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Breaking Through – Competitive Consistency

 

Magic is ultimately a game that combines plenty of logical, calculated decisions with human elements. As we all know of course, the human elements are much harder to trace or judge, and therefore do not get quite the same attention when it comes to strategy talk or advice. In reality though, the human elements, once/if able to be taken advantage of, are actually the easiest thing to manipulate due to the manipulator being, well, human. That is to say that while you can never convince a probability that it is in fact wrong, you can make huge strides to altering your psychological approach to the game or any of its components.

Fighting your Nature

One area where our human nature betrays us is in the consistency department. Unfortunately, we allow circumstances to alter our play decisions and attitudes which ultimately leave us in situations where we are rarely playing the same game twice. So much is said about strategic line of thought, insisting that there is only ever one actual “best” play and that every other vector is inferior. Human inconsistency has a similar set of restrictions although with slightly different focus points in assuming that inconsistent play and attitudes should be avoided, as there is more times than not a “correct” behavior or behaviors to exhibit for any like situation.

Essentially, we allow our opponents or circumstances to dictate how we play the game. In other words, our decision making process and our mental state hinge on just how we perceive our opponent or our current situation. Let’s begin with some common examples and later see if we can take some steps to remedy that, as I realize thus far that my statements have been a bit cryptic, although that is primarily due to the subject matter.

You are playing at a Friday Night Magic event. It’s Rise of the Eldrazi draft. The draft goes well and ultimately leaves you with a pretty insane deck that should have little problem 3-0ing. Pairings go up and you find out you are playing against Johnny, the 11 year old boy who does not understand the game nearly as well as you. You sit down as instructed and shuffle up though, thinking more about the future rounds or possibly what sounds good for dinner. Johnny never wins a match most weeks, and judging by his oversized deck of likely all 42 cards he drafted, that is not going to change today.

You of course keep any seven card hand with a land in it, as it should be mostly irrelevant and the match starts. He begins the game with a mountain and a [card]Goblin Arsonist[/card]. You let out a soft chuckle and proceed, chatting with your friends sitting next to you and getting involved in other people’s matches, as they are surely more exciting than your own.

Up to this point, I think everyone, yes even you, can think back to a time where this was them to a point. We are cocky creatures by nature but usually show enough respect for our opponents that this does not come out in such an easy manner. Johnny here though can barely hold our attention and therefore our mind is somewhere else. This does not make you a bad player, or a bad person, only human, but the story can take a turn for the worst very quickly.

After Johnny plays a few more random dorks while you set up your board of U/W levelers, the unthinkable happens. Johnny taps for seven mana, plays a Devastating Summons for two 1/1s, and caps that off with a Hellion Eruption, resulting in 2 damage to your Skywatcher Adept from a pair of Arsonists and 6 big ole 4/4s to deal with. You fail to draw anything remotely close to an answer and die a few turns later

Now while this exact situation may be unique, it is probable that everyone reading this has also given away a game that they had no business losing due to letting their guard down and underestimating their opponent. Is Johnny a bad player? Yes. Is Johnny’s deck pretty bad? Yes. Is Johnny still an opponent who is sitting across from you with the intention of winning? Yes. Just because a player does not present him/herself as a competitive or respectable threat does not mean you should treat him any differently. There is a high likelihood that you will win regardless, but it establishes a pattern of inconsistency that can attack you at the worst possible time in the future.

The human mind seeks shortcuts whenever possible as it is charged with processing an abstractly large amount of information. Therefore, if you can train yourself to be consistent and play within a set range in style and decision making, your brain is able to process information faster and with more accuracy than if you are constantly sending it mixed signals. Now it should be noted that while a narrow range of consistent play is optimal, a wider ranger of potential play is optimal.

This means that while you tend to play within a certain comfort zone during a match for most or all areas, if pressed to reach beyond those limits, the outliers stretch very far. For example, it is preferable to be consistent in the following areas: speed of play, mulliganing, card evaluations, in-game decision making, effort output, information gathering, information giving, sideboarding, and plenty of other more niche areas, but that does not mean you should not have the capability of reaching beyond your boundaries of consistency when required.

