Magic Jargon

Posted in NEWS on December 3, 2013

By Ted Knutson

Magic Academy is a column designed to help newer players get up to speed by teaching them more about the game and showing the resources available on the web for learning more. The column is written in linear fashion, like a book, so each lesson builds on material learned in previous articles. So, if you're new to the column, you can either start at the beginning or just check the articles so far to see where you'd like to begin. To see the column's table of contents or learn more, just go to the Magic Academy Welcome Page.

This column is written for players that can at least muddle their way through a game of Magic. If you're completely new to the game and don't know how to play at all, we recommend starting with and then returning to Magic Academy. Once you know the basics of getting through a game we'll take it from there!

"Say the magic words!"
"But what do they mean?"

Thran_Tome The letter M!agic , like many games and subcultures, is filled with jargon, or words that are often impossible to understand when not faced with an avalanche of context. This article is designed to provide you with at least one set of meanings for many pieces of Magic jargon and slang. Note, however, that language usage adapts and morphs at lightning speed, so if you are reading this from the future, it's possible that some of these definitions have changed since this article was written. This is by no means comprehensive, but it should be a solid primer on most of the basics. With this guide in hand hopefully you should be able to get through the majority of the articles out there.

Mana Abbreviations

Since Magic is written about frequently and not everyone has access to the spiffy mana symbols in their text, a shorthand version was created for referring to colors. It looks like this:

W = White mana =
U = Blue mana =
B = Black mana =
R = Red mana =
G = Green mana =

Saying you are playing a G/W deck means you are playing a Green/White deck. When it comes to decks, players will sometimes use upper and lower case to show how one color may make up most of the deck, while another color may just be a "splash". So, if you see a deck described as G/w you'll know the deck is mostly green, but with a little white thrown in as well. Lastly, players and writers tend to use slashes and hyphens interchangeably. So, "G/W" and "G-W" mean the same thing.

The shorthand letters are also used for costs, or anything else with mana symbols. So, a creature with a cost of 1UBR has a converted mana cost of 4, and needs one generic mana plus one each of blue, black, and red mana in order to hit play. Using actual symbols, it would be listed as .


Alpha Strike - To attack with all of your creatures. Usually this is done in the hope of pushing enough damage through to win this turn or next.

Team_SpiritAnimals - Another word for creatures.

Awkward - This one is pretty straightforward. It is typically used as a single word to describe situations that become uncomfortable.

"I attacked with my 4/4, but didn't notice the 5/5 that he cast last turn. Then my girlfriend showed up to make fun of me. Awkward..."

Barn - Short for barnacle, this sometimes derogatory, still strangely amusing term is used to describe players who are not good friends of yours, but still hang around. ("We didn't invite him, but Tim kind of barned along.")
It can also be used to describe the behavior of hanging out with someone better/more famous than you. ("I totally barned Richard Garfield at dinner the other night.")
Finally, it is also used to describe the relationship one might have with a young Magic protege. ("He seemed like a nice kid and was willing to learn, so I took him in as my barn.")

Bash - A more descriptive way of saying "attack."

Beatdown -

  1. The art of attacking well. "He is a master of the beatdown."
  2. Being the aggressor in a match.

Bin - The graveyard. Also used as a verb to describe sending something to the graveyard.

"He forgot to pay the upkeep on his Masticore and had to bin it as a result."

Bounce - Cards that return permanents to their owner's hand are frequently called bounce spells. (Also used for cards that return only creatures.)

"Boomerang is the archetypical bounce spell."

Burn - Slang term that most people use in place of the more technically correct "direct damage." (See Incinerate, Fireball, etc.)

"Zoo decks are often nothing more than efficient creatures, land, and burn spells."


Bury - This is the old school way of saying "Destroy XXX. It cannot be regenerated." Commonly used in older sets, the term hasn't been used on cards in a long time now.

Cantrip - Spells that have the clause "Draw a card." tacked on to them. Aaron Forsythe explains this in much greater detail here.

Chump - A creature used to block another creature without any hope of trading or living through the block.

Chump block - To block a creature with no hope of trading or living through the block.

