An Introduction to Magic for Pokémon
By: Christine Amaral
with concepts explained by Spike
I recently was rummaging through some older email files of mine and ran
across something interesting. When I began playing Magic: The
Gathering (about the time that Invasion was released), a great friend of
mine helped my transition into the game by explaining the most basic
concepts to me. He sometimes related them to Pokémon, another TCG we
played together which was also the vehicle for our meeting in the first
place. I feel his explanations could be a wonderful tool to transition
other Pokémon players into the amazing world of Magic. Let me share with
you the wisdom he imparted to me.
Each card type will be covered here and different basic concepts and
points about each type discussed:
- They're basically like energy cards.
- There are basic lands (unlimited) and nonbasic lands
(limit 4 to a deck).
- You tap lands to add mana to your mana pool, then spend
it on stuff.
- Creatures are permanents, meaning once you cast them, they stay
in play until something happens to change that.
- Creatures have a power and a toughness, given in the
format P/T so a 6/4 has a power of 6 and a toughness of 4.
- Power is the amount of damage that creature deals in combat.
- Toughness is the amount of damage it can take before dying.
- A creature dies if it takes damage greater than or equal to its
toughness, or if its toughness is reduced to 0 or less by a spell
or an ability.
- All damage is removed from creatures at the end of each turn, so if
you want to kill a creature, you've got to deal all necessary damage in
- Artifacts are another class of permanent. Generally they either
have static abilities (always on) or activated abilities (that you pay
an activation cost to activate.)
- Artifacts are colorless.
- Artifact creatures are colorless creatures that count as both
creatures and artifacts.
- You can use an anti-artifact spell against an artifact creature.
- The last class of permanents is enchantments.
- Enchantments are colored permanents that have some sort of ability,
either static or activated.
- Think of abilities as being like Pokemon Powers: Some are on all the
time, some you have to announce when you're using and pay a cost (like
discarding a card for Dark Kadabra.)
- Sorceries are spells that are cast, have an effect, and then are
discarded (they don't stay in play)
- You can only cast sorceries on your turn, only during your main
and only when the stack is empty. (The stack is a concept I'll get to in
- Instants are like sorceries, except you can cast them at just about
any time: during your opponent's turn, during combat, even in response
to another spell.
- When a player plays any sort of spell (creature, enchantment,
artifact, sorcery, or instant) or plays an ability, another
player can respond to that effect by casting an instant
playing an ability of his own...
- Then the first player in turn gets to respond to that instant.
You can only do this with instants, mind you.
- When this happens, the chain of spells is called the "stack"...
as each spell is cast, it's put on "top" of the stack, above
- When all players are done responding, the stack starts to resolve,
starting with the spell or ability on top.
- At any time, a player can interrupt the stack to cast another instant.
But it usually doesn't get quite that complicated.
For an example of how this could be useful..
- A player has a 2/2 creature and he casts a Giant Growth on
- Giant Growth is an instant that gives a creature +3/+3
until end of turn, so the 2/2 would become 5/5.
- In response to that, his opponent casts Shock, an instant that
does 2 damage to a creature or player.
- the Shock resolves first, dealing 2 damage.
- The creature still has 2 toughness (the Growth hasn't resolved
yet) so it dies.
- Then the Growth fizzles and goes to the graveyard because
it no longer has a legal target.
- By responding to the Growth with an instant, the Shock player was
able to kill the creature before it got the toughness boost, otherwise
he would have had to deal 5 damage to kill it.
Concept of Attack and Defense
Basic Creature Abilities
- You attack your opponent with creatures and he can block them with
creatures of his own.
- So then the creatures deal their combat damage to each other, and one
or both of them may die.
- Keep in mind that multiple blockers can block a single attacking
creature (usually to make sure you kill it) but a single blocker usually
can't block more than one attacker, unless it says so on the card.
- Also, unless some effect mandates otherwise, the defending player is
the one who assigns blockers to attackers... by that I mean he chooses
which defending creatures block which attacking creatures..
- You never HAVE to block; you can let all the damage through if you
want to. But any damage that is not blocked gets through and hurts
your life total, sending it closer to 0.
- Flying means that that creature can't be blocked by creatures that
don't themselves have flying or an ability to block flyers.
- Normally, when a creature attacks and is blocked, all of the
attacking creature's damage is dealt to the blocking creature. None
carries over to the defending player.
- So if a 1/1 blocked a 6/6, the 1/1 would take all 6 damage and die.
- If a creature has trample, then when it attacks and is blocked, it
only deals damage to the blocker(s) sufficient to kill them. The rest
of the damage "tramples" over to the defending player.
- Creatures with first strike, when blocked, get to deal their
damage to the other creature first.
- If the other creature(s) are killed right off, then they never
deal their damage.
- So a 3/1 with first strike could be blocked by a 4/3 without first
strike... the 3/1's first strike would kill the 4/3 before it ever
has a chance to deal damage, so the 4/3 dies and the 3/1 lives.
- If a creature with first strike blocks another creature with first
strike, they also deal their damage simultaneously, so the first
strike is essentially ignored.
- First strike works for the attacker or the blocker. Trample, however, only works when the trampling creature is
Playing the Game
- Each player starts with 20 life and a 7 card hand.
- The player who wins the coin flip/die roll can choose whether they
want to "play first" or "draw first"... if they
choose to draw first, their opponent plays first.
- The player who plays first doesn't get to draw a card their first turn.
- Finally, there are only 2 ways to lose (although there are specific
cards that introduce additional win/loss conditions)
- 1) being at 0 or less life.
- or 2) being unable to draw a card.
- Unlike Pokémon, if you have to draw a card for ANY reason and you
can't, you lose (not just at the beginning of your turn).
And there you have it, in a nutshell. Hopefully this will give you a
basic grasp of what's what. The best way to get started is to have a
friend teach you the game, or call some local card shops and find one that
is holding tournaments. Go hang out and see what's up. Consider
buying a "Portal" starter deck, with instructions included and
have some fun with that. And you may want to print this out as a reference