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CardShark Content - Daniel Gacioch (9/3/2005)

Understandably from the title of this article you know what it is going to be about. I couldn’t come up with any snazzy names or any ways to trick a reader into reading it. Quite simply it is just a subject that has to be taken more seriously than it is.

I have a group of about five or six guys that playtest at our local store a few times a week and occasionally at someone’s house. We travel to tournaments together, lend each other cards to play; we are more like an extended family with obvious dreams of Magic: the Gathering glory. Problem is that we have rarely placed well. When I say we I mean the entire group, especially me. Albeit that members of my group have top 8’ed on various occasions, but not all that many and pretty far in between. One person in our group even has done so much as to win two Mox Jet
Mox Jet
Mox JetSet: Alpha
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Mono Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Dan Frazier
Text:
Add 1 black mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact can be played as an interrupt.
s from two different Mana Drain
Mana Drain
Mana DrainSet: Legends
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Counters target spell. At the beginning of your next main phase, add X to your mana pool, where X is the casting cost of target spell.
Opens (aka Waterburys…a big Vintage tournament based in Waterbury, CT). It does bother me when I think about how much effort I have put into the game and how little I’m getting back. But when I look back on it I can completely tell why I have not gotten more out of the game than I currently have. I don’t take playtesting seriously. The other night I was sitting down to test a Legacy matchup, Solidarity
Solidarity
SolidaritySet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
20
Artist:
John Zeleznik
Text:
Creatures you control get +0/+5 until end of turn.
vs. Goblins, and we decided we were going to play ten games pre-board, alternating who goes first, and twenty games post-board, again alternating going first. We played three or four games then my friend decided he didn’t want to play the matchup anymore and instead we all went to Taco Bell for dinner. Why didn’t we just finish after dinner? Well you see, we decided to draft instead because rather than preparing in advance for the Legacy Grand Prix that is coming up, we can rely on information we gain from the Legacy Championships at GenCon 2005, right?

Wrong. The only information that GenCon provides us with is a relative metagame relating to that area of the country and the people who traveled there. It can give us decklists of the champion or random other variants of decks as such. But can it tell us how to win every game? Can it point out every key card in every matchup on both sides of the table? I understand that Solidarity
Solidarity
SolidaritySet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
20
Artist:
John Zeleznik
Text:
Creatures you control get +0/+5 until end of turn.
has an amazing pre-board game against Goblins, but what about post-board. In all the Legacy testing I have done a single game of post-board Solidarity
Solidarity
SolidaritySet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
20
Artist:
John Zeleznik
Text:
Creatures you control get +0/+5 until end of turn.
vs. Goblins has never come up. In order to understand any matchup, you must log hours upon hours of playing the deck. I’m not just referring to Legacy either. This is true in all formats of Magic, except in draft. As opposed to logging hours of testing, you log drafts themselves, the more you draft the better you supposedly become. My friend told me there was no way that I could beat his deck, again it was in Legacy. He was playing, well to tell you the truth I don’t remember what the deck is called, but it runs Werebear
Werebear
WerebearSet: Odyssey
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Druid Bear
Rarity:
C
Number:
282
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
: Tap: Add G to your mana pool. Threshold - Werebear gets +3/+3. (You have threshold as long as seven or more cards are in your graveyard.)
s and Predict
Predict
PredictSet: Odyssey
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
94
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Name a card, then put the top card of target player's library into his or her graveyard. If that card is the named card, you draw two cards. Otherwise, you draw a card.
s. After he told me there was no way I could beat him I pounded him into the ground game after game. I took four of the five games, and I still have no clue what the key cards in the match are on his side of the table. I only played him five times so I don’t even know the full decklist. Knowing your deck is only half the battle, having an idea of what cards to expect from your opponents deck is the other half. Quite frankly that’s the only half that matters.

If you have a decklist from your opponent card for card you know exactly what they are running. So you know what to play and what to play around should it arise. If you are playing a deck that sideboards land destruction and you know your opponent is playing a land light deck, you are going to board in land destruction, right? You have to playtest to find every weakness of a deck, so then when it comes time to play against it you can exploit every weakness and give yourself every possible advantage that you can. That is why you always, and I mean always, write your opponent’s hand down when you get to look at it. If you should be searching their library, take your time to properly evaluate their threats, even go as far as writing them down, there is no reason not to use the information you have given yourself. Do not ever feel sorry for exploiting a deck’s weakness. Just don’t take it over the edge by celebrating. Don’t under any circumstance show any emotion either in playtesting or the real thing.

Showing emotion just gives your opponent another idea of who you think the game state is currently favoring. If you look mad or depressed, they are more likely to think that you are in a bad position, so they will play more spells more often and not worry about your rebuttal. If you look happy, well you are probably winning if you are happy, so I don’t really know what that tells the opponent other than “I’m a jerk.” If you play your deck the way it should be played in the matchup you are in and your opponent hasn’t logged many matches against your deck you are more likely to win. You know the important cards, he doesn’t. This however is still not a guarantee that you are going to win the matchup as anyone can get lucky or simply outdraw you on any given day, that’s part of the game. It’s sort of like ripping Yawgmoth’s Will for the win in Vintage, it feels nice, but it is still lucky as hell. But playtesting properly will allow you to take as much luck out of the game as humanly possible. You can never completely erase the factor of some dumb-luck, but you can minimize it. So what is proper playtesting?

Well this question can’t easily be answered as it is all in the eyes of its beholder. My personal view on proper playtesting is to play ten pre-board games, obviously taking turns going first, and most definitely taking notes on which cards win, and when. Twenty games post-board, still taking turns going first, and still taking in depth notes on how certain sideboard cards work, even try more than one sideboarding strategy. Then once you have done that you can calculate game one winning percentages, game two and three winning percentages, figure out the important cards on your side of the table, and have an idea of theirs. After you are done with all that, and this is the most important part of the entire article. SWITCH DECKS. You play their deck, they play your deck. It not only helps you learn how their deck plays, but lets you see all of your decks ins and outs, and maybe they play it differently so you can get a better idea on how to play it. Do the same amount of playtesting as before but with the other deck continue to take notes. Then once you are done with this you know the way to play and play against both decks, having options is always amazing. You can then get a true idea on who wins the matchup what percentage of the time. You know what cards are important in the matchup, in every situation, early threats, mid-game threats, and late-game threats. If you have a solid plan to deal with all three of those threats you have erased some of the luck in the matchup and made it favor you before it even started. This process is, however, very time consuming. In fact you can probably play this set of games in a five to ten hour period of time if you play relatively quick paced. But who has that kind of time. I completely understand that I cannot playtest as much as I would like because I simply don’t have the time or the ability to do so. If you can do this though even if it is just with one other person I highly suggest that you do. I can guarantee that it will help you play better down the road. You will still on occasion do well without playtesting for a few solid hours a week but it won’t be nearly as well, or nearly as often. That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed it.


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