts the type of Mana it produces (Blue), while the symbol at the middle-right shows the set it came from and the rarity. Any number of Basic Lands may be included in decks, with most decks being composed of about 33-40% Land (20 to 24 cards). There are five types of Basic Land, each of which produces a different type of Mana: Island (Blue), Swamp (Black), Plains (White), Forest (Green) and Mountain (Red). There are lands which are not Basic, but these are relatively rare.

Llanowar ElvesThis is an example Creature card, Llanowar Elves. This card has a lot more detail on it, but is still relatively simple to read! At the top, we have the name (Llanowar Elves) and in the upper right corner is the Mana cost (one Green Mana, depicted by a single tree). The Green Mana symbol is on every Forest card, which serves as a reminder of how it is produced. We then have the portrait, and below that the text ‘Creature – Elf Druid’. ‘Creature’ shows the main type of card it is, while ‘Elf Druid’ describes its race. This information is often used on other cards – for example, there are several cards in the game which give bonuses for how many ‘Elves’ you control! The box below that gives the card’s effect ([Tap]: Add one Green Mana to your Mana pool) and the ‘flavour text’, which simply gives an idea of the story behind the card. In the bottom right, we can observe the cards Power (left) and Toughness (right), which are used in combat. Creatures are Permanents, and remain in play after they are summoned.

Permanents usually occupy one of two positions – Tapped or Untapped. All Permanents, unless an effect states otherwise, enter play Untapped (upright) and become Tapped (sideways) when being used for Mana (lands), attacking (creatures) or using their effect (multiple types of cards). This allows players to easily keep track of which cards are free to attack or use their abilities!

Counsel of the SoratamiThis is an example Sorcery Card, Counsel of the Soratami. On this card, the Mana cost is more complicated. There is a 2 in a circle, and a single Blue Mana. The (2) represents a cost of two Mana of any colour, while the Blue symbol is one Blue Mana. This means that the card has a total Mana cost of 3, of which at least one needs to be Blue. Below the portrait is the type of card ‘Sorcery’, and below that, the effect. Sorceries do not have Power or Toughness, and are non-Permanent cards. Once their effect has been used, they leave the field and go to the Graveyard. As they have one-time only effects, Sorcery abilities tend to be more powerful than those of Permanents with the same Mana cost.

Lightning BoltThis is an example Instant. It has a Red Mana cost and is non-Permanent. Instants differ from other Sorcery cards in the fact that they can be used from your hand almost at any time, including the opponent’s turn, provided you have the mana to pay for them. As such, Instants are some of the most powerful tools for counter-play in the game of Magic, allowing you to instantly respond to opponent’s threats. Many players will choose to use Instants only during their opponent’s turn, as it grants them more flexibility with the threat they choose to remove. When an Instant has been used, it is sent to the Graveyard.

The Field

The field for Magic: The Gathering is very simple compared to other card games. There are literally three zones – the Deck, the Graveyard, and the Battlefield. The Graveyard is where all cards that have been destroyed or used go, while the Battlefield is where all Permanents stay, whether creatures or lands. By convention, Lands are played closest to the player who controls them, and Creatures in the middle of the two players, but this is largely optional. Players may control as many Permanents as they wish.

Setting up

Setting up in Magic has a number of steps. Firstly, both players set their life total to 20, shuffle their decks, then draw a hand of seven cards. If a player draws a hand they’re not happy with, they have the option to Mulligan, returning their whole hand to the deck, shuffling and drawing the number of cards returned minus one. Therefore, the first time you Mulligan will mean you draw six cards, then the second will mean you draw five, and you can keep going until you have a hand you like. When both players have done this, the first player begins their turn. The first player, however, does not draw a card during their first draw step.

Structure of a Turn

The structure of a turn is as follows:

  1. Beginning Phase
  2. Main Phase (1)
  3. Combat Phase
  4. Main Phase (2)
  5. Ending Phase

Beginning Phase

There are three steps to the beginning of a turn. First, you untap all your Permanents. Second, you enter the Upkeep step. This is the part of the turn where abilities which activate at the start of your turn trigger, and various costs have to be paid. Abilities can also be activated at this time, including casting Instants. Thirdly, you enter the Draw phase, where you draw a card from your deck.

Main Phase

The main phase is where you can play the majority of cards. Players may play one land per turn during their own main phase and also play any number of other cards, provided they can pay the Mana cost. This phase is (usually) the only phase in which Creatures, Artifacts, Sorceries, Enchantments and Planeswalkers can be played. The player has one of these on either side of their Combat phase.

Combat Phase

In the Combat phase, you can declare attacks with any number of your creatures, but all attacks must be declared at the same time. Combat will be covered in more detail below! Instants and abilities can also be activated at this time.

