Magic: The Gathering players have invented many new terms over the years the game has existed, covering a wide variety of aspects of the game, from deckbuilding to card mechanics. An (incomplete) list of these slang terms, abbreviations, and nicknames is listed here.
Note that this glossary is not a list of Magic: The Gathering "keywords". Most terms listed below are informal, player-created terms and are not truly a part of the game rules. For official game terms, please refer to the glossary found in the Comprehensive Rules.
One versus one, which means two players playing against each other. A two-player game.
Shorthand for whether or not a play provides net Card Advantage or, in the case of a 1-for-2, card disadvantage. A 2-for-1 occurs when a player uses one card and the opponent uses/loses 2 cards. Removing a Reality Smasher, for example, forces a 2-for-1 situation, since the opponent must discard an additional card to cast the removal spell that targets it.
Short for 'acceleration', accel is the elements in a deck that help it gain access to mana faster than the standard one-additional-mana-per-turn rate. It generally refers to placing additional mana-producing permanents into play, but also refers to one-use spells that provide a temporary mana boost (e.g. Dark Ritual). The most famous category of acceleration cards are the Moxes and Black Lotus, which significantly increase the amount of mana available in the early turns of a game.
Used interchangeably with ramp.
The player's feeling that they have some control over what's happening in their game.
Short for 'aggressive', aggro is used to define a deck or archetype which is highly dependent on creature combat and aggressive attacks (also 'beatdown'). The aim is to develop an advantage in the game before the opponent. Usually, Aggro decks have a low mana curve and try to overwhelm the opponent before they can build any board presence or stabilize.
A deck archetype that incorporates elements of both aggro and control decks. Aggro-control is similar to - and in many cases synonymous with - tempo.
The five pairs of colors which are adjacent on the color wheel: (/), (/), (/), (/) and (/).
- Noun: a card or series of plays which neutralizes a threat
- Verb: to play such a card.
Named after Glorious Anthem, any effect that buffs or pumps your entire team.
- A specific branch of very influential or competitive decks in a metagame. Deck archetypes tend to revolve around a particular card, combo, or strategy.
- Any of the core strategy groups a deck can fall into. These are control, combo, or aggro (beatdown) (or some hybrid of these "pure" strategies).
- Aristocrats — a deck archetype that aims to benefit from sacrificing its own stuff.
How a booster pack looks like "as fanned", i.e. spread out across the table in a fan-like shape. Typically used to describe the relative frequency of different types of cards or effects in a given set.
Playing for a long game in which you win through incremental advantages and value, rather than just playing a big bomb.
Clan of Tarkir representing White/Black/Green. Now used to describe any White/Black/Green card or deck.
Ravnican guild representing White/Blue. Now used to describe any White/Blue card or deck.
Bad beat story
Complaining about losing a game, especially if the teller of the story is trying to shift the blame for their loss away from their own play mistakes to external factors like mana screw.
The superlative form of 'broken'.
- Verb: to play a card which you expect your opponent to counter so that they will not be able to counter your next (presumably better) spell.
- Noun: a card which you play, expecting it to be countered or destroyed.
The collective list of items that are not found in hands, the battlefield, the graveyard, or the library, but still have a demonstrable effect on the game. For example, items in the bank include items in the command zone, poison counters, energy counters, experience counters, and cards that are temporarily in exile, such as spells suspended with time counters.
Can refer to two things:
- Combing multiple game components into one group for a mechanic, such as cards that care about things that are Historic caring about Artifacts, Saga enchantments, and Legendary cards.
- Tribal coupling, when a card cares about multiple creature types. For example, some cards in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty like Silver-Fur Master care about both the "Rogue" creature type and the "Ninja" creature type.
Both effects are usually used as the same purpose as Seeding, where more synergy is created between other cards, and reduces the chance that a mechanic is "Parasitic".
To attack, especially to attack with (a creature). “Battle into” can be used to denote what potential blockers your opponent has. “I battled my 4/4 into their 2/2.”
One of the most popular terms in early tournament Magic could mean a variety of things:
- Verb: To attack with most or all of your creatures every turn, without a thought of card advantage, until you have put your opponent into range for your endgame hammer (such as Kaervek's Torch, Fireblast, or another direct damage spell). Often split in verb form: e.g. "I beat you down for 5".
- Noun: Used as a description of a card or event. "Fireblast was such a beatdown; he was mana-screwed and I wrecked him so the game was a beatdown."
- Noun: The player with less inevitability than their opponent and who therefore must attack as much as possible. Failure to recognize "Who's the Beatdown?" is a common, fatal mistake for new players.
- Adjective: Ties in with the beatdown principles above: "beatdown deck; beatdown creature".
A creature that will deliver beats. Also usually implies that the creature has a decently large body but few relevant abilities.
A very good play, usually either a blowout or a threat to which the opponent has no answer. Often implies that it was an unexpected or surprising play. Also shortened to "Ting".
Repeated attacks by creatures or the damage done by those attacks.
(also "stick") A creature that is effective to attack with. They are usually but not necessarily, large creatures.
- Big (creature) – high power and toughness.
- Big (deck) – higher mana curve (than another deck) and thus, presumably, more impactful threats.
Of a creature, a high toughness relative to its power, making it ideal for defense. Examples are the 1/4 Horned Turtle and the 1/7 Kami of Old Stone. It is less common, but not unheard of, for a creature with high power and low toughness to be referred to as having a "small butt".
- The graveyard
- verb meaning to place a card into the graveyard, especially from hand or from the library (see also mill)
Exiling a permanent, then returning it to the battlefield, as with Venser, the Sojourner. The term originally referred to Blinking Spirit's ability to return itself to your hand, and its usage declined along with the popularity of its namesake. It was reintroduced into the lexicon with Time Spiral's Momentary Blink.
Used interchangeably with flickering.
A card that is not relevant in the current board state or cannot be cast; a useless card (especially in hand or being drawn).
A Standard deck made up of cards all from the same Magic "year," usually connected to a single mechanic.
To destroy (a permanent, especially a land). Interchangeable with "explode" or "exploding".
A spell or line of play that is very good and punishes the opponent severely for a decision they made.
The collection of permanents currently on the table. Each player has their own "board" and the word also describes the entire battlefield. Usage: "There's a lot of creatures on the board."
The collection of permanents a particular player controls in play.
The current situation or state of a game.
A creature's power and toughness. Also a creature, especially in the context of combat, usually implying that it is reasonable, but not amazingly powerful.
A small, powerful creature that is rendered impractical to play because it attracts removal spells (like Lightning Bolt). That is, it is so potentially dangerous that it's killed as soon as it's played. Hypnotic Specter is a classic example of boltbait.
A card powerful enough to change the course of the game on its own. Usually used in the context of limited formats, where drafting or opening a bomb greatly improves one's chances. This is largely due to the relative scarcity of quality removal and other answers in limited formats, compared to constructed.
- A combo which seems to work, but upon further rules clarification is actually discovered to be invalid.
- A nonbo - a negative interaction between cards.
- The Boros Legion, the red/white guild from Ravnica block.
- Any red/white deck, such as the Boros Bushwhacker deck that was popular during Zendikar's time in Standard.
An effect or spell that returns a permanent to its owner's hand.
- Of a format, to create a deck so much more powerful than the other decks that it dominates the format's metagame. ("After Pro Tour Paris in 2011, Caw-blade broke Standard.")
- Of a card, to create a deck in which that card becomes broken. ("Johnny's new deck is an attempt to break Spellweaver Helix in Modern.")
To think about or design an original decklist or rogue deck. Sometimes, building decks in a not very well-defined format e.g. after a rotation.
- In reference to brick counters, a mechanic from Amonkhet block
- Failing to draw a desired card during the draw step, or drawing an unwanted card. Usually used in situations where a specific card or card type is needed ("I bricked a land on turns two and three after keeping a one-land opener"). One of several poker-derived terms, from when a drawn community card is unfavorable in Texas Hold 'Em.
A card that's overly powerful - usually, a card that you can't afford to play without if you're playing in those colors. When a card is officially broken is of some debate within the Magic community; players frequently declare cards they hate to be broken, even if they're not. Likewise, it's a term that's frequently used sarcastically ("Carnival of Souls? Man, that's broken!" or more precisely "Buh-ROKEN!").
To kill your opponent using burn spells.
A creature ability that allows the creature to get a toughness boost for a certain amount of mana (usually white), multiple times in a turn. The term for this is similar to the enchantment aura Firebreathing but with the slang that toughness is referred to the creature's "butt". An example of this ability is on the creature Tower Drake: "W: Tower Drake gets +0/+1 until end of turn."
Searching an opponent's library for specific cards and exiling them in order to deprive the opponent of their use at some future time. Named after the card Jester's Cap, the first card to use the effect. This strategy is effective against combo decks which usually rely on one or two specific cards in order to work at all, and control decks which have a lot of control elements but very few win conditions but is close to useless against most aggro decks, which usually don't rely on any specific card to win.
- In a limited tournament, the set of cards a player has available to build a deck (in addition to basic land cards).
- The total set of cards that exist in a game or format for players to use.
Casting cost, the overall number of mana required to cast a spell, regardless of color.
Competitive Elder Dragon Highlander. In essence, it's just Commander where everyone plays with the best decks out there and tries as hard as possible to win. With the increasing power level of newer commanders, more and more people are getting into the format.
