Introductions are in order – Official names for stuff

In a nutshell

  • A turn in Magic has 5 phases, three of which are divided into steps:
    • Beginning Phase
      • Untap Step
      • Upkeep Step
      • Draw Step
    • Precombat Main Phase
    • Combat Phase
      • Beginning of Combat Step
      • Declare Attackers Step
      • Declare Blockers Step
      • Combat Damage Step
      • End of Combat Step
    • Postcombat Main Phase
    • Ending Phase
      • End of Turn Step
      • Cleanup Step
  • There are five colors in Magic: White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green.
  • If an effect asks you to choose a color, it has to be one of those five. In particular, multicolored and colorless are not colors.
  • An object’s color is determined by its color indicator (if it has one) or its mana cost. Card effects (like Painter’s Servant or Thoughtlace) can also change the color of an object. Only symbols in the mana cost count. For instance, Scaldkin is blue, but not red.
  • Hybrid symbols in a card’s mana cost count for both colors, even if only one half of that mana symbol was paid to to cast the card.
  • The game of Magic has many zones into which cards (and other objects) can be put:
    • Library, where all cards start
    • Hand, where drawn cards go and from where players can cast spells and play lands
    • Battlefield, where non-instant, non-sorcery spells go after they resolve
    • Stack, a zone where spells go after being cast, but before resolving
    • Graveyard, where instants and sorceries go after they resolve and where permanents go after they are destroyed
    • Exile, mechanically similar to a graveyard that’s more difficult to interact with
    • Command Zone, a zone for emblems and special objects for casual formats
  • Each player has his or her own library, hand, and graveyard. The other zones are shared.
  • Libraries and hands are hidden zones. The rest are public zones.
  • Libraries and graveyards have orders that must be preserved (although the cards that care about graveyard order are all very old, and when using only modern cards, graveyard order may be changed at will). Other zones may be arranged however the players wish.
  • What something is called depends upon what zone its in:
    • An “object” is an ability on the stack, a card, a copy of a card, a token, a spell, a permanent, or an emblem. For your purposes, if you ever hear this term, you can mentally replace it with “basically anything in the game.” You won’t often hear players use the word object because it doesn’t (currently) show up in the rules text of any cards. On the other hand, it shows up in the comprehensive rules a lot because it’s a concise way to refer to a lot of disparate things that happen to be handled the same way.
    • A “permanent” is a card or token on the battlefield.
    • A “spell” is a card on the stack. The process of paying costs for a spell and putting it on the stack is called “casting” the spell (the process of casting a spell will be a topic of a future discussion).
    • An “ability” is a characteristic of an object that lets it affect the game. Most often, a card’s abilities are written in its text box, although it’s possible for effects to cause an object to gain or lose abilities. The term “ability” can also refer to an activated or triggered ability on the stack (we’ll learn more about these later).
    • Some abilities can be “activated” in a process analogous to casting a spell.
    • A “card” is a physical Magic card in a zone other than the battlefield or stack. A token is not a card, even if it is represented by one.
  • An object’s “owner” is the player who started with the object in his or her deck, or, for tokens, the player under whose control the token entered the battlefield. Legal ownership is not taken into account when this game term is used. When used in this sense, there is no way to change an object’s owner (although ante cards can change a card’s legal owner).
  • An object’s “controller” starts out as the same person as its owner, but can be modified.
  • The words “you” and “your” refer to an object’s controller.

What color is:
Tarmogoyf (green. Hopefully you got this one.)
Insectile Aberration (blue. From its color indicator)
Transguild Courier (all colors)
Ghostfire (no color)
Plains (no color. Plains has no mana cost and no color indicator to get a color from. It is colorless.)
Mental Misstep (blue. We’ll learn more about that wacky mana symbol in its mana cost later.)
Deathrite Shaman (black and green. That hybrid mana symbol can be paid with either color, so Deathrite Shaman is both.)
Lingering Souls (white. Only the actual mana cost figures into the color.)

Q: Can you kill an animated Mutavault with Ultimate Price?

A: No. An object is “monocolored” if it has exactly one color. Mutavault, which is colorless, does not fit this description.

Q: A quest in Shandalar asks the player to take a “Blue Land Spell” to Coldsnap Keep. Such a quest would be considered completed if the player delivered a basic Island (although, since the game chose for you, sometimes this quest would cost you your Underground Sea instead). Identify at least two things wrong with this.

A: First, there is no such thing as a “Land Spell” of any color. A spell is a card on the stack. Lands are not cast, and do not use the stack, even if they happen to have another card type (the way Seat of the Synod does). There is currently no known way to have a land card onto the stack. In modern templating, this quest would refer to a “land card”.

Second, Island and Underground Sea are not blue. They are colorless because they have no mana cost and no color indicator. This is true for every land that is in Shandalar, although expanding to a modern card pool, Dryad Arbor would qualify as a green land because it has a green color indicator.

Q: Amy controls an Elite Arcanist which has exiled a Brainstorm. Nicole controls a Meddling Mage, for which Brainstorm is the named card. What will happen if Amy activates Elite Arcanist?

A: Meddling Mage says “The named card can’t be cast”. Even though the copy generated by Elite Arcanist is a copy of “the exiled card”, it does not count as a card itself because it is not a physical Magic card. As a result, Meddling Mage does not apply to it, and the copy can be cast as normal.

Q: Amy lent Nicole a deck so they could both play FNM. They are later paired against each other. Nicole casts a Darksteel Relic. Amy then casts an Unravel the Aether on the relic. Into whose library is it shuffled?

A: Even though Amy is the legal owner of Darksteel Relic, for the game’s purposes, Nicole is its “owner” because it started the game in her deck. The relic goes to Nicole’s library.

Q: Amy wants to use an Unsummon to return a Grizzly Bears from her graveyard to her hand. Explain why she cannot.

A: In the graveyard, Grizzly Bears is not a “creature”. It is a “creature card”. Reference Raise Dead, and note the difference in templating. If a spell or ability uses a description of an object that includes a card type or subtype, but doesn’t include the word “card,” “spell,” “source,” or “scheme,” it means a permanent of that card type or subtype on the battlefield.