As a new MTG player, I would like to know how do players remember all the various effects ?

For example, a spell could add copies of a certain card. How do you actually represent those copies ? Chandra, pyromaster has such power i.e.

Exile the top ten cards of your library. Choose an instant or sorcery card exiled this way and copy it three times. You may cast the copies without paying their mana costs

How would I actually represent the copies in the game ?

Aside from this specific example, do players resort on taking extensive notes of all the events occurring during the games to remember the added cards, ... ? Or is there another way ?

  • 1
    Most of the time there's not much to remember. You have the instant/sorcery card and Chandra card for reference. You only need to remember that you actually used the Chandra's ability. In very rare situations when a stack would contain a lot of virtual items, I suppose some notes could be helpful. But I never was in such situation.
    – tsuma534
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 10:49
  • 1
    @tsuma Could you add that as an answer? Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:35
  • @doppelgreener Not really. 1) It's not detailed enough. 2) I don't believe an answer can be detailed enough for this question (Hence the "too broad" vote). By dropping a hint here I can (hopefully) help the OP a bit, while I don't compromise any of my policies.
    – tsuma534
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


As a general rule, the answer is token cards and dice.

Objects that don't physically exist in Magic tend to be token permanents, copies of spells on the stack, and abilities on the stack.

Tokens are often easy. Wizards produce token cards for non-copy token permanents within a set, so you can use these. If you don't have the appropriate token, you can use reminder tokens (e.g. I have 6/6 "Wurm" tokens for a deck that needs 1/1 "Worm" tokens), other objects, or relevant reminder cards from outside of the game. If your deck is sleeved, you can use unsleeved cards face-down. Dice are helpful as well - I can put a d6 on my face-down card to represent the power/toughness of the construct it represents.

Occasionally effects need to be remembered that aren't stored by the game on its own. Some examples of this are renowned/monstrous, "gain control" effects, or storm counts. Again, dice are helpful. At this point I have dice in a variety of colours. Simple +1/+1 counters will always be on white dice, but a renowned or monstrous creature will have its +1/+1 counters on a translucent coloured die.

If I've created tons of tokens for which I don't have the card, things can get more complicated. I might need dice to indicate the P/T of a group of creatures, the number of them, and additional counters on them. Again, different shapes/colours of dice can help you develop a consistent standard. I use d10s/d% to track numbers of objects, d6s for counters on an object, and d20s for life.

Copies on the stack tend to be of other things on the stack or of something held in exile, so you can refer to it. The stack doesn't usually get too deep, so it's not difficult to resolve it without forgetting what things are there. If it gets complicated you can put the exiled cards as reminders in a physical stack.

The reason it doesn't usually get too complicated is because you'll usually be able to refer to the effects that created stuff, and that there won't usually be too many different kinds of things at once. If I can't remember what your token creatures are, I can look at your "Raise the Alarm" in your graveyard.

Lasting effects can be tougher to remember as the board doesn't indicate the state for you. For example, if I play an instant or sorcery to gain permanent control of your creature, it's easy to remember because your card is on my side of the board. If you then gain control of it temporarily, we have to remember to give it back to me afterwards. I'll put reminder objects (rubber bands, bottle caps, etc) on relevant cards (e.g. exile at end of turn, or don't untap). I know people who have other objects (e.g. coins) that they put on their library to remind them to do something during upkeep, before drawing.

As you notice, Magic does have these moments where the board state can be complicated and not self-preserving. In general, players don't worry too much about it. As long as you've got techniques (as I mentioned, tokens and dice) to remember the more common details, you can improvise ways to deal with other situations. Most of the time you'll remember what's going on, and sometimes you'll forget but it won't matter too much. As you become more experienced with the game, you'll tend to remember details better and you'll know what you can infer from the board state. If you're playing in a deck or format where certain details matter, you'll choose ways to keep track of them.

If you come to a situation where these techniques are overcomplicated, insufficient or just don't work for you, you can write down notes as needed.

  • 2
    It might be useful to add that you are allowed to write notes down if you need to to track things that just having a die or marker doesn't really help with.
    – diego
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 13:37
  • @diego That's true! I don't do it myself so I forgot to include it by the time I wrote everything else :D
    – Samthere
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 13:58
  • Not really "tournament" quality, but our group takes cards from the graveyard as creature tokens, since most token-making decks that get played only create a single type of token (and these decks generally don't bring back things from the graveyard). It's also helpful to use the card that makes tokens as a token (assuming it's hitting the graveyard), since it can refresh your memory on what kind of tokens those are. Also, the dollar stores around here sell glass pebbles, which are great for all token types. Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:08
  • @DavidStarkey As you say, it's fine in a casual format but it does mix up the game state and doesn't work for token-creating creatures. I love the glass pebbles as counters and reminder markers, but I don't like them as permanents (except maybe clues) because you can't tap them!
    – Samthere
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 17:02
  • @Samthere We flip them over to mark them as "tapped". It also works well to mark them as -1/-1 counters when they are on a creature. Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 18:22

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