Consistency

If you are a consistently slow player but are in the bubble round of a tournament with a win and in scenario, game 3, and the clock is ticking down below 5 minutes, you should be able to summon another gear in order to not only finish out the match without a draw, but do so at an optimal, or near optimal level of play. If you are forced to speed up but every other part of your game suffers dramatically, you are not helping your situation out any. Now of course you will not play as well as if you were in your comfort zone, as there is a reason it is your consistent range in the first place, but you should be able to play at some arbitrary percentage of that consistent level that still allows you to win (90% lets say).

Your consistency levels are chosen, or settled upon even, because they provide you with the best chance of winning. If you begin to slip beyond those, or confuse the brain with levels all over the place, you are jeopardizing your chances of winning. This may most commonly be seen at the FNM level against less skilled players, but the same type of situations occur on the opposite side of the spectrum as well.

Say you are at a Grand Prix, your 3rd or 4th one, and the pairings for round 7 have you squared off against none other than our own LSV. You sit down and immediately begin chatting with him, telling him that you admire his writing and work and would like an autograph etc. You allow him to play a little sloppier than usual despite usually being a stickler for the rules but you don’t want to look foolish in front of a pro. In essence, you allow him to dominate the match on a social level which of course leads to a domination of strategy on his part as well. If this isn’t you, you may end up trying too hard to beat the pro, convinced that it means more than other matches, overexerting yourself and trying to do things outside of your normal comfort zone, which ends up catching you when you least expect it, costing you a match.

As far as your mental state should be concerned, every match of Magic is just as important as the last, no more and no less. If you allow yourself to bend that rule because you are facing Johnny’s 78 card deck or LSV at a Grand Prix, you have betrayed everything that got you to that point in the first place.

At my first ever Grand Prix in Dallas, I was up against Tiago Chan in round 12 or 13. I was a nobody at the time and knew Tiago from plenty of Pro Tour coverage. In the match, a situation came up where I cast a Trash for Treasure (yes, really) on a Sundering Titan. I chose the lands from both sides to be destroyed and we put them all in the graveyard. About 15 seconds later, Tiago caught himself and realized he wanted to play a Stifle on the Titan’s comes into play ability. He asked if this was OK and said he would understand if I said no since he clearly missed the opportunity. I tanked for a minute, but ultimately gave in due to the fact that this was a pro and he had been a nice guy all match. Of course, 3 turns later he had a Mindslaver lock on me and beat me on turn 5 of turns in that game 3. I ended that tournament in 10th place (Tiago in 9th) missing out on the Top 8 by breakers, where even just that draw would have moved me into the Top 8.

For no one else all tournament was I allowing any take backs or sloppy play to steal match wins from me. Even in round 4 my opponent asked to go back to my draw step to cast an Orim’s Chant and I called a judge to make sure he wasn’t allowed to do so. I let myself slip for one moment in the face of a Pro and it ultimately cost me. Had I remained consistent, I would have likely ended up in a Top 8 at my first ever Grand Prix.

The opponent is obviously an important dynamic involved in any given match of Magic, but one cannot allow the specific traits of that individual to pull you out of your normal routine. Do not pass up on free information that the player may be giving off via tells or what not of course, but simultaneously do not allow that information to betray you by it convincing you to do the same thing in return. The opponent should never be able to modify your game simply by them existing. Certain traits are just irrelevant to a match and they should be treated as such. Yes a Pro is going to play better than an 11 year old, but you should ignore those facts and play to the best of your ability at all times. If you are modifying your game based on your opponent you are placing yourself into bad habit formations. If you choose to capitalize on some weakness of the opponent, then by all means go for it. Just be sure to be fully aware of these decisions and do not allow them to disrupt your own game plan.

It is natural to wish to do more or less based on the situation at hand but that does not make it optimal when attempting to master a game. Developing a consistent level of the various fields above will take time and a keen understanding of your own limitations, but the results should be worthy. It is not enough to simply acknowledge that you are inconsistent, as you must actually work at rectifying the situation too. If you are finding yourself contemplating what speed to play at during a game or how much you should be talking to an opponent, you still have work to do. Just think of how much more efficient you can be if those things came as a given. Instead of worrying about mostly trivial things, you can then focus on your game play, which is of course the most important thing. Just remember to be aware of those times when leaving your comfort zone is the best choice at hand.

