Last updated on November 30, 2023
Fog | Illustration by Jaime Jones
You ever crack a fetch at EOT to tutor up some fixing? Maybe you’ve tried to Bolt the Bird but your opponent had Mom to fizzle it? Or maybe you lost to a Vorthos player at your most recent FNM. Any of that click at all?
Magic has 30 years of slang to pull from, and judging by my girlfriend’s listless gaze as I speak to her in familiar Magic jargon and euphemisms, it’s not all immediately intelligible to the average person. Let’s clear that up, with the most comprehensive list of Magic slang we could come up with.
We’re going to miss some for sure, but it’d be Magical Christmas Land to think we’d get everything.
Slang Based on Card Names
Glorious Anthem | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
Turn a non-creature into a creature.
Origin: Animate Artifact.
A permanent that increases your creatures’ power and/or toughness.
Origin: Glorious Anthem.
A creature with above-rate stats and good combat abilities, but little else. Also known as “battlecruisers.”
Origin: Baneslayer Angel.
A variation of a fight spell where only one creature deals damage to the other.
Origin: Rabid Bite.
Exile a permanent and return it to the battlefield.
An effect that causes opponents to lose life when a creature dies.
Origin: Blood Artist.
Origin: Slippery Bogle.
Origin: maybe Waterfront Bouncer.
A creature that copies another creature or a token that enters as a copy.
An effect that destroys an artifact or enchantment.
An effect that draws two cards.
A cheap, single-target removal spell, usually with little to no restrictions.
Origin: Doom Blade.
An effect that forces an opponent to sacrifice a creature.
Origin: Diabolic Edict.
Origin: Argothian Enchantress.
An X-spell that deals more damage the more mana spent on it.
A creature with an ETB that deals damage to another creature, usually killing it.
Origin: Flametongue Kavu.
An effect that prevents creatures from blocking.
Exile a permanent then return it to the battlefield. Used interchangeably with “blink.”
An effect that prevents combat damage.
An effect that counters a spell unless its controller pays .
Origin: Force Spike.
A creature with an ETB ability that returns a creature from your graveyard to your hand.
An effect that draws every player an extra card each turn. If it only affects you it’s “your own personal Howling Mine.”
Origin: Howling Mine.
Exile a card from the top of your library, with a limited timeframe to play it. Red’s primary form of card advantage.
Origin: Act on Impulse.
A black spell that gives creatures -2/-2.
A burn spell that deals a large amount of damage to a player.
Origin: Lava Axe.
Origin: Merfolk Looter.
Origin: The obsolete “lord” creature type and original lords like Lord of Atlantis.
An effect that forces a creature to block.
Put cards from the top of a player’s library into their graveyard. Adopted as an official Magic term in Core Set 2021.
An effect that takes permanent control of an opponent’s permanent. Also called a Control Magic.
Origin: Mind Control.
An effect that makes a player discard two cards.
Origin: Mind Rot.
An effect that allows you to control another player during their turn.
A creature whose value comes from its ETB ability, not its usefulness in combat. The opposite of a “baneslayer.”
Destroy an artifact or enchantment.
A permanent that exiles another permanent until it leaves the battlefield.
Origin: Oblivion Ring.
An effect that temporarily grants your creatures a large power/toughness boost.
A one-sided board wipe.
Origin: Plague Wind.
A 1-mana creature capable of winning the game on its own if left unchecked.
Origin: Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.
An effect that returns a creature from your graveyard to your hand.
Origin: Raise Dead.
Getting extra lands or mana sources beyond your one-land-per-turn limit.
Origin: Possibly Rampant Growth.
Return a permanent from your graveyard to your hand. Less specific than a Raise Dead.
An effect that produces a net positive amount of mana.
Origin: Dark Ritual.
Discard a card, then draw a card. The opposite of looting.
Origin: Rummaging Goblin.
Destroy an artifact.
