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Magic: The Gathering terms explained: glossary of MTG slang, jargon and lingo

Talk the talk before you planeswalk the walk.

It’s fair to say that Magic: The Gathering has a lot of jargon. It can make things hard to pick up initially because, by the time you’ve been playing for a couple of months, a lot of these words are as natural for you as whatever languages you already know.

However, it’s not that simple when you’re starting out, and sometimes even old hands need a refresher on what terms actually mean. It’s nice when you can simply Ctrl+F your way into knowledge, and that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do with this glossary of key MTG terms.

Keep in mind that this is for players who’ve already got a bit of a grasp of mana colours and how the game itself is played. If you're looking to get started with how to play MTG, some of its most popular formats and start building your own deck, among everything else you might want to know, head over to our Magic: The Gathering hub.

MTG terms glossary


A deck archetype that focuses on whittling down the opposing player’s health as fast as possible. Tends to include lots of cheap creatures and direct damage spells.

Allied Colours

A mix of colours that often play in similar ways. White and Blue, Blue and Black, Black and Red, Red and Green, and Green and White.

Alpha Strike

A game-ending attack that tends to be one massive combat that has all of your creatures going in to try and kill the opponent.

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A card that specifically gets rid of a problem. For example, a card that removes enchantments when a player has a particularly good enchantment.


A card that buffs all of your creatures by giving them extra power and toughness.


A type of deck in the metagame such as an aggro, midrange or control deck.


A creature that allows you to sacrifice other creatures. Can also be used to refer to a strategy built around doing so.


The colour combination White, Black and Green.


The colour combination White and Blue.


The colour combination Green, White and Blue.


A two-mana creature that has two power and two toughness. Not always a bear, but named because of the Grizzly Bears card from Alpha.


Any effect that exiles a card temporarily to have it come back in straight away or in the next end step. Can also be referred to as Flicker.

Board State

Refers to how the battlefield is looking and which permanents are down, who’s in the lead, and so on.

Board Wipe

Any card or effect that removes every creature or artifact or enchantment. Sometimes all of those at the same time.


The power and toughness of a creature.

Magic: The Gathering trading card game land cards
Different combinations of mana colours in a deck have various nicknames. | Image credit: Sarah Jarvis


Dealing three damage to something.


Usually used to refer to a card in a draft or sealed deck that will win a game upon being played.


Putting a card back into its owner’s hand from the battlefield.


Making a deck on your own instead of using a list from the internet.


A card that lets you draw a card when it resolves, but also does something else, such as being a creature or dealing damage.

Card Pool

The cards you have to brew a deck from in a draft or sealed game.


Blocking an incoming attack with no intention of being able to kill the attacking creature.


A deck archetype that focuses on controlling your opponent’s resources, countering their spells and playing the long game.


Open a booster pack.


Also known as mana curve, the distribution of casting costs within your deck.


The colour combination of Blue and Black.

Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
Magic: The Gathering's many planes, sets and blocks have inspired nicknames within the trading card game's community. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Enemy Colours

The collection of colours that are opposite. White and Black, Black and Green, Green and Blue, Blue and Red, and Red and White.


The colour combination of White, Blue and Black.


To grab a card from your library.


When a card is countered because there are no longer any legal targets.


Adding mana to your mana pool, often to be used later.


Friday Night Magic, which is how most people play MTG in their local game store.

Go off

The term used to describe a combo when it’s going infinite and win the game in a way that can’t be stopped.


The colour combination of Black and Green.


The colour combination of Blue, Red and Black.

Group Hug

A style of Commander deck that helps everyone to draw cards and play extra lands. Doesn’t always have a win condition; if it does, it’s usually a combo.


The colour combination of Red and Green.


The colour combination of Blue and Red.


Something that’s not very good, at least on the surface.

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The colour combination of Blue, Red and White.


The colour combination of Black, Red and Green.

Kitchen Table

A casual style of Magic: The Gathering most people start off with, where there’s no formats or bans (or anything else really).

Land Drop

You’re allowed to play one land per turn, often referred to as your Land Drop.


Attacking with enough damage to kill off a player.

Mana Flood

Drawing far too many lands and nothing else.

Mana Sink

Something with an ability you can dump mana into for a benefit.

Mana Screw

Drawing everything other than land cards.


The colour combination of Red, White and Black.


A term used to describe the kinds of decks you’ll be up against at any given time in a specific tournament or competitive scene.


A deck that aims to play high-value creatures and spells. Doesn’t always have a specific game plan outside of having very strong cards.


A playstyle where you aim to have your opponent lose by no longer being able to draw cards from their library. Also refers to the ability mill, which has players put cards from their library straight into their graveyard.

Magic: The Gathering in-store event
Popular deck builds and playstyles in Magic: The Gathering's competitive tournament scene are known as the 'metagame'. | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast


The colour combination of Red, Green and White.


Opposite of a combo. A collection of effects that cancel each other out, often to your detriment.

On a stick

An effect that sits on a creature or other permanent.


The colour combination of White and Black.


Gaining more mana than you’re meant to have on any given turn by either putting additional lands into play or using other ways of gaining mana.


A card that can remove a permanent.


Something we should all remember to do sometimes: Read The Fucking Card. Often used as a reminder when missing out something important on a spell.






The colour combination of Green and White.


The sets of three colours from the Alara block. Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund and Naya.


The colour combination of Green and Blue.

A card that costs all five of MTG's mana colours - such as Tiamat from the recent Adventure in the Forgotten Realms set - is known as a WUBRG. | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast


A starting hand that is basically perfect.


A style of deck that aims to use instant and sorcery spells to win the game.


Spells and effects that have yet to resolve.


A style of deck that has everyone sacrificing their own permanents or messes with your resources and ability to play the game.


The colour combination of Black, Green and Blue.




Turning a card sideways - either for mana, to attack, activate an ability or something else.

Tapped out

Having no mana available to use as you’ve spent it all.


The colour combination of Green, Blue and Red.


Drawing the perfect card at the perfect time to change the way the game is going or outright win.


The term used for a group of creatures. For example, vampires, merfolk, etc.


A spell that allows you to search your library for a specific card.

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The most expensive ability on a planeswalker.

Utility Land

A land that has uses beyond just generating mana.


A creature with no special abilities.


A style of deck that aims to make one creature as strong as possible using equipment and aura cards.


An abbreviation of planeswalker.


The sets of three colours from the Khans of Tarkir block. Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu and Temuir.


A card that makes everyone discard their hands and then draw cards.


A win condition. Either a card or your strategy.


Pronounced woo-berg. A card that costs one of every kind of mana.

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About the Author
Jason Coles avatar

Jason Coles


Jason spends a lot of time shuffling, sleeving up cards and playing decks that are bad. It's for this reason that he loves card games, even if they don't always love him. His poison of choice is Magic: The Gathering, but he'll play anything really, as it doesn't pay to be picky.