February 4, 2013

Magic101 : Planning Hit or Run - MTG Tactics


Today we will be talking about a topic that we all practice doing but we may think this is very basic that we may actually think it is completely useless - "hunches". However, identifying this tool as a strategy can help you win games as it can affect your decisions - not just letting it delve in your subconscious and deciding about something at an instant. Don't get me wrong, when playing magic "hunches" can win you games - but these hunches have a reasoning behind them and these reasons usually come to us when we think about how to win a certain game given current board positions, number of cards in your opponents hand, etc. What I am trying to say is that we cannot depend on hunches forever - we need to turn these hunches into plans. Plans that are formulated before the match starts - not as a game time decision or response to a current board position of cards in the graveyard of your opponent.

When talking about game-time decisions, I usually trace back to my experience in college when I played against a good friend of mine - Bryan Jeffrey Borromeo. I was the one who introduced Bryan to Magic. I always complained about his being defensive-mindedness but I also believed that it is the quality that made him very difficult to read and he ends up maximizing each turn and each play that he makes - well, I actually learned that the hard way. Back then he was using a Gruul deck (Red-Green) and I was using my Dimir (Black-Blue) deck. The game went long that the current state of the board was that he had a Scab-Clan Mauler in play and a Giant Growth in his hand.

I think my life is less than 10 at that time, he attacks with Scab-clan Mauler and that time I knew he had a Giant Growth in his hand - but he did not cast the giant growth. With no cards in my hand, I constantly told him that he should cast the Giant Growth for extra damage, since later when I will draw my removals, I can play removal spells to destroy his creature as he plays the Giant Growth to pump his creature for lethal damage. The difference between us was that I had a HUNCH but he had a PLAN. I was so concerned with removal that I would have rushed playing that Giant Growth. But his plan was different, it was to win the game with the Mauler and the giant growth was a lifeline. May it be because he saw that he may not have enough burn spells left in his deck as an option if I had removal - I don't know. But later in that game I drew a Moroii.

He timely uses the Giant Growth to save his mauler when I needed to block with my Moroii. And the next turn, he finishes the game with another attack as I drew a land. Options are always available in magic - that's why I named this article by a split card - Hit and Run. We should always know when to Hit and when to Run in all our matches.

Hit or Run?
Hitting or running should be backed up by a plan - not by a hunch. Most of us tend to be so focused in our deck strategies that we limit ourselves with the potential options that we have. Giant Growth was, for me, an offensive card - that can be used as defense. But Bryan saw it as a defensive card - that can also be used as offense. During our game, he decided to be defensive and not waste the G-growth for 3 extra damage but used it to protect his creature. If we use an Aggro deck, we should not think that since we are using aggro - aggro is the only way to win. Likewise, in a control deck - control is not the only option for victory. Planning out when to hit and when to run can certainly make a difference.

A good scenario for this is when you are using a blue deck with Midrange cards - Snapcaster Mage may be enough as an example. When your opponent is Planeswalker control, even though in your experiences you end up winning all your matches in the long game, you need not wait for the long game because it usually wins games for you. You would pretty much lose this match-up late game 90% of the time since your opponent's deck was better built for control compared to your deck- more counter spells than you for example. Even though you are both control decks, no two decks are equal - one deck should have more cards for control than the other. Since your opponent in this case is more control-ish than you, you can Flash cast your Snapcaster Mage (even with no targets in the graveyard) on the 2nd turn of your opponent and go aggro - since his cards are more suitable for longer games. You can then save your counterspells to protecting the Mage. Well, that is giving yourself an option to go aggro rather than always view your deck as control. If you know your opponent's deck before the game starts, going aggro can now be your plan.

The same principle can be applied to aggro decks. Although your deck is Aggro, you may eventually meet an opponent whose deck is more aggressive than yours. That way, when the game begins, or in the next game, you can layout a plan - say for example: save your burn spells to win you the game OR if you think you have more burn spells, use your burn spells to kill your opponent's creatures and attack your way to victory. Aggro decks can be defensive too, if that can win you the game then why not do it?

That may be it. As a summary, no deck is absolute. We should always plan out when to hit and when to run. Planning out options is better that to let yourself decide on the instant the opportunity presents itself. We should also learn switching our strategies to offensive and defensive from time to time - depending on which strategy can increase our chances of winning. Again, you may hear this many times, but playing more and more games will help improve your skills especially in reading matches and deciding when to go offensive and when to go defensive.

Thanks for droppin' by!

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