Becoming consistent is far from easy unfortunately, but there are some steps to work at it properly. I would recommend feedback as the most direct route to consistent play. Utilize your playtest time to not only figure out card and deck choices, but also to establish healthy patterns in play. If someone is available to watch your match, as them to point out when you are making inconsistent decisions that both were derived from a similar set of circumstances. Some of these inconsistencies will be due to a learning curve of course, as playtesting usually involves new interactions or decks, but some will just be the result of inconsistent modeling. Do not be afraid to ask questions and have discussions about your decision making or any of the points of your game that could improve from being more consistent. Information is the key to understanding the finer points of the game, so do not shy away from it. Hopefully, over time, you can begin to transition these dialogues into shortcuts, allowing better efficiency and consistency in your play.

Once you have developed consistent behaviors, you can more easily assess problems as well. Even if some set of behaviors you are acting out is flat out wrong, you can now manipulate a single variable within that set of behaviors and see a sweeping change to the outcomes. If you have no consistency in your behavior, there is now no universal variable to change and therefore no universal shift in results. Consistency opens up all of these doors that seem to be hiding opportunity behind them. And as we all know, more opportunity is always beneficial. Thanks for reading.

Conley Woods

50 thoughts on “Breaking Through – Competitive Consistency”

  1. Bravo Conley. I had the pleasure of meeting you at Grand Prix Tampa last year and actually did get an autograph. I usually let myself get “bullied” into backsteps from other players, mostly at FNM. I initially thought it was my good-hearted nature or that I’m a sucker. After reading this article it made me realize that I’m letting someone else and their play style affect my own way of play. I plan on going to a 5k event this weekend (for a site which shall go unnamed) and plan to utilize this knowledge to its fullest.

  2. solid article, and what I’ve needed to read recently to remind myself to get back to my basics. Thanks.

  3. An interesting read. I’d be intreagued to know what your opinion on doing this at your local FnM is; the people there are your friends and you don’t want to seem like “that guy” who panders rules. It seems like you’re implying that you need to be harsh on your game at all times, but perhaps I’m misinterpreting your meaning – perhaps you just mean to pay attention.

    tl;dr: How do you go about disallowing take-backs at your local FnM without seeming a jerk?

  4. Tell them you’re practicing for a tournament prior to the game beginning and want to make things as close to tourney standard as possible.

    Provided you outline your intention at the start of the game and are polite no-one should have an issue. And if they do, its them who is seeming like a jerk, not you.

  5. Any player who is even halfway competent at Magic should be ashamed to ask for a takeback, especially a high level pro. Takebacks reinforce habitual sloppy play, damage integrity by rewinding the game state for no actual rules reason, and make the player seem foolish. Takebacks are one of the worst cancers in the competitive magic community and that includes FNM (a DCI sanctioned tournament.) You may feel like a bad guy for not allowing them but understand that you are positively affecting the skill level of players around you and thus the overall health of MTG. Nothing makes a person determine to remember his triggered “may” abilities or to read every card thoroughly than to lose a match to a lazy error.

  6. Re: Mindless

    For a long time, I played my FNMs on a “if you make an error, that’s on you, not me” basis, and never really had a problem with it. That’s the sort of thing I need to get back to; recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve let some of the more casual players get away with some sloppy play that I probably should be working more to fix (and even let a player whom I know to have day 2’d at least one GP get away with an error). When I’ve made it clear that allowing mistakes and take-backs is only hurting both players in the long term; and that I try to play all of my games as if they were at a PTQ, GP, PT, etc (and the person you’re telling this to doesn’t catch you going back on that later in the same night or next week), I’ve never had problems with it. As long as you’re not an ass while telling them they can’t fix their errors, most people don’t mind too much, and they learn to live with it as long as you’re consistent.

  7. As far as I’m concerned, FNM’s are weekly practice sessions for real tournaments. If they don’t return a land to their hand with a Living Tsunami in play, their air elemental dies. You don’t have to be a dick about it, just point out that they missed the trigger and it’s a sanctioned match. You’re doing them a favor, they’ll be less likely to make such mistakes in the future.

    And you get to kill their air elemental without casting a spell.

  8. A very nice article, Conley, and fortifying me in my stance that one does not need to ‘slow down’ to become a better player, as people have told me repeatedly.

  9. Interesting article I admit when I play at FNM I’m there to have fun and play some social games with whacky decks I wouldn’t usually use, so I don’t act like a rules Nazi. Last week something really pissed me off though.

    A few weeks ago in a game 1 after having the die roll to see who is going first we deal out our 7 cards my opponent looks at he’s hand goes “Oh shit I forgot to de-sideboard”. I say “No problem we haven’t started playing yet” I let him de-sideboard and we deal our open hands out again.