Ending Phase

This has two steps. The first is the End step, where all ‘at end of turn’ abilities activate. Instants and effects can be activated at this time. The second is the Cleanup step, where the turn player must discard cards until they only have seven in their hand, and all damage is removed from Creatures. Unless an ability triggers in this step, no-one can choose to use instants or effects!


Combat in Magic is rather unusual. Unlike other games, you cannot attack your opponent’s creatures with your own, and, moreover, all attacks have to be declared at once! In this way, creatures can be protected from each other rather easily, so many players will run Sorceries or Instants to help them defeat important enemy Creatures. Further, only untapped creatures can attack, and even then creatures cannot attack on the turn they’re summoned. Let’s have a look at an example Combat Step:

mtg-attack-01In this example, the player controls three creatures. Blood-Cursed Knight (3/2) was played this turn, and cannot attack because it has ‘summoning sickness’, preventing it from attacking. The player, however, decides to declare attacks with the other two creatures and so taps them both. At this point, either player can decide to cast Instants or use abilities.

mtg-attack-02Now, the defending player may declare blockers. This means that they can use creatures on their side of the field to intercept the opponent’s attacks, and defend themselves! Only untapped creatures can be used to block, but as both the defending player’s creatures are untapped, this causes no issue. Multiple blockers can be assigned to the same target, and, if this is done, the attacker may choose which one will be damaged first, then second, and so on. In this example, the defender chooses to use both their creatures to block Blightcaster (2/3). Once blockers have been assigned, either player can decide to cast Instants or use abilities. If a blocker is destroyed at this time, then the defender does not get to re-assign their units!

mtg-attack-03Once blockers have been assigned and any effects have been used, all creatures deliver their damage simultaneously. In this example, Typhoid Rats (1/1) was unblocked, and so deals damage equal to the defending player equal to its Power (1). Blightcaster (2/3), however, was blocked by two creatures, which is where things get more interesting, and why the priority of defenders matters. The attacking creature can deal its full Power (2) as damage, split between the defenders. However, it has to deal enough damage to the first defender to destroy it before it can apply damage to the second. This means that the attacking player can (potentially) kill all of the defending units, as long as their Power is high enough. In this case, the attacker prioritises the damage to the Soldier token, inflicting one damage, then the rest is dealt to the Auramancer. The defenders also deal damage to the attacking creature at the same time, which in this case is enough to kill it. Therefore, the Solider token and Blightcaster are both destroyed at the same time.

During the Cleanup step of the turn, all damage inflicted on Creatures is removed, leaving them perfectly healthy. Therefore, if you didn’t quite finish off a monster during one Combat Phase, you may need to use an Instant or ability to finish the job. In this example, the Auramancer would be fully healed to 2/2.


In this instalment, we have learned how to generate and use Mana, the different kinds of cards, how to set up, how a turn is structured and how to attack and block. Next time, we will look at abilities in more detail, including Enchantments and Planeswalkers.

Magic: The Gathering singles are available for purchase at Big Orbit Cards: Magic: The Gathering


Modern Masters 2015 – What We Know & Curious Speculation

Modern Masters 2015Everyone is excited for the second Modern Masters set, due to be released on May 22nd 2015, but right now we only know about a limited number of cards. I’ve picked a few of the more interesting cards and given a few thoughts on them below.

The Eldrazi

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was one of the first cards spoiled for MM2 and it was an easy guess that the other two titans would follow, but now its official: Kozilek and Ulamog will be reprinted in this set along with All Is Dust. So, that covers the big guys, but what about the rest? MM2 still needs to be playable in Limited formats, so I’m certain that we will see the other Eldrazi cards such as Spawnsire of Ulamog and Hand of Emrakul in the set. However, I wouldn’t bank on the coloured cards such as Kozilek’s Predator being present, simply because the MM2 draws from a lot of older sets and pushing all of the Eldrazi support cards would take up a lot of room.

Vendilion Clique

Faeries isn’t a big deck right now but I’m sure with this reprint and a few other supporting cards in-set we may see a very small resurgence in the popularity of this archetype. There’s not much to say about this card other then to mention the ‘broken glass’ moment with the artwork, pointed out to me over social media. The new artwork looks like two girls using a selfie stick. Check that artwork. Yep, you see it now.

All The Commands

The full cycle of Lorwyn Commands is being reprinted in MM2 which will help players finish off their Scapeshift and UW Control decks with slightly easier access to Cryptic Commands. The other Commands make for interesting plays and will work well in Limited play but otherwise its really Cryptic that we’re after.

Splinter Twin

Another card that has spiked in popularity, especially since the banning of Pod, is Splinter Twin and its great to see it being reprinted in MM2. A lot of players are keen to get a hold of this card and funnily enough it’s quite a key component to the Twin Exarch deck.

