Have you ever overheard a conversation in a language you understand, but the topic and words being use were so foreign, you had no idea what they are talking about? Like hearing someone passionately discuss a sport you have never followed, or go on about their favorite role playing game. Often this is because they are using phrases and words that are unfamiliar to you, so you have a hard time assigning meaning. For us card game players, this is a very common thing for new players or interested parties. Luckily, there is quite a bit of overlap among card game terminology. Competitive trading card games have been around for over 25 years, it should come as no surprise that there is a LOT of terminology to learn when you are getting into a card game. Let’s decode some of the most commonly-used slang in digital card games today.
What is “jargon”?
- special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.
A lot of the terminology used between card games (and games in general) is fairly universal. In this article, we aim to identify some of the more common terms used in card games, help the reader understand some of the broader terms and hopefully connect some of the phrasing between games.
Why does some of it apply to certain games, and some of it doesn’t?
A lot of times, card games share similar attributes. Even if they are not spot on, they represent similar concepts. Take “mana” from Magic: The Gathering. “Mana” is also used as the resource in Hearthstone, and often “power” in Eternal is referred to as “mana”. They both function similarly, a good amount of Eternal players come from magic, and it is a somewhat universal term to represent the resource used to cast the cards.
Commonly Used Terms
Blowout – a combat trick that gets more than 1:1 value.
Bomb – a powerful card that is generally game changing on it’s own. Most commonly used in limited formats such as Sealed or Draft.
Bounce – returning a unit or relic to the owner (or controllers) hand.
Brew – a homemade deck not copying an established archetype.
Burn – damage spells, charge units are often called “burn spells” in Eternal because they serve a similar purpose.
Card Advantage – any process by which a player obtains effectively more cards than their opponent
Card Draw Engine – a card that draws cards over multiple turns, usually involving some power investment of some kind (Crystalline Chalice or Stonescar Scrapper as examples).
CCG – collectable card game
Chump Block – using a small unit to block damage from a larger unit with to preserve life.
Combo Deck – a deck that relies on drawing a couple specific cards in order to win (Like reanimator needs to draw Grasping at Shadows and a large unit in the void)
Control – a strategy that focuses on trading resources, maintaining control of the board and winning the long game.
Counterspell – certain spells and abilities can “counter target spell” (or similar effects).
Constructed – playing with decks made by the players before they start playing.
Creature/Minion – unit
Curve – the sequence of playing your cards on time aligned with your increasing resource.
Cycle/Cantrip – a card that draws 1 card. Usually low cost. Example: Temple Scribe and Levitate. Cycle is used to describe quickly drawing through your deck. Cycle can also be used in reference to a group of cards in different colors with some sort of similarity, typically “they have similar card text” and perhaps “they have similar costs”.
Dead Card – a card that will have no impact on the game.
DCG – digital card game.
Durdle – taking a long time doing an action or set of actions and accomplishing little or nothing.
EV (Estimated Value) – the average value one could expect after repeatedly taking the same action.
Engine Combo Deck – a combo deck that creates an “engine” of certain cards to gain overwhelming value to win the game (ex: the Echo Makto deck)
Face – direct damage made to the opponent.
First strike – a term in Magic that is very similar to quickdraw, except that it applies on defense as well as attack.
Floater – a Yu-Gi-Oh term for a unit that has replaced itself in card advantage, e.g. a Carnosaur that has eaten a unit, or a Temple Scribe or Great-Kiln Titan that has gotten you another card.
Flood – drawing too much of one type of card, generally in reference to mana/power.
Format – the different modes in which the game can be played.
Gas – cards that help you execute your game plan.
Goodstuff/Pile – a deck that has relatively little synergy or strategy, but relies on cards that are individually powerful.
Graveyard – The term for the “void” in Magic.
Hate (cards) – cards that are used to take down a specific strategy or card type.
Hellbent – playing with zero cards in hand, relying on the top card of your deck to save you.