Unremarkable or worthless cards. Rubbish cards, not worthy to be part of a constructed deck. Very often used in the context of "draft chaff", where the 42-45 card pool has its useful cards stripped and the remainder left behind.
A valuable rare card that is highly desirable.
0-cost spells, or a deck which plays a large number of these spells. The many 0's are reminiscent of the American brand of cereal, which consists of pulverized oats in the shape of a torus.
- An early term used to describe any direct damage spell, or a deck that relied on direct damage spells to win. Early Red Goblin/Lightning Bolt/Fireball decks were called "Cheese and Weenies".
- More recently: any tactic which completely avoids combat in order to win or bring oneself closer to winning.
- High choice: the player is making decisions about that game element. Their input affects how it functions.
- Low choice: the player is not making decisions about the gameplay element. They don't have any input into what it's doing.
A threat that will lead to victory over an opponent in a finite number of turns, thus giving the opponent a known time limit in which to either win or answer the threat. For example, if a player is at 20 life and an unblockable creature with a power of 4 is played by their opponent, that player is said to be on a 5-turn clock.
Short for Converted mana cost.
A situation where a card has an effect that is usually not found in its colors, such as Mana Tithe, a white counterspell.
A specific type of mana screw where a player, while perhaps having plenty of mana/acceleration, lacks the correct color to play certain spells. e.g. A player may have six Mountains, but lacks the Swamp they need to cast a Wrecking Ball.
Short for "combination".
- Card combination: Any combination of two or more cards which produces a beneficial effect, designed to gain an advantage over the opponent.
- One of the three basic archetypes along with aggro and control.
- Combo deck: A deck or archetype which uses a combo as its victory condition. The deck is designed entirely for the purpose of setting up and protecting the combo.
Ways in which players use cards to control the flow of the game.
- Control card: Any card designed to help a player control cards in the game. Control cards might destroy an opponent's useful cards, keep an opponent from playing useful cards, or force the opponent to discard their cards before they use them.
- One of the three basic archetypes along with aggro and combo.
- Control deck or archetype: A deck or archetype which attempts to gain a decisive advantage using control cards to hinder the opponent and protect its victory condition. A control deck makes sacrifices in speed in order to improve chances of playing past an opponent's defenses.
- Part of a deck: The controlling elements in a deck.
- To open (a booster pack).
- To sacrifice something for an effect. Most often said of fetch lands or artifacts. See also Pop.
- To attack.
A counterattack following an attack with most or all of a player's creatures. The damage one would receive "on the crackback" is taken into account when deciding whether to attack or not.
Crimping is the rippled press at the top and bottom of each booster pack to press it closed. A crimped card was misaligned and got caught in the press. Crimps can happen on the top or bottom of a card. While crimps are a little less common than miscuts, they're usually desired less by collectors.
Playing Cube Draft.
- The notional mean power level of cards. The power level of a card can be judged by players as being 'above', 'on', or 'below the curve'. For example, the power and toughness of most CMC 2 creatures is 2/2. A 2/2 creature with CMC 2 is considered on the curve, while a 3/3 of the same cost would be above the curve and a 1/1 creature would be below the curve. Often, but not always, creatures that are above or below the curve have a corresponding drawback or ability to balance the card.
- mana curve: the spread of spells in a deck by converted mana cost. A well-designed curve allows a deck to use all or almost all of its available mana each turn, maximizing its tempo advantages. This is usually of most concern to aggro and aggro-control decks.
To cast a series of spells “on-curve.” For example, a 2-drop on turn 2, a 3 mana card on turn 3, and a 4 mana card on turn 4. See mana curve.
To remove a card from one's deck. Alternatively, “Make the cut” means to be included in a deck, especially at the time it was built, although often just barely.
A damage race (or simply a race) occurs when neither player is able to take firm control of the game. Their only course of action is to try to win the game before the other's creatures strike the finishing blow. Races are most often driven by one or both players having creatures with evasion (flying, "can't be blocked", etc.).
- Goblin King - a reference David Bowie's role as the Goblin King in the film Labyrinth.
A design term for the creature ability, "Can't be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less."
A card in hand that is irrelevant or unplayable. This may also be expressed with the phrase dead draw if the card was just drawn from the deck.
Dead on Board
A game state where both players know, based on the state of the battlefield and other public information, that one player will lose the game without the further commitment of resources.
"I'm at 4 life and I only have one blocker. If I don't draw a creature this turn, I'm dead on board to my opponent's alpha strike."
Mechanics that are not evergreen, but may show up from time to time in a set that needs it. It's a tool in R&D's toolbox that they're allowed to use, but it's not something they expect to use in every set. Deciduous mechanics are Protection, Hybrid mana, split cards, Treasure, and double-faced cards. Colored artifacts, Curses, Vehicles, and Sagas are also considered to be deciduous.
To run a player's library out of cards, thus causing them to lose the game for being unable to draw cards when required to do so (see Winning and losing). The original method of doing this involved the card Millstone, and is therefore also commonly known as milling (see Mill) - typically "decked" or "decking" is used when the last cards are removed.
Reducing the size of one's deck to increase the chances of drawing needed cards.
Looking for specific cards for the matchup or situation from your deck, primarily through the use of draw effects, Looting effects, look at the top X cards effects, or reveal the top X cards effects.
Ravnican guild representing Blue/Black. Now used to describe any Blue/Black card or deck.
An ability that allows a player to discard cards at any time, often without paying a mana cost. This allows the cards to be used while in the graveyard, and triggers Madness effects.
Cards that try to stump opponents’ attempts to do whatever it is that their deck wants to do, or get in the way of their strategy. Usually, this refers to hand disruption, like discard spells. However, counterspells, for example, can also “disrupt” a combo.
Short for “underdog” – a deck (or player) that is not favored to win a certain matchup.
- (verb) To deal direct damage to target player.
- A player being targeted (as in the expression "to go to the dome").
A creature with unimpressive combat stats, to the point that players tend not to use them in combat. Commonly used to refer to utility creatures which have some other relevant ability. For example, mana dorks, like Llanowar Elves, tap for mana.
A card that causes an opponent to take damage or lose life, while its controller gains life, as with Drain Life. Mostly in black.
A card or small group of cards that allows the controller to draw more cards than usual in a turn, to create or keep up with card advantage in the game. Often used in the context of the components and strategy of a deck.
- A type of control deck that, because of its reactive nature, often plays no spells on it own turns. So named due to the control player's turns consisting of drawing a card and passing the turn by saying "go".
- A stagnating period of gameplay in which each player simply draws a card and passes the turn. A draw-go situation can occur because each player is waiting for the other to make the first move, or when neither player has a beneficial spell to play and controls no important cards on the table. e.g. "We played draw-go for several turns until I found a creature."
When an EDH player gets targeted by their opponents due to the power of their commander or another card.
- A permanent which can be played without major strategic consideration. Usually used in the context of "2-drop", "3-drop" etc., referring to the turn when a permanent can first be played, which is equal to its converted mana cost.
- See Land drop.
- A part of the Secret Lair Drop Series (see also Superdrop)
- (verb) To willingly leave an organized event before its conclusion.
A card that is generally not worth playing, either because its mana cost is too high for whatever benefit it gives, or because the benefit it gives isn't particularly advantageous. Also Dreg or Dirt.
A creature. Used more often when describing token creatures.
Nickname for Kjeldoran Outpost. Now refers to any land capable of churning out creature tokens every turn.
Taking game actions that do not have a visible effect on the board state or do not lead directly toward killing one's opponent; taking game actions that "do nothing." The purpose of durdling is generally to improve one's in-hand card quantity or quality. Durdling is a common feature of defensive decks.
"Dude, you're playing Boros, why all the durdle? Just burn her dudes and swing."
- To block a small creature with a larger one so that only the attacking creature dies.
- Of a creature, to cause another creature to be sacrificed; "My Thallid Omnivore eats my Saproling."
- Of a creature, to die to a removal spell preventing that spell from being used elsewhere; "My elf ate a lightning bolt which is as much value as I could have hoped to get out of it."
A card that is meant to be a Hoser to a specific set or mechanic, in case the mechanic is too strong, as if the card was a "valve" for a "hose" meant to be used in emergencies. For example, Grafdigger's Cageis a hoser made in case Graveyard based effects in the original Innistrad block was too strong. Many color Hoser cards are designed to be used in case a specific color or deck becomes too strong, the idea being that you usually will not want to use those cards normally, but they can be swapped out from your Sideboard in case you're playing against a specific deck, such as Knockout Blow.
The five pairs of colors which are opposite on the color wheel: (/), (/), (/), (/) and (/), these cards are ideologically opposed to each other, although they still have things in common.
A card or combination of cards which produce a powerful, often repeatable, effect, which does not win the game outright on its own, but is effective in “powering” other strategies. An engine often converts one resource into another. For example, Channel converts life points to mana, Mind Over Matter converts cards in hand to untaps of permanents, Skullclamp converts small creatures into cards in hand, and so on. Engines often form the heart of combos and are often restricted in tournaments due to being too effective.
Short for "enters the battlefield", used to refer to a variety of abilities which trigger when a creature enters the battlefield. (Before M10, this was "comes into play" or CIP.)