    Last week the same thing happened only it was me not de-sideboarding correctly this time. My previous game had run long and I was in a hurry to get to the next table. I had accidentally left a Goblin RuinBlaster in my main deck. I get it in my opening hand I let my opponent know ask him if he minds if I take it out and re deal my hand, he tells me I’ve broken the rules calls a judge over and I get handed a match loss. Which kind of pissed me off because I always thought of FNM as being a fun non competitive night, I can understand if it was a GP of something but an FNM, wtf…

    So lesson learnt just because I’m a nice guy doesn’t mean my opponents will be. The further part that pisses me off is that I was honest enough to admit I hadn’t taken all my sideboard cards out. I could have not said anything kept playing the game and no one would have been any the wiser (we don’t have decklists or anything like that at our FNM). So yeah being 1) honest and 2) a friendly player gets you nowhere apparently…

  10. Personally, I’m all over people about takebacks, misplays, or what have you in any setting, no matter the level of competition. I’m not an ass about it, but if you’re playing a game and there’s a prize on the line, no matter how small, why would you let people backpedal on game-changing plays or mistakes?

    Isn’t it the player that makes the fewest errors that is supposed to win?

  11. ^Hey, it’s crlashchlan from my province =P.

    Personally, at fnm’s against players that I know have no intention of being competitive, and are just there to have a good time, I let take-backs slide, but against more advanced players I expect them to not need take backs, and usually hold them to their plays.

    As always, you write my favorite articles Conley. Keep on doing your thing.

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  13. I kept thinking that when you say consistency, you could substitute the word ‘integrity’. There’s a ton of important advice here. Thanks!

    Yay 1st post.

  14. @Mike Kitt ^

    I would have to disagree with you on the “integrity” thing.

    And would also point out that integrity is a very commonly mis-used word in the English language.

    Conley, great article! I actually experienced these types of situations at the ROE Pre-Release I attended, and I found that when I made mistakes, and my opponent offered a take back and I would refuse the take back, I automatically exclude the option for them to request a take back later in the game. Obviously not an ideal situation because I shouldn’t make mistakes in the first place, but something to consider.

  15. The first time I played against a pro was a true learning experience for me. I read most of the MtG articles on the major sites daily, have been doing so for a long time, and I also purchased Patrick Chapin’s e-book (I have the paper version now as well.) As such, I am well aware of the store RIW Hobbies and with myself living in Ann Arbor / working in Dearborn I thought I would give their FNM a try. Imagine my surprise when I saw Patrick throwing a deck together in the tournament room… then again imagine my surprise when I got paired against him in the first round.

    I was nervous, and I feel like I made a complete ass out of myself. I made more misplays than normal, managed to partially knock my deck over at one point, and just had a real hard time getting my head in the game. I couldn’t get past the fact that I was playing against someone who I had never met, yet had taught me so much about the game. The matchup was PC on Wafo-Grixis, myself on a sub-optimal version of Boros. I managed to take game two from him just running good and going through the motions, but he won the match. I’m happy to say he was extremely classy about the whole thing.

    Reflecting on the experience, I realized that I let a good opportunity to defeat a master (even with such incredibly low stakes) go to waste. The next time I find myself in a situation like that I know it’ll be different — my approach at least, if not the outcome.

  16. Lets say 11 years old Johnny is playing Boss Naya, and I’m playing U/W tapout.

    If Johnny knows what I’m playing (or even cares what I’m playing), then he would not overextend.

    I mean, lets say Johnny goes all in and plays every creature in his hand. An “average” player wouldn’t do that, cause he knows I have like 5-7 wrath effects. I just don’t draw my wrath and lose.

    So there is something wrong in saying “If you are modifying your game based on your opponent you are placing yourself into bad habit formations”. Maybe Jhonny doesn’t even know what a bluff is, doesn’t look into my eyes and I can’t make my best “evil-pro” stare. I mean, maybe Jhonny is deaf or suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, haha.

    Yes, you should keep consistency in your game plan, always, but your opponent is a big factor while trying to figure it, a very dynamic factor…

  17. First off, great article!

    Is it your stance that you should always be consistent, no matter if you’re playing with your testing group or just playing at the local FNM?

