Magic: The Gathering Slang for Beginners

As someone who has both learned and taught people how to play Magic: The Gathering, I can tell you that learning this game is hard. Even after learning the rules, there’s a wealth of Magic knowledge and sub-culture that new players have yet to absorb – complete with a set of game-specific slang.

To help Magic newbies understand at least some of this slang, I’ve listed some of the more popular Magic terms of the moment. I tried keeping this list to twenty or less terms, but ended up wanting to write about twenty-two. If you have no idea what a lord is, or what people mean when they tell you your deck is medium, you’re in the right place. And if you’re ready for a more comprehensive guide (beware – they might be overwhelming), you can check out some of the resources I used to assemble this list.

Bear (N.)

Any two mana creature that has two power and two toughness, often green. Taken from Grizzly Bears.

“I’ll block your Sun Titan with my bear.”

Bolt, Shock, or Burn (V.)

Dealing damage to a creature, player, or planeswalker via a red instant or sorcery. Bolt is taken from Lightning Bolt (and usually refers to dealing three damage); shock is taken from Shock (and usually refers to dealing two damage).

“I’m going to bolt your Llanowar Elves.”

Bounce (V.)

Returning a card to an opponent’s (or your own) hand (via a spell or ability).

“I’m going to use Unsummon to bounce your creature.”

Brew (N. or V.)

As a noun, a unique or novel deck, usually designed by the player playing it.

As a verb, the act of building a unique or novel deck.

“What’s that brew Travis brought tonight? I’ve never seen a deck like that.”

“I think Donna’s going to brew up something new next week. She’s bored with her current deck.”

Broken (or Busted) (Adj.)

A deck or card that is considered way too good. Broken cards or decks win games easily and are hard to beat, no matter how you build your own deck.

“That Underworld Breach deck is so broken. I have no idea how to beat it.”

“Oko was super-busted. How did Wizards of the Coast let that card out the door?”

Chump Block (V.)

To block an opponent’s creature with a weaker one that will die in combat. Usually, you chump block to prevent yourself from taking a significant (or lethal) amount of damage.

“You’re attacking with Charging Monstrosaur? I have to chump block with my Merfolk Mistbinder so I don’t die.”

Curve (or Mana Curve) (N.)

The overall make-up of your deck’s creatures and spells. Specifically, curve refers to the spread of low mana cost and high mana cost cards you’ve added to your deck.

Most decks consist of many low cost (one to three mana) cards, some medium cost (four to five mana) cards, and just a few (if any) high cost (six+ mana) cards. A “good curve” allows you to use all your mana on most of your turns.

“See, there’s your problem. You don’t have any low cost cards in your deck, so opponents just run you over early. You need to add some cheap creatures and spells to fill out your curve, and survive to the late game.”

Dece (Adj.)

Short for decent. A card or deck is dece when it is good, but not too good.

Magic players often extend this adjective to talk about concepts both inside and outside the game.

Jesús has won most of his matches tonight. His deck looks dece.

“You see the Oscars last night? The no host concept still seems pretty dece.”

Lord (N.)

A creature that benefits other creatures of the same type in some way (usually by granting additional power and toughness). Taken from Lord of Atlantis.

“I’ll play my lord and give all my knights +1/+1.”

Mana Dork (N.)

Any creature that taps to produce mana (usually, however, these creatures cost just one or two mana to play – their low stats are part of what makes them “dorky”). Llanowar Elves, Sylvan Caryatid, and Gilded Goose are all mana dorks.

A variant of this is “bird,” taken from Birds of Paradise – one of the first mana dorks.

“I’ll tap my lands and my mana dorks to summon Avenger of Zendikar.”

Mana Screwed/Mana Flooded (V.)

Mana screwed means not drawing enough lands to play your spells, while mana flooded means drawing too many lands (and not enough spells). Magic is a fickle mistress – new players and veterans alike lose games to screw and flood.

“I got mana screwed that game and couldn’t play anything after turn two. Jess got so lucky.”