- Expected Value: the amount of value that you can expect to receive from a given tournament or event. Generally, this means the average value of the prizes for all players minus the entry fee.
- The expected amount of money that you can get from selling cards in a pack. A pack with a high EV means there are one or more cards in it that are highly sought after and go for a high price.
To destroy (usually one or more permanents). Used interchangeably with Blow-Up. "I cast Armageddon. Everyone's lands get exploded."
Passing priority until the end of turn. Born from MTGO online's shortcut key for this. Used when playing against extremely long turn combo decks such as (formerly legal) KCI and Eggs in Modern Format.
The opponent, in the context of targeting a spell "to the face". Also Dome.
- In reference to the fading mechanic and/or its associated fade counters.
- To dodge the opponent potentially having or drawing a specific card that will win them the game, heavily disrupt one's plans, or otherwise swing the game in favor of the opponent ("I need to fade their fourth copy of Cryptic Command this turn to have any chance of winning"). Frequently used late-game or when one or both players are in topdecking situations
A one-shot effect (either an instant, sorcery or a creature with an enters-the-battlefield trigger) such as Seething Song that adds mana, usually more than the amount used to spend it. Originally in black, but now primarily in red and secondarily in green. See also Ritual
A creature enchantment or equipment that increases the enchanting creature's toughness higher than the amount it increases the creature's power. This comes from the card Hero's Resolve (aka Heroic Pants), which gives the creature enchanted +1 power but +5 toughness.
- A fetch land.
- (verb) To use a fetch land's ability and sacrifice it to find another land.
- Tutor up a card; searching your deck for a card and putting it into your hand. Tutor, referring to the card Demonic Tutor, one of the first cards to use this mechanic.
A card capable of winning or “finishing” the game outright.
A creature ability that allows the creature to get a power boost for a certain amount of mana (usually red), multiple times in a turn. The ability was first seen on the Alpha set's Shivan Dragon, which had the basic form of the ability ": Shivan Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn". The name comes from the aura Firebreathing, which grants any creature the ability. The concept is that the red mana (fire) turns into a power boost (the fire hurts the creature's enemy more).
Merfolk, or a deck using the merfolk tribe as its core.
When a spell or ability fails to resolve and leaves the stack due to a lack of targets.
- Short for mana fixing, as in "to fix one's mana."
- The process used by Wizards of the Coast to create less powerful versions of older, popular, but broken (overpowered) cards. For example Shock is considered a fixed version of Lightning Bolt.
Exiling a permanent, then returning it to the battlefield, as with Ghostly Flicker or Flickerwisp. Originated with Urza's Destiny's Flicker. Used interchangeably with blinking; attempts have been made to differentiate between returning immediately or at the end of turn, but as spells with Flicker in the name have used both styles, it is still in progress.
Refers to mana in a player's mana pool that has not been used, especially after that player has just played a spell or ability. Usually, a player will only tap as much mana as required by the particular spell or ability they wish to play, and only when they wish to play it. However, in various situations, a player may leave some amount of mana in their mana pool. Before the rule changes, this caused players to undergo Mana Burn
The most common situation in which this occurs is when a player is using a recurring loop of spells or abilities to produce an arbitrarily large amount of mana. Each iteration of the loop produces extra mana, which is left floating until the player has acquired enough excess mana to achieve their desired end. A play might also do this in cases where they will cast a spell to destroy all lands by making sure they have tapped all the mana from their lands first before casting it.
The rules require a player who has mana in their mana pool after spending some, or when passing priority, to announce what mana is left. This is usually accomplished with a set of dice or a notepad.
To alpha strike without doing combat math. Named by LoadingReadyRun.
Abbreviated form of Friday Night Magic.
For The Win. Often declared as "X for the win" where X is the card that wins the game (directly or indirectly). The worse the card, the more likely the phrase will be used. "Chimney Imp for the win!!"
Cards that you would like to draw, that are relevant, or that “fuel” your game plan. Generally, non-land cards. "This hand is nothing but gas!" Conversely, when you're at the end of the game and are low on resources, you've run out of gas.
A group of decks that are expected in a metagame or top decks to playtest against. "Running the Gauntlet" usually means playing an event where a lot of top decks will be played.
Abbreviation for "Good Game." Also said as "geeg" in a more sarcastic form.
To invest some resource (mana is common, but it can be cards in hand or the graveyard, or simply a particular card sequence) to create an effect that is too large for the turn it is cast.
To play a strategy that is exceptionally ambitious, unlikely, and/or high-risk high-reward. Used primarily when discussing Limited formats. "You're playing seven copies of Foundry Street Denizen?" "Yeah, I went really deep in this draft."
When a combo player does their (usually game-winning) combo.
- To be able to have a more powerful strategy than the opponent, so when both decks operate to their full capacity, yours wins. Strategically puts the onus on the opponent to interact rather than race.
- Attacking with flying creatures, which “fly over” your opponent's non-flying defenders.
- A creature-based strategy to overwhelm the opponent by attacking with a small number of large creatures. These creatures often outclass or evade the opponent's creatures.
- Strategy where things get stronger over time, e.g. green putting a lot of +1/+1 counters on its creatures.
A creature-based strategy, often making use of tokens, to overwhelm the opponent by attacking with a huge number of small creatures, rather than a few very large creatures (which might be called going 'tall').
- For the creature type, see God.
- Optimal, as in "God hand" or "God draw", the best a player could have. E.g. "With a God hand, this deck can pull off a turn three win." The best possible hand is also called "the nuts" or a "nut draw".
- One of the God cards from Theros block: legendary enchantment creatures with the subtype God that have indestructible, an ability that makes them not a creature unless you have enough board presence of their color(s), and some other enchantment-like abilities.
- A booster pack that contains more rares than may be expected.
- An exceptionally rare pack from Journey into Nyx containing all fifteen Theros Gods.
Also known as "Goodstuff.dek" in online variants of magic. "Goodstuff" refers to a deck that is usually built by including the "best" cards in a single deck. "Delver" decks in Eternal formats are a common example of a Goodstuff deck.
Playing without an opponent: drawing a starting hand and proceeding to play until an opponent who does nothing to stop you from accomplishing the game plan is defeated. Used in basic initial deck testing.
Ravnican guild representing Black/Green. Now used to describe any Black/Green card or deck.
Within the world of professional Magic, "being on the Gravy train" means being qualified for all the Pro Tours. This typically means being a Gold- or Platinum-level pro in the Pro Players Club. Can also refer to Grave Titan.
A player who enjoys another player's misery, tormenting their opponent by playing land destruction, countering all of their spells, or playing a deck that wins before the opponent can get off the ground. Also a card that furthers that goal.
Someone who plays game after game after game in order to get qualifying points, esp. at mid-level tournaments like PTQ's.
In Limited play especially, attempting to win through card advantage and attrition. It can also refer to formats where players amass large board states with no incentive or good ways to attack others.
A hand of cards. A player with seven cards in hand is said to have a "full grip".
A strategy in multiplayer games based on helping the opponents with effects like Howling Mine or Heartbeat of Spring. A similar strategy known as Bear Hug helps opponents in a way that will ultimately harm them or provide them with an advantage.
A play on "group hug", a group slug is a multiplayer archetype involving shared pain, usually in the form of direct damage, life loss, or sacrifice. It typically involves permanents with triggered abilities that deal damage to opponents. Group slug decks are most often red or black.
Ravnican guild representing Red/Green. Now used to describe any Red/Green card or deck.
To change the type of a card, as with Magical Hack.
Hard cast / Hardcasting
Hardcasting, or "paying retail", describes playing a spell by paying its mana cost instead of using an alternative cost or other ability. For example, casting a Pitch spell for it's mana cost rather than it's alternative cost.
- "X hate", "hate for X". Altering the composition of one's deck not to make it generally better, but to try to lower the effective power of an opponent's powerful card or deck. For example, in Vintage, blue cards and artifacts are considered to be considerably more powerful than other cards, and decks often include hate for blue or artifacts. See also: Metagame, Splash damage.
- Hate card. A card that seeks to inhibit the effectiveness or power level of another card or strategy. These cards help to balance the metagame in the event that one card or strategy has become too dominant.
- Hate draft, hate pick. In a draft, to select a card one will probably not play to keep it from others.
Taken from the vernacular of poker, a "heater" is when everything is going right; a lucky streak.
Having no cards in hand. Originated from the hellbent mechanic.
A creature with flying that can only block creatures that also have flying, such as Cloud Djinn. Generally, a creature with high flying costs less than an otherwise-equivalent creature with flying.
A casual format in which, excluding basic land, there can be no two cards with the same name in the deck. The term has its origins in the catchphrase of the movie Highlander: "There can be only one". This format goes by the name "Singleton" in the official Wizards of the Coast communications and advertising even though the format is almost exclusively referred to as Highlander by players. T is most likely to avoid any trademark issues that might arise. An ancestor of the now more popular Commander.
To deal damage (by attacking with a creature).
To keep resources needed to take a game action available, sometimes at the expense of taking other actions. A fairly common example is when a control player chooses not to cast a spell they could have, and instead passes the turn "holding up" mana in order to be able to counter a spell on their opponent's turn. " "He was holding up two blue, so I had to play around Counterspell."
A card that is extremely powerful.