    I don’t mind letting some stuff slide at FNM, like playing a different land for turn, but am I a dick for not letting you take back your Bloodbraid Elf attacking into my Knight of the White Orchid?

    Or is it all in how you react to each situation?

  18. AmenazainCreible

    I agree, on your toughts for the article. You must be All-in in your competitive matches, not only because you could lose the game by underestimating your opponent, but because he is a person and deserves respect.

    But, many people thinks that being focused on the match is the same as being cutthroat, and they sport similar conducts even when testing. Yesterday, I was testing the Jund deck im gonna use on tomorrow regionals against a dude and his UW control tapout deck, on the MWS. When we finalized the first match, I quickly asked for another, trying to test my deck against the archetype as much a posible. He agreed, but keep on ranting about how cascade was broken and how he was expecting it to rotate (Something I also can get behind). I tryed to talk to him to make him relax, after all this was testing. He answered with something in the lines of “I threat every game as if it was the most important game in my life”.

    If he were talking about something like “a day in his life”, something about his profession, or even about magic but at a pro tour level, he would be right. But for gods sake!, it was testing, and on MWS. I cant really understand the people that get to that levels on MWS, since winning or losing there means nothing. Rather than the experience and knowledge you can gain from those games, you gain no prizes, points nor even reputation, so why everybody has to trash talk, bragg or complain on it?

    When I won the second game, he kept complaining about how there is no skill on playing Jund and how he was so mana floded. The truth was that he lost the 2 last games only from countering an irrelevant spell, only for me to kill his win card after he tapped. I noted that to him, only to receive angry answers like “No, i didnt make a single mistake” and “You dont know what is to play against blightning”. In the end, even when he “treated every game as the most important one”, he failed to realize what was the true status of the game and where he make mistakes, or to see what was the weakest spot of his deck, the most important part of testing. Of course the next dialogue was ” Player lost”.

    So, rather than get stress for free, rather than just complain against luck or how the format is broken, why not to try to analize every bit of information you get?, and, why would you be competitive when you do not need to?

  19. As always, a great read. I actually had the “11 year old” situation happen to me. I was right on the line of prizes at a sealed event and knew the next round would be the difference between 8 packs and none. I see this little squid of a boy and think “SWEEEEEEET!” Even though my deck had TWO planeswalkers and a solid set of answers to anything he could possibly throw at me, I spent the next two painful rounds being TORE APART by his cheap burn deck. Sure I can blame mana problems (which I did have), but it humbled me quite a bit.

  20. I’d have to say if you’re trying to prepare for a competitive event you shouldn’t be doing it at an FNM (or testing on MWS for that matter). I think it’s silly when people get hyper-competitive at FNMs. It’s Friday night for goodness sake. Most sane people are out with friends having a good time, and in theory that’s what FNM is about! There’s a reason there’s a different rules level. That’s not to say that you *have* to allow takebacks, but it shouldn’t be out of the question. If you want to test for a major event you should get together with some other competitive people and practice.

  21. ProfessorTallguy

    I’m not a competitive player.
    I’ve only played in 3 tournaments, and they were always FNM and limited.

    But I’ve never had a good experience because there is always some rushing me to play faster, and deliberately trying to make me forget things and make mistakes. They talk down to me, laugh when I make a bad play, and gloat when they win.

    There are always friendly players at every tournament, but if you read the comments it seems everyone thinks it’s better not to be nice to new players.

    I guess I should just stay away from sanctioned Magic, and just play at home with my friends.

  22. I was playing an opponent one night, and there was about 12 packs on the line. In game one he had me beat no matter what I did, and he made a large play mistake. I allowed him to take it back, knowing that I was dead either way.
    In game two, he forgets to attack with his two-drop on turn 3, and I say “Sorry, everybody only gets one”. He pretended not to care, but I could see it put him on tilt, and allowed me to capitalize on the next two games for the win.

  23. @Guy who got match loss.

    Wow, no decklists at your FNM,and whoever was in charge gave you a MATCH loss for forgetting to desideboard AND calling yourself out on it?

    I wouldn’t ever, ever, EVER, E V E R patronize that establishment again.

    Find another place to FNM imo.

    (Not saying you should expect to get away with not desideboard all the time, but in a casual sanctioned match FNM a first time penalty like that doesn’t seem like it merits match loss).

