MTG Tactics Tips and Advice

Magic: The Gathering Tactics Tips and Advice by smashthings

1)    Move order counts.  Therefore, consider which way round you play spells.

A Super Obvious example is something like:  Nova Cleric->day of judgement is clearly inferior to Doj->Cleric (unless you are going for corpse count)

Less Obvious:    Lightening Bolt-> Coal Stoker.   Better is the other way round.

Rather subtle:  Eradicate-> Duress.  Imagine you have two good targets for the Eradicate, by playing duress first you can see their cast bar. So if by any chance they have 3 copies of one creature in their hand then you know that by eradicating that creature you get the added effect of removing cards from their hand. (By playing Eradicate first, you might pick the wrong creature!)

2)    Delay playing some spells.

Obvious: don’t play lightning bolt or Silence on turn 1. Bolting a creature is usually more useful than doing 30dmg to the PW, and regarding turn 1 silence; they might have passed their turn anyway.

Less obvious:  Once over 5 mana, sometimes it is better to keep cards like brittle effigy in the hand rather than casting them. Why? Well because when its casted its vulnerable to solemn offering. Moreover, if the enemy doesn’t know you have it, they might just play shielding gambit on the Baneslayer (wasting a card).

Less obvious (2): If you expect them to play DoJ sometime soon, dont go mad casting creatures.

3)    Consider how the different effects of cards work with each other.

Obvious: Envelop and remove soul are a good cards, Arcane is also a good card. But play them together and the whole is significantly greater than the parts.  These cards combined are basically like casting silence.

Less Obvious: Wave of Reckoning basically makes all creatures attack themselves. Therfore a 30/20 Creature has less synergy with this card than a 20/30 creature. similiarly,  Holy Strength works better than Unhoy Strength enchantment.

4)    On Every turn think about poker.

By this I mean;
(a)    Try not to give your opponent too much information. (e.g. suppose you have already cast a freewind falcon. And are now debating whether you should play anther freewind or a White Knight this turn. By playing the Knight you give your opponent information about your deck {i.e. this deck has freewinds AND knights}. By playing the freewind he gains very little intelligence [he probably expects you to have 4-5 of them anyway])

(b)    Try to bluff him (e.g. if you have a mono red deck that requires you to run away from the action until you have the right mana. Then throw in a couple of “goblin deck cards”… if he sees a chieftain and/or raging goblins he might mistakenly believe you are running an ultra-aggressive goblin deck. And thus he runs away (which is what you want)

5) The effects cards have are neutral. They are not positive/negative or good/bad or cost/benefit

This point is about getting you to think about cards in the right way.

Obvious: spells like “dig in” and “Spirit link” can be put to good use on both enemy and ally troops.

Less Obvious: Consider the spell Bandage (heals target for 10 health and you gain a spell). Now if you are stuck in the “good/bad dyadic” then you might consider this spell a “buff” and why would you want to buff the opponents PW or creatures?!

That’s the point I am making; by thinking that the effect of this spell is a “buff” you miss the possible synergy (and uses) it has with other cards; for example: try this in a deck full of punishing fire! (does 20 damage, and when the enemy PW gains health you get the spell back)

So: Punishing firex4 —> bandage (cast on enemy PW) = +1spell and +4 fires back in your cast bar!   And your opponent only got 10 health out of the deal.

In a similar Fashion, you could do this trick with Samite healer as well.  The lesson here: ‘Healing’ is a neutral affect, not a good/bad, buff vs debuff one. This, I would say is true of all effects (in the right decks/situations).

6) Squat up on the rules.

I’m sure you all know what “first strike” does but perhaps far fewer people focus on the exact wording “…Counterattacks before enemy attacks”.  Therefore, did you know that if a creature with “fear” attacks something with first strike the fear-dude attacks first?

Knowing the exact mechanics will perhaps allow you to perform combinations that might catch the odd opponent unawares;   E.g. Targen enchanted with Hyena Umbra .  Or how about Death Baron -> zombie -> Hyena Umbra (cast on zombie).    If only green had Lure!

7) Learn the exact wording of cards.

Much like the above point, knowing exactly what a card does allows you to see combinations that might not have been clear to you at first.  For example, I have seen plenty of Black Red goblin decks (they splash black for Boggart Harbingers), but not many play All Hallows Eve and Goblin Pyromancer.   And why not exactly?  By enchanting with all hallows we make our little dudes immune to Whites mass wipe spells (i.e. DoJ, WoR), just look at the wording. It means that Pyromancers main “cost” (see point 5) is nullified, which leaves a bunch of “buffed” goblins…suddenly banner of hope doesn’t look so great.