Iconic and characteristic
Each color has an iconic, or marquee, creature type which is well known as the monster representative of everything the color embodies. Iconic creatures show up only a few times per set (and many times only once). They are almost exclusively rare or mythic rare and show up on splashy cards. The current iconic creatures are:
Iconic creatures are different from characteristic creatures, which show up many times per set and are found in all rarities, especially at common. They are smaller humanoid that appear on more mundane cards including vanilla and French vanilla creatures. The characteristic creatures are:
To stop a creature from blocking and attacking.
An effect that exiles cards from the top of your library and lets you play them on that turn only, such as Act on Impulse.
In the air
When attacking, combat damage dealt by creatures with flying. See also On the ground
In a given matchup, the deck with inevitability is the one that becomes more and more likely to win as the game continues. While still a theoretical science, inevitability can go to the deck with more threats, a better late game, an unstoppable trump card, or the deck that simply has more cards in its library to prevent decking.
Ravnican guild representing Blue/Red. Now used to describe any Blue/Red card or deck.
- To play a spell confidently or enthusiastically. Often implies that a blowout is possible, but the caster of the spell has weighed the odds and decided that it is the right play. Also to pick a card in a draft under similar conditions.
- (verb) To attack, usually with all your creatures (or Team as in "Jam with the team").
Derogatory term for the period of time where the main story of the game revolved around a group of planeswalkers led by Jace Beleren and Gideon Jura, formally known as The Gatewatch. Previously used due to a perceived overuse of Jace and the rest of The Gatewatch in the storyline from Magic Origins til Hour of Devastation, being also in a cultural time period where superhero adaptations (and subsequent crossover team-ups) were prevalent. The term lessened in usage when the Gatewatch was soundly defeated in Hour of Devastation, and the group's importance in the story diminished greatly after War of the Spark.
Clan of Tarkir representing Blue/Red/White. Now used to describe any Blue/Red/White card or deck.
A casual play environment, often without clear formats. The name stems from the idea that it's players playing magic with what they have "on the kitchen table". The opposite of tournament play, kitchen table or “cards I own” is also the most popular way to play the game.
The versatility of a mechanic. A knob is a variable that Play Design can adjust to balance a card. The more variables, the knobbier the mechanic is and the greater chance play design can balance it.
Land destruction — a viable but unpopular strategy for victory in which a player uses spells and abilities to destroy an opponent's land, making it impossible for them to play any spells.
A measure of a player's damage to the opponent plus any life gained in the same turn. A metric usually only used in racing situations, as both player's life totals are under stress, or in a single impactful combat that changes the tempo of the game.
Lightning Bolt Test
AKA Bolt Test - A relatively simple test that measures the viability of a creature through whether or not it dies at a tactical loss to the one-mana removal spell Lightning Bolt, relevant in Modern and Legacy. Not necessarily definitive, but is a general starting point. While Fatal Push is another benchmark, Bolt is more pertinent due to being usable in all archetypes, while Push has been limited to midrange.
"On legs", see on a stick.
Cards that appear on their surface to be very simple, but once you understand more about how to use them, they become more complex. The term comes from a technique, sometimes used on trading cards, where multiple images are stuck on a card with a system that allows you to see different pictures as you tilt the card. Force of Will, Brainstorm, and even Fetch lands can all fall into this category.
Opportunity to deal enough damage to deplete the opponent's Life to 0. "Swinging for Lethal" refers to attacking with enough creatures to win the game.
A spell or effect that allows a player to search a zone - particularly a player's library - for specific cards and exile them. So-called since the first card printed with this effect was Lobotomy; other more recent examples include Surgical Extraction, Lost Legacy. and Slaughter Games.
During a match, a period where a player, through card interactions, has made it difficult or impossible for the opponent to mount an effective defense. "Breaking out" of a lockdown takes skill and luck, but often an effective lockdown will allow the lockdown player to secure victory before the other player can break out. In many tournament communities, decks are built with the tools to break out of locks, reducing the effectiveness of most lockdown cards. As a result, some decks specialize in lockdown strategies and use an arsenal of locks in order to form an exceptionally strong lockdown, followed by a swift victory.
- Loose play: a play that could have had a bad result. Often, it implies a mistake or incorrect play which could have been bad but wasn't.
- Loose deck: a risky, inconsistent deck.
The action of drawing then discarding a card. Originating from "Merfolk Looter"
A consistently lucky person, usually used with a slightly resentful tone, i.e., "He is such a lucksack, that Wrath of God won him the game!" Also can be used in verb form, i.e., "He lucksacked into that Corrupt!"
Cycles of artifacts that let you gain 1 life when you cast a spell of a certain color.
R&D lingo for a mana symbol of a specific, arbitrary color. Additionally, N and O are used for a second and third color in Multicolored card costs. Commonly used for discussing Cycles. See also WUBRG. Usage:
- "In Mirage, all five colors have a rare Dragon that costs 4MM."
- "Blue is the only color that hasn't gotten a Vanilla 2/2 for 1M yet."
- "The five Obelisks of Shards of Alara each tap to add M, N, or O."
To have a card in your initial deck, not in your sideboard. Notably used in reference to cards that usually would belong in the sideboard, but are not for various meta reasons, such as running Hurkyl's Recall in the main deck so that you have an advantage against artifact decks in the first game of a match.
A theoretical situation where a deck or combo goes as hoped, such as a situation where your deck has no disruption or a perfect opening hand. Usually a derogatory statement to refer to a highly unlikely event, such as someone being able to win the game on turn one with a specific hand.
Manland, man land
The distribution of cards across casting costs in a deck. A deck is said to have a low curve if it has mostly cheap spells, while it can be said to have a high curve if it has more expensive cards. The top of the curve (or "top end") is the most expensive card(s) in your deck. A card is said to be "played on curve" if it is played as early as you could intend to cast it (usually on the turn corresponding to its mana cost).
A theory that is the basis for the mana curve. Mana optimization theory states that a player who best uses the mana available to them in every turn will win the game. Its most basic level applies to the player who uses the most mana in a turn, e.g. a player who spends 5 mana in a turn will be able to do more and more powerful things than a player with only 3 mana available. Conversely, the player who spends fewer resources to produce the same effect will have greater mana optimization.
A card that provides an opportunity to spend excess mana on. They usually have activated abilities that do not tap (and thus can be used repeatedly). Examples are Sacred Mesa (), Sphinx of Magosi (), Pestilence (), Dragon Roost () and Centaur Glade ().
Having too little mana, too much mana, or the wrong color(s) of mana.
- When a player doesn't draw enough mana generation cards (usually land) for their deck to work effectively.
- When a player doesn't draw cards that produce the correct colors for their deck to work effectively (also known as "color screw"). In multicolored decks, there is a chance of having lands that provide mana of one color and spells in hand that require another color.
- When a player draws only land cards and/or mana sources (usually called "mana flood"). They won't have enough spells in hand to cast.
The minimum amount of mana needed to be able to cast most of the spells in a deck. Rarely used.
The act of separating the main deck from the land cards, shuffling the deck, and then sticking the lands one by one into the deck to evenly distribute the land throughout the deck and reduce the chance of mana screw. This is against the rules and is one of the most well-known ways to cheat.
Clan of Tarkir representing Red/White/Black. Now used to describe any Red/White/Black card or deck.
(noun) The game outside the game – choices about what and how to play dictated by logic or community standards, rather than rules.
(verb) To make choices about what deck to play or specific cards to include in a deck based on known or anticipated choices other players have recently made, or will make.
A general archetype of deck focused on playing medium to larger-sized creatures. Aggressive decks that flip the standard aggro-control deck archetype by attempting to control the early game, then going aggressive with large creatures in the mid to late game.
- Putting cards from a player's library directly into their graveyard. Originally slang for the effect of the card Millstone, it became an official keyword action in Core Set 2021.
- A deck built around forcing the opponent(s) to empty their library. If a player attempts to draw a card while their library has no cards in it, they lose the game.
- A "self-mill" deck is a deck built around emptying your own library, and then winning by playing a card such as Laboratory Maniac and attempting to draw another card.
A sideboard card that is incredibly powerful in the mirror, though not as efficient elsewhere. Most commonly used in reference to large blue uncounterable creatures (Pearl Lake Ancient, Sphinx of the Final Word, Hullbreaker Horror) that are control mirror breakers, which are the most important subset of these designs, as otherwise control mirrors would take far too long in rounds.
A match between very similar or identical decks, as though each player were playing their own image in a mirror.
A mirror match in which both decks and sideboards are identical.
A very lucky happening, most commonly used to refer to a needed card being drawn at the right moment ("Drawing that Black Lotus was an excellent mise,") or the act of doing so ("I mised that Lotus just in time"). MiseTings (so named for the expression) defined a mise as "something unusually great or unexpected" or the act of obtaining such. The expression "mise" is derived from the phrase "might as well" - as in 'mise well draw that wrath'. Its meaning has since changed to the usage described above, however. The joke set Unhinged had a card called Mise, which played on this by giving the player a great card advantage, but only if that player is lucky enough to know the top card of their library.
A mistake or blunder.
A deck composed of a single color of cards. E.g.: Mono-blue, mono-red.
An uncommon (or non-rare) card that is extremely powerful in Limited, and so is picked more aggressively than most of the rares in a given set.
A card that is only effective in a specific set of situations.