  24. @Mindless

    At FNM when ever I see a “misplay” I just ask “Are you sure that is what you want?” and if they see the misplay then I let them change it and if they don’t I let them make the misplay and normally the misplay becomes apparent. They remember it for next time and I’m normally seen as just trying to help someone learn to play better and not a jerk.

    @ProfessorTallguy

    don’t let these people ruin your fun. Anyone who gloats over a win based on your misplay, probably doesn’t win very often and is happy that they finally won or they are true jerks.
    Most people at tournaments play to win, but I started because I enjoyed playing magic and tournaments let me play against a bunch of people I normally wouldn’t play against. I have had a lot of fun meeting people and playing with friends at tournaments. Don’t give up on FNM I have had fun and met good people ever where I have ever played, it just takes some time meet everyone.

  25. Neither the article, nor the comments are indicating that people should play like jerks, or to be mean to other players. Playing your best, allowing as little leeway on the rules as possible (to both yourself and to your opponent), and just playing proper magic are not the same as being a jerk. It is quite possible to be an amiable fellow and still uphold the rules as strictly as you know how (i.e. no take backs). You don’t have to be a jerk about enforcing it, but enforcing it also does not make you a jerk. Being a poor sport about not getting your way, that makes you a jerk (well, maybe not a jerk, but a poor sport at least).

    Personally, I have the most fun with Magic when I play my absolute best (even if I screw up, if it was the best of my ability at that point then it counts) and my opponents play their best. I only have control of half of that, but I will make sure I fulfill my half. I will also make sure that my opponents mistakes will not stop me from playing my best. That means that I will enforce good play as much as is possible.

    Honestly, I didn’t start really becoming a better player, until I started playing against people who required me to be one, because they wouldn’t give any allowances to sloppy play.

    -FritzJaeger

  26. The comment by Professor Tallguy is where the exception to the rule applies, imo. New players need a different level of attention then a player with any type of experience at all. It needs to be that way for the games base to expand. I will allow takebacks and even SUGGEST them sometimes if it is an extremely bad play or a bad play caused by them not understanding the rules and then explain why. Obv. different scenario at a high payout event, but then brand new players are probably not entering GP/PT’s. Annhilating said 11 year old with rules knowledge and pressuring seem’s far from what FNM’s should represent. “OMG, but I’m playing for 3 whole packs….: Good Article for anyone not JUST starting out though.

  27. @Matt, Someguy

    The judge who gave a match loss was wrong. FNM is REL Regular, and a Deck/Decklist mismatch is only a Warning for a first offense. Even at a PTQ, the HJ may downgrade the penalty to a Warning if the offending player calls over a judge before he could have gained any advantage from the infraction (i.e. when noticing the incorrect card in his opening hand).

  28. My friend who has just been starting out was playing an allies deck at an FNM draft. His opponent got him on missing like 3 allies triggers, but now whenever he plays an ally he explicitly states the trigger. He may have lost an FNM match, but he now is a better player than if he got allowed to do takebacks and won.

  29. Thanks for the great article Conley. These articles about actually playing better are the best. Very insightful and a great read. Keep it up!

  30. You got paid for writing this? You and several other magic authors should seriously consider hiring an editor or just someone that can read and write.

    “Now it should be noted that while a narrow range of consistent play is optimal, a wider ranger of potential play is optimal.”

    Really?

  31. I’ve done the underestimating thing myself. It was at a nats qualifer just after the banning of all things affinity and I was playing tooth. Paired vs a kid playing callous deciver in his deck, some guys laughed when he had to read tooth and nail which i thought was a bit off as he was 10 or something.

    However in my mind I had already won the game. Game 2 I have a hard cast darksteel collosus down, and mind slaver in hand and for my turn draw tooth. Normally in this situation I would cast the mindslaver as it more or less gurantees the win. However I thought to myself lets just play tooth it ends the game quicker, and sure enough he had quash, it had drawn the mystic restraints he also had in deck i would have been in trouble!

    Also the worse reason ever to lose your competative edge, same tournament, a dude turn before he was dead in bubble round, draws a tribe elder sacs shuffles his library blantatly looking at every card, does not offer chance to shuffel or cut quickly activates top draws and casts rude awakening, I think about calling a judge, then think to myself nah if I win this round I wont be able to draft after. Of course I end up slitting draft finals but still:P

  32. I love the people who say pro players shouldn’t ask for takebacks . Why not it costs nothing and you get away with it all the time.

