Magic The Gathering Arena Acronyms and Terms

by AKBio

I’m seeing a lot of requests and responses for people interested in acronyms and phrases commonly used in this thread. Magic has been around for a really long time, and I certainly take a lot of this jargon for granted so I’m going to list with every one I can think of. Feel free to note more below or any mistakes I’ve made, and I’ll do my best to add/revise them. I don’t want to dive into card mechanics, archetypes, or keyword phrases in this post since it’s already huge. I’ve also omitted a few items because they don’t pertain to Arena (at least right now).

ICR: Individual Card Reward – Single card rewards (sometimes offered in multiples) from daily quests and events.

Bo1: Best of 1 – Matches between any two players that are decided by a single game.

Bo3: Best of 3 – Matches between any two players that are decided by the first player to two wins. After the first game, players are allowed to change out cards in their deck with their sideboard (a collection of cards that has to be selected before starting the match). Card swaps revert after every Bo3, but not between matches (ie revisions after game one stay until game 3 but revert after the Bo3).

Set acronyms (currently in rotation):

RNA (Ravnica Alegiance)
GRN (Guilds of Ravnica)
M19 (Core Set 2019)
DOM (Dominaria)
XLN (Ixalan)
RIX (Rivals of Ixalan)

Limited – Any format in which you build and play cards from a limited set of cards (often unopened packs – except in cube). Typically draft or sealed. Any cards not submitted in your deck are considered your sideboard (can be swapped in or out between matches).

Constructed: Player created decks from the current set rotation that constitute a 60 card constructed deck. Can include a 15 card sideboard to swap cards between rounds in Bo3.

Draft: Players open 1 pack, select a card and then pass the remainder of their pack to the AI. The AI passes its first pack (minus 1 card) to the player who then picks another card. This process repeats until no cards remain in the first pack round and repeats 2 more times for a total of 3 packs. This means players will have 42 cards to choose from when assembling a 40 card deck (typically ~23 non-land cards). Basic lands are available in any number/combination when creating the deck.

Sealed: After opening 6 x 14 card packs (plus 1 land – Guilds of Ravnica [GRN] includes a guildgate in every pack), you assemble a single 40 card deck (same as draft, usually ~23 non-lands) using any of the cards included in those packs (6 rares/mythics, 18 uncommons, and 60 common cards). Basic lands are available in any number/combination to form the deck.

Mono-‘X’: This refers to any deck that is created using only one color archetype in magic (X is replaced with one of the colors below – each representing one of the five basic land types).

W (white): white mana source/sink, plains
U (blue): blue mana source/sink, islands
B (black): black mana source/sink, swamps
R (red): red mana source/sink, mountains
G (green): green mana source/sink, forests
Special note: RDW (red deck wins): refers to mono-red decks designed to burn enemies down before they have time to execute their deck’s plan.

These are commonly used in combinations of pairs and triplets and have their own terms to describe them based on sets that focused on particular color groupings as follow:

WUBRG: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green – this refers to the five different color archetypes in Magic (when used altogether are often referred to as WUBRG [pronounced Whoo-Burg]/Domain/Rainbow/Five-color).

These color pairings (guilds – allied colors):

WU (Azorius)
WB (Orzhov)
WG (Selesnya)
UB (Dimir)
UR (Izzet)
UG (Simic)
BR (Rakdos)
BG (Golgari)
RG (Gruul)
WR (Boros)

or these color triplets (shards – primary color followed by secondaries – two color pairs are allied in each triplet):

WGU (Bant)
UWB (Esper)
BUR (Grixis)
RBG (Jund)
GWR (Naya)

or these color triplets (wedges – these colors have one allied pair and one enemy pair represented equally-ish):

BUG (Sultai)
WGB (Abzan)
RWU (Jeskai)
RWB (Mardu)
RUG (Temur)

There are 4 color combos, but these are almost strictly used in commander formats (not relevant to MTGA… yet, so I removed them).

Non-basic lands:

Check land (buddy land): Enters play tapped unless you have one of its constituent parts in play. For example, a RW land requires a mountain, plains, or Sacred Foundry (shock lands count as both basic land types) in play to enter untapped.

Fetch land: Can be sacrificed to find a specific land and put it into play. Has the benefit of thinning land draws and fixing specific mana. Some fetch lands deal 1 damage to the controller when this occurs.

Pain land: Dual color land that enters untapped. May be tapped for 1 colorless mana, or pay 1 life (ping yourself) to tap for either of its dual colors.

Shock land: Dual color lands that enter play tapped unless you pay 2 life (ie take a shock spell worth of damage)

Tap land: Enters play tapped

Player archetypes: This one ended up being more contentious so here’s a link to Timmy, Tammy, Johnny, Jenny, and Spikes! All credit to Mark Rosewater for this post: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/timmy-johnny-and-spike-2013-12-03. That said, there is an often overlooked 4th player type: Vorthos, who loves the lore behind the cards.

I’ve updated this section to be alphabetized now. Anything in brackets [ ] has a clarification below. It’s really gotten out of hand…

Bear: Refers to the classic card Grizzly Bear (2 power, 2 toughness for 2 converted mana cost [CMC]). This is often used as a vanilla comparison with similar power and toughness creatures.

