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CardShark Content - Stanley Rutkowski III (1/2/2002)

Coming to the End of the year 2001 I am reflecting on my year of playing Magic the Gathering and I thought I would pass on some of the knowledge that I have learned this year. I have been playing competitive Magic since the release of the Prophecy
Prophecy
ProphecySet: Homelands
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Reveal the top card of target opponent's library to all players. If it is a land, gain 1 life. That opponent then shuffles his or her library. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.
expansion. I started playing in Friday Night Magic and local tourneys shortly after the release. I progressed to more and more tourneys in the last year, and have noticed a few things that have made me a better player. With New Year’s resolutions abound, I would pass on some of my wisdom on the Game of Magic.

Lesson #1:

First and foremost, Magic is a game and should be enjoyed. The more seriously I take the game, the less fun it has become. I like to win, but always remember that there is a luck element in the game. Have fun while playing - you cannot always win. Be gracious in victory and defeat. At the end of the day you will be happier for it. I know that this is not always easy, I hate to loose at any game, but being a bad sport only makes the game as a whole look bad. I know in sports and in life there are two types of people; those who like to win and those who hate to lose (ever notice that the most talented team does not always win in sports? It comes down to “heart” and the will to win). I am a person who hates to loose, but in Magic I have learned lately to take loses as a learning experience and use it to make me a better player in the long run. Trust me, this was not an easy lesson to learn.

Lesson #2:

Play cards you like and know how to use them. This may seem like a dumb statement, but just because a pro player can make a deck run smoothly does not mean it will work for you. Decks are created to fit a players playing style, not all cards are perfect for every situation. Play the cards you like, because in the end, if you are holding cards that you thought were dumb and lose a game, how good were they in the first place? I am a control player by nature and usually build decks to control my environment. I win more often with a control deck. I know many beat down players and they play better when they turn their creatures sideways. There is nothing wrong with either strategy (in most cases), but if I play a beat down deck and lose, I normally will notice how a control deck would have suited me better.

Lesson #3:

Test your decks and know how to play them. Don’t expect a deck to play itself. Magic is a thinking game, it rewards players for know how to deal with many situations. This is one of the things I like best about Magic: it rewards creativity and thought.

Lesson #4:
Play with people who are better than you. I know it is good to win, but if you are always beating the same players, are you getting better? Most likely you are just staying a little ahead of them. Most of the time you will find out new vantage points from other players and can adapt your skills and acquire a better overall grasp of the game.

Lesson #5

Know your test group. This may be evident, but if you are play testing for a tourney, don’t give a beat down player a control deck and base your testing on that match-up. For example, I have a Donate
Donate
DonateSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
31
Artist:
Jeff Miracola
Text:
Target player gains control of target permanent you control.
deck built for testing in the extended field, but I would not give the deck to just anyone to test my deck against. If the player does not know how the deck works, how can you judge your deck against a worse version of the “test” deck?

Lesson #6

Play a variety of decks. This may contradict other people’s views, but I have found understanding “the enemy” helps in my match ups. Even though I was playing Chevy Blue for most of the Invasion-Masques season, I had a fires deck built for play. For example, playing a control deck means that you have to understand what to counter and want to let resolve. The best way for me to acquire that knowledge was to play the deck to find its critical spells (its weaknesses).

Lesson #7

Understand your opponent and the deck they are playing. If they player is playing a control deck and only has two blue open or 1 card in hand, play your less valuable spell first. Let your opponent make the decision on whether to let the spell resolve and then play the second spell on the knowledge gained from the first spell.

Lesson #8

Understand your resources. If you have sufficient lands in play, keep some in your hand. The best play might be to do nothing. This can keep your opponent off guard because they would assume that you have more threats than you may actually have. This becomes even more important as you add flashback and threshold to the mix.

Lesson #9

Keep yourself composed during a match. Don’t give too much information away with each card drawn. Most people don’t realize that body language can determine the outcome of a game. Again, being a control player, I notice the little things that give away an opponents advantage. Pay attention to the little things. If you have never seen the movie “Rounders,” rent it, it is the best movie about playing skills (it is about poker but the same principles apply).

Lesson #10
Understand what cards do. This applies to your cards and your opponents. Try to understand why a card would be played by either side during a match. I have noticed this more while playing in the extended season. Extended is my weakest format because some of the cards are new too me since Prophecy
Prophecy
ProphecySet: Homelands
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Reveal the top card of target opponent's library to all players. If it is a land, gain 1 life. That opponent then shuffles his or her library. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.
was my introductory set. Understand how the spells affect you and your opponent and the game as a whole. For example, I was watching a match where a counter burn deck was controlling the match. The counter burn player was at four life, and his opponent was at 10. The opponent had no creatures on the table and was short a color (this was known because it was game two in the match). The counter burn player played Incinerate
Incinerate
IncinerateSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
Incinerate deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Creatures damaged by Incinerate cannot regenerate this turn.
and it was misdirected to him. The opponent had four mana open (two blue) and the counter burn player only had two cards in hand (Force of will and another blue card) and no mana open. The counter burn player cast force of will and took the one “Pain” putting him at 3 life and the force was countered by Foil
Foil
FoilSet: Prophecy
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
34
Artist:
Bradley Williams
Text:
You may discard an island and another card from your hand instead of paying Foil's mana cost. Counter target spell.
. If the counter burn player let the misdirection resolve he would have been at one life and won the creature beat race because of his board superiority, but because he cast the Force of Will
Force of Will
Force of WillSet: Alliances
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
You may pay 1 life and remove a blue card in your hand from the game instead of paying Force of Will's casting cost. Effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to counter this loss of life. Counter target spell.
he lost the game (he was at 4 and took 4 damage).

Lesson #11

If you have time, watch the “top” tables at a tourney and try to learn from them. Understand how the cards they play interact with the entire game. Try to catch any mistakes or misjudgments. If you have time, ask them about a situation and ask them if you saw something they did not. Most times they will appreciate the view from outside the match and sometimes there will be a very good reason they did what they did. When they explain it to you, you might gain some experience from it, thus helping your playing skills.

Lesson #12

Interact with other players during a tourney. Most time you will bring something to a conversation and can learn something from it. Don’t accept “that deck is a pile” ask why and try to defend some of the “pile” cards.

Lesson #13

Try drafting. Drafting forces you to use cards that you would not always consider for constructed purposes. It brings to light value to those cards. It also helps you to manage your resources better. If you only have one copy of a card you have to know when and when not to use it. It may serve you better in a different situation.

Lesson #14

Remember life and Magic are not the same thing. Magic can become a commitment, but don’t let it run your life. The more it takes over your life, the less it becomes a game. Magic is for entertainment. Very few people can make a true living on the game.

Hopefully I am passing on good lessons learned so that the game as a whole grows. Hope to see you at Magic tournaments in the future

As always, questions and comments are appreciated.

Sincerely,


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