Evaluating decisions based on opportunity cost is one of the most powerful ideas you can learn from Magic. The difference in decision-making between those who have learned this skill and those who have yet to learn it is enormous. This is truly a life-changing lesson, and a worthy example of how we can use Magic for Good.
The Power of Opportunity Cost
You might have noticed that the vast majority of winning deck lists play the bare minimum number of cards. Why is this? While there are some advantages to playing with a big stack of cards, there is a strong mathematical argument for paring decks down to the minimum. The case is based on the economic rule of opportunity cost. Opportunity cost directs you to evaluate every new card in competition with your best card.
Opportunity Cost – The value of the best alternative foregone when choosing between mutually exclusive options.
Which would you rather draw: your 1st and best card, or anything else? So the 61st card, 70th card, and 100th card increasingly dilute your chances of drawing your best card. As a general rule, the more cards you play, the less likely you are to draw your best card. So it makes sense mathematically to cut to the minimum.
For example, imagine that your primary goal is to cast Primeval Titan. That’s your best card. In most Constructed formats you can play no more than 4 of 60 copies, resulting in a 1 in 15 chance to draw one.
But if you add cards to your deck, and bump this ratio to, say, 4 of 120 cards, your odds are cut in half to a 1 in 30 chance. Primeval Titan disappears like a drop of water into a bucket.
While adding the 61st card doesn’t have nearly as dramatic an effect as adding the 120th, it still measurably dilutes your essential idea. So most deck crafters are influenced by math and economics to keep deck size to a minimum.
There is no such thing as a free addition to a deck. Everything has an invisible cost. In order to add a card, one card must be cut.
Once you understand opportunity cost, your deck-crafting skills change forever. Cards aren’t just tossed into a random pile. They are carefully evaluated in relation to every other card in the deck, and every other card that could possibly fit in that same slot.
So we move from deck building to deck sculpting. The unessential gets axed. Deck sizes drop to the minimum and that’s where they stay.
Opportunity Cost for Good
The same principles of evaluation with respect to opportunity cost apply to all kinds of daily decision-making. It is time to embrace the dark side of progress through subtraction.
Everything has a cost. Nothing is free. Especially time and money.
Anything you do must be measured against the most useful possible action you can take. Every expenditure must be weighed against the most useful good you could spend your money on.
The unessential is eliminated and only the most useful advances.
Understanding opportunity cost also changes the way you understand and interact with others. You respect their time, and their own opportunity cost. You don’t ask for time or money without offering a fair exchange that rivals the best thing they could otherwise do. When you offer something for free, you know that nothing is really free. Their time is a consideration, and you respect how they choose to allocate this valuable resource.
This is a powerful lesson to draw from deck crafting. When you understand sculpting and how it applies to life you gain a major edge. You weigh the cost of everything. You now make decisions with ruthless discrimination. But the result is a more focused, purposeful, and useful life. Once learned, it cannot be unlearned.
This is the power of understanding opportunity cost.
Stay tuned for more Magic For Good.