Tarmogoyf and Bob

Both of these powerful cards were reprinted in the first Modern Masters and were arguably the most popular cards from that set and now they’re gracing MM2 with their presence. Bob, or Dark Confidant to use his real name, is being reprinted with his new ‘Skrillex’ artwork that we saw in the first Modern Masters which has divided players slightly. Some prefer the original, others the new style, but it all comes down to personal opinion.

With regards to Tarmogoyf, it’s an important card and highly sought after which combined with MM2’s limited print run means its unlikely to change its price. I hope that this second reprint might have an impact on reducing the price but it stands to reason that it could follow last year’s printing and actually shift the price up.

Spellskite and Fulminator Mage

These two cards are solid sideboard choices in Modern, especially Spellskite, it’s fantastic to finally have better access to the card. This is first time these two have been reprinted since their initial releases years ago. Whilst Fulminator Mage is mostly used in Living End and Jund to help against decks such as Scapeshift, Spellskite is great to side in against Infect plus it fits well in the sideboard of Affinity thanks to it being an Artifact creature.

The Missing Red Mythic

At the time of typing we are missing any rumours or confirmation of a Red Mythic Rare for MM2. Wild speculation of what it could be:

  • Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker – He was reprinted in MM1 but Wizards has shown they’re not against reprinting again with Bob and Tarmo, so Kiki is high on my list of potential cards.

  • Thundermaw Hellkite – He was much beloved back in his Standard days, could he be in MM2? Unlikely but I’m already running short of good, reprintable Red Mythics, which leads me to…

  • Ajain Vengeant – As suggested to me by a regular in the store, this guy could possibly be the reprinted here. He fits the known sets that cards are being pulled from, he has been used in Modern, plus it brings another Planeswalker into the set.

In the following weeks we’ll start to see a lot more of the set including the Commons and Uncommons and we can see how well the set will play on its own in Limited formats. Right now the headline cards are fantastic and I can understand why players are so excited for this set to be released.

Magic Origins – What we know.


What is Magic Origins?

Magic Origins was first called M16 being the next in the Core Set cycle, but this year Wizards is morphing the Standard formula and changing the structure of the blocks. As a result the Core Sets will be no more and this release has thus been renamed Magic Origins. With a focused storyline and brand new features this set is looking set to be much grander then the usual summer Magic releases of past.

So, what’s different?

The main point Wizards wants to get across is that this set should not be seen as a ‘rebranded Core Set’ but instead it should be viewed as a unique set of its own. We should see less reprints and a shift towards new content that will make Magic Origins stand out.

There are a few key changes that definitely differentiate this set from a normal Core Set:

  • There will be 2 new mechanics in Magic Origins. (Core Sets never contain new mechanics)
  • A lot less reprinted cards then “normal” Core Sets.
  • An overall storyline will be present in the cards, creating a more cohesive feel to the set.
  • 272 cards in the set, three more than the usual 269.
  • Double-faced Legendary Creatures/Planeswalkers!

Double-faced Creatures/Planeswalkers?!

That’s right! Magic Origins focuses on the origin stories of five returning Planeswalkers: Gideon Jura, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Nissa Revane. Each of these characters gets a Legendary Creature card representing their former self that when a certain condition is met, will flip over and become the Planeswalker we know them to be! This, in my humble opinion, is a fantastic way to represent these character’s sparks igniting and adds a new layer to the game with creatures becoming Planeswalkers.

Will we see more double-faced cards in the set? Based on the knowledge that double-faced cards require their own special sheet to be printed out I feel positive that we will see more cards that flip over in this set. Perhaps we’ll see the evolution of other fringe characters as we get to see the moment that changed their life too.

The rest of the cards in the set will have a focus on telling the story of these characters according to Doug Beyer (Senior Creative Designer), “we’ll see these characters’ home worlds, learn about the joys and crises of their early lives, and discover how they became the Multiverse-traveling Planeswalkers we know today.”

What else do we know?

At the time of writing there is not much more solid information available on Magic Origins. We know the set will be tied in to Wizard’s next digital release, Magic Duels: Origins, which will be out on Xbox One, PC and iOS tablets, with a PS4 release later on. After that, aside from the normal speculation of “Fetches being reprinted!” not much is known about any of the cards in this set. Spoiler season will start soon after the release of Modern Masters 2015 at the end of May and hopefully we’ll start to learn more about this ‘new beginning’ set that has supplanted the Core Sets to lead us in to a new era of Magic.

We will update you once we know more!

Preparation for Fate Reforged Pre-release

We’ve been working hard to get the store ready for Fate Reforged pre-release:

Here are some pics of what we have been up to, we’ll be making additional updates over the coming few days as the store comes together.

