The Magic game has five colors of spells and five types of basic lands. For example, red spells have in their costs, and tapping (turning) a Mountain gives you that you can spend to play spells. Each color specializes in certain kinds of effects. It's up to you whether to master one color or all five.
A sorcery represents a magical incantation. You can cast a sorcery only during a main phase of one of your own turns. You can’t cast it when another spell is on the stack. (You’ll learn about phases and the stack in a bit.) A sorcery has its effect—in other words, you follow the instructions on the card—then you put it into your graveyard, which is the game term for your discard pile.
An instant is just like a sorcery, except you can cast it just about any time you want, even during your opponent’s turn or in response to another spell. Like a sorcery, an instant has its effect, then you put it into your graveyard.
An enchantment represents a stable magical manifestation. An enchantment is a permanent. This means two things: You can cast one only at the time you could cast a sorcery, and after you cast one, you’ll put it on the table in front of you, near your lands. (Most players keep their lands closer to them, then put their other cards closer to the middle of the table.) The card is now on the battlefield. Any of your cards on the battlefield is called a permanent because it sticks around permanently (well, unless something destroys it).
Some enchantments are Auras. An Aura enters the battlefield attached to a permanent and affects that permanent while it’s on the battlefield. If the enchanted permanent leaves the battlefield, the Aura is put into its owner’s graveyard.
An artifact represents a magical relic. Like an enchantment, an artifact is a permanent, so it’ll stay on the battlefield affecting the game. Most artifacts are colorless, so you can cast one no matter what kinds of lands you have.
Some artifacts are Equipment. You can pay to attach an Equipment to a creature you control to make that creature more powerful. If an equipped creature leaves the battlefield, the Equipment doesn’t—the creature drops it and it remains on the battlefield.
Creatures fight for you. They’re permanents, but unlike any other kind of permanent, creatures can attack and block. Each creature has power and toughness. Its power (the first number) is how much damage it deals in combat. Its toughness (the second number) is how much damage must be dealt to it in a single turn to destroy it. Creatures attack and block during the combat phase.
Unlike other types of permanents, creatures enter the battlefield with “summoning sickness”: a creature can’t attack, or use an ability that has in its cost, until it has started your turn on the battlefield under your control. You can block with a creature or activate its other abilities no matter how long it’s been on the battlefield.
Artifact creatures are both artifacts and creatures. They’re usually colorless like other artifacts, and they can attack and block like other creatures. An artifact creature can be affected by anything that affects artifacts, as well as anything that affects creatures.
Although lands are permanents, they aren’t cast as spells. To play a land, just put it onto the battlefield. This happens immediately, so no player can do anything else in response. You can play a land only during one of your main phases while the stack is empty. You can’t play more than one land a turn. Most lands have abilities that make mana. You’ll use lands to make the mana you need to pay for spells and abilities.
Each basic land has a mana ability that makes one mana of a particular color. Plains make white mana , Islands make blue mana , Swamps make black mana , Mountains make red mana , and Forests make green mana . Any land other than these five is a nonbasic land.
Planeswalkers are powerful allies you can call on to fight by your side. They’re permanents, and each one enters the battlefield with the number of loyalty counters indicated in its lower right corner. Each planeswalker has abilities that add or remove loyalty counters to activate. For example, the symbol
means “Put one loyalty counter on this planeswalker,” and the symbol
means “Remove two loyalty counters from this planeswalker.” You can activate one of these abilities only at the time you could cast a sorcery, and only if none of that planeswalker’s abilities have been activated yet that turn.
Your planeswalkers can be attacked by your opponent’s creatures (if so, you can block as normal), and your opponent can damage them with their spells and abilities instead of damaging you. Any damage dealt to a planeswalker causes it to lose that many loyalty counters. If it has no loyalty counters, it’s put into your graveyard.
Planeswalkers are rich and complex, and this just scratches the surface. For more details, see the Planeswalker Rules section.
When the game begins, your deck of cards becomes your library (your draw pile). It's kept face down, and the cards stay in the order they were in at the beginning of the game. No one can look at the cards in your library, but you know how many cards are in each player's library. Each player has his or her own library.
When you draw cards, they go to your hand, just as in most other card games. No one except you can look at the cards in your hand. Each player has his or her own hand.
You start the game with nothing on the battlefield, but this is where the action is going to be. On each of your turns, you can play a land from your hand. Creatures, artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers also enter the battlefield after they resolve. You can arrange your permanents however you want (we recommend putting lands closest to you), but your opponent must be able to see all of them and tell whether they’re tapped. This zone is shared by both players.
Your graveyard is your discard pile. Your instant and sorcery spells go to your graveyard when they resolve. Your cards go to your graveyard when they're discarded, destroyed, sacrificed, countered, or put there by an effect. In addition, your planeswalkers go to your graveyard if their loyalty is reduced to 0, and your creatures go to your graveyard if the damage they're dealt in a single turn is equal to or greater than their toughness, or if their toughness is reduced to 0 or less. Cards in your graveyard are always face up and anyone can look at them at any time. Each player has his or her own graveyard.
Spells and abilities exist on the stack. They wait there to resolve until both players choose not to play any new spells or abilities. Then the last spell or ability that was put onto the stack resolves, and players get a chance to play spells and abilities again. This zone is shared by both players.
If a spell or ability exiles a card, that card is put in a game area that’s set apart from the rest of the game. The card will remain there forever, unless whatever put it there is able to bring it back. Exiled cards are normally face up. This zone is shared by both players.
For more information, check out the Magic Rulebook.