When a professional level player wins a tournament, they are usually practicing several different disciplines at once. This is especially true for those who regularly place Top 64 in global tournaments — it shows methodical, regular adherence to their own disciplines.
I’ve spoken in detail about metagame and synergy before, and these concepts are fairly entry level. Today however, I want to talk about another thing that all regular professional players have in common, and that is their mastery of advantage.
Advantage is the first step in learning how the game of Magic actually behaves. A vast majority of players simply observe what happens, without truly understanding why it happens. Learning why a thing happens in Magic will make you more alert to what your opponent is doing, and even allow you to predict things that may occur in future without having to learn the cards to a set.
Advantage comes in a few distinct flavours:
- Card advantage
- Resource advantage
- Creature advantage
The concept of card advantage is quite simple: Having more cards than your opponent does. At its core, Magic is a game about resource management, and whoever has more resources and uses them better is more likely to win. A very basic example of this is Weave Fate: with the expenditure of a single card, you get two in return.
Another example is simply going second — you get an additional card over your opponent, hopefully mitigating any advantage gained by going first.
It’s worth pointing out that not all card advantage is good. Using Weave Fate is likely a terrible idea in many decks, as it requires a lot of mana for relatively little reward. If you have a deck that can mitigate the mana use however, it is quite likely worth using.
A good player identifies when the sacrifices required to gain the advantage are worth it. If you can find a way of playing Weave Fate for next to nothing, then it’s an excellent choice.
Creating card advantage is pretty easy at its core. You can increase your own card draw, either temporarily as with Weave Fate or more permanently with something like Alhammarret’s Archive. Another way is to have your opponent get rid of cards, such as by discarding.
However, card advantage doesn’t just refer to cards in your hand. If you can get your opponent to simply use more cards than you do, you have utilised card advantage to your favour.
Let’s say your opponent attacks you with a creature, and uses a spell to increase the effectiveness of that creature. Can you remove it with a single card? If so, you’ve used one card to eliminate two cards worth of threat.
Creating advantages like this is one of the biggest ways to consistently increase your own capabilities against an opponent. It will sway the balance of good resource management in your favour if practiced correctly.
Resource and creature advantage
Resource and creature advantage work in precisely the same way. Simply having more resources at your disposal means you can respond to things in a myriad of ways. Maybe you can fire off two mid range spells a turn, while your opponent is left pondering if she commits to a single large spell this turn, or two small ones.
If you’re a blue player, having resource advantage is especially brutal. You might hold back a couple of mana at the end of your turn, creating doubt into your opponents mind regarding if you have the capability to counter what she has.
Simply having more creatures than your opponent can also sway the balance, even if they are small. It gives defenders more options with multi-blocking, or the ability to overrun the enemy with ease.
Hopefully so far all this is quite easy to understand, but there is a concept that is a little harder to grasp, and that is of implied or effective advantage.
Let’s take a look at Pacifism. You use a card, and in doing so stop one creature from being able to do anything. Seems like a fair trade — after all, you are using one card to stop another card. But there is more to it than that.
Pacifism only costs two mana, so if you are using it to stop a creature worth more than that, you are creating an implied resource advantage. Additionally, to get rid of pacifism will require a cards worth of investment by your opponent, as well as more resources, creating a further advantage that way.
Sacrificing two creatures to get rid of a bigger creature might not seem like it gives an advantage, but if the cost of the creatures you lost outweigh the opponents, or if the opponent had to invest several turns of abilities getting a creature to that point, you have created an effective advantage even if you lost another advantage somewhere else.
The reason why Den Protector is considered such a powerful card is because of its inherent ability to create not just an implied advantage by limiting what is able to block it, but its megamorph trigger allows it to (situationally) create a card advantage as well.
Crackling Doom and Dromoka’s Command, two other valuable cards, are so highly played because both have the capability to create incredible advantage.
If you take away one thing from this post, think about the following:
Magic: the Gathering is at its core a game about statistics.
Creating situations where you regularly have a statistical advantage over your opponents, is creating a situation where you will statistically win more frequently than your opponents do.
Go forth and build great decks! Between these three articles you should have more than enough information to start to build beautiful decks that are capable of tackling your local competition!
No comments on this article yet. Why not add your own?
You must be logged in to leave a comment.