Planeswalker Portal #2: The Magic Dictionary

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Welcome back, my fellow Planeswalkers! For the second Planeswalker Portal I was planning on going over the different card types, but I have decided that we will tackle the many terms that a player will encounter on the Magic cards. These definitions will be as simple as possible and should give new players a good understanding of their meaning.


A permanent is anything that stays on the battlefield (in play) after it has been cast.  Some of the main permanents are creatures, artifacts, enchantments, or lands.


A library is a player’s deck. In most formats, the deck will have a minimum of 60 cards (40 if it’s a Limited event,) and a sideboard of 15 cards.


A hand is a collection of cards a player currently has available. The hand is hidden from view from opponents. A player cannot have more than seven cards in their hand when their turn is over.


The battlefield is the board where permanents are kept. Cards on the battlefield are considered “in play,” and stay in play until they are removed by an effect such as a “destroy target permanent/creature/artifact” spell or ability.


A player’s discard pile. When any card that is on the battlefield is destroyed or sacrificed, it is placed in the graveyard. When a player discards a card from their hand, the card goes into the graveyard. Whenever an instant or sorcery resolves, it goes to the graveyard. Cards in all graveyards are shown face up and are allowed to be viewed by any player.


A card that is exiled is placed apart from the battlefield, library, and graveyard. Unless specified by special abilities, cards in exile are shown face up and cannot be played or retrieved for the duration of the game. Another term to describe a card being exiled is “removed from the game.”

Tap and Untap

Tapping a permanent means to turn it 90 degrees. This indicates that the card is being used to attack or activate an ability. A [T] symbol (or an arrow bent at an angle) shows whether the permanent has a tap ability. Land taps when it adds mana to your mana pool. Tapped creatures cannot block or activate an ability that requires it to tap. At the start each players turn, that player untaps all permanents under their control. Untapping a permanent places the card vertical.


A creature with flying is one that cannot be blocked by other creatures unless they have flying or reach. A flying creature can block non-flying creatures.

First Strike

A creature with first strike will have its damage dealt first before taking any damage from an opposing creature that does not have first strike.

Double Strike

A creature with double strike will deal both first strike damage and regular damage - essentially dealing damage twice.


A creature with haste is not effected by summoning sickness. It can attack or use its [T] abilities the same turn it is placed onto the battlefield.


If a creature with Deathtouch deals any amount of damage to another creature, the second creature is destroyed.


A spell with flash can be cast as though it were an instant.


A creature with Defender cannot attack. These are typically walls.


A creature with Shroud cannot be the target of spells of abilities. Example: Doom Blade says “Destroy target nonblack creature.” Doom Blade cannot destroy a creature with Shroud.


Similar to Shroud, except a permanent’s controller can target the permanent.


Reach gives a creature the ability to block a creature with flying.


If a creature with Trample would assign enough damage to its blockers to destroy them, any remaining damage may be assigned to the defending player or planeswalker. Example: 6/6 Creature with trample is blocked by a 2/2 creature, at least 2 points of damage gets assigned to the defending creature, and the other 4 points of damage can be divided between the defending creature and/or player.


Attacking does not cause a creature with Vigilance to tap.


A creature with intimidate cannot be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with the attacking creature.


Landwalk creatures are creatures that are unblockable if the defending player has the land type of the landwalk creature. For example, if an attacking creature has Swapwalk and the defending player has a Swamp, then the attacking creature cannot be blocked.


Damage dealt by a creature with Lifelink also causes its controller to gain that much life.


Protection is an ability that provides a creature protection from colors, artifacts, creatures etc. Any damage that is dealt to a creature with protection from a certain source is prevented. The protection falls under these conditions which are often called DEBT:

D=Damage protection from said sources

E=Enchantment protection from said sources

B=Blocking or being blocked by creatures of said sources

T=Target protection of spells or abilities of said sources

Protection, however, does not prevent them from being affected by spells or abilities that have non-specific targets. (i.e. Destroy all creatures).


Countering a spell or ability means removing said spell or ability from the stack (will explain the stack in a future article) and preventing it from resolving. The countered spell is placed in the graveyard.


Regeneration is a historically complicated effect. If a permanent would be destroyed, it isn’t. Instead it gets tapped (if it is not already.)


Sacrificing a permanent is the act of putting the permanent into its owner’s graveyard. A player can only sacrifice permanents they control and only if they are permitted to do so by a spell or ability.

That concludes this section of common keywords and terms that you should experience while playing Magic: The Gathering. We’ll encounter many more terms and keywords as we proceed, but these should get you on the right foot.

Battle well, planeswalkers!!

Special thanks to Magic Wiki, Wizards of the Coast and James Mendez for helping me with gathering information and editing.

Related posts:

  1. Planeswalker Portal #1: The Journey Begins

About NeoJames82

Justin "NeoJames82" Schuber is lover of many things geeky and a follower of Magic: The Gathering for almost a decade. In his spare time he plays all sorts of PC and console games, tabletop RPGs and loves to write as well.