Any deck copied from the internet or a published tournament listing. The practice of using such decks is referred to as "netdecking".
An interaction between two or more cards that is disadvantageous instead of having a profitable effect (which would be a combo). An example is Crystalline Sliver and Magma Sliver, since Crystalline Silver gives shroud to each Sliver, preventing them from being targetable by other Slivers with Magma Sliver's ability.
Any permanent that is not a land.
Slang for counterspells typically found in blue decks. Nope also represents the symbolic phrase for a deck commonly composed of control or removal spell cards. Nope —Counterspell and often symbolizes a blue mage.
A very good draw or play.
The ideal opening hand.
An effect with a cost not in the main colors of a deck. It may refer to splashes, activated abilities (Shalai, Voice of Plenty), additional or alternative spell modes (Travel Preparations, Vigorous Charge), or mana producers (Temple of Plenty or Mox Emerald in a nongreen deck).
On a stick
Refers to a creature or other permanent that has an ability that another card can produce. For example: Kamahl, Pit Fighter is a "Lightning Bolt on a stick". Can also refer to a card imprinted on an Isochron Scepter, which itself is sometimes referred to as "The Stick". More often than not refers to an artifact having the ability (hence, stick).
On the ground
When attacking, combat damage dealt by creatures without flying. See also In the air.
Ravnican guild representing White/Black. Now used to describe any White/Black card or deck.
An Aura or (less commonly) equipment that buffs a creature. Most often used in reference to Bogles decks wherein the goal is to play a cheap creature resistant to removal, such as the namesake Slippery Bogle, and then attach many cheap but powerful "Pants" to it to make an unstoppable cheap threat.
A negative term that refers to a mechanic or card being unable to synergize with other cards, and usually requires only a selection of specific cards to work. For example, Evermindis a parasitic card because it can't be casted normally on it's own, and it's splice mecanic only allows it to be used with instants and sorceries with Arcane.
A card that is the last one picked in a booster draft.
An element of a card that rewards the player for jumping through whatever hoops the card is making the player jump through. Usually gets used when you want to communicate that a card doesn't have a big enough reward.
A style of play that involves hardcore/dedicated counter-magic. The permission player attempts to counter every important spell the opponent plays, and simply to draw plenty of extra cards to ensure more counters are available. The term "permission" comes from the way the opponent will end up asking whether each of their spells resolves or is countered.
A 2/1 creature for two mana. Named after Goblin Piker.
- A deck or collection of cards that are either unplayable or would appear to be unplayable. Cards that are unreliable or anti-synergistic or weak may constitute a 'pile'. This term is often used to describe a deck that attempts to do something, and succeeds, but does so inefficiently. For example, "My deck is an absolute pile, but somehow it wins." It can also be used to refer to "The Stack," a collection of interesting cards used as a shared deck in the format of the same name. This usage is primarily to distinguish it from the concept of the stack.
- The groups of cards that one sets up as an effect of cards like Doomsday, Gifts Ungiven, and Fact or Fiction.
- Any deck based on individually strong cards that don't immediately appear synergistic, such as Czech Pile.
To discard or exile a card from your hand as part of a cost. For example, Force of Willmay be cast by pitching a blue card and paying one life (see pitch card). Wild Mongrel allows you to pitch a card to give it +1/+1.
To play in such a way that you neutralize a given card that you suspect your opponent has in hand. "He was holding up two blue, so I had to play around Counterspell."
The most common way a card or mechanic gets played.
- A card that is good enough to play in the context of drafting
- Description of a card that is good enough to be played in a certain format. “This card might be Standard-playable.”
The characterization of a Magic player by psychographic or aesthetic profiles. Cards are usually designed with one or more of these profiles in mind. References to them in casual Magic play are usually in jest, but most players do nonetheless tend to subscribe to one of the styles or a combination of them.
- Timmy/Tammy. Playing for the experience (swinging big creatures, making big plays and spells).
- Johnny/Jenny. Playing for the mental challenge, building complex and creative decks (such as making unique archetypes, trying to make a deck that goes against the meta).
- Spike. The tournament player, aggressive and competitive. Spike gets their greatest joy from proving something by winning.
- Mel/Melvin. Someone who enjoys the delicate and interesting interactions between the mechanical components and mechanics. They like to try and create combos, and try to pull them off in a game.
- Vorthos. The "flavor player", someone who enjoys the flavor of Magic separated from the game itself. A Vorthos evaluates the components like the name, the illustration, and the card concept both in isolation and in conjunction. Vorthos players might prefer decks that share some theme, such as zombies, or of one of Magic's various factions.
Four copies of a card. This phrase is generally used either when referring to the number of cards in a deck or the number of which a player is in possession. Cards are often bought and sold in playsets.
Players using their cards to help one another to defeat other players in Commander games. From a game design standpoint, “political” means that some decisions are based on an element of diplomacy, that players have the ability to talk to each other to influence how their opponents choose to play. If you’re playing a multiplayer game and the rules don’t dictate your priorities, it’s political. The only way for it not to be political is if you have house rules that dictate your actions (“you must always attack the opponent with the highest life total.”). If your opponents are able to suggest what you should do, it’s political.
Any Magic: The Gathering literature published before the advent of the Weatherlight Saga in 1997. Much of this information has since been invalidated by more recently published material, but anything not specifically contradicted is still considered canon.
Short for protection from something, e.g. pro-blue means protection from blue.
Slang for Primeval Titan
- See also: Prison deck.
When a spell or ability causes a creature to deal non-combat damage to a creature, player, or planeswalker based on its power. Differs from a fight in that no damage is dealt in return, and from biting in that it is not limited to damaging creatures.
A board state in which both players are attacking every turn. They are “racing” to deal 20 damage first.
Five-color. Used to describe a deck, card, or activation cost. Also names like WUBRG (for White blUe Black Red Green), or Chromatic (since cards like Chromatic Lantern or Chromatic Orrery allow for 5 color fixing) are used.
Ravnican guild representing Black/Red. Now used to describe any Black/Red card or deck.
An effect that accelerates your mana, giving you an additional, reusable mana source beyond the usual one land per turn.
A card where the mana cost is very aggressive for what its effect is.
A combo or strategy in which the goal is to reuse the same card or cards repeatedly to gain an advantage. For example, using Ghostly Flickerwith Archaeomancerand another permanent with an ETB ability to get the Ghostly Flicker back and trigger the ETB effect multiple times.
The red central area on certain official playmats where attacking and defending creatures were moved to make it easier to see which creatures were in combat. "Sending them into the red zone" is slang for attacking with creatures.
Spells that destroy or otherwise remove an opponent's permanents.
Response, Responsive strategy
Plays made in order to neutralize an opponent's threat. Responsive cards form the strategic base of any control deck.
To draw one or more cards. Usually implies that the cards are good, or were drawn exactly when needed. See Topdeck.
Cards like Dark Ritual or Rite of Flame that add a certain amount of mana as a one-shot effect. More specifically, rituals tend to refer to the instant or sorcery spells that generate a net positive of mana for the purposes of Storm combo decks. Some creatures and other spells generate some mana less than or equal to their cost but are rarely considered in the same category. Rituals originated in black but have been shifted to red.
Short for "The Rock and His Millions," a term referencing WWE wrestler The Rock, who always spoke of his millions of fans. Describes most Black/Green control decks. The original version of the deck abused the combo of Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit.
A deck that does not seem to follow the trends of a particular metagame. Using a deck or strategy that is unorthodox or non-conventional.
The act of intentionally disconnecting a digital Magic client for the purpose of wasting the opponent's time. May also refer to stalling or slow play.
Abbreviation for "Read The F***ing Card" or "Read The Full Card". Often used by judges at tournaments who have to explain something about a card to someone who would not have asked the question in the first place if they had RTFC.
- To include a card in a deck.
- To play a card, especially when you think there is a high chance it will be immediately countered or destroyed.
An ability that triggers when a creature deals combat damage to a player, e.g. Scroll Thief.
- Sacrificing a permanent. As an example, a player might remark, "I'll sac my Chromatic Sphere to my Grinding Station." A sacrifice is often done to pay a cost, so a player might also say "I sac two mountains to play Fireblast."
- Short for Lucksack (q.v.)
Short for sacrifice outlet. An ability that allows a permanent to be sacrificed. This kind of ability is useful to fizzle spells that have other useful text, like Electrolyze (preventing the caster from drawing a card), or to prevent side-effects, like the exile clause on Lava Coil (allowing the creature to go to the graveyard, where it may be used again). Sac outlets are also a key component of strategies and combos which rely on creatures dying, such as those involving Academy Rector.
To stockpile cards in one's hand rather than playing them. Sometimes done as a bluff but often for value, like holding lands to utilize landfall or retrace, or holding creatures to play around board sweepers.
A slang term used on Internet Magic forums indicating acknowledgment and occasionally frustration that a user has been beaten to the punch; specifically, the term denotes that the user has expressed an essentially identical thought as another user who has posted immediately before the user. The term "Sarnath'd" originates from MiseTings, where a user ("Sarnath") would repeatedly beat others to the punch.
To concede the game, "scooping" one's cards off the table.
A player that makes consistent, unwise choices; whether in regard to the construction of a deck or decisions made during gameplay. Usually, this is someone who is relatively inexperienced with tournament play. Scrub can also be used to describe an adept player who makes one or more significant player errors during a game or tournament. In that situation, the player in question is said to have "scrubbed out". Another characteristic of such a player is the outright refusal to improve.
