Magic The Gathering Made Easy: Adapting MTG to be Kid-Friendly for My 6-Year-Old Daughter


I enjoy playing Magic The Gathering (MTG) and my 6-year-old daughter wanted to play with me. The problem? She can not yet read the cards, and she does not understand all the rules. So what did I do? I adapted the rules to make it easier for her to play.

What is MTG (Magic The Gathering)?

It is a card game where you are a wizard, and you cast spells to defeat your opponent. You and your opponent(s) have 20 life points each, and you have to deal damage so that their life reaches 0. You have different kinds of spells, and you can summon creatures to help you. Each spell has its own rules and properties. There are several species and types of creatures, and each one has its own abilities. You can mix and match your cards as you see fit, and you can create your own deck. There are also different kinds of land. Each land gives you MANA (energy to cast spells), and you can only cast spells if you have enough MANA and of the right kind. Each kind has its own properties:

  • Forests (green) is the color of nature. It is the color of growth, life, and brute force. Usually associated with elves, druids, and beasts, the play style is slower than the other colors, but it is powerful.
  • Mountains (red) is the color of chaos, fire, and destruction. Usually associated with goblins, dragons, and barbarians, the play style is fast and aggressive.
  • Islands (blue) is the color of knowledge, illusion, and trickery. Generally associated with wizards, merfolks, and sphinxes, the play style is slow and defensive, with ways to interrupt the game of the opponent.
  • Plains (white) is the color of order, law, and protection. Usually associated with angels, knights, and clerics, the play style is slow and defensive, with ways to earn more life points.
  • Swamps (black) is the color of death, decay, and ambition. Commonly associated with zombies, vampires, and demons, the play style is fast and aggressive, with ways to deal damage to the opponent and to destroy their creatures.

There are many ways to play MTG (formats), and the most common is the Standard format.

I used to play a lot around 20 years ago, and I recently started playing again, but it seems all the rules have been changed and many new formats have appeared. There are now restrictions on the kind of cards you can play, and the game duration has been reduced. The formats that are most similar to the ones I used to play are Legacy and Vintage.

I won't be learning all the new rules and formats, so I decided to go with the ones I already knew.

For the purist, please note that I am not following the official rules.

How to play

I decided to adapt the rules I know to make it easier for her to play.

1. The deck

You may have between 40 and 75 cards in your deck. I decided to go with one-color-decks as it is easier to understand.

I explained to her the different kinds of lands and game styles, and she decided to go with a red deck and chose a green deck for me. I helped her build a deck with 60 cards, with a maximum 4 copies of each card. I also asked her to have at least 20 lands. She also gets to call the creatures whatever she wants. (She has a creature called "Filigree Familiar" which is a 2/2 creature she calls "Little Fox".)

We removed all non-creature cards as they make the game more complex.

We "removed" all the abilities of the creatures, as she does not understand them yet. (I will add them later when she learns how to read). When I mean "removed their abilities" I really mean "ignored their abilities".

2. The game - The rules

  1. Each player shuffles their deck and draws 7 cards. She has to have at least 2 lands. If not, she re-draws 7 cards again.
  2. She decides who starts. The one that starts does not draw a card on the first turn.
  3. Each player draws a card at the beginning of their turn.
  4. Each player can play (put on the table) one land per turn.
  5. Each player can play as many creatures as they want per turn, as long as they have enough MANA.
  6. Each player can attack with their creatures. The creatures can attack the other player or the other players creatures. The other player can block the attack with their creatures. If a creature attacks, it cannot block.
  7. All creatures suffer damage at the end of the turn. If a creature has damage equal or greater than its life (defense), it goes to the rest-deck for it to rest (sleep) until the next game. (this would the graveyard and the creatures usually die, but I found out that she does not like the idea of killing the creatures)
  8. The game ends when one of the players has 0 magic (life) points. Again, she doesn't like the idea of death, so we use "magic points" instead of "life points". As with the creatures, after sleeping for a while, the magic points are restored. This is easier to understand as the creatures also sleep.
  9. All creatures suffer invocation sickness the first turn they are on the table. That means they cannot attack (or use their abilities) the first turn they are on the table.
  10. Each turn has the following phases:

    1. Untap: all the cards are untapped (turned 90 degrees to the right). This is the first phase of the turn.
    2. Draw: the player draws a card.
    3. Main: the player can play lands and creatures by tapping the required lands.
    4. Combat: the player can attack with their creatures.
    5. Defense: the opponent can block the attack with their creatures and damage is calculated.
    6. End: the player passes the turn to the opponent.

This continues until one of the players has 0 magic (life) points.

3. The cards

How do we use the cards?

Each card has a cost in MANA (energy) and a cost in lands. The cost of land is the number besides the symbol of the land. The cost in MANA is the number in the top-right corner and is the sum of both the symbol plus the number.

For example, a card with a cost of 2R (Red) costs 2 MANA and 1 mountain.

Let's take for example, Chandra's Magmutt.

  • (1) Required MANA of type "Mountain"
  • (2) Required MANA of any type
  • (3) Total defense (total damage points it can take before it dies)
  • (4) Total attack (total damage points it can deal)
  • (5) Card color (red)

These are the only parts of the card we use. The rest is ignored.

4. Game layout

With these rules the game layout looks like this

5. Additional comments

  • My daughter does not like the idea of killing the creatures, so we send them to the sleep-zone instead of the graveyard. (I will change this when she is older)
  • We use magic points instead of life points for the same reason as above. It is also easier to understand.
  • She likes to take her own decisions, so I give her some hints as to what would happen if she does something. For example, I tell her that if she attacks with a creature, it will go to sleep (die) if it attacks a creature with more attack points than its own defense. She then decides if she wants to attack or not.

And that's it! She can now play MTG with me, and she is having fun.

All in all, I think the changes are not so drastic and that allows me to introduce new rules (the real rules) as she grows up. Abilities are the next step, and then we can start using non-creature cards. But all when she learns how to read.

I hope these rules also help you play with your kids. If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments.


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