Magic: The Gathering: A Sample Game

Perhaps, at this point, one who is unfamiliar with the game still may be confused. A sample game can at least demonstrate the flow of the game and give a general idea. However, to one who is already familiar with Magic, this will be superfluous. I will be introducing new terms and concepts as the game progresses. In this example I will be playing a deck which is red and has many artifacts. My proverbial adversary will be using a green deck with some white cards. This is based on a game I played online using Apprentice, a program that allows the online play of Magic through a graphical user interface.

The life total score will be presented in the notation X/Y, where X is my score and Y the other person's. Cards will be footnoted in the notation: Card type, casting cost. Card text. Power/Toughness. Colored mana symbols will be represented by B for black, U for blue, G for green, R for red, and W for white. At the beginning of the game, both players shuffle their decks and draw seven cards. I will win coin flip and decide to go first.

Turn 1 (Me): Skip first draw because of play-draw rule (whoever goes first skips his first draw phase to cancel out the advantage of getting to play first). Play Mountain(1). Tap Mountain to play Voltaic Key(2). Declare end of turn. 5 cards in hand. (20/20)

Turn 1 (Opp): Draw a card. Play Forest(3). Tap Forest to play Elvish Lyrist(4). Declare end of turn. 6 cards in hand. (20/20)

Turn 2 (Me): Untap Mountain. Draw a card. Play Mountain. Tap two Mountains to play Grim Monolith(5). Playing this card in conjunction with the Voltaic Key allows for enhanced mana production, as the Key can be used to untap the Monolith. Declare end of turn. 4 cards in hand. (20/20)

Turn 2 (Opp): Untap Forest. Draw a card. Play Brushland(6). Tap Forest and Brushland to play Priest of Titania(7). Attack with Elvish Lyrist for 1 damage. Declare end of turn. 5 cards in hand. (19/20)

Turn 3 (Me): Untap. (Untap all cards which don't say otherwise, such as Grim Monolith which says it does not untap. However, it can be untapped in other methods. For instance, it says you can pay 4 mana at any time to untap it. The Voltaic Key allows you to pay a mana and tap it to untap any artifact in play, so that, too, can be used to untap the Monolith. However, it is not tapped right now so that is not a problem.) Draw a card. Play Mountain. Tap 3 mountains to cast Stone Rain(8) on opponent's Forest. For 2 mana of any color and one that red, this will make my opponent lose a land. This can be beneficial because by denying the opponent mana, he cannot play as many cards. 3 cards in hand. Declare end of turn. (19/20)

Turn 3 (Opp): Untap. Draw a card. Play another Forest. Attack with Elvish Lyrist, and during the attack, tap the Forest for a green mana, and the Brushland for a generic mana. The Priest of Titania will yield 2 green mana, since there are 2 Elves in play, for a total of 4 mana. He then plays Might of Oaks(9) on the attacking Lyrist. Dealing 7 extra damage for 4 mana is a very large benefit. Later on I will be analyzing card utility, but for now I will just stick to the basics. Making the creature an 8/8 until end of turn, it deals 8 damage to me. 4 cards in hand. (11/20)

Turn 4 (Me): Untap. Draw a card. Right now I am worried that my opponent has more Might of Oaks at his disposal so I want to make sure he cannot use them. I know that there can be anywhere from 0 to 3 more left in his deck, and since he has taken 3 turns he has exhausted 10 cards from his deck. With 50 cards left and 4 in his hand, what are the chances he will have one in his hand after drawing a card next turn? This is yet another question I will be exploring. For now, however, assume I am mathematically unintelligent and do not know. My main goal will be to get rid of his creatures so I can stop taking damage. I tap the Monolith for 3 mana. I use one with the Key to untap the Monolith, and tap it again. I tap all my Mountains. I now have 9 mana, 4 of which is red. I use 1 red and 3 generic to play Avalanche Riders(10). I destroy my opponent's lone Forest again. I then play Wasteland(11). I decide I want to destroy my opponent's Brushland with my Wasteland, leaving him with no land.

Doing the math, I now have 5 mana remaining, 3 of which are red. I then cast Rolling Thunder(12). Since it has X, I decide to pay 2 for X with two generic mana. I do one damage to the Elvish Lyrist and one the Priest of Titania. My opponent no longer has any cards in play, and I use the remaining mana to play a Cursed Scroll (an artifact that can tap to deal damage). I attack with the Riders, dealing 2 damage. I am at a lower life then my opponent, and have fewer cards in hand; however, I am in a position to win this game right now. The game may not be technically over yet, but there is little my opponent can do to compensate for the advantage I have gained. (11/18)

I am sure the nontechnical reader is confused at this point about what has been going on. All these different game mechanics may seem awfully confusing. However, this is just a sampling of how complex this game is. Yet after playing many games it becomes pretty basic. The flow of the game is basically untap, draw, attack, play cards, and say you are done. With a few different concepts added here and there, that is how the game is played. These different concepts and card mechanics add the element of decision making to the game. The process of making these decisions is what contributes to the role of mathematical reasoning and strategy behind the cards.


  1. Mountain: Land. Tap for one red mana.
  2. Voltaic Key: Artifact, 1. 1, Tap: Untap target artifact.
  3. Forest: Land. Tap for one green mana.
  4. Elvish Lyrist: Creature - Elf, G. G, Tap: Sacrifice Elvish Lyrist to Destroy target enchantment. 1/1. (Sacrificing a card simply means placing it in your discard pile. The term simply implies that it is voluntary).
  5. Grim Monolith: Artifact, 2. Tap for 3 generic mana. Does not untap normally, and costs 4 to untap any other time. (Generic mana does not have color; they may only be used to play cards or part of cards not requiring colored mana. Note that colored mana is downwardly compatible; it may be used to play artifacts and such).
  6. Brushland: Land. Tap for one green or white mana and take a point of damage, or tap for a generic mana.
  7. Priest of Titania: Creature Elf, G. Tap for a green mana for every Elf in play. 1/1.
  8. Stone Rain: Sorcery, 2R. Destroy target land.
  9. Might of Oaks: Instant, 3G. Target creature gets +7/+7 until end of turn.)
  10. Avalanche Riders: Creature. Pay the casting cost during your next upkeep or bury this card (referred to as "echo"). When Avalanche Riders comes into play, destroy target land. Avalanche Riders can attack the turn it comes into play. 2/2.
  11. Wasteland: Land. Tap for one colorless mana, or tap and sacrifice to destroy a nonbasic land. (Nonbasic means it is not one of the five basic land types: Forest, Mountain, Island, Swamp, and Plains. Basic lands are the only cards not limited to four per deck.)
  12. Rolling Thunder: Sorcery, XRR. Divide X damage among any number of creatures and/or players.

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