A creature that gets a +1/+1 counter when it deals combat damage.
Origin: The “Slith” cycle from Mirrodin.
Splinter Twin Situation
Any two cards that combine together to form an infinite combo.
Origin: Splinter Twin and a number of combo enablers.
A game situation in which a player must lose a creature every turn to avoid dying, usually when a large creature demands a chump block every turn.
Origin: The Abyss.
An effect that takes control of an opposing creature for a turn.
An extra turn spell. Also used to describe a situation where a player’s turn goes to waste, as in “they Time Walked themselves.”
Origin: Time Walk.
An effect that searches your library, sometimes for a specific type of card.
Origin: Demonic Tutor.
An effect that taps or untaps a permanent.
A spell that returns a creature to its owner’s hand. Interchangeable with “bounce.”
An effect that forces players to discard their hands and draw some number of new cards.
Origin: Wheel of Fortune.
An effect that selects a card you own from outside the game.
Origin: The “Wish cycle” from Judgment.
An effect that destroys all creatures. Used interchangeably with “board wipe” or “sweeper.”
Origin: Wrath of God.
Describes a deck focused on a single card type or effect. “Bears.dec” means a deck full of 2-mana 2/2 creatures.
A macro-archetype short for “aggressive.” Fast decks that often sacrifice late-game card quality for early-game advantage. Aggro decks look to close the game out quickly and often rely on burn damage for reach.
A deck that pumps up a singular hexproof threat, usually with auras.
A deck consisting of mostly or only artifacts. Refers to the old brown card frame for artifacts.
A deck focused on dealing damage directly to the opponent, sometimes completely ignoring the board state.
A deck consisting of mostly 0-mana spells (cheerios).
A macro-archetype looking to answer the opponent’s threats and win through inevitability or with a specific win-con. Usually wants to out-resource the opponent in a longer game. Commonly features counterspells, draw spells, and heavy interaction.
Death & Taxes
A deck with cheap, efficient threats and mana denial, usually including Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
A control deck that operates almost entirely at instant-speed and wants to be purely reactive during the opponent’s turn. Most turns consist of drawing for turn and immediately passing.
An elf typal EDH deck.
An enchantment-themed deck.
A deck that’s playing high-quality cards without a central theme or gameplan.
A deck with cards that benefit all players or select players.
A nickname for decks before the name Abzan was established. Also a nod to Jund (), poking fun at Junk being the worse of the two.
A -based deck similar to Death & Taxes that plays with more of a toolbox strategy.
A well-rounded macro-archetype that’s not as fast as aggro and not as interactive as dedicated control, lying somewhere in between. Most decks are midrange decks, featuring efficient threats, removal, and card advantage.
Oops All ___
A deck focused on ramping while destroying its opponent’s lands.
A deck focused on bringing a game-winning threat back from the graveyard. The name comes from Reanimate, or possibly the movie Reanimator.
A deck that intentionally avoids most meta card choices. Usually considered “tier-2” at best. No association with the rogue creature type.
An aggro deck designed to beat its opponent quickly by using all of its mana on every turn. Usually a red-based deck with burn spells. Named after Paul Sligh, an early pilot of the archetype.
A deck with payoffs for casting large amounts of noncreature spells, usually instants and sorceries.
A strategy that attempts to cut off your opponents’ ability to play the game, usually through sacrifice effects, taxation, and mana denial/land destruction.
An aggro/”beatdown” deck playing mostly creatures with above-rate high-power creatures.
A deck attempting to cast a flurry of spells in one turn, using cost-reduction abilities and rituals to generate mana. The win condition doesn’t necessarily need to be a storm card.
Short for “temporary,” tempo decks give up long-term advantage in exchange for short-term gains. They’re often a hybrid of an aggro playstyle with control elements, and the term is often used in association with bounce spells.
One of any -based decks that attempts to play the most efficient card possible at every point in the game. Defined by efficient disruption and above-rate creatures.
