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Learn to play Magic

Become a planeswalker pro with these tips for learning to play Magic: The Gathering together.

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You’ll need

  • Device with access to the internet
  • Magic: The Gathering Welcome Deck
How To Play Jumpstart
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How To Play MTC
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Before you begin

  • The MTG Arena app is recommended for ages 13+ so make sure you're running this activity with older Scouts, or a group of Explorers. 
  • You’ll need devices with access to the internet for this activity so you can play though the online tutorial. If you don’t have enough for everyone to use, you could set up a screen and projector and work through the game together.
  • Order a Welcome Deck or two before the session. When people have got the hang of the game, they can try playing together with a complete deck.
  • This activity work best after you’ve introduced some of the basic concepts in the game. Why not play Mana time or Planeswalker post first?

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game. You take on the role of a planeswalker, who collects magic energy (called mana) from the land around you. You use that mana to summon creatures and cast spells during the game. There are five different colours of Magic cards; each colour handles things differently, so you can choose what kind of planeswalker you want to be. Your deck of cards represents all the spells you know and the creatures you can summon.

Find out more on the official Magic website.

To watch in full screen, double click the video


How to play Magic: The Gathering

  1. The person leading the activity should use some of the information above about Magic: The Gathering to introduce the game.
  2. Everyone should visit, download and install MTG Arena and play through the tutorial. They should play through or restart the tutorial as many times as they’d like.

You could watch this video on How to play Magic or a short introduction to the MTGArena app on YouTube together. If you don’t have enough devices with internet access, set up a screen and work through the tutorial together.

  1. Once everyone’s had a go at the online tutorial, it’s time to play!
  2. To start a tabletop game of Magic:
  • Shuffle the deck.
  • Use a random way to choose which player will go – you could flip a coin or roll a dice.
  • Make sure each player has a way to track their life total; each player starts at 20 life.
  • Look at the opening hand. If you have fewer than two or more than five lands, or you won’t be able to cast any creatures on the first couple of turns, you can swap your hand for a new one. This is called taking a ‘mulligan’.
  • Once both players have decided to keep their hands, the game begins! The player who goes first should skip their first draw step. Check out the information below about what to do on your turn for some more details.
  • To cast a spell, you need to pay the mana cost (shown in the upper right corner of the card) by tapping lands to make the amount of mana you need.
  • If it’s an instant, you follow the instructions on the card then add it to your graveyard. If it’s a creature, enchantment, or artifact, you put it on the table in front of you.
  1. You could set up bases in your meeting space with the crafts from Magic: The Crafting and add a table or two where small groups can play a game of Magic with the welcome deck.
  2. This is a great game to take along to your next camp, or play in free time!

Get crafty

Learn all about the colours of Magic and create your own card in this crafty introduction to Magic: The Gathering.

Run the activity

Order a welcome deck

Head over to Scout Store and order your Magic: The Gathering Welcome Deck so you’re ready to play!

Get active

Choose a tribe and work together to capture the other teams’ bases in this active, big group game.

Play the game

During a game of Magic, each turn follows the same pattern and you’ll play through these phases:


  • Untap (turn your cards upright).
  • Draw a card from your library.

First main phase

  • Play a land (only one on each turn).
  • Cast creatures and other spells.


  • Declare attackers.
  • Your opponent declares blockers.
  • Combat damage is dealt.

Second main phase

  • Play a land (if you haven’t already).
  • Cast creatures and other spells.


  • Creatures heal.
  • Pass the turn.
  • Hand – You start the game with a hand of seven cards.
  • Library – Your library is your draw pile.
  • Graveyard – This is your discard pile: creatures that die, enchantments that are destroyed, and cards you discard go here.
  • Battlefield – This is where you play your cards, you can arrange them however you like, but the experts recommend that you put the lands closest to you and your creatures closer to your opponent.
  • Creatures – Creatures fight for you, they can attack in the combat phase and block during an opponent’s turn. You’ll cast creatures onto your battlefield.
  • Lands – You’ll use lands to generate mana in the game, which is then used to cast spells. Each basic land card makes one mana of a particular colour – plains (white), islands (blue), swamps (black), mountains (red) and forests (green).
  • Mana – This is the resource used to cast spells in Magic. All spell cards show the mana cost in the top right corner.
  • Enchantments – These are spells you cast with magical effects that last as long as they’re on the battlefield.
  • Instants – Spells that can be cast at any time, even during an opponent’s turn. They have a one-time effect, then you should put them into your graveyard.
  • Artefacts – These represent machines or magical objects in the game.
  • Tapping and untapping – To ‘tap’ a card, turn it sideways to show it’s been used in the turn. Creatures tap when they attack and lands make mana when you tap them. When a card’s tapped you can’t tap it again until it’s been untapped as your next turn begins.


Magic players craft their own decks, choosing cards that suit their playing styles and strategies. When people build a deck, they often focus on taking advantage of the different powers in each of Magic’s five mana colours. All of the different colours have strengths and weaknesses, and no play style is better than the others – it’s all about personal preference.

This activity was all about trying something new and learning something that might have been totally new to some people. Don’t forget that everyone learns things in different ways. Ask the group if they found it easier watching the videos, playing the online tutorial, talking together or just getting stuck in and playing the game to learn the basics. See if anyone wants to share their ideas with the group. Like the different colours of mana in the game, we all work differently and approach things in different ways, but no way is better than the others.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

Why not work together to play in pairs or small groups so you can chat as you go if anyone gets stuck?

Make sure everyone can access the online tutorial. You could use mobile devices, tablets, laptops, or talk through the information together to make sure everyone can follow along.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

If some of the group are interested, you could look at arranging a tournament for players. Maybe you could reach out to other local groups and see if they’re interested too.