Bomb: Any spell that is capable of closing out the game, breaking a stalemate, or recovering from a losing position on its own.

Bounce: A spell or ability that causes another card to return to a player’s hand.

Cantrip: Card that replaces itself (ie often draws one card after [resolving]).

Card advantage: For players new to trading card games (TCGs) and collectible card games (CCGs), this is a metric by which players often measure the value of their plays. For example, if you play a creature and I cast a card to destroy that creature, that is a 1 for 1 card advantage (ie none – no gain, no loss). If a player enchants that creature and I destroy that creature with a card, that is a 2 for 1. That means I’ve gained one card of value over my opponent. Games of magic are often decided by the player who manages to have the greatest card advantage by the end of the game.

Chump (chump blocker): Anything used to block a creature without trample that will die without trading (ie too low power to kill the attacking creature – typically a 1 power 1 toughness creature). The creature (chump) dies but all damage to the face is prevented.

CMC (converted mana cost): This refers to the cost of casting the card (regardless of colors) listed in the top right of a card. A card that costs 1 red and 1 colorless mana has a CMC of 2.

Dork: This is often used interchangeably with a [vanilla creature]/chump. Emphasizes the fact that it is simply a body on the battlefield for blocking and attacking. Can refer to creatures with abilities that are vastly more important than their stats (ie llanowar elves are mana dorks – essentially mana with a weak body).

ETB (enters the battlefield): Any effect that occurs once a spell (typically creature, enchantment, or artifact) resolves.

EV (Estimated/expected value): refers to any attempt to assess the objective value of a card, play, life decision, etc.

Evasive creatures (evasion): Creatures with flying, unblockable, trample, etc (anything that can cause damage to your opponent by evading their defenses).

Face damage: Damage to the player’s life total.

Fixing (mana fixing): Refers to producing the exact kind of mana you need to cast spells. Typically important when casting spells with strict mana costs.

Fizzle: When a spell can’t resolve because it no longer has a target.

Flood (mana flood): Drawing only lands with no cards to play.

Go tall: Focus on improving existing creatures to exceed the power and toughness of opponents creatures for useful blocks (ie +1/+1 counters).

Go wide: Add more creatures to the battlefield to exceed the number of opponents potential blocks.

Hate (cards): Cards with very specific purposes to counter specific gameplans (typically sideboarded cards because of their niche application). Examples are destroy target flying creature, enchantment removal, artifact removal, etc.

Jank: This usually refers to decks created casually or for fun that eschew performance in favor of creativity or unique interactions. Also refers to non-meta decks.

Mana rock: Artifacts that produce mana (ie Guild lockets to name the most recent).

Mill: Causing an opponent to place cards into their graveyard (discard pile) from their library (draw pile). If they have no cards in the library when they go to draw a card, they lose the game.

Mulligan (mull): Reducing hand size 1 card at a time to shuffle and redraw a new hand. The first mulligan will trigger one free scry at the beginning of your turn regardless of how many times you mulligan.

Ping: Deal one damage to any target.

Ramp: Refers to any card that enters the play allowing for an increase of mana production beyond 1 land per turn (ie llanowar elves, lockets, etc). This can mean playing a card that taps for mana, a spell that allows more than one land to enter play or similar effect.

Resolve: This is when a card or ability takes effect. A card may only be interacted with before or after an effect resolves.

Screw (mana screw): Refers to not drawing enough lands to play cards in hand/drawn.

Splashing: Splashing a color means adding 1-2 cards that include a light mana requirement outside the bulk of your deck. For example, you might splash an Evicerate (3B mana) in a WU deck by adding 2 swamps and removing one plains and one island.

Spell: Any card with a CMC is a spell (ie creature spell, sorcery spell, artifact spell).

Tapped out: When a player has all mana sources tapped (and therefore cannot play any spells under normal circumstances).

Tempo play: Any play that gives a player pacing advantage. Typically bounce or tap creature abilities because they do not generate card advantage but keep you ahead of your opponent.

Tim: Creature or artifact that can be tapped to ping a target (refers to Tim the sorcerer from Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

Tribal: Refers to collections of card types that synergize together (vampires, minotaur, goblins, etc.).

Vanilla: A creature card that only has flavor text (no special abilities). Can be used to assess the value of a card sans text relative to similarly costed creatures.

Vanilla with upside: A creature card with a one time effect (typically ETB). This focuses on the idea that a generic body is left behind after the one time effect.

French Vanilla: A creature that only includes keyword phrases in its text box (flying, first strike, etc).

Voltron: Applying multiple enchantments/equipment to a single creature to form the ultimate 2, 3, or 4 for 1 for your opponent bomb!

Wrath (sweeper): Refers to a board clear effect (from the card/phrase Wrath of God).

‘X’-drop: Refers to the CMC of a card (ie 1CMC is a 1-drop, 2CMC is a 2 drop, etc). Often used to describe playing cards on mana curve (ie 2 drops are typically played on turn 2 unless you’re ramping).

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