Are you new to Magic: the Gathering and don’t understand the jargon used by veteran players? Are you a friend or family member of a Magic player and have no idea what they are talking about half the time? If so, this article is for you!
Below is a glossary of common expressions Magic players have adopted. The definitions assume that you have a basic knowledge of official game terms, such as Battlefield, Tap, Mana, and Library, as well as a basic understanding of the mechanics of the game. This list is also by no means complete, but it should at least help the next time someone tries to tell you about how their opening hand looked like a snap keep until their opponent bolted their mana dork and left them colour screwed.
Act of Treason: Any spell or ability that takes control of a creature for a single turn. e.g. “Limits of Solidarity is the most recent act of treason; each set seems to have one.” From: Act of Treason.
Air (Drawing Air): Drawing nothing but useless cards. See also: Mana Flooded and Gas (Drawing Gas).
Alpha Strike: Attacking with all of your creatures for a game winning attack.
Answer: A way of dealing with a problematic card or creature. e.g. “Doom Blade is a good answer to most creatures.”
Bear: A 2/2 creature that usually costs 2 mana. From: Grizzly Bears.
Being Salty: Unsportsmanlike behaviour; being an especially poor loser and complaining excessively. “My opponent got very salty when I played my Angel of Condemnation.”
Blowout: (verb) To lose a creature or card from an unforeseen play. (noun) A game changing play. e.g. “I blocked, but he played Giant Growth; it was a huge blowout.” “I got blown out by that Counterspell.”
Board In/Out: Moving a card from the sideboard to the main deck (Board In), or from the main deck to the sideboard (Board Out).
Bomb: A very good, high impact card, especially in limited formats like booster draft and sealed.
BOP: Birds of Paradise. See: Mana Dork (Mana Elf).
Bottom It: To put a card on the bottom of your library, usually from scrying. e.g. “I cast Anticipate and picked one of the three cards. Then I bottomed the other two.”
Bounce: To return a permanent from the battlefield to its owner’s hand. e.g. “She kept using Capsize to bounce my lands.”
Broken: Overpowered. e.g. “Smuggler’s Copter was so broken they banned it in Standard.”
Buff: (verb) To make a creature more powerful, usually by increasing its power and toughness. (noun) Any spell or effect that makes a creature more powerful. e.g. “I buffed my Soldier token by putting a +1/+1 counter on it.”
Cantrip: A spell that draws 1 card in addition to its other effects, usually for a very low mana cost. e.g. “I wouldn’t even consider using Defiant Strike if it wasn’t a cantrip.”
Chump (Chump Block): To block with a creature that will die in combat without also destroying the attacker. e.g. “It felt back to chump his Cowl Prowler with my Brazen Scourge, but it was either that or take 6.”
Chump Blocker (Chumper): A throwaway creature who is only useful for blocking incoming damage, or any creature used for an unfavourable block. See also: Chump.
Colour Screwed: Missing a necessary colour of mana to cast your spells. See also: Mana Screwed.
Combat Trick: Any instant that can change the outcome of the combat phase, such as by making a creature larger or by removing a blocker.
Craw Wurm: A 6/4 creature, usually for 6 mana. From: Craw Wurm. Note: This is an outdated term, but is still occasionally used.
Crusade: Note: This is an outdated term. See: Anthem.
Dead on Board: To be in a situation where, unless circumstances change, you will lose next turn. “He was at 1 life; I had him dead on board unless he could find a way to destroy my Slither Blade.”
Decked: To run out of cards in your library. e.g. “The game went on for so long, I swear one of us was going to get decked.” “I decked myself by drawing too many cards.”
Dome (To the Dome): See: Face (To the Face).
Double Block: To block a single attacking creature with 2 of your own.
Drain (Drain and Gain): To make a player lose life while simultaneously gaining that much yourself. Note: The term Drain is rarely used in reference to creatures with Lifelink or abilities that say they “deal damage,” but rather it is used for abilities that specifically say a player “loses life.”
Dual Land (Dual): A land that has two subtypes. e.g. “Shocklands are a kind of dual land, but they aren’t nearly as good as the original duals, like Tundra.”
Durdle: To make plays that don’t have a noticeable impact on the game.
Durdler: A creature that is effectively useless, but might be good for blocking. See also: Chump Blocker (Chumper).
EDH: Elder Dragon Highlander. The original name of the Commander format.
