As a writer, I love going deep on a topic. At the same time, sometimes the most helpful thing for a reader is a short, easily-digestible nugget of advice.
As I write, I like to ask myself, What will my readers remember a week, a month, or a year from now? Will it be the 15th sideboard swap in Mono-White vs. Esper Planeswalkers? Or will it be something simple and timeless, that they can apply to all of their future MTG endeavors?
In this Deep Dive, I’ve compiled a list of the most valuable, most crucial short MTG tips that I could come up with. I’ll present each one, followed by some short explanation, commentary or anecdotes. To an individual reader, they’ll probably span the spectrum from feeling obvious to profound. Either way, I encourage you to read them all, because even obvious things can become more helpful when expressed in concrete terms.
All of these are tips I wish I’d gotten early in my MTG career, as they would’ve made things much easier.
You don’t need to do something special in order to win
This is one that I learned from Hall of Famer Ben Stark. Known as a Limited expert, Ben has spoken and written a lot about Sealed Deck play, and I believe this is something everyone needs to hear.
(As an aside, when I say that I “learned from” someone, I don’t mean to imply that it’s a direct quote. Instead, it’s more of a concept or lesson that I’ve boiled down from listening to them and watching them play).
It’s common to feel discouraged as you’re building or playing sealed deck. “My opponents have bomb rares and I don’t, so I’m going to lose.” Wrong! Matches of Magic aren’t decided by comparing the best cards in one deck to the best cards in the other. You shuffle up, mulligan, play complex games, sideboard and repeat the process. Along the way, there’s plenty of room for someone to get lucky or unlucky or for the accumulated advantages of tight deckbuilding and gameplay to add up.
In other words, you don’t need to splash a bomb because “your deck isn’t powerful enough.” That two-color deck with a solid mana base and curve of creatures can do just fine. If you face a deck that’s 10 percent more powerful, maybe you can make up for that by drawing or playing 10 percent better. Maybe you’ll curve out while they wait for their inconsistent mana base to deliver that missing color.
This concept extends well beyond Sealed Deck. I often hear comments like, “I can’t play the most popular deck, then I won’t have an advantage over everyone else.” What’s wrong with being a strong player piloting the best deck? Isn’t that the exact description of the folks who usually win tournaments?
Competitive MTG is much more about consistency, thin margins and tight play than it is about flashy combos and doing something nobody expects.