A deck with a collection of narrow card effects aimed at beating specific strategies, usually running tutors to find the right card for the right matchup.
A deck trying to prevent the opponent from dealing combat damage with fog effects while setting up an engine or finding a wincon.
A deck using auras, +1/+1 counters, or equipment to make one large, resilient threat.
An aggro deck consisting of mostly 1- and 2-mana white creatures, cheap disruption, and anthem effects.
A game-ender, usually a large flying creature or hyper-efficient card.
The players you’re grouped with for a Draft. Pods usually consist of eight players.
Information that can be gleaned by the cards that have/have not been picked from a pack.
Draft picks from a pack you’ve already passed once. “Wheeling” a card is also called “tabling.”
Drafting an obviously powerful card without thinking about it.
Dark Confidant, named after Bob Maher, who helped create the card after winning the 2004 Magic Invitational.
Origin: Dragon's Rage Channeler
Origin: Eternal Witness
Origin: Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Origin: Laboratory Maniac
Origin: Mother of Runes
Origin: Primeval Titan
Origin: Scavenging Ooze
Origin: Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Origin: Sakura-Tribe Elder
Origin: Prodigal Sorcerer
Origin: Young Pyromancer
General Slang Terminology
A creature that destroys another creature on ETB. Named after the penal code for murder in California.
An attack with all your creatures, also called “turning everything sideways.”
A card used to deal with an opposing threat. Usually a removal spell that “answers” an opponent’s creature.
A player who’s clearly ahead of the others in a multiplayer game, forming a 3-against-1 situation. Named after the Archenemy format.
Expensive creatures with powerful, game-warping abilities. “Battlecruiser Magic” describes games where each player is mostly ignoring cheap plays and focusing on battlecruiser cards.
High toughness, usually much higher than the creature’s power.
The graveyard. Putting a creature in the graveyard is “binning” it.
A situation where one player comes out significantly ahead after interacting with another player. Usually involves one player losing multiple cards.
The collective permanents you control on the battlefield, specifically the creatures.
An effect that removes all of a certain type of permanent from the battlefield, usually creatures. Vandalblast is an artifact board wipe, while Damnation is a creature board wipe. Used interchangeably with “sweeper” or “wrath.”
A creature on the battlefield. Also refers to the power/toughness of a creature.
“Bolt the Bird”
A phrase that suggests you should always use removal on your opponent’s turn-1 mana dork when possible. Comes from a common situation where someone has Lightning Bolt against an opposing Birds of Paradise.
Way too good compared to other cards/decks. See also: Cracked, busted in half, banworthy, etc.
To acquire so much of a resource that the opponent can’t keep up. Drawing 20 cards is “burying your opponent in card advantage.” Distinct from the obsolete game term “bury.”
A cheap spell that replaces itself, usually by drawing a card. A “cantrip creature” draws a card when it enters the battlefield. Derived from cantrips in D&D, which are simple spells that don’t expend spell slots.
A 0-mana spell, specifically one with in its mana cost.
Attacking a smaller creature into a larger one that’s likely to block and remove your creature for free.
Blocking with a creature expecting it to die, with the creature it blocked surviving. Usually done to preserve your life total.
The assumed number of turns left in the game. If you have 20 life and your opponent is attacking you with a 5/5 creature you can’t stop, you are on a 4-turn clock.
Ideal timing. A card that you drew on the exact turn you needed it “came in clutch.”
An instant or activated ability that buffs or debuffs a creature, usually after attacks and blocks have been declared.
Sacrificing a permanent as part of a cost. You “crack” a Clue when you activate its ability.
The attack you expect your opponent to make back at you after you attack them.
The distribution of mana values across the cards in your deck. Decks with mostly expensive cards have “high curves” while decks with mostly 1-mana and 2-mana spells have very “low curves.”