An element in a standard set that is meant to synergize with an element in a future one, "seeding" synergy between the two sets. For example, Outlaws' Merriment (Throne of Eldraine) is meant to synergize with the Party mechanic in Zendikar Rising, as it makes Warrior, Cleric, and Rogue creature tokens, which are three of the four creature types needed for a "Full Party".
Ravnican guild representing Green/White. Now used to describe any Green/White card or deck.
To attack with (a creature).
- A change in the competitive system that renders a previously high-profile card or deck to become unplayable - in effect, the target is not banned in the conventional sense, but the community recognises that the change renders the target functionally banned. Can also derive from bans when the linchpin of the deck is banned but the expensive cards are not, but the banning drops the value of the expensive cards regardless. Examples are the Companion rules change (affected Obosh, the Preypiercer and Umori, the Collector), the Davriel's Withering errata (demolished the Vesperlark combo), and the banning of Felidar Guardian (devalued Saheeli Rai as a card).
- A blacklisting of a player outside of the DCI. As the DCI has no general authority on non-Magic behavior, the DCI cannot issue official actions against players that have not violated tournament rules. However, there are anecdotal incidents of players being excluded from sanctioned tournaments with no public statement. The term is controversial due to the severity of actions that tend to warrant such an action and the nebulousness of the standard of which such actions are judged.
To remove one or more copies of a card from a deck but still keep at least one copy, especially when sideboarding.
An overall deck type or archetype which houses a particular card or combo. A shell might be a particular set of cards that are central to making a deck function, while the other cards in the deck might be freely swapped in and out as one pleases. A Legacy Nic Fit Deck for Example usually has a shell of Veteran Explorer, Cabal Therapy, and Green Sun's Zenith, and is notable for being a shell that can house a variety of cards.
A dual land with two basic land types that enters the battlefield tapped unless the person playing it pays two life. Named for Shock, a spell that deals two damage, since having the land come in untapped is similar to shocking yourself.
The act of exchanging cards to and from the sideboard between games. A card added to the main deck is sided in, and a card removed from the main deck is sided out.
(noun) A clue on what colors or archetypes drafters to your right and left are drafting based on what cards are present or missing in a pack.
(verb) The send an implicit message to other drafters by taking or not taking specific cards or colors while drafting.
- A single copy of a card included in a deck or sideboard.
- A format in which only one copy of each card is permitted.
A card that, while not necessarily used all the time, is particularly good in a specific scenario or against a certain type of deck, especially if only one copy of the card is played in your deck. These cards are often found in sideboards and some decks play a wide variety of silver bullets with tutors to find the correct one for the situation.
Ravnican guild representing Green/Blue. Now used to describe any Green/Blue card or deck.
A mono-red deck archetype that usually wins by gaining tempo on the opponent by playing cheap creatures followed by red damage spells that are used to destroy possible blockers. Named after a player who popularized the archetype.
Deliberately delaying a play, either for dramatic effect or for straightforward material benefit.
- To do something with confidence that it is the right decision. A "snap-[action]" (snap-pick, snap-block, snap-mulligan, etc.) is decided upon quickly without requiring much thought.
- To recur an instant or sorcery from your graveyard using Snapcaster Mage
A combo deck featuring many blue instants and capable of winning on its opponent's turn.
To add cards of one color or strategy to a deck predominantly of another color (or colors) or strategy. E.g. "My deck is white blue splash red."
A situation where hate against a popular deck hurts the strategies of other decks, even though they hate may not have been directed at them. This is an important consideration for deck-builders. See also: Metagame
A creature whose power and toughness are the same, for instance, a Kalonian Tusker (3/3) or an Angel token (4/4). A square creature is equally strong on attack or defense, such as a Bear.
When one player is being attacked repeatedly, (i.e. by the beatdown player) they can be said to have “stabilized” when that player can no longer make profitable attacks, and the slower, or control player, is more or less in control of the game.
A Vintage artifact deck designed to lock down the opponent with cards like Smokestack, Sphere of Resistance, and Crucible of Worlds. A Deck originally created as a metagame deck to counteract Gro-A-Tog and its fragile land base. Origin of the name has multiple theories: a derivation of the phrase $T4KS, which means The Four Thousand Dollar Solution; or partially inspired by the deck's extensive use of stacking multiple triggered abilities in upkeep; or the card name plural for Smokestacks is homophonic with "stax". The name has now come to refer to the archetype of prison decks that specifically cause the continual sacrifice of permanents.
An aggressive mono-green deck consisting of outrageously cheap fatties, generally with a mana curve topping off at two, and pump spells. Several Stompy decks run only nine lands total; by comparison, a lean Sligh deck wouldn't dare run less than eighteen, and most tournament-quality decks run a minimum of twenty-four.
A card is "strictly better" than another card if it's not only better overall, but there's also no reasonable situation where the other card would be better - there's no drawback to balance out the advantages.
Clan of Tarkir representing Black/Green/Blue. Now used to describe any Black/Green/Blue card or deck.
A board wiper.
- To attack with one or more creatures.
- A dramatic change in the game such that one player who was previously losing is now winning.
- A change in the difference between life totals. e.g. Casting Lightning Helix targeting an opponent creates a "6-point life swing."
The small, positive interactions of individual cards in a deck.
If a card “tables” while you are drafting, that means you have seen it twice, i.e., you passed it once and it went all the way around the table. See also wheel.
Describes a player who has run out of mana, usually because all their mana-generating permanents have been tapped.
To tank, or go into the tank, is to think about your next play for a long time. Derived from think tank.
An effect that makes opponent's spells more expensive to cast, as if imposing a tax on them. E.g. Reidane, God of the Worthy taxes noncreature spells with CMC 4 or higher by .
The collection of all your creatures in play. As in, “I’ll send in my team.”
A previously undiscovered improvement to an existing strategy, deck, or archetype. A card or use of a card which is an improvement on deckbuilding “technology” in the current metagame. Often an individual's innovation appearing in large tournament events, serving to throw other strategies off balance by changing some part of how a deck usually works. Tech is generally researched in secret by an individual or a team prior to a large tournament in order to keep competitors from knowing what tricks will be put into a competing deck. Tech cards are frequently advantageous in specific scenarios and are thus included in response to expectations of the metagame.
To make play decisions or tap your mana in a way that leads your opponent to believe you have a given card.
How efficiently a player uses their mana. Tempo decks are usually mid-range decks that want to try and keep playing efficent answers and threats.
Clan of Tarkir representing Green/Blue/Red. Now used to describe any Green/Blue/Red card or deck.
aka fling, chuck, etc. The act of expending cards (discarding from hand or sacrificing permanents) for the output of targeted damage. Usually in the context of having a repeatable engine capable of doing this conversion. Supposedly named after Fling, as many mechanically similar cards suggest an improvised projectile using that said resource. Examples include Goblin Bombardment, Seismic Assault, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Goblin Grenade, Stormbind.
Tiers are a 'measurement' to classify a card's or a deck's power level (tier 1, tier 2, tier 3). The power level can mean that a deck becomes popular — but weaker decks can be counted as tier 1 due to popularity, while stronger decks may live in lower tiers due to difficulty.
- To take an additional turn. Originates from Time Walk, the first card which allowed a player to take an extra turn.
- To prevent an opponent from taking meaningful action on their turn, essentially giving yourself two turns in a row.
To the Air(!)
In tournament play, a single-elimination tournament whose participants are chosen from those of a previous Swiss tournament. Winners will play each other in later rounds, and losers play each other for ranking. Placing anywhere in the top 8 is widely seen as a success for the player, their deck, and their team.
- To play a card you just drew, especially at exactly the time you need it. This is also known as a "mise" or "rip". Many non-scientific "techniques" have been developed to perform a perfect topdeck, but many tournament players build their decks using "tutors", which are cards that actually move desired cards to the top of the deck. The chances of a top deck are dependent on the number of "wanted" cards left in the deck. For a burn deck to top deck something Bolt-like is not as impressive as drawing a card of which there is only one copy of in the deck and which only covers a single situation.
- To have no cards in hand so that you are topdecking (sense 1) every card you draw.
- To put a card on top of your library from somewhere else, usually your graveyard or elsewhere in your library.
- A deck based around the idea of manipulating the cards in your hand and library to have certain cards at the top, such as Miracle cards.
Topdecking (sense 2): where a player has no cards in hand and relies solely on the cards they draw each turn to be able to play effectively. It is a situation players try to avoid as it means the player relies entirely on the luck of the draw. See also Draw-Go.
An approach to design that builds a card, set or block around a flavorful concept, molding mechanics to fit that concept. For example, Theros block is a top-down design based on Greek mythology, and many of its cards are top-down designed with specific myths in mind. The opposite is bottom-up design, where the mechanics come first and the flavor comes later. All sets based on a real-world mythological setting are designed with a top-down approach.
...to the head/dome/face
'X to the head/face/dome' is a term used to announce damage dealt directly to a player instead of a creature. E.g. 'Deal 3 to the head' or 'Fireball for 6 to the dome'.
Trade-bait is cards that a player trades for not because they want the card for a deck or their collection, but because they might be able to trade it later on to someone else for cards that they are after.
