Magic: The Gathering Arena – Full Gameplay and Tips

Magic: The Gathering Arena – Full Gameplay and Tips 1 -
Magic: The Gathering Arena – Full Gameplay and Tips 1 -

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Some fundamental information for novice players on colors, strategies, pitfalls, and having a nice time in this trash game. There isn’t much of a flow to this guide; I tried to structure the sections logically, but you should really simply use it as a reference guide.


There are “four” phases in Magic, but there are actually more than that in terms of how cards trigger. There are things that trigger before your upkeep, things that trigger before passing the turn, things that trigger in-between phases, and so on. I highly recommend utilizing “stops” and “full control”.

Stops – Click on any of the phase icons in the bottom-right to place a “stop”. This forces you to have control when it hits that phase. You can also set it to stop on your opponent’s phase instead of your own.

Full Control – This option (Ctrl by default) overrides MTGA’s automatic determination of control and allows you to have full control over your actions. For instance, Lands won’t auto-tap.

Why are these two things significant? For one thing, you can be putting together a play that you want to be sure goes off at the right time. You could also choose to cast a spell by tapping certain lands. Or, maybe more importantly, you want to psyche out your opponent. Even without a chatbox or looking them in the eyes, you can still mind game them, especially if you’re using a control deck. Remember that you only have priority when you have a spell to cast. You acquire priority nevertheless by assuming full control or establishing a halt, letting your opponent assume you have a spell.

ou can also auto-pass, which doesn’t work as well as it should, but it can trick your opponent into believing you don’t have a spell to cast when you actually do.


There are multiple formats in MTGA, but really only one that matters, and that’s Explorer Play, Best of 1. But here are some explanations.

Best of X

You can play Best of 1 or Best of 3. Play Bof1. Trust me. The last thing you want is to try a Best of 3 and realize you’ve been matched with a control-heavy Dimir deck.


Using cards from whatever the current rotation is what you’d see in your average tournament. Until you build up a collection of older cards, this is fine way to play.


No one likes it. Don’t play it. It’s stupid.


“Uses cards from all of MTG’s history” actually means “All the cards currently in MTGA except the ones you can’t use.” This is a stupid format only because of MTGA’s inherent limitations. Great if you’re playing paper or MTGO, though.


The best way to play. It’s Historic without some of the bulls**t cards available in that mode. Since Explorer goes back to 2012, well before where MTGA’s collection cuts off, it’s basically the same thing as Historic. The greatest part about it is running into people playing modern decks while you’re still running decks from War of the Spark and earlier. It’s honestly insane how much more powerful the decks I built in ’19 and ’20 are now.


Like Commander but not. If you don’t know what Commander is, don’t worry about it. If you do, I’m sorry for your wallet.


A waste of money.

Ranked vs Non-Ranked

There’s literally no reason to play Ranked. If you take the game that seriously, you need to go outside. I wouldn’t be so harsh if I didn’t personally exploit the game’s mechanics to blast to the top of the rankings without even thinking.



Red is the most honest of colors. Red is aggression personified. It’s possible to secure a victory in the first few turns with a Red Rushdown deck. The best defense is more offense. Play Red if thinking hurts your brain.


Green is the second-most honest of colors. Green is about beasts, green is about power, green is about ramping to Big Green Stompies. There are some really deceptive and shady things you can do with Green, but you shouldn’t play those unless you’re a real rat at heart (I see you, Scute Swarm). You’ll field big dinos and face up mano-a-mano if you’re a real man. Picture mudamudamuda/oraoraora, or if you’re not weeb trash, Arnold’s “most epic handshake” meme.


White is the safest color. White has a lot of defense in the form of healing, Defender, Vigilance, and board wipes. It also has sexy Angels, cute little kitty cats, and adorable puppers. I guess it also has knights in shining armor but I don’t know why you’d play with those. You’re playing White, you clearly don’t like actually playing the game.


When it comes to not playing the game, Black is all about devastation. Murder, Cast Down, Vraska’s Disdain, Thoughtseize, Duress, and so on. Black is about “removal,” which is a fancy way of saying “I know I can’t beat you honestly, so this card removes your card.” Whereas Red would thrash you and Green would flex its muscles to make your cards erupt, Black simply says “throw your deck into the graveyard.” The color black is associated with rats, which is appropriate given the existence of the Rat Colonies.


And then there’s Blue. Blue is for terrible people.

Blue is for people who have no friends. Blue is for people who hate the game. Why? Because Blue has “control”, meaning counterspells, milling, and all manner of horsesh*t to make your day miserable. See the attached video for an example of an honest and upstanding Green player having his day ruined by a Blue/Black rat.

Simple descriptors for each color combo

So now that you know about colors, here is a quick summary of each color combo. I’ll be using abbreviations of single colors to make typing easier (B is Blue, K is Black). You can find a full list here. – []

Colorless – Possible?

If you see someone playing zero colors, respect them for playing the game on hard mode.

Mono-Color – Standard

See the other section for a detailed explanation of each of these.

  • W – Defense
  • G – Power
  • R – Aggression
  • B – Control
  • K – Death


Dual-Color – Guilds

The lore gives each dual-color combo a “guild”, and each combo has a distinct theme that usually makes sense based on the component colors.