A group of cards with a representative of each color/color pair that share a mechanical identity. Inferno Titan and Primeval Titan are the red and green cards in the “Titan cycle.” Badlands and Plateau are the and lands in the “dual land cycle.”
“Dies to Doom Blade”
A way to say a creature’s not good enough because it’s easy to kill with cheap interaction. Serves as an argument that creatures need to have an immediate impact on the game to be worth playing.
Prolonging the game or disrupting your opponent from winning without having a plan to win yourself. “Wheel-spinning” or “buying time.”
Cheap artifacts with self-sacrifice effects.
Abilities that make it easier for a creature to deal combat damage or go completely unblocked. Flying and trample are common forms of evasion.
Anything expected to appear in most Magic sets. Flying, vigilance, and first strike are evergreen abilities. Treasure tokens are an evergreen artifact token.
A way to indicate that you have no more plays for the turn. Comes from the shortcut key for yielding priority on Magic Online.
Search a library for one or more cards.
Effects that provide the colors you need to cast your spells. Scoured Barrens “fixes” for white and black mana.
A spell or ability being countered due to having no legal targets.
Adding mana to your mana pool with the intentions of doing something with it later. Some effects allow you to “float” mana between steps and phases.
Attacking with all your creatures without doing any combat calculations, hoping it works out in your favor.
A creature with only keyword abilities.
A general way to say something’s good. “This deck is gas” means the deck plays well. Also describes the actions you can take in-game. If you have no cards in hand or plays to make, you’re “out of gas.”
A card or deck that fails completely if it doesn’t achieve its one main goal.
Making one hard-to-deal-with threat.
Spreading threats out and putting multiple bodies on board.
Playing a game by yourself to learn play patterns, or drawing practice hands to see how they look. Also refers to games where you beat an opponent who didn’t do anything.
Won the game or got the card you needed.
Describes a slow attrition-based game where you’re gradually acquiring and trading off resources. Also used to describe consistently playing tournaments or matches, as in “grinding this season on the Arena ladder.”
A counterspell with no restrictions, as opposed to a “soft counter” that usually counters a spell unless the controller pays a certain amount of mana. Counterspell is a hard counter, Mana Leak is a soft counter.
Casting a card for the full amount of mana. It costs eight mana to hardcast a Treasure Cruise with no cards in your graveyard.
A 2-mana creature with an effect that punishes certain strategies or prevents certain game actions. Usually a 2/1 or 2/2.
Less than ideal or otherwise “bad”. Usually used to describe a goofy or off-beat deck, card, or strategy. Trying to win with Hedron Archive might be considered “janky.”
A “hidden” ability on creatures with no useful abilities but large stats.
A creature with numerous keyword abilities.
Making decisions that determine the outcome of a multiplayer game in which you have no chance of winning. Choosing winners/losers.
The amount of damage needed to kill a player. A “lethal attack” is one that threatens to take a player out.
A card that is almost always the opponent’s priority target for a removal spell.
Magical Christmas Land
A situation where a bunch of unlikely factors come together to make an awesome play. Wishful thinking.
A creature with low power/toughness that taps for mana.
Drawing too many lands.
An artifact that taps for mana.
Not drawing enough lands. Infrequently called “mana drought.”
Something to use your mana on besides casting a spell. Usually an activated ability you can spend mana on multiple times.
The lands in your deck and the distribution of colored mana they can produce. Some people also discuss mana dorks and mana rocks when talking about their mana base.
A land that can become a creature. “Creatureland” is a more inclusive, gender-neutral way to refer to this card type.
The collective most popular decks and cards within a given time period, tournament, or region. Diverse metas consist of multiple viable decks with strengths and weaknesses. Stagnant metas have one or two dominant decks with few counters.
Picking a deck or playing a card based on what’s expected within a current meta.
A 1v1 game where both decks are playing most of the same cards or have the exact same colors and strategy.
A non-combo or anti-synergy between two or more cards.