Edict: A spell or effect that makes a player sacrifice a creature. e.g. “Edicts like Trial of Ambition aren’t very good in formats with a lot of token creatures.” From: Chainer’s Edict, Cruel Edict, Diabolic Edict and Imperial Edict.
Face (To the Face): Damage directed to a player. e.g. “Lava Axe deals 5 to the face.”
Fetchland (Fetch): A cycle of lands that can be sacrificed to search for a specific kind of land and put it onto the battlefield. e.g. “Scalding Tarn is the blue/red fetchland; it can search for an Island or a Mountain.”
First Pickable: A card that is good enough to take at the very beginning of a booster draft.
Fixing (Mana Fixing/Colour Fixing): Any card that can help you to produce multiple colours of mana, either by searching for a land or by producing the mana itself. e.g. “Prophetic Prism is really good for mana fixing.” See also: Colour Screwed.
Flooding Out: See: Mana Flooded.
Flunge: Attacking with all of your creatures recklessly, usually without calculating what will happen at all.
FNM: Friday Night Magic. A weekly tournament held at most game stores that sell Magic: the Gathering.
Gas (Drawing Gas): A card that will help you immensely, especially when drawn late in the game when both players are running low on resources. See also: Air (Drawing Air).
GP: Grand Prix. Large, 3-day long Magic events including 2-day long tournaments.
Grip: A player’s hand.
Hate: Cards intended to shut down specific strategies or to deal with specific card types. “I was expecting to play against Aetherworks Marvel, so I included Dissenter’s Deliverance for some artifact hate.” See also: Answer.
Hate Bear: A creature that disrupts your opponent’s ability to cast spells and perform other basic tasks, such as drawing cards or searching their library. e.g. “Glowrider and Leonin Arbiter are both hate bears.” See also: Bear, Hate, and Tax.
Hate Draft: Picking a card during a booster draft to keep another player from having it, without any intention of including it in your own deck.
Heckbent: One or fewer cards in hand. See also: Hellbent.
Hellbent: No cards in hand. Note: This was a mechanic in Dissension; it appeared on cards like Demonfire. See also: Heckbent and Top Decking.
Hill Giant: A 3/3 creature, usually for 4 mana. From: Hill Giant. Note: This is an outdated term, but is still occasionally used.
Instant Speed: An ability that can be used any time you have priority. e.g. “Cycling can be done at instant speed.” See also: Sorcery Speed.
In the 75: All cards in a player’s main deck and sideboard together. e.g. “He didn’t have a way to deal with enchantments in his 75.” See also: In the Main, Board In/Out.
In the Main: In a player’s main deck.
Lethal: Enough damage to reduce a player’s life total to 0.
Loot: To draw a card then discard a card. From: Merfolk Looter. See also: Rummage.
Lord: A creature that makes other creatures of a certain type bigger or more powerful in some way, usually by giving them +1/+1. e.g. “Regal Caracal is a cat lord.” See also: Anthem.
Mana Dork (Mana Elf): A creature that produces mana. e.g. “Kozilek’s Channeler is a particularly large mana dork.”
Mana Flooded: Having an excess of lands, or drawing nothing but lands when you don’t want them. See also: Mana Screwed.
Mana Rock: A noncreature, nonland permanent that produces mana. Note: This is almost always an artifact.
Mana Screwed: Having too few lands to cast your spells.
Mill out: To lose the game by having no cards in your library. e.g. “She milled me out.” See also: Decked.
MTG: Magic: the Gathering. Note: Often abbreviated as ‘Magic’.
Offer (up) the Trade: To Attack with a creature that can be blocked in such a way as to destroy both the attacker and the blocker. e.g. “He attacked with his Bastion Enforcer, offering up the trade for my Dhund Operative.”
One-of: A single copy of a card in a deck. See also: Playset.
On the Draw: Going second in a game of Magic. See also: On the Play.
On the Play: Going first in a game of Magic. See also: On the Draw.
Open Mana: The quantity of mana still available to a player from untapped lands and any other sources. e.g. “He still had two mana open; he was probably planning to cast Censor.”
Personal Howling Mine: An ability that lets you draw an extra card each turn, usually at no additional cost. e.g. “If I can get a counter on Fathom Mage each upkeep it will act as a personal Howling Mine.” Note: If it costs a player life, it is usually referred to as a Phyrexian Arena instead.
Phyrexian Arena: See Personal Howling Mine.
Piker: A 2/1 creature that usually costs 2 mana. From: Goblin Piker.
Ping: 1 damage, typically to a player. See also: Pinger.
