Significant Numbers in MAGIC THE GATHERING

Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Magic The Gathering is a game of numbers. How many times has someone asked, “Cards in hand?” or “Life total?”  We add up damage, creatures on board, mana, library size, and so much more. With so much riding on these numbers, it stands to reason that a few would be more important than others. Each number changes the game in its own way, and each one is worlds apart from the others.


0 mana cards are usually powerful, as the moxen indicate. Creatures die at 0 toughness and a player loses when they draw from an empty library or run out of life points. No cards in hand means that your opponent can’t interfere with your plans, and no blockers means someone’s going to get hit.


1 crops up quite a bit as well. Necropotence allows you to pay 1 life for a card, a 1/1 can hit someone (for what it’s worth) or discourage an early swing, and “It was one card down!” or “I just needed one more mana!” are common phrases to hear in or after a game. 1 mana plays like Thoughtseize or Llanowar Elves are a necessity in Modern, as the game usually ends by turns 3 or 4. Imagine what Vintage would be like if the moxen cost 1 mana apiece, or Lotus Petal, or Lion’s Eye Diamond. 0 to 1 is perhaps the biggest gap of all the numbers.


Speaking of gaps, I’m going to skip 2 and move to 3. 3 is Black Lotus, Dark Ritual, and the other Alpha boons. 3 power on a creature is where it starts to become a big threat, but 3 toughness means it still dies to Lightning Bolt or Lightning Strike. 3 mana cards like Stone Rain can be played on turn 2 after a Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. And never, ever, underestimate a 3 CMC planeswalker.

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4 is where creatures start to become big. A 4/4 creature means it hits hard and takes punishment well, dodging Bolt in Modern and Strike in Standard. Speaking of Modern, 4 CMC is a soft cap in the format as many games end before you hit your fourth land drop. Spells begin to get flashy here and creatures have to have an impressive board presence, as you must invest a significant amount of resources into them.

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Commander is its own little microcosm with its own significant numbers that don’t show up anywhere else. A 2 mana rock means you have four mana on turn 3 to cast your commander (assuming you have a land), and 7, 11, and 21 power means it only takes three, two, or one attacks respectively with your commander to kill someone.

I didn’t go into too much depth here but let me know if you enjoyed it! If I get enough positive feedback about this article, I’ll go into much more detail on each number.

Alrighty everyone, have a good whatever!