Both definitions have the same connotation of getting more out of an exchange.
- (outside the game) When a person trades card(s) that are worth a lower value for cards that are worth more. This generally refers to the value of the individual cards, not the total value of all cards traded—for example, trading fifteen $1 cards for one $10 card is still considered "trading up."
- (within the game) Getting an exchange that is equivalent on the card advantage front, but other factors make it clear one side is advantaged, through mana spent (e.g. Flame-Blessed Bolt on Belligerent Guest), inherent card power (e.g. Grisly Ritual on Olivia's Attendants), or using a temporary or irrelevant resource (Daybreak Combatants trading with Hookhand Mariner). An important concept in regards to leveraging combat tricks.
A large group of creatures which share a creature type and work well together in a deck. Such a deck is called a tribal deck. An example of a competitive tribe is Goblins, which work together in order to win with astounding numbers and force. Rebels previously had a similar strategy, allowing the Rebel player to win with sheer numbers and utility of creatures. Many other competitive tribe-based decks also exist.
Trick, Combat trick
A spell or ability used by a player to alter the outcome of a combat. Common ways in which this is achieved include increasing or decreasing a creatures' power and/or toughness and by granting or removing abilities from a creature. Some instants remove the creature entirely from combat or play, and typically only count as a trick if the target is restrained to creatures in combat. Giant Growth is a classic green combat trick.
To put a card on the bottom of its owner's library, or shuffle it into its owner's library. For example, Condemn tucks an attacking creature.
When a deck is able to activate it's game plan. Usually this means it's combo can be activated, it's Engine is available, or it's combo is ready. For example, a Tron deck is considered to have "Turned On" when all of it's Urza's lands are in play, as it can then cast it's large spells for cheap.
A spell that allows a player to search their library for another card. Many such cards have "Tutor" in their name, a pattern established by Demonic Tutor and the four tutors from Mirage block (Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Worldly Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor) and continued throughout the years with cards like Diabolic Tutor. Can be used as a verb, as in "I'll tutor up my combo piece." See also silver bullet.
Acronym for "Ultimate Big Endgame Ramp." A drafting strategy that aims to accelerate its mana development (e.g. with card draw, non-land mana sources, etc.) and survive the early game with defensive creatures and removal spells, in order to win with an expensive late-game threat.
A planeswalker's ability that provides the biggest effect at the cost of removing most loyalty counters. For example, the ultimate effect of Garruk, Primal Hunter has Garruk's controller put a 6/6 green Wurm creature token onto the battlefield for each land they control.
Joke sets produced by Wizards of the Coast. So far there have been four Un-sets, namely Unglued, Unhinged, Unstable and Unsanctioned. Cards from these sets have silver borders (for example, Ass Whuppin' affects only silver-bordered permanents, meaning cards from Un-sets) and are not legal in any tournament, except for basic lands (which have black borders instead, or no borders in the case of Unstable).
A land that has an effect other than mana generation, such as Rogue's Passage.
Any sort of advantage or extra damage or effect that a player can get. Often, it is card advantage but for example, also playing a card with kicker without paying a kicker cost gets less “value” than waiting until you can cast it kicked.
How differently a gameplay element plays out from one play experience to the next. Circumstances or factors that are not entirely under a player's control, such as what decks they get paired against, which cards they draw and how often they win the opportunity to play first in a match. Players often talk about reducing variance by making plays whose outcome they can predict more accurately.
A deck archetype with the goal of casting one creature, then using other cards such as Auras and Equipment to enhance that creature and making it a true threat to the opponent. The archetype's name derives from the Japanese animated series Voltron which features several small robots that combine into one large robot.
To play or cast a lot of cards.
"Once I cast Eureka, I'll just vomit out a bunch of stuff."
Short for planeswalker.
Sets of three colors (a color and its two enemies) that form a wedge shape, or an acute triangle. The five clans of the Khans of Tarkir set, each associated with a wedge, gave them names: Abzan (//), Jeskai (//), Sultai (//), Mardu (//), and Temur (//).
A small creature, with low power and toughness. Any archetype or deck which uses Weenies as the victory condition is also referred to as a Weenie Deck, most commonly in white, hence "White Weenie". Usually abbreviated to lowercase 'w' to distinguish it from the color W and preceding it by the color of the deck; White Weenie becomes Ww, and Black-White Weenies becomes BWw.
A player who is willing to spend large amounts of money on collectible products. Usually a whale constantly buys high value sealed product, such as Secret Lair drops, From the Vault cards, and Collector Boosters.
- Of a card in booster draft, to make a complete lap around the table without being drafted.
- ("wheel everyone") To force all players to discard their hand and then draw cards, as with Wheel of Fortune.
- Effects like Wheel of Fortune and Windfall, usually designed to make one or more players discard their hand and draw a new set of cards.
When using an effect that causes a player to look at a number of cards from the top of their deck, pick some of them and get rid of the rest, a situation when there turn out to be no legal choices for picking.
The method that a deck uses to win; for example, a rapid stream of cheap creatures for aggro, a specific creature (e.g. a Voltron) and support, milling the opponent's library, or an alternative win condition card such as Azor's Elocutors. The power of individual cards would then determine the strength of the deck's win condition, while disreputability and stability determine its consistency. Often shortened to "win-con".
A booster draft pick that is especially easy to make because of how powerful and exciting the card is. Can be a noun or a verb. Comes from the "windmill" action of taking a card from the pack, raising one's arm high, and slamming it down on the table in excitement. Often shortened to "Slam". See also: bomb, snap-pick.
WotC or Wizards
Short for Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic, sometimes humorously pronounced as "Wot-see".
A spell or effect which destroys or removes all creatures in play – named for the original card, Wrath of God.
The five colors of Magic: White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. Pronounced "woo-berg."
A spell with X in its casting cost
Short for graveyard.
Changes in the game have rendered some slang terms obsolete, while others have simply fallen out of use over time.
A creature with a "comes into play" ability which damages or destroys another permanent, like Flametongue Kavu or Nekrataal. The term "187" comes from the California penal code for a murder  (Flametongue Kavu and Nekrataal, both tournament staples in their time, killed a lot of creatures.).
A set of three colors that forms an arc, or an obtuse triangle (a color and its two allies). These tricolor combinations are now known as Shards.
A player who follows around much better, more famous players, hoping to benefit from their experience and success (short for "barnacle'). Usually negative. Its history comes from its association with the term "Hull". This, however, is the more popular of the two words.
The Basilisk-ability refers to variations on deathtouch, especially mechanics which have a similar effect but work differently. First seen on the Alpha set's Cockatrice and Thicket Basilisk, it also includes variations like Sylvan Basilisk and Cruel Deceiver.
The introduction of Deathtouch as a keyword has rendered this term obsolete.
COP, CoP or Cop
Circle of Protection, one of a series of enchantments with an activated ability that prevents damage from particular sources (usually of a given color, such as Circle of Protection: Red, but also Circle of Protection: Artifacts). Also used as a verb: "cop your Bog Wraith" would mean prevent the damage from your Bog Wraith by using my Circle of Protection: Black. Pronounced either "cop" or "cee oh pee".
The last printing of a Circle of Protection was in 2005, so this term is rarely seen today.
"End of turn, Fact or Fiction, you lose." Fact or Fiction has such versatility and ability that it can win the game solely by forcing your opponent to give you at least one card that you need from the top five cards in your library. Michelle Bush coined this phrase after playing the card at its debut tournament.
An enchantment that does not attach to something but rather affects the entire game, i.e. that is not an Aura. Since the introduction of the Aura subtype in Ninth Edition, they are referred to simply as "non-Aura enchantments".
Refers to a class of decks featuring Quirion Dryad. The original gro deck was Miracle Grow, first piloted successfully by Alan Comer, earning 9th place in the 2001 Grand Prix Vegas, though others followed (such as Super Gro).
A player who attracts many players, often less skilled. Associated with the word "Barn": The Barns (barnacles) are constantly following the Hull around in order to leech off of them or simply to attain another level of play or social status.
An explosive combo deck in the Vintage format that abused Burning Wish to fetch Yawgmoth's Will, eventually building up a high enough Storm count to win with Tendrils of Agony. Long.dec boasted the impressive ability to win more than half the time on the first turn, prompting the restriction of Burning Wish and Lion's Eye Diamond in Vintage in 2003. Later versions of the deck included "Grim Long" and "Death Long", featuring Grim Tutor and Death Wish as ways to replace the restricted Burning Wish.
An obsolete game concept in which a player lost a certain amount of life equal to the amount of unused mana in their mana pool at the end of a phase. Common slang for this term was "burn", for example, someone might say they "burned for 3" when they lost 3 life due to Mana Burn. Some decks forced opponents to generate mana to kill them with mana burn. Now defunct in tournament Magic, as the rules for mana burn were removed with the release of Magic 2010.
Prosperous Bloom, ProsBloom
Ravager Affinity, the deck using cards with affinity for artifacts and an Arcbound Ravager - Disciple of the Vault combo that dominated Mirrodin block and standard. Raffinity is despised by most players (who did not play the deck) for its simple yet dominating and flexible gameplay. Raffinity is designed to take out one player as fast as possible, and it caused a huge series of bans in Standard and Mirrodin block.