“On the Throne”
The player with the highest life total is “on the throne,” a nod to the dethrone mechanic from Conspiracy.
Equipment. An equipped creature is “wearing pants.”
A deck with no consistent themes and lower-than-average card quality.
Dealing one damage to something. A “pinger” is a source that can do this multiple times.
Discarding a card from your hand, usually as the cost for another card.
Short for the “Power 9.” A Cube or Constructed format is considered “powered” if it includes these cards.
A non-tournament-legal substitution for a card, or in a tournament setting, a replacement that’s been approved by a judge.
The cards you open from a booster pack or sealed product.
A mistake. “Punting” usually results in you losing a game.
On a Stick/On Legs/On Wings
Your potential draws that could shore up a game you’re winning or prevent you from losing.
Your ability to consistently deal damage, usually with creatures.
A situation where life totals are close and both players are consistently attacking one another.
An effect that’s visible to all players and discourages a player from taking a certain action, punishing them if they do so.
A creature with a combat damage trigger.
Short for “sacrifice.”
To concede, as in scooping up your cards.
A 3-color pair consisting of a base color and each of its allied colors. Shards include Esper (), Jund (), Naya (), Grixis (), and Bant ().
Describes the timing at which certain types of spells can be cast. “Instant speed” can happen at any time, “sorcery speed” can only happen during your main phases. Effects like mana abilities that don’t use the stack are “faster than instant speed.”
Cards in your deck of a color other than your primary colors. A base deck with only two blue cards is “splashing” blue.
Reaching a board position where you’re no longer at risk of dying, usually coming back from a losing position.
An effect that removes all or most creatures from the battlefield. Used interchangeably with “board wipe” or “wrath.”
Describes a game where the advantaged player is constantly switching back and forth. Also describes the cards that cause this to happen.
Facets of a deck or individual cards that work especially well with one another but aren’t necessarily great on their own.
Using up all your mana sources, usually leaving you with no way to interact during other players’ turns.
To the Dome/To the Face
Targeting a player, usually in reference to burn spells.
The top card of your library. “Topdecking” a card usually means you drew something useful when you desperately needed to do so.
A situation where you have no meaningful actions to take and need to rely on drawing useful cards from your library. Also describes a stalemate situation where both players need to be the first to draw something relevant.
Describes a specific subset of cards, usually a creature type. Separate from the tribal card type. Typal has been internally adopted by Wizards of the Coast and represents a more inclusive alternative to the term.
Putting a permanent from the battlefield back into its owner’s library.
A planeswalker’s best ability, usually one that creates a powerful emblem or has a game-winning effect. Not every planeswalker has an ultimate.
A creature with no abilities.
A 3-color pair consisting of a base color and its two enemy colors. Wedges include Jeskai (), Abzan (), Mardu (), Temur (), and Sultai ().
Missing out on an effect with a <100% chance of succeeding. If you resolve Augur of Bolas and look at three lands, you whiffed on the ability.
Short for “win condition,” the card(s) or strategy you intend to win the game with.
A spell with one or more in its mana cost.
Keywords and Mechanics Used as Slang
Discarding a card to draw a new one or casting a spell that does nothing other than draw another card. Derived from the cycling mechanic.
Having no cards in your hand, named after the Rakdos mechanic from Dissension. “Heckbent” is a riff on hellbent that means only having one card in hand.
Casting a lot of spells in one turn, a reference to the storm mechanic.
A riff on landfall, X-fall refers to a specific type of permanent entering the battlefield. “Creaturefall” cares about creatures entering the battlefield, and constellation is sometimes jokingly referred to as “enchantmentfall.”
Slang for Land Cycles
Dual lands originating from Battlebond that enter untapped if you have two or more opponents. Example: Morphic Pool.
Canopy Lands/Horizon Lands
Dual lands that cost life to produce one of two different colors or can be sacrificed to draw a card. Example: Horizon Canopy.