Color Screw - A term used to describe the situation where you have enough mana to cast spells, but not the right color(s) of mana.

Combo -

  1. Short for "combination," this refers to a combination of cards typically designed to win the game when they are put into play. "I got my combo out and he died two turns later."
  2. This is also used as a category of deck archetypes that play combinations of cards designed to win the game in one fell swoop. The three major deck descriptors are Combo, Aggro (or "Beatdown"), and Control.

Control - Aside from its straightforward definition, control also refers to a category of deck archetypes designed to win the game by absorbing beatdown early before taking control of the game, frequently via counterspells and removal. Where beatdown decks seek to win the game quickly, control decks play for the long game.

Deck, Decking - Slang term used to identify strategies that try to win by making an opponent draw a card from an empty library. See also: Mill

"By using my Millstone over and over again, I was able to deck my opponent for the win."

DG - Short for Der Gas. This is typically used to mean very good.

"Exalted Angel is DG."

DI - Short for Der Infy. Generally used to mean "a lot", this is almost exclusively said as DI or infy. Adding the "der" is frowned upon.

DS - Short for Der [Censored] or Der Stains. This is bad - the opposite of DG.

"Chimney Imp is DS."

Dome - Used to describe a player's head or life total.

"I directed all of my burn at his dome and it was just enough to kill him."

Dual Lands - Originally used to refer to the cycle of lands from Alpha through Revised that produced two colors (Taiga, Underground Sea, etc), this term has morphed over the years to become the generic category for all lands that produce two colors.

EOT - Shorthand for End of Turn.

Fast Effects - Abilities that occur at instant speed. Like "bury", this is a throwback to Magic terms from the days of yore when players had to walk through the snow, uphill, into the wind both ways just to play a game of Magic.

Fatty/Fattie - This term is used to refer to creatures that would shop at the Big and Tall shop, you know, if creatures could shop for clothes. 4/4 is generally the bare minimum to be considered a fatty.

Fetch Lands - Slang for the Onslaught cycle of lands that lets players sacrifice a land to fetch one of two land types and put it into play (Wooded Foothills, Flooded Strand, etc).

Fizzle - Old school term for a spell that is countered on resolution because of no legal targets.

"He tried to cast Confiscate on my Nantuko Husk, but I sacrificed it in response to fizzle the spell."

GG - Pronounced "Gee Gee" instead of... um, "Guh", this stands for Good Game, which is either an honest, hearty response to a game of Magic or a sarcastic parting note.

Gray Ogre

Gas - Slang for good, or good cards. Things can be gas or gassy. Many decks also run out of gas. "I cast Wrath of God to clear the board and my hand was still full of gas, so winning at that point was pretty easy."

Goldfish - Playing a deck against no opposition to see how it draws and how quickly it can win, given no resistance. At one point, this also referred to playing a deck against an imaginary opponent who simply cast a 2/2 for two every turn, though that usage has fallen out of favor.

Gray Ogre - Besides being a classic creature from Magic's original set, the term Gray Ogre is also used to refer to any generic 2/2 creature for three mana. Morph creatures are all classic Gray Ogres until they are flipped.

Grip - The cards in a player's hand. A particularly good hand of cards might be referred to as a "Kung Fu Grip."

Grizzly Bear - Like Gray Ogre, Grizzly Bear is used to refer to generic creatures with Grizzly Bear stats - i.e. a 2/2 for two mana. "The Guildmage cycle from Ravnica block are some of the most powerful Grizzly Bears of all time." Also often just shortened to "bear".

Grumper - The graveyard.

HoF - The Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame .

Hill Giant

Hill Giant - Aside from being an actual Magic card, Hill Giant is also the term used to generically refer to a 3/3 for four mana.

Hippie - Slang for Hypnotic Specter

Hull - The opposite of a "barn", hulls attract barnacles to varying degrees.

ID - Abbreviation for Intentional Draw.

Infy - Slang for infinite.

Jank - Unplayable cards, or cards that are cheesy. It can also be used to simply mean bad.

"My deck is pretty janky."

LD - Abbreviation for Land Destruction. (Stone Rain, etc.)

