In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in a battle as powerful wizards called "planeswalkers". A player starts the game with twenty "life points" and loses when he or she is reduced to zero or fewer. Players lose life when they are dealt "damage" by being attacked with summoned creatures or when spells or other cards cause them to lose life directly. Although reducing an opponent to zero life is the most common way of ending a game, a player also loses if he or she must draw from an empty deck (called the "library" during the game), or if they have acquired 10 "poison counters". In addition, some cards specify other ways to win or lose the game.
Players begin the game by shuffling their decks and then drawing seven cards. Players also draw one card at the beginning of each of their turns, except the first player on their first turn. Players take turns consisting of several phases. Certain cards can only be played during certain phases or during the player's own turn, and the player whose turn it is has the first chance to play cards. At the end of a player's turn, if that player has more than seven cards in hand, the player discards until their hand contains seven cards. The contents of other players' decks and hands are not usually known to players.
The two basic card types in Magic are "spells" and "lands". Lands provide "mana", or magical energy, which is used as magical fuel when the player attempts to cast spells. Spells are cards that require Mana in the Mana Pool be used. Players may only play one land per turn. More powerful spells generally cost more mana, so as the game progresses more mana becomes available, and the quantity and relative power of the spells played tends to increase. Some spells also require the payment of additional resources, such as cards in play or life points. Spells come in several varieties: "sorceries" and "instants" have a single, one-time effect before they go to the "graveyard" (discard pile); "enchantments" and "artifacts" are "permanents" that remain in play after being cast to provide a lasting magical effect; "creature" spells summon monsters that can attack and damage an opponent. The set Lorwyn introduced the new "planeswalker" card type, which represent powerful allies who fight with their own magic abilities depending on their loyalty to the player who summoned them. Spells can be of more than one type. For example, an "artifact creature" has all the benefits and drawbacks of being both an artifact and a creature.
Some spells have effects that override normal game rules. Garfield has stated that two major influences in his creation of Magic: the Gathering were the games Cosmic Encounter, which first used the concept that normal rules could sometimes be overridden, and Dungeons & Dragons. The "Golden Rules of Magic" state that "Whenever a card's text directly contradicts the rules, the card takes precedence." This allows Wizards of the Coast great flexibility in creating cards, but can cause problems when attempting to reconcile a card with the rules (or two cards with each other). The Comprehensive Rules, a detailed rulebook, exists to clarify these conflicts.
Read more about this topic: Magic: The Gathering