8) Consider how a particular card works in the early, middle and late phases of the game.

It should be obvious that, barring special casting (e.g. Polymorph/elivish piper/extreme mana generation) a card like Darksteel Colossus doesn’t have an early game and only has a middle game in specialised decks. Indeed, darksteel is obviously meant as a late game powerhouse (which it is). Other cards however are perhaps the opposite;  while a raging goblin might be great in the beginning phases, it is not a great endgame card ** (it’s not going toe-to-toe take with a darksteel is it?).

So, as a general rule of thumb this means the following; it sucks to draw a turn 3 Darksteel and it also sucks to draw a turn 33 Raging goblin. It seems then that we can extrapolate a principle from this; for every creature card in the game there is both an optimal and a realistic time to play it (we ought to interested in ascertaining the point in which the ideal and realistic {i.e. probable} converge).

So when building decks ask yourself the following;  “when can I get this card out and when/how does it really shine?”

Now, there are also cards that work well in multiple phases of the game (unlike the darksteel and raging goblin, which only seem to do one phase well).  For example, a card like Drudge Skeleton is quite often a poor card in the first few turns despite what its mana cost might imply (why? Well when mana is scarce his regen ability might be hard to use, which thus leaves you with a mere 10/10 creature for two mana…which is below the curve but not useless). But when there is plently of mana going spare he can be a little monster, since regen enables him to get his butt kicked. And then bounce back for more!  (red spell decks probably suffer the most)

Another card with this property is Fiery Hellhound.  At 3 mana for 20/20 he is a reasonable early phase card. But its ability (to pump his attack value with mana) that makes him interesting. Mid-game you might be able to pump him enough to take out a creature with 60-70 health. Come the endgame and his ability could outright win games (e.g. 10red=120 attack). Don’t let the mana cost fool you; Both of these cards remain useful right to the last!
The typical rule of deck design is that combo decks are weak in the early phase and powerful late game, whereas a fast aggro deck is the opposite. A match between the two then, often becomes a match of phases (e.g. if aggro cannot defeat the combo-deck in the early/middle phases chances are he has lost). But, if the aggro deck included just a few Hellhounds he could throw a massive spanner in the works!

If you try to cater for all phases by building a deck with 4 raging goblins for early, 4 golaith brutes for midgame and 4 darksteel for endgame chances are you will do poorly in each phase due to inconsistent draw. But if however, you build a deck  with an array of cards that have good early and late game properties you should be able to do consistently well in all/most game phases.

**Of course, this point has plenty of caveats, the main being deck design. Contra the above, a raging goblin might be a great endgame card if you have plenty of might of Oaks to buff it, for example.

(9) Unplayed cards does not equal trash.

This game has plenty of nuances and tactical ideas waiting to be discovered.

The fact that you have never seen a royal assassin enchanted with rancor does not make the combo rubbish.

Pouncing Cheetah+ rancor is a well known combo, but I have yet to see anyone try Breath of fury with this (at max stretch breath would give him +14 damage…if he killed something with rancor and ran away that could be another +14) …in just a few turns this cheetah could be a big hitter. And what about this enchant on a stealth character like royal assassin? Couldn’t you just pointlessly walk around the map quietly (and stealthily) acquiring a massive death dealer?

I have never really seen anyone use the Rain of arrows enchantment, in spite of its massive synergy with a number of cards.  (Rain-> might of oaks->spirit link = damage+ massive health boost). (note: I haven’t tested either of these, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work).

You always see people using enchants like Rancor or the umbra’s but why not use a combo of Pacifism (entangling vines, dig in, icy manip, etc would also work) and binding agony to set up a punching bag. (add all hallows eve and that an immortal punching bag free for you keep smacking). Maybe a touch of spirit link on your designated boxer(s) and watch the hilarity unfold. All done safely behind that big wall.  (add parasitic bond for a purely evil voodoo doll deck).

And its not just about card combo’s either: I once saw someone have the rather clever idea of enchanting one of my creatures with Parasitic bond. And wherever I tried to do something with it (e.g. bring it into my LoS so I could unsummon, or attack one of his creatures with it he would just stop me by teleporting  it away using abilities (e.g. arcane stepping) or using Icy manipulator.  It was hurting me so bad I had to teleport just so I could eradicate it!

My final point:  they are plenty of cool tricks and nuanced decks waiting to be tried. And these decks need not be quirky or weak. For example; spirit link, pacifism, All hallows eve, and binding agony could all be worked neatly into a decent deck because these cards can do other things apart from setting up my “boxer combo”

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