A Magic: The Gathering Glossary

Whether you’re new to the game or not, 25 years of Magic: The Gathering means 25 years of game-related references, inside jokes, and general ‘lingo’ that can be difficult to understand.  When listening to podcasts or reading MTG content, it’s difficult enough to keep up with conversations referring to cards by nicknames.  Throw in some of the jargon and things can get really tricky.  Here’s a handy MTG glossary to help you figure out just what the heck everyone’s been blabbering about…

Tip: Looking for something specific?  Try ‘control-F’ (or ‘command-F’ on a mac) to look up a term.

AGGRO: An aggressive strategy, typically a deck that has a game plan of winning the game very quickly before a slower deck is able to stabilize and take over the game (ie. Modern Zoo, Standard Red Deck Wins)

ALLIED: The five two-color combinations that are adjacent on the back of a magic card (GW, UW, UB, BR, RG).  These color pairs are also referred to as ‘guilds’ when referring to card or deck designs (Selesnya, Azorius, Dimir, Rakdos, Gruul respectively).

ANIMATE: A spell or effect which turns a non-creature permanent into a creature.  (etymology: Animate Land)

ARCHETYPE: A specific type of deck strategy.  For example, burn is a type of deck that’s plan is to play a lot of spells dealing damage to an opponent’s face but not all burn decks are the same.

ARISTOCRAT: A creature that has an activated ability which allows you to sacrifice another creature at no cost.  This is often used in a combo deck.  (etymology: Falkenrath Aristocrat, Cartel Aristocrat)

ATTRITION: A strategy in which a deck aims to win the game by gaining more value or running an opponent out of resources.

BEAR: Any 2-mana 2/2 creature.  (etymology: Grizzly Bear)

BLINK: A spell or effect that removes a creature from play and then returns it to the battlefield.  These types of cards are often used to trigger ‘enters the battlefield’ effects a second time.  (etymology: Momentary Blink)

BOB: A nickname for the card Dark Confidant.  This nickname refers to the pro player who designed the card, Bob Maher, Jr.

BOLT: Dealing 3 damage.  Any spell that deals three damage is “bolting” a target.  If you are dealing yourself 3 damage as a cost, you are “bolting” yourself.  (etymology: Lightning Bolt)

BOP: Stands for “Birds of Paradise

BOUNCE: A spell or effect that returns a creature to its owner’s hand.  (etymology: Waterfront Bouncer)

BREW: A brew is a deck that was designed/developed by the person who is piloting it rather than taking an idea from a common archetype.  If someone is brewing a deck, they are designing a new deck idea.

BURN: Any cards that deal damage directly to an opponent.  Also, an aggressive deck archetype in many formats.

CANTRIP: A card that replaces itself by drawing a card when it is played.  For example, Gitaxian Probe or Baleful Strix are both fantastic cantrips.

CHARM: A spell that has multiple options for possible effects.  In modern formatting, this will appear as a bulleted list.  (ie. Dimir Charm, Dramoka’s Charm, Piracy Charm)

CHUMP BLOCK: Using a much smaller creature to block a larger creature (and die in combat) in order to prevent damage from an attack.  For example, you can chump block a Vizzerdrix with a 1/1 Soldier token.

CMC: Stands for “converted mana cost”

COMBAT TRICK: Casting an instant during combat to increase a creature’s power/toughness in order to either kill a creature it is blocking, blocked by, or keep it from dying.

CONTROL: A style of deck or deck archetype that’s game plan is to win the game by using removal spells and counter spells to hinder the plans of an opponent.  A control deck typically plays a long game of magic and packs more defensive than offensive spells.

DORK: Short-hand for ‘mana dorks’.  See Mana Dorks (below).

DRAW-GO: A style of deck that often does very little on the pilot’s own turn.  Most of the cards that this style of deck plays are intant speed and will be cast at the end of the other player’s turn.  Often times, this is used to refer to a type of control deck.

DUALS: A land that produces two colors of mana.  Specifically dual lands refers to the original cycle of non-basics that have two land types (ie Tundra, Bayou, Volcanic Island) but is often used to reference any similar non-basic that produces two colors.

DURDLE: A defensive play style in which a player does…a whole lot of nothing.  Not playing pro-actively.

EDICT: A spell or effect which causes an opponent to chose and sacrifice a creature.  (etymology: Diabolic Edict, Chainer’s Edict)

EGG: A permanent, often times an artifact, that can be sacrificed to draw a card.  Eggs are frequently used in combo decks utilizing cards like Second Sunrise or Krak-Clan Ironworks.