MTGO - Abbreviation for Magic: The Gathering Online

Mana Screw - Description for what happens when you fail to draw enough mana to cast your spells.

Mana Flood - Description for what happens when you draw far too many lands and not enough spells.

Men - Yet another nickname for creatures.

Metagame - The composition of deck archetypes in a particular format/tournament.

"The metagame where I live is mostly a lot of combo, with some beatdown thrown in."

This is also an advanced Magic concept where you build/choose decks based on the expected metagame at a tournament in an attempt to beat them. "Zvi Mowshowitz won Pro Tour Tokyo '01 by metagaming against red."

Mill, Milling - Strategies designed to win by leaving the opponent with 0 cards left in their library, thus making them unable to draw a card. The name for this arises from the card Millstone, first available in Antiquities. Also known as: decking.

Mirror Match - Descriptive term for when you play an opponent running the same deck archetype as you. Two players battling with identical decklists (same deck, same sideboard) would be referred to as a "75-card Mirror Match"


Mise -

  1. "Might as well."
  2. To be lucky - to draw what you need when you need it.
  3. A person who is lucky is a Miser.
  4. To obtain something. "I mised the cards I needed for my deck from my barn."

Mull - Slang for mulligan

Must Be Nice, Must - Sarcastic phrase denigrating someone else's good fortune. "My opponent was pretty bad, so I won." "Must be nice..." The proper response is "Is."

Net Deck - A deck in wide circulation that has been copied off the Internet. In the earlier days of Magic and the Internet, net deckers were vilified by certain areas of the community for having no originality, but in current times pulling interesting new decks off the internet is just a normal part of the game.

Nuts, Stone Nuts - The best possible. Used by itself, "nut" can also mean "the most."

Painland - Blanket category for the cycle of Ice Age and Apocalypse lands that do one point of damage to a player in exchange for producing a particular color of mana. The Ice Age cycle covered allied-color pairs, and the Apocalypse cycle covered the five enemy-color pairs.

Permission - Another name for countermagic or decks that play a lot of counterspells. "My combo deck lost badly to a permission deck in round 1."

Pitch - Discarding or removing from the game one or more cards as part of a cost, such as with Force of Will.

"He cast Force of Will, pitching a Brainstorm."

Power 9 - Nine cards from Magic's Alpha/Beta/Unlimited sets that saw early restriction due to their power level. These are Ancestral Recall, Black Lotus, Mox Ruby, Mox Pearl, Mox Jet, Mox Emerald, Mox Sapphire, Time Walk, and Timetwister.

Random - Players you don't know. Also means inconsequential deck archetypes. "I lost to a bunch of random players in a sea of randomness." Can be derogatory.

Rogue - Basically the opposite of net deck, this describes a person or deck archetype outside of the expected metagame. Some members of the community earn major props for "going rogue."

Sac - Slang for "sacrifice."

Smash - Yet another synonym for attack.

Splash Damage - Strategic term coined by Mike Flores to describe when cards become unplayable in a particular metagame due to hate designed to hit other cards/decks already in the metagame.

Speed Bump - Depending on the person, this can mean either "chump block" or "to block a creature with trample with no hope of trading nor any hope of absorbing all the damage."

Stains - Something particularly bad. Think of underwear and you will achieve the proper mental image.

Swing - Slang for attacking. Some players were born to swing for two.

Tech - Technology. Secret cards or information that helps a player win.

Prodigal Sorcerer

Tier One - The decks at the top of the metagame. These are generally considered to be the best deck(s) in a particular format.

"That deck will never be Tier One. It's Tier Three at best."

Tim - Originally used by a wayward Monty Python and the Holy Grail fan to describe Prodigal Sorcerer, this is now used more generically to describe creatures (Anaba Shaman) or artifacts (Rod of Ruin) that tap to deal one damage to target creature or player.

'Tings - Beatings. In the singular, it can also denote a savage beat laid on an individual.

"I 'tinged him."

Topdeck - To pull the card or cards you need off the top of one's deck.

"I made him discard his hand whole hand, but he topdecked like a fiend and beat me anyway."