Is it just me or is Limited really dull right now?
Honestly, I’ve searched and searched for some sort of strategy to write about, but if I haven’t said already, somebody else has. Call it writer’s block if you will, but I really don’t think Darksteel has affected the format as much as many of the sets have in the past.
So I guess I’m gonna have to reach into the old file cabinet and pull out one of my old ideas for an article that I never got around to writing since there was always more important things to talk about.
Searching for a Road to Victory
Have you ever conceded a game of Magic?
I know you have.
I also know there are some of you out there who absolutely refuse to concede, even if there’s no possible card in your deck that you can draw to give you the slightest glimmer of hope.
Well, Amen to ya.
Certainly there are times when conceding is the correct move, especially when time comes into play in a tournament. Conceding a game you are almost certain to lose is much better than playing it out only to lose the match by timing out the round. But you can rarely go wrong by playing it out the entire way, and I’m here to tell you why.
The first example is from a couple of years ago, way back in Odyssey block. I’m playing in a draft at the local store, and my opponent is crushing me in game three of a critical match. This guy is one of the better players at the store, but that isn’t saying anything, as the average player there is pretty awful. I’ve managed to get him down to four with an Escape Artist (yes, my deck was a pile), when I draw an Aven Flock. All this guy has to do is attack me twice with all of his creatures and I can’t possibly win, even if I topdeck a blocker. However, he doesn’t know this, as I’m holding four lands in hand that I haven’t played as a partial bluff move, since I already have threshold and eight lands in play. He also saw an Embolden in game two, which I know he is worried about.
I cast my Aven Flock and pass the turn, and he uses Afflict to kill my Escape Artist and I let it die after much thought, keeping up three mana as a bluff of Embolden. This is the first step to creating a possible path to victory in this game, as I can’t win in this situation if I don’t try to bluff the Embolden. Anyway, while I can’t remember the exact details of what happened, I do know that he kept all of his creatures back on defense the next turn, one of which was a Grotesque Hybrid. Since I’d sat there and thought for a while, not only did he give me credit for the Embolden, but he actually was terrified of it. On my turn I draw a Dreamwinder and think for a bit.
Since he’d just cast another creature or two on his turn, the only possible way I can win this game is if I attack with Aven Flock twice and he just forgets about the Grotesque Hybrids ability and lets it through. He’s just short of killing me on his next turn so it’s the only play I can possibly make to win the game, as even the Embolden that I’m bluffing won’t save me from death in two turns. If he pitches a card and blocks, there’s absolutely nothing I can do, but my only possible play is to bank on him forgetting to use the ability.
So, I give it a go with a confident attack of my Aven Flock, and he immediately takes the damage.
I can hardly keep from laughing as I pass the turn.
But, I’m not out of the woods yet! He still has to forget about the ability next turn too.
On his turn, he thinks for what feels like an hour, but was in actuality only about five minutes. After he emerges from the tank, he decides to attack with everyone but one of his smaller guys.
Not thirty seconds later he stands up and punches the table as he realizes that he forgot about the Hybrid’s ability and just cost himself the game by attacking with it! If I hadn’t taken the time to find the only possible way I could ever win this game, and just given up like most of you would have, I’d be out twenty packs, and also a great story.
So I won a game, and draft, that I had absolutely no right to win because I saw through the situation and found the only possible way to victory.
The point I’m trying to get across here is that you need to be able to see an”out” to a situation you shouldn’t possibly be able to win, and you need to give your opponents chances to make costly mistakes. That’s what it’s all about anyway right? The better player in the long run is the one who makes the fewest mistakes, and always looks for an opportunity to exploit those errors made by their opponent.
I have another great example of this principle to illustrate even more clearly what I’m talking about.
I’m in a late round of an Odyssey block PTQ, and my deck is again a pile of trash. This time I’m R/G, up against a powerful U/G deck. I am basically dead in this matchup, as he has tons of fliers and I have no efficient way to block or kill them. He also has two copies of Moment’s Peace that wrecked me out of his sideboard in game two. This was after I won a miracle game one by topdecking a Flame Burst on the turn before I was dead.
This time, though, things aren’t looking that good.
We got in a damage race relatively early, which isn’t really a bad thing for any R/G deck, except for the fact that his men flew and he also had ground support. Somehow I’d managed to get ahead in the race and was actually feeling okay about the situation until he dropped the first Moment’s Peace on me on the turn where I was going to kill him.
Now I was really in some hot water, as his fliers would kill me before I even got to hit him once.
So he attacks, putting me on a one-turn clock, while he is sitting pretty at ten life. I have three creatures each with three power, and two creatures with two power (total of thirteen-power worth of attackers) when I untap and draw Liquid Fire. Go read it if you don’t remember what it does, it’s crucial for this situation to make sense. He has one ground blocker back and will kill me if he gets to untap, even if I kill one of his fliers with the Fire.
I don’t have to think long before coming up with the correct play, and I’ll tell you why.
If I simply attack with all of my creatures, I’m forcing him to flashback the Moment’s Peace in his graveyard and prevent himself from dying.
Think about what I just said.
I’m giving him absolutely no choice in the matter since he can only block one of my three power creatures, and will take ten damage and die.
The correct play here, and only possible way to win the game is to attack with two of the three power guys and one of the two power creatures. This way, if he blocks a three power creature and doesn’t flashback the Peace, I can send all five damage from Liquid Fire to his face and kill him. When I made this attack, he just looked me square in the face and immediately began to think very hard. A minute later he came out and said,”You’re trying to bait me, aren’t you. You have a Peace too and you’re trying to get me to use mine up so I’ll die next turn.”
I said absolutely nothing and he continued to think.
Eventually, he decided that he was sure that’s what I was doing, and blocked one guy and didn’t flashback the Peace. When I showed him the Liquid Fire, his jaw actually dropped in a look of disbelief and he didn’t say a single word while he signed the results slip.
The sad thing about this story is that most players would simply attack with all of their creatures and force their opponent to make the flashback play, instead of simply giving them a chance to make a mistake and throw the game away. While this isn’t going to always work, it’s a much better solution than giving your opponent no choice in the matter.
While it’s been said that the player that makes the fewest mistakes is a great player, I believe that the great players are the ones who also give their opponents a chance to make the most mistakes. Always look for that crack in the dam, that tiny beam of sunlight that could possibly win the game for you.
No situation is hopeless and you should never give up.