ENEMY: The five color pairs that are NOT adjacent on the back of a Magic: The Gathering card.  These include WB, BG, GU, UR, and RW (also known by their guild names Orzhov, Golgari, Simic, Izzet, and Boros respectively).

EOT: Stands for “end of turn”

ETB: Stands for “enter the battlefield”

EVASION: A type of ability that enables a creature to deal its combat damage to an opposing player by preventing creatures from blocking it.  Examples include unblockable and flying.

FETCH: The term fetch specifically refers to a cycle of lands called “fetch lands” which all can be sacrificed to search for another land to put into play.  This cycle includes cards like Scalding Tarn, Windswept Heath, and Bloodstained Mire.  Effects like Evolving Wilds also have the ability to ‘fetch’ a land.

FISH: A nickname for the Merfolk tribe or deck archetype.

FLOAT: To add mana to one’s mana pool.  This is usually done in response to a land being destroyed so that its mana can be used later in the phase.

GARY: A nickname for the card Gray Merchant of Asphodel (because he looks like Gary from Spongebob).

GOLDFISH: To test or practice with a deck by drawing a hand of cards and playing a hypothetical game of magic without an opponent.

GROUP HUG: A type of card, effect, or strategy that involves benefiting all players involved in a multiplayer game.

HATE: A hate card is a specific card that is particularily effective against an opposing strategy.  Often times hate cards are played in a sideboard and are brought in vs. an opponent playing a deck that is difficult for you to beat.  (ie. Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, Boil)

HATEBEAR: A 1-3 cmc creature that has an effect which generally makes it difficult for the opponent to play the game.  This could either taxes an opponent’s spells, restrict searching through a deck, or require opposing lands and creatures to come into play tapped.  (ie. Leonin Arbiter, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben)

HARDCAST: Paying the full cost for a spell.  This is often used to specify how a player choses to use a card with a cost reduction effect.  For example, you can either evoke Shriekmaw or you could hardcast it for 4B.

HIGHLANDER: A type of deck design that is limited to just one copy of each card other than basic lands.  “There can be only one!”


KEEP: Deciding not to mulligan a hand of cards.

LAND DROP: Playing your allotted land for the turn.

LOCK: A game state in which a player are is unable to progress his/her gameplan due to cards that either prevent lands from untapping, the restriction of drawing cards, or producing mana.  Static Orb, Stasis, and Winter Orb often create lock situations.

MAIN: Included in the one’s deck as opposed to a sideboard.

MANLAND: A non-basic land that includes an activated ability in which it can become a creature.  (ie. Celestial Colonnade, Inkmoth Nexus)

MANA DORK: A low-costed creature, often one-mana, that can be tapped to add mana to one’s mana pool.  (ie. Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch)

MANA FIX: Refers to converting mana of one color to mana of another color or playing lands or permanents that have the ability to produce the desired mana colors for a multi-colored deck.  Birds of Paradise is great mana fixing for a five-color deck.

MANA FLOOD: Drawing too many lands and not enough creatures/spells during a game of Magic (often losing because of it).

MANA ROCK: An artifact that can be tapped to add mana to your mana pool.

MANA SCREW: Not drawing enough lands or not drawing enough lands of the desired color/type (and often losing because of it).

MARO: A nickname for Mark Rosewater, the head designer for Magic at Wizards of the Coast.

META: Short for metagame.  This is the ‘game within a game’.  The decks and strategies that are commonly played in each format at any given point in time.  The meta can change as different decks become more prominent.

MILL: A card or effect that puts cards from the top of a player’s library directly into the graveyard.  Also a deck archetype that is designed to win the game by running an opponent out of cards in this way.  (etymology: Millstone)

MIRROR: Playing against the same deck archetype

MIDRANGE: A type of deck design that is pro-active/aggressive yet generally plays higher costed creatures and more removal spells than an ‘aggro’ deck.  Cards like Siege Rhino and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are midrange all-stars.

MISE: “Might as well” draw exactly what you need.  Hitting a lucky break at exactly the right time.

MODO: Stands for Magic Online Digital Objects, better known as MTGO (Magic Online).

MONO: A deck comprised of cards of a single color only.

MTGO: Stands for Magic the Gathering Online.

NETDECK: Recreating a deck from a list that was posted on the internet (typically in published tournament results).