“You’re only winning because I got flooded, Josh. Just wait until next game.”

Medium (Adj.)

A card or deck that is neither good nor bad, but serviceable. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to play a medium card in your deck (or play a medium deck in a tournament), but you wouldn’t be happy about it either.

Magic players often extend this adjective to talk about concepts both inside and outside the game.

“I dunno, I think the Jeskai Ascendancy deck is pretty medium. But I guess I’ll try it out.”

“Domino’s has to be the most medium pizza in the world.”

Mill (V. or Adj.)

As a verb, mill means to move cards from the top of your deck into your graveyard (usually because a spell or ability told you to do so).

As an adjective, mill describes decks that seek to win by “milling the opponent out” – causing them to lose by being unable to draw cards from their (thoroughly emptied) library.

“I’ll use Jace, Wielder of Mysteries to mill myself two and draw a card.”

“Oh no, Patrick brought his Phenax mill deck again. Mike’s gonna get upset about getting milled out.”

Mulligan (V.)

To draw a new starting hand because you were dissatisfied with your first one.

Mulligan rules have changed throughout Magic‘s history. At the time of this writing, players return their hand to their library, shuffle, then draw a new hand of seven cards. Players can repeat this process any number of times, but after they’re finished, they have to put a number of cards equal to the number of times they’ve mulliganed on the bottom of their deck. (After one mulligan, a player starts the game with a six card hand. After two, they start with a five card hand.)

After both players are satisfied with their opening hands (i.e. have finished mulliganing, if necessary), the game starts.

“No lands?! I’m going to mulligan to six.”

“This hand’s even worse! I’ll mull to five.”

Netdeck (V. or N.)

As a verb, to build and play a deck that you found online. Some players frown upon netdecking, because they believe everyone should play decks they thought up themselves. But let’s be real – it’s 2020. To expect that players won’t utilize the internet when building decks is silly.

If you’re into Magic, you’re likely going to build a netdeck (hey, look, we used the term as a noun – told you we could) eventually. Netdecking is a great way to examine strategies and decks you might not have thought of yourself. Additionally, dissecting netdecks can help you improve your own deckbuilding skills.

“I love to netdeck. I don’t have time to keep up with what’s good, and I like to win.”

“Yeah, it’s a netdeck, but I swapped a few cards around. I thought I could improve it.”

Removal (or Answer) (N.)

A card that can destroy, exile, or otherwise get rid of an opponent’s key threat (usually a particularly bothersome creature or planeswalker).

“If I can just draw some removal for your Tarmogoyf, I think I’ll be in good shape. I can block the rest of your creatures pretty easily.”

“I have just one answer to that Thassa, because it’s indestructible. I hope I draw it …”

Sac (V.)

Short for sacrifice. Players sac creatures, enchantments, lands, artifacts, or planeswalkers from the battlefield when cards or abilities tell them to do so. Those cards then (usually) go to the graveyard.

“Okay, I sac a creature to Woe Strider to scry 1.”

Scoop (V.)

To concede a game (usually when you know you can’t win).

“I scoop. Let’s move on to game two.”

Splash (V.)

To add up to a few cards of an additional color to your deck (as well as ways to cast them). For example, if your deck contains mostly blue and green cards, but you add one copy of Ral, Izzet Viceroy and some Mountains, you are “splashing red.”

“I drafted Pack Rat, so I have to splash black. The card is just too good to not play.”

Trick (or Combat Trick) (N.)

A spell that boosts a creature’s power and/or toughness, usually mid-combat. Giant Growth is Magic‘s most iconic combat trick.

“Dang it, I knew you had a trick to make your blocker bigger than my attacker! Why did I attack?!”

[Number]-Turn Clock (N.)

The number of turns remaining until your opponent kills you, or you kill your opponent (provided nothing changes on the battlefield).

“I’ve got you on a two-turn clock, and playing this Master of the Pearl Trident won’t speed things up any. So I’ll keep it in my hand, just in case.”

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