How to Effectively Use Heuristics

Heuristics exist in an interesting place among Magic strategy concepts, in that they’re frequently responsible for “level-up moments” both in adopting them and getting rid of them. Newer players may benefit immensely by trying to adhere to a strict curve when building their decks, and trying to ensure at least 15 creatures in all their draft decks. Meanwhile, more experienced players may recognize the situations where rigidly sticking to these rules restricts them in ways that lead to winning less, and start breaking from heuristics at times as a result. A common perception among stronger players is that heuristics are a crutch, and have an overall negative impact on your play once you reach a certain level. I’m here to tell you though that even for the very best players, heuristics can help you better your play if you use them correctly.



Header - Bad Heuristics

Let’s start off by looking at the category of heuristics that I consider bad. These heuristics are for the most part things you should completely avoid using, and are an active detriment to your game in the long run.

Unexpected WindfallOb Nixilis, the Adversary

The biggest culprit here is using heuristics for card or even archetype evaluations, when there is context available. Cards are frequently dismissed as bad because of the category they fall into, without actually looking at what the cards do. For example, Unexpected Windfall was initially dismissed as a mediocre Limited card, without considering how the mana advantage it provides in the context of Standard made it one of the best cards in the Epiphany decks. Conversely, three-mana planeswalkers are just universally assumed to default to being very good, and that leads to situations like Ob Nixilis, the Adversary being the most talked up card in streets of New Capenna, while in actuality only being playable in a few fringe decks.

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