Our pre-release events are:

  • Fate Reforged Prerelease – 11am Saturday 17th January – 11:00am
  • Fate Reforged Prerelease – MIDNIGHT Saturday 17th January – 12:00am
  • Fate Reforged Prerelease – Midday Sunday 18th January – 12:00pm

You can pick-up tickets here: Fate Reforged Pre-release









MTG: Innistrad launch events at Big Orbit Games

Magic the Gathering InnistradThis weekend sees the release of Innistrad, the new release for Magic the Gathering and Big Orbit Games is holding a couple of events to celebrate!

Friday 30th September

Magic the Gathering Innistrad launch event. From 5:30pm we are hosting a booster draft tournament – You will be given 3 Booster Packs on entry, these are yours to keep. Entry £15 (£4 of which goes to a prize fund) the top three win a prize, prize value distribution approx 65% for 1st, 25% for 2nd, 10% for 3rd.

Buy an Innistrad booster and get a free foil promo card: Booster boxes are £109.99 but price charged will actually only be £99.99 when we take in to account the £10 discount you’ll get from our loyalty scheme.

Saturday 1st October

Magic the Gathering Innistrad open day. Intro games & tournaments all day.

FREE STUFF: Take part in a tournament and get given a free Innistrad Booster Pack (limited to 1 per player).

You can find us here:

Big Orbit Games
Cadbury Courtyard
Blackminster Business Park
WR11 7RE

Big Orbit games is the place to come and Celebrate the release of Innistrad if you live in Evesham, Badsey, the Littletons, Pershore, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Alcester or Stratford-on-Avon.

Autumn events at Big Orbit Games

Date Event
Friday 9th September Magic the Gathering Intro Games all day. From 5:30pm we are hosting a Magic the Gathering Booster Battle Pack draft tournament – You will be given half of a Booster Battle Pack on entry, this is yours to keep. Entry £10 (£5 of which goes to a prize fund) the top three win a prize, prize value distribution approx 65% for 1st, 25% for 2nd, 10% for 3rd.
Saturday 10th September Magic the Gathering Celebration. Celebration is a global Magic the Gathering event that features a free mini-masters tournament – You will be given, free of charge, 1 booster pack to start and an extra booster pack for every round of the tournament you win. The tournament isn’t knock out so you will proceed even if you loose so beginners will benefit immensely from this. There are also FREE T-Shirts for the first 4 people to buy a MTG Deck Builders toolkit.
Friday 16th September Magic the Gathering Intro Games all day – From 5:30pm we are hosting a free to enter pre-constructed deck tournament.
Saturday 17th September Ex-Illis beginners day. Intro games and tournaments all day. Check out Ex-Illis here: Ex-Illis. Starts at 10am.
Friday 23rd September Magic the Gathering Intro Games all day – From 5:30pm we are hosting a booster draft tournament – You will be given 3 Booster Packs on entry, these are yours to keep. Entry £15 (£4 of which goes to a prize fund) the top three win a prize, prize value distribution approx 65% for 1st, 25% for 2nd, 10% for 3rd.
Saturday 24th September Warhammer 40,000 Apocolypse – HQ KO. Standard Apocolpyse rules but only HQ’s can kill other HQ’s – other troops can only knock them out for a turn. Starts at 10am.
Friday 30th September Magic the Gathering Innistrad launch event. From 5:30pm we are hosting a booster draft tournament – You will be given 3 Booster Packs on entry, these are yours to keep. Entry £15 (£4 of which goes to a prize fund) the top three win a prize, prize value distribution approx 65% for 1st, 25% for 2nd, 10% for 3rd.
Buy an Innistrad booster and get a free foil promo cards.: Booster boxes are £109.99 but price charged will actually only be £99.99 when we take in to account the £10 discount you’ll get from our loyalty scheme.
Saturday 1st October Magic the Gathering Innistrad open day. Intro games & tournaments all day.
FREE STUFF: Take part in a tournament and get given a free Innistrad Booster Pack (limited to 1 per player).
Total Watgamer's Shop
Big Orbit Game’s Shop

You can find us here:
Big Orbit Games
Cadbury Courtyard
Blackminster Business Park
WR11 7RE
Tel: 01386 513013 Lexapro

MTG: Innistrad now available to pre-order

Magic the Gathering InnistradInnistrad, a once-beautiful plane, now ravaged by war and darkness. The isolated civilizations of the plane fight amongst each other while the vampires plot with the secretly lurking Liliana Vess to take control of the plane.

Innistrad has a classic horror theme, featuring all the creatures you come to expect from the genre; zombies, werewolves and vampires. While these tribes are typically black, they’ll be spreading out into the other colours, with blue zombies and

Horror Lurks Within – Innistrad Set 1 of 3 in the Innistrad block, the Innistrad set contains 264 cards.

Innistrad is released on 30th September and is available as Boosters, Intros, Fat Packs and later Event Decks, currently on pre-order are:

Innistrad is available at up to 37% off.