NONBO: An interaction between two or more cards included in your deck that results in an unfavorable situation for you.  The opposite of a combo.  Path to Exile is often considered a ‘nonbo’ in decks that play Mana Leak because it gives the opponent more land to pay the cost for Mana Leak.

PERMISSION: Typically refers to a counterspell or deck style that runs a lot of counterspells.  “Can I resolve this?”

PING: Deal one damage, typically with a repeatable effect, and typically to kill a creature.

PLAYSET: Four copies of a single card.  In most formats, this is the maximum number that can be included in a single deck.

PRIME TIME: A nickname for Primeval Titan.

PRISON: A card or effect that prevents creatures from attacking.  (etymology: Ghostly Prison)

PROXY: A card that is used to stand in for a card that a player either does not own or does not have in a deck.  A proxy could be a basic land with the ‘proxied’ card name written on it.

PUNT: A bad misplay (often when you should have won the game).

RAMP: A strategy that involves cards that either generate mana or put lands into play with the eventual payoff of a large creature or spell.  Often times ramp decks are green strategies.

REANIMATE: Return a creature from the graveyard to play.

ROGUE: Also a creature type in Magic, ‘rogue’ often refers to a deck brew that is not one of the more commonly played deck archetypes.

SAC: Short for sacrifice.

SCOOP: To concede the game.

SHOCK: Shock refers to a spell or effect that deals 2 damage to a target or oneself.  Often times, the cylcle of lands including Steam Vents, Temple Garden, Blood Crypt, etc are referred to as ‘shocks’ because they can be played untap if you chose to shock yourself.

SLIGH: An extremely aggressive deck that plays a very low land-count.  Typically, sligh decks are mono-red.

SNAP: Often times, ‘Snap’ is used as a nickname for Snapcaster Mage though it can also be used to refer to a quick decision.  A snap keep occurs when an opening hand is so good that it does not require much though to keep it.

SPIKE: An extremely competitive player.  Doesn’t let kids win even if it makes them cry a little.

SPLASH: Including a small representation of an additional color in your deck.  A black deck could splash red by running 2-3 cards that have red mana costs with only a few sources or red mana.

STAX: A style of deck that locks out the opponent with cards like Smokestack, Crucible of Worlds, Sphere of Resistance, Tangle Wire, or Winter Orb.

STEVE: A nickname for the card Sakura-Tribe Elder.

STOMPY: An aggressive-creature based deck which is often mono-green.

STRIP: Refers to a land which can destroy another targeted land.  (etymology: Strip Mine)

SYNERGY: A positive interaction between two or more cards.

TECH: Short for technology.  This refers to an idea to include an uncommonly played card or modify a deck in a new or unusual way in order to gain some competitive advantage.

TIER:  The list of top finishing decks (based on published tournament results) in a particular format.  Tier 1 represents the most prominent decks with the highest tournament results.

TIX: Short for tickets.  Magic Online in-game currency.

TOP 8: Many tournaments end with a single-elimination bracket of untimed matches in which the top 8 finishing players in the swiss portion square off to determine a winner.  Typically tournaments pay out the highest prizes to all top 8 finishers.

TOPDECK: Drawing and playing a card when you have nothing left in your hand.  This often refers to a good draw off the top of your deck.  (ie. I just topdecked a Bonfire of the Damned to win!)

TRIBE: Creatures that share a similar creature type.  Certain cards give advantages to creatures belonging to a specific tribe.

TRON: Assembling tron means to have all three Urza lands in play (Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Mine, and Urza’s Power Plant).  Tron decks are designed to utilize land tutors like Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying to find all three pieces and then cast large payoff spells like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

TUTOR: A spell or effect that allows a player to search his or her library for a specific card.  (etymology Vampiric Tutor, Sylvan Tutor, Mystical Tutor)

ULTIMATE: A planeswalker’s final ability that typically requires the most loyalty counters to activate.

“UN” SET: Refers to one of the three silver-bordered spoof sets Unglued, Unhinged, and Unstable.

UTILITY: A card that provides many different options or fits many different purposes.  (ie. Selesnya Charm is great utility because it can be used as creature removal, a combat trick, or put a creature token onto the battlefield)

VANILLA: A creature that has no text other than flavor text.  (ie. Grizzly Bear, Vizzerdrix, Trained Org)

VOLTRON: A deck strategy in which a single creature is equipped with multiple equipments or enchanted with multiple auras to create one large, effective attacker.

WEENIE: A small creature.

WUBRG: Stands for white, blue, black, red, and green.  A WUBRG deck includes all five colors.