Jam/Push/Alpha Strike/A-space – Attacking the opponent with all your units and prioritizing getting them to 0 health.
Jank – “of extremely poor or unreliable quality” but usually enjoyable and/or interesting.
Library – the term for “deck” in MTG.
Limited – playing with a limited card pool, such as a sealed, draft or forge deck.
Mana – your resource. Known as “Power/Sigils” in Eternal or “Magicka” in TESL. Gained from “Lands” in MTG.
Meme – jank, but usually employing a specific, underutilized card or strategy, such as Crown of Possibilities or Knucklebones.
Mill – to put cards from the library directly into the void. A win condition for some decks.
Modal – a term used to describe spells that have multiple options (Like the choice and intervention cycle).
Nonbo – when your own cards interact with each other poorly, making each other weaker. The opposite of synergy. For example, Sandstorm Titan in a deck that contains fliers.
Nut draw – a perfect opening hand often leading in to the best draws.
Permission – a style of play that involves dedicated counter-magic.
Playsets – the full amount of a card that you can play in a deck (4 for MTG/Eternal, 3 for TESL, 2 for HS non-legendaries).
Pump – an ability or spell that buffs a unit’s health and/or attack (such as Finest Hour or Ironclad Oath).
Punt – a misplay. Usually one that loses a game or misses a clean win.
Reach – the ability of a deck to deal the final points of damage to win the game though a board stall or an empty board (usually involving burn spells or charge units). Also a keyword in MTG for units without flying that can block flying units.
Resolving – a term for when an action is successfully made (“That spell resolves”).
Salty – generally referring to being upset after losing (see: Aphelion).
Scoop – to concede the game. This comes from physical card games where a player would scoop up their cards in defeat, thus giving an immediate win to their opponent.
Screw – drawing too few of one type of card, generally in reference to mana/power.
Splash – the practice of using only a very small amount of cards of a color in a deck which is filled with cards of other colors.
Sweeper – an area of effect spell that deals with multiple units in some way (like Harsh Rule or Hailstorm).
Tapped Out – from MTG, when someone uses all of their mana in a turn.
Tapped – an MTG term that is synonymous with exhausted in Eternal.
TCG – trading card game
Tempo – the speed or pace of how the game plays out (usually defined in terms of board advantage). All cards provide either positive or negative tempo, cards without a board impact (like card draw) are negative tempo, while cards that produce a unit and affect the board (like Praxis Displacer) are positive tempo.
Testing – spending time working with an idea, generally before an event.
Tilt – when a card game causes an emotional reaction that causes you to play poorly. Usually anger, boredom or frustration causes a player to tilt, but excitement and joy can be equally dangerous.
Tokens – units that are created by another card’s effect.
Trading (during combat) – the act of trading your creatures for theirs via combat damage.
The Stack – the sequence of how game actions are completed – the bottom of the stack being the first action, then any actions responding to that one, are place “above” the initial action, on the stack.
Trample – also “Overwhelm” in Eternal or “Breakthrough” in The Elder Scrolls: Legends. It means once lethal damage is assigned to the creature, the rest is assigned to the player.
Value – any sort of advantage or extra damage or effect that a player can get.
Vigilance – a term in Magic that is kind of like Endurance (attacking doesn’t cause the unit to exhaust, or tap) except in Magic, since there is no “stun” keyword the second part of endurance wouldn’t apply.
Win-more – A strategy that seems incredibly powerful, but is actually weak because it requires you to already be in a winning position.
This was the first collaborative piece between The Great Parliament and Team Rankstar! I also added in suggestions and definitions from Reddit! We wanted to put our heads together and publish something that the community could use, we hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for future collaborations!
Come join the discussion in the Team Rankstar Discord!
Thanks to Lunamann, FafaPapa, AlanSt, Krimsonstudios, Herbstrabe, AustinYQM, Flickerwisp, DiscoPistol, KasaiBene and all other Reddit commenters who helped this article grow!