  • Selesnya (WG) – Ramping Life
  • Azorius (WB) – Safe Control
  • Boros (WR) – Righteous Fury
  • Orzhov (WK) – From Death, Life
  • Simic (GB) – Merfolk
  • Golgari (GK) – Infestation
  • Izzet (BR) – Rules For Thee, Not For Me
  • Dimir (BK) – I Am a Bad Person
  • Rakdos (RK) – From Death, Rage


Tri-Color – Ultimate Flavor

It’s uncommon to see tri-colors nearly as much as mono or dual, so most people don’t know their names. I can barely remember. I don’t even know if these are necessarily “official” in the lore. I think I got every combo here.

I can’t give a simple descriptor for each combo because there’s too much variation. You might play a Jeskai deck that has a couple of Red spells thrown in among an otherwise Azorius deck, or it could be a primarily monowhite deck with a couple of B and R thrown in for flavor, or it might be evenly split.

  • Bant (WGB)
  • Naya (WGR)
  • Abzan (WGK)
  • Jeskai (WBR)
  • Esper (WBK)
  • Mardu (WRK)
  • Temur (GBR)
  • Sultai (GBK)
  • Jund (GRK)
  • Grixis (BRK)


Quad-Color – Just Why

If you’re insane, you can try running four colors. Trust me, it’s usually a bad idea because of how easy it is to get mana-screwed.

  • Ink (WGBR)
  • Dune (WGRK)
  • Witch (WGBK)
  • Yore (WBRK)
  • Glint (GBRK)


All Colors – [redacted]

The Thanos of MTG lore is a dragon named [redacted]. His goal was to utilize all five colors to take over the multiverse. He was defeated and had his name stripped from him after the War of the Spark arc so he could never be summoned again. Unfortunately, you still run into people playing him. If you see someone with a Nicol Bolas avatar, Nicol Bolas sleeves, and playing Nicol Bolas, rest assured that you’re a better person than that player. Blue players might be friendless rats, but Bolas players are tryhard fedora-tippers.


Not all expansions are created the same. If you want an edge, buy the older expansions. Around the time MTGA was released back in 2019, the cards available skewed heavily in the direction of cancerous control decks. WOTC literally released a box-topper card (Nexus of Fate) that has since been banned in all formats for being busted as hell, and the champions of paper magic were both control decks (Monoblue Vs Dimir, if memory serves).

The Phyrexian sets utilize a mechanic called “Toxic” which is just as bad as it sounds. The God-Eternal cards from War of the Spark are stupid and not fun to deal with. Planeswalkers range from absolute trash in some sets, to absolute S-rank in others. For instance, a lot of versions of Teferi are mediocre, but “Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” from the Dominaria set is objectively one of the most powerful Planeswalkers in MTGA, and the definitive “f**k you” card now that Nexus of Fate is gone.

Not all cards are the same, either. “Play With Fire” is a better “Shock”, as they are both 1-cost Red Instants that deal 2 damage to any target, but PWF also lets you Scry if you hit a Player with it.

Because of how set rotation works, there are combinations that were never intended to work together that end up being absolutely insane if you’re playing Historic or Explorer. I’m not going to explain any of mine, but you should try to find your own.

Helpful Tips

I’ve picked up many helpful things along the way that I will now share with you to my peril. Honestly, I would rather hoard this knowledge to myself, but what the hell, let’s do it.

The Shuffler, AKA How Your Starting Hand is Dealt

Nobody realizes it, yet your starting hand isn’t completely random. Your deck has a land-to-non-land ratio. The shuffler deals three random hands and then offers you the one with the best ratio as your beginning hand. This means you may take advantage of it to the fullest using MonoRed. With 13 Mountains and 47 Spells, you have an opening hand of 2 Mountains and 5 Spells. Make all of your cards extremely inexpensive, and you’ll be able to charge out of the gate with more damage than your opponent can handle. I was able to rocket to the top of Ranked League by employing a certain strategy.

Never Mulligan

When you have a weak starting hand, you shuffle it back into your deck to draw a new seven cards, then throw one under your deck for each time you mulled. To put it another way, you begin at a tremendous disadvantage. So, don’t mulligan. Change your deck so you never have to mulligan again, or curse RNG and try again. Another reason to avoid playing rated.

There’s no Chat Feature

Obviously. You thought there would be a multiplayer game in the modern era where chat’s enabled? This means two things:

  1. You can permanently mute opponents but still spam the “Oops” emote.
  2. Your opponents are effectively just bots.

When you can’t chat with someone, you may as well just treat them like an AI. There’s no way I’d ever play my decks against an actual human being because I’m not a sociopath. But in MTGA? Of course! I would apologize if you ever get matched up against me, but honestly, I don’t care.

MTG is a Fundamentally Flawed Game

Because MTG was the first TCG, it made all of the mistakes that later card games learnt to avoid. Unfortunately, things never got any better. I honestly have no idea why I play so much or why I took the effort to write this guide. However, because it is a terrible game, you should not take it seriously. There are people who become so engrossed in this game that it affects their personal happiness and attitude. Don’t be that person. This is a silly card game that we enjoy playing. If a horrible run of matches is ruining your day, it’s time to uninstall.

This Magic: The Gathering Arena – Full Gameplay and Tips guide has come to an end. Please contact us and let us know if you have any concerns, questions, or suggestions about how we can improve this topic. Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness, and I hope you have a lovely day! This piece was motivated by the author and creator Rhettorical. If you liked this post, you should check back regularly because we publish new information every day.

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