Pinger: A creature that can repeatedly deal damage directly to a player with an ability, usually only 1 damage at a time. e.g. “Goblin Fireslinger is one of the best pingers around.” See also: Reach.
PPTQ: Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. A competitive tournament used as a stepping stone to get into the Pro Tour. See also: PT.
Playset (Full Playset): 4 copies of a card in a deck.
PT: Pro Tour. The top level of competitive Magic play.
P/T: Power/Toughness. e.g. “Ancient Crab‘s P/T is 1/5.”
Punt: (verb) To make a detrimental misplay. (noun) Any particularly bad play. e.g. “I was winning that game until I punted that attack.”
Ramp: Putting extra lands or other mana producing permanents into play in order to cast larger spells sooner. From: Rampant Growth. See also: Mana Dork (Mana Elf) and Mana Rock.
Rummage: To discard a card, then draw a card. From: Rummaging Goblin. Note: This ability is considered inferior to Looting, since the discard happens before the draw.
Sad Robot: The card Solemn Simulacrum.
Salt: See: Being Salty.
Scoop: To concede.
Shock: (noun) 2 damage. (verb) to deal 2 damage. From: Shock. See also: Shockland (Shock).
Shockland (Shock): A cycle of lands that produce two different colours of mana, but enter the battlefield tapped unless they deal 2 damage to their controller. e.g. “Hallowed Fountain is the white/blue shockland.” See also: Dual Land (Dual).
Side In/Out: See: Board In/Out.
Snap Keep: An obviously good opening hand. Note: This expression is often used sarcastically.
Sorcery Speed: Any ability that can only be activated any time you could cast a sorcery. e.g. “Embalm can only be done at sorcery speed.” See also: Instant Speed.
Spin the Top: Activating the ability of Sensei’s Divining Top to rearrange the top cards of your library. Note: This term is occasionally used to for other effects that manipulate the top of your library.
Squire: A 1/2 creature, usually for 2 mana. From: Squire. Note: This is an outdated term, but is still occasionally used.
Staple: A card that is widely used in a given format. e.g. “Sol Ring is a staple in most Commander decks.”
Swing (Swing In): To attack.
Tax: An ability that makes casting a spell cost more mana. e.g. “He cast Thorn of Amethyst, and its tax kept me from casting anything for several turns.”
Team: All creatures controlled by a player. e.g. “He attacked with the team.” See also: Alpha Strike and Flunge.
Temple Bell: A permanent or effect that makes each player draw a card. From: Temple Bell.
Threaten: Note: This is an outdated term. See: Act of Treason.
Three-of: See One-of.
Time Walk: To take an extra turn. Alternatively, to force a player to spend their turn doing nothing or to repeat what they did the turn before. e.g. “I flashed in Elder Deep-Fiend and tapped her lands, time walking her.” From: Time Walk.
Top Deck: To draw the card you need. “I can’t believe you top decked that.”
Top Decking: Having no meaningful plays (and usually no cards in hand). Note: To Top Deck is to draw the card you need, but to be Top Decking is to be sitting, hoping to draw that card.
Top 8: The quarter finals of a Magic tournament.
Trade: When an attacking and blocking creature are both destroyed, or any other instance where players both expend roughly equivalent resources. “I traded my Bird token and a Giant Growth for his Serra Angel.” See also: Offer the Trade.
Triple Block: See: Double Block.
Tutor: (verb) Searching your library for a card. (noun) A card that allows you to search your library for a card. e.g. “He tutored for a planeswalker using Djeru, with Eyes Open.” “Gamble is a red tutor.”
Two-of: See: One-of.
WUBRG: Pronounced “Woo-Berg”. It is an acronym for White (W), Blue (U), Black (B), Red (R), Green (G); the standard order for the colours of Magic.
As I said before, this is by no means a complete list of slang terms, but generally speaking most effects get named after the card that first popularised it. For instance, Griptide, Thoughtseize, and Control Magic could all have been in the glossary; they are all iconic cards with an effect that shows up time and again, but to list all such cards would be a fool’s errand.
Many effects end up adopting a new name over time, as was the case with Threaten and Act of Treason, and what terms get used will depend on the player base. Anyone who played back when Threaten was popular is unlikely to adopt the new slang if they don’t have to.
Hopefully you found this glossary useful. Please share it with any new players you might encounter, or friends and family who keep giving you blank stares of confusion.
Did I miss anything? Does your play group use different slang than what I have listed here? Please let me know in the comments!