Hexproof. Before it was keyworded in M12, it was written explicitly on cards as "[Object] can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents' control", and known as super shroud because it's better than shroud. Also (formerly) known as trollshroud (q.v.).
Hexproof. Before it was keyworded in M12, it was written explicitly on cards as "[Object] can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control", and known as trollshroud due to its use on Troll Ascetic. Also (formerly) known as super shroud (q.v.).
Card nicknames and abbreviations
The Magic community has given many nicknames to cards, and a number of those nicknames have passed into the mainstream and become part of MTG terminology.
- Five Moxes and a Black Lotus. Once considered by many players to be essential for a winning Vintage tournament deck.
- Tolarian Academy, one of the key components of decks during Combo Winter.
- "Best Fatty Ever Printed" is a nickname for Verdant Force, coined by Jamie Wakefield.
- the collection of cards in the Affinity deck.
- Rashka the Slayer, originally designed to block and kill the Sengir Vampire, provided it hadn't increased in power. The nickname is derived from the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the T.V. show first aired after Homelands was released.
- Diamond Mare. A reference to the Borderlands video game series, in which the main antagonist Handsome Jack has a pony made out of diamonds whose name is Butt Stallion.
- Giant Solifuge. The origin of this nickname is unclear, but its usage was popularized by Evan Erwin of Star City Games in his web show "The Magic Show."
- Leonin Arbiter. Named due to its incredible importance in modern Death and Taxes to turn Ghost Quarter into a Strip Mine and Path to Exile into the best removal spell ever made.
- Chimney Imp, an incredibly underpowered card from Mirrodin. Often written in a variant of leet speak (such as 7he p1mp, t3h p!mp, etc). In a similar manner as Throat Wolf, it became a common joke in the official Magic forums that the Pimp was an extremely broken card because "it untaps for free", which in fact is a trait shared by almost all permanents.
- Crude nickname for Deep Analysis.
- Psychatog. Sometimes this card is announced as "The doctor's in."
- Diabolic Edict, Chainer's Edict, Cruel Edict, and other cards that force a player to sacrifice a creature.
- Shadowmage Infiltrator, the card made by Invitational winner Jon Finkel in the Odyssey set. Occasionally called "Infilmage Finkletrator" as an affectionate play on the name.
- Sleeper's Robe, because it grants the Shadowmage Infiltrator's abilities onto any other creature, even though the Robe was printed earlier than the Infiltrator itself.
- Mask of Riddles from Alara Reborn, because, being Equipment, creatures can slip in and out of the suit, becoming Finkel whenever the player has the mana and inclination.
- Hypnotic Specter, one of the most beloved cards in Magic. Sometimes also alliterated as "Hippy Spook".
I am Superman
- Pemmin's Aura. The designer who named the card decided to make a tribute to Morphling, which was known as "Superman". Since it was an enchantment that gave the enchanted creature the same abilities that Superman possessed, he made the name Pemmin's Aura, an anagram for the phrase "I am Superman". When asked "Who's Pemmin?" he simply responded "The guy who made the aura", as there was no background for said character, although it did end up in the flavor text of another card in Scourge: Stifle.
- Jens Thoren's Solemn Simulacrum, the card he created when he won the 2002 Magic Invitational Tournament. Also known as Robo-Jens or Sad Robot due to the pensive facial expression in the artist's portrait of Thoren.
- Plaguecrafter. Plaguecrafter's flavor text could easily be interpreted as something Jigsaw, the recurring villain from the Saw horror movie franchise would say.
Larry Niven's Disk
- Nevinyrral's Disk. "Nevinyrral" is Larry Niven spelled backward. The disk is evocative of a magical device in his short story series "The Magic Goes Away".
- Falkenrath Aristocrat, due to the card's similarities to Giant Solifuge (both 4/1, both have haste, both are difficult to deal with via spells, both have an evasion ability).
- Plural short form for Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, and Mox Emerald. Can also refer to Mox Diamond or Chrome Mox.
- Gorilla Shaman, with the ability to destroy low-costed artifacts quite inexpensively, is called the "Mox Monkey" because he can destroy (or often "eat") the oft-used Moxes for a minimal cost, netting a great card advantage.
- Necropotence. Also a verb, for example "I necro for three" means "I pay 3 life to take 3 cards".
- Oath of Druids, or a deck featuring the card.
Ophie the One-Eyed Snake
- Ophidian, a card that powered many blue control decks to victory with its card-drawing mechanic which could be used every turn. Its art depicts a one-eyed snake, giving him the nickname among control players and their opponents.
Order of Light Beer
- One with Nothing, a card from Saviors of Kamigawa previously perceived to have no practical purpose, though the results of Pro Tour Honolulu has had some players suggesting it as an answer to the "Owling Mine" deck that had gained prominence during the tournament. It is sometimes, ironically, used as a pun for the term owned.
- Magus of the Wheel. The card shares an effect similar to Wheel of Fortune. Named after the host of the American version of the Wheel of Fortune game show.
- Path to Exile, a powerful removal spell similar to Swords to Plowshares and shortened in a similar way.
- Often used to refer to the card Masticore due to its similarity to the word "masturbate', and the phallus-like structure coming out of its mouth.
- Three legendary angels from Avacyn Restored, named after the cartoon characters Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup who are three superhero girls who can fly and are dressed in red, blue, and green. — Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Bruna, Light of Alabaster and Sigarda, Host of Herons.
- Four functionally equivalent white and black knights from Ice Age and Fallen Empires — Order of Leitbur, Order of the White Shield, Order of the Ebon Hand, and Knight of Stromgald. The name refers to their +1/+0 pumping ability.
- A deck featuring Academy Rector and Tendrils of Agony. The deck uses Rector to fetch a Yawgmoth's Bargain. The Bargain draws many cards, allowing the player to play many spells and Tendrils as a finisher.
- Dark Ritual. Alternatively shortened to "Dark Rit" or even further to just "Rit."
- Sakura-Tribe Elder, which is usually sacrificed (see "sac") for mana acceleration (see "accel"). Other nicknames include Saccy Tribe Elder, Tribe-Elder, Snake Jesus, Steve (S.T.E.-ve), Saccy Chan and sometimes just 'Elder.
- Scavenging Ooze, Often accompanied by the phrase, “You lose to Scooze.”
- Uktabi Orangutan. Its art depicts monkeys in a position that resembles the sexual act in its background, hence the appellation. The background was noticed during the reign of the "Artifact" block, where it became wildly popular because of its ability to destroy an opponent's artifacts. The flavor text of the card also reinforces this interpretation, as it refers to monkeys in gold coats marrying. In Unhinged, there was a parody of the card, called Uktabi Kong, with a larger version of the original Orangutan in the foreground, and an expectant pair of monkeys in the background, playing on the original art and its implications. The effects of that card are relevant to the act, too, allowing you to tap two Apes to generate another one.
Thieving Amalgam, named 'Snape' due to its creature types.
- Isochron Scepter, a powerful card in the Mirrodin set which allows a player to imprint an instant on the Scepter and activate the Scepter to cast a copy of that card. The name is derived from the card's art, which shows a humanoid woman holding the scepter (which obviously looks like a stick).
Card on a stick
- An Isochron Scepter in play with a particular card imprinted on it.
- 1. Counterspell, when imprinted on the Stick, since it lets the player say "no" to an opponent's spell once per turn.
- 2. A popular deck which imprinted Orim's Chant on Stick, preventing the opponent from playing anything except instants and cards with Flash.
- X on a stick
- A creature with some useful ability. For example, Temporal Adept is a "boomerang on a stick", because his ability resembles the card Boomerang, while being a creature.
- Sakura-Tribe Elder. See also Sac Elder.
- Morphling, a very powerful creature that received the name because it could fly and was practically invulnerable. The nickname has also been acknowledged by WOTC in Pemmin's Aura, an aura that grants Morphling's abilities to the enchanted creature and which name is an anagram of "I am Superman".
- Swords to Plowshares, the best creature-removal spell ever printed. Creatures targeted by a Swords to Plowshares are said to be "Plowed". Sometimes abbreviated STP.
- The classic nickname for the card Prodigal Sorcerer, named after the enchanter from Monty Python's Holy Grail. Rod of Ruin was sometimes referred to as "Tim on a stick", while Pirate Ship was of course "Tim on a ship" 
- Psychatog, once the most powerful creature in Magic, allowing for you to easily attack for the win in a single attack when playing a control deck.
- The card trio Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Tower all in play, which combine to provide (seven colorless mana) with three lands. Often shortened to Tron.
- Short for Time Walk.
- Wrath of God, long a staple card due to its ability to destroy many creatures using only one card.
YawgWin, Yawgmoth's Win
- Yawgmoth's Will, which allows all previously played cards to be played a second time, netting an enormous advantage, and usually wins the game for its caster immediately.
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- Mark Rosewater (May 20, 2013). "Gates Foundation". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mike Flores (February 07, 2008). "Top 10 Extended Decks of All Time". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Randy Buehler (December 19, 2003). "Classic Developments". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana (April 30, 2002). "Sketches: Erhnam Djinn". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (January 18, 2016). "I would love some trivia about my favorite card Gray Merchant of Asphodel.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Mark Gottlieb (June 12, 2003). "Grand Designs". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (April 23, 2012). "Avacyn-gle Ladies, Part 1". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.