Check LandsIsolated Chaper
Dual lands that enter untapped if you control a land with a corresponding land type. Example: Isolated Chapel.
The original untapped lands from Alpha that tap for two different colors. Example: Badlands.
Lands that enter untapped earlier in the game, but usually enter tapped later. Example: Inspiring Vantage.
Lands you can sacrifice to search for a specific type of land in your library. Example: Scalding Tarn.
Dual lands that turn a single mana into some combination of two types of mana. Example: Cascade Bluffs.
Dual lands that enter tapped and gain a life on ETB. Example: Tranquil Cove.
Dual lands with the subtype “gate.” Also used to describe any land that enters tapped and taps for two colors but offers no other utility. Example: Gruul Guildgate.
Lands that either sometimes or always cost life to produce mana. Example: Llanowar Wastes.
Dual lands that enter tapped unless you control two or more basics. As in, “it takes two to tango.” Example: Canopy Vista.
Tapped tri-lands with basic land types and cycling . Includes the tri-lands from Streets of New Capenna despite having a different naming convention. Example: Jetmir's Garden.
Grizzly Bears, or just “bears”, are 2/2s for two mana. Some players also refer to 2/1s as bears.
A Colossapede is a 5-mana 5/5.
Flying Men are 1-mana 1/1s with flying.
A Goblin Piker is a 2-mana 2/1.
A Gray Ogre is a 3-mana 2/2.
A Hill Giant is a 4-mana 3/3.
A Phantom Monster is a 4-mana 3/3 with flying.
Savannah Lions are 1-mana 2/1s.
A Watchwolf is a 2-mana 3/3.
A Wind Drake is a 3-mana 2/2 with flying.
Active Player – Non-Active Player, the order in which triggers go on the stack.
Converted Mana Cost, now known as mana value.
Elder Dragon Highlander, renamed Commander by Wizards of the Coast.
End Of Turn.
Enter(s) the Battlefield, usually referencing a permanent’s triggered ability.
Friday Night Magic.
Local Game Store.
Leaves the Battlefield.
Modal Double-Faced Card.
Magic: The Gathering Arena.
Magic: The Gathering Online. MODO stands for “Magic Online with Digital Objects,” the original name for the software.
Red Deck Wins, a style of all-in aggressive red deck.
Random Number Generator. “Good RNG” means randomness worked out in your favor.
Wizards Of the Coast.
White/Blue/Black/Red/Green, the colors of Magic in order. Pronounced “woo-berg.”
Motivated by combos and elaborate combinations of cards. Cares about winning in interesting ways.
Motivated entirely by winning. Highly competitive and only interested in top-tier cards and decks.
Motivated by exciting, expensive spells, usually large creatures and inefficient but splashy effects. Cares more about experience than winning.
Motivated by mechanical intricacies and small card design nuances. Interested in building high-synergy engine-like decks.
Motivated by flavor and creative storytelling. Not heavily motivated by winning, but rather illustrating a creative theme or story with their cards.
Slang Terms from Poker
A situation or play that didn’t go in your favor.
Telegraphing that you have something in your hand that you actually don’t. Bluffs in Magic usually involve combat tricks.
A card that doesn’t do anything useful. A “miss” or “whiff.”
Playing for long periods of time.
In the Tank/Tanking
Thinking very hard about a play.
Delaying winning the game despite having the means to do so.
An incredible opening hand, also called a “nut draw” or “godhand.”
Becoming aggravated, sometimes visibly.
The Grind Is Over
Cascade Bluffs | Illustration by Brandon Kitkouski
That’s a wrap. Surely almost everything you need to get your new Magic friends up to speed to start joining the conversation instead of looking at you like you’re speaking a foreign language.
I’m sure there’s plenty of other slang out there that slipped through the cracks. Let us know about any terms, deck names, card nicknames, or anything else that wasn’t included in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord!
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