  33. this was your best article. not that I’ve been reading them all, but well done.

    you really let tiago stifle you? jesus, I’m glad you got that shit out of your system in 08!

  34. I know that you should be consistent in your play, but, after a certain time, you eventually start feeling bad for winning, at least I do. I got passed Sarkan the Mad as my pack 2 pick 3…yes, this is unrealistic and I don’t understand it either…and when I got him out, and my opponents visibly groaned and did the “Not again, why does he have to seemingly get a bomb every single draft.”

    Does this affect anybodys play, I keep on making the same plays but I still feel bad about it at times…Just curious

    Also, Every deck has a possibility of losing to another deck, it’s magic, you should never lax your mulliganing/play decisions no matter who you’re playing.

    Great article Connely

  35. no its not.. activated abilities require you to activate it by some other means – tapping, mana, saccing, etc.

    annihilate is like first strike, lifelink, etc.

    I’ve made many bad plays, ive never really asked for takebacks. the only ‘takebacks’ i end up doing is playing the wrong land on the first turn or something, and its usually right away cause i realized i played a basic instead of a tap land when i knew i couldnt do anything on turn 1.

    the worst one was when my opponent was almost tapped out, i knew he couldnt do anything, and i did the math wrong in my head, when i really should have gone all out, forgot my wolf tokens, and dropped him to 1, only to die to archive trap next turn.

    i did everything right that game.. let him mill me by not countering archive traps and instead counter the wraths, and to not super over extend, only to screw it up by not attacking with my 2 wolfies… i never asked for it, i just accepted my mistake and went on with my life.

  36. Honestly, if you are playing even remotely well at an FNM it doesn’t matter how many times you allow your opponent to change his course of action. The fact of the matter is if you are better than your opponent he will be playing cards in a bad order or attacking poorly or blocking poorly anyway. Whenever I play at any low level events I not only allow a majority of take backs, but will even suggest a better play if they are struggling. I have never had any problems letting people take back their plays at the more casual events and still winning because a majority of the time I was just playing better magic than they were.

    As far as consistency is concerned, you should always be playing a very dynamic game IMO. Each player is a different player, I like to gauge them out and figure out there play style and think to myself “what are they trying to do here” If you take two different opponents under the same circumstances often times your plays should be different based on the player. You should be playing the player, the cards matter much less if you can understand what they are thinking and how they are approaching the game.

  37. @hi – Annihilate is actually a triggered ability, as its reminder text begins with “When”.

    First Strike, Lifelink, Trample, etc. – those are static abilities.

  38. Oren is right about the penalty. Even at the competitive REL, the penalty is a game loss, not a match loss.

    At an FNM it blows my mind that you would even get a game loss, much less a match.

    As far as takebacks when I play at FNMs, I find it pretty easy to disallow them without being a dick, usually by making a suggestion on a way for them to remember, or just by reminding them that everyone makes play errors, and you can become a better player by making adjustments to how you view the board state so that you don’t miss anything. The people who play at my FNM are on fairly opposite ends of the spectrum, in that there’s a core of us with 1800+ ratings who play competitively/semi-competitively, and a larger group of casual players looking to win some free cards and trade. Most of our group of semi-competitive/competitive players do the same thing I do in regards to takebacks, and it has shown a definite improvement in the casual players’ abilities to focus on the game and make better plays.

  39. I play Go and Chess online as well as mtg online and in person. The MTGO interface is nice as it is unforgiving of missed chances and doesn’t put you on the spot. The Go and Chess servers I use, however offer your opponent the opportunity to ask for undo. I normally preface games by stating that I don’t ask for undos and don’t grant them. I also do this at FNM. I will allow people to undo when playing casually but in a tournament setting I feel it’s rude to ask for an undo, it puts your opponent on the spot and almost makes them feel obligated to do something that could hand you the game. At FNM I normally sit across from somebody when paired and tell them something like “hey, before we start I just wanted to say that I don’t ask for undos when I make a mistake, so I don’t grant them either.” This normally handles the issue ahead of time. The bottom line is that in an official tournament, the rules should not be bent, it should be a test of skill, part of this is playing precisely. That’s my take at least.

  40. I also should say that I’ll always help out the younger kids that enter the events at the store I play at. I won’t underestimate them, but I try to help them learn the game and will allow them takebacks as I don’t suspect that they are being malicious, but competitive players that should know better, I don’t give them anything.

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