–Begin pre-article note–
I apologize to the Ferrett for overlooking him in my last article. He did mention me (albeit for my attempts at trying to find a use for Carnival of Souls), but in my defense, I simply went by the Magic Search engine (and I hadn’t read his article yet). I hope my gracious editor can forgive me. (Nooooo problem – the Ferrett, who has never been called "gracious" before)
–End pre-article note–
Everyone who plays Magic should know about Jedi Mind Tricks. When you’ve got two Islands untapped and one card in your hand and your opponent thinks you’re holding a Counterspell… you’ve successfully pulled off a Jedi Mind Trick. They can be extremely vital to games. I heard of someone once who was helplessly facing down a Masticore. He drew a card and confidently laid it face-down on the table, smiling. For several turns, his opponent was absolutely CONVINCED that that card was a Disenchant, and the whole flavor of the game changed.*
Here’s another, different story. I’m playing my AMAZING Green/White deck (that you can read about here and here), and my opponent is playing his pretty amazing Blue/White control deck. I’m thinking about what to do and looking at the board, and my opponent** is stroking his Islands with that "go ahead, make my day" look to him. I tap four lands and cast Armageddon. He looks at his hand and says, "Okay," as if he had nothing better to do than lose all of his lands. Obviously, he had no counter.
Now, in order to figure out that my opponent didn’t have any counters in his hand, I had to use the ancient, yet not well-known, Sith Mind Tricks, and after this article, you will be able to as well (though you probably already can and just don’t know it).
Jedi Mind Tricks are used to make others think what you want them to think. Since the Sith are the complete opposites of Jedi (they’re evil, only two exist at a time, and they always lose the fight), Sith Mind Tricks must, therefore, be knowing what others don’t want you to know. In Magic there are several ways to successfully partake of Sith Mind Tricks, and some of them are outlined below.
SITH MIND TRICK #1: Reading Your Opponent’s Deck.
The first Sith Mind Trick has more value in today’s Type II than it does in today’s Extended – and two months ago it was golden in Standard. Here’s why:
If your opponent plays a Tropical Island, what is he playing? Oath? Tradewind/Survival? CounterSliver? You don’t know right away, though the next lands and first spell should probably tell you.
Now; what if you’re playing a pre-November Standard game, and your opponent plays an Adarkar Wastes? Depending on your deck, you may or may not just forfeit because your opponent is most likely playing Replenish.
But, to be more relevant (to me, anyway), let’s look at today’s Type II.*** If your opponent plays a Mountain, what is he playing? Well, he could be playing Black/Red, Fires, or some sort of Sligh deck. What about a Forest? BlastoGeddon or Fires are my main guesses. Plains? BlastoGeddon or Rebels.
"But Daniel," you begin. "That’s not very exact."
You’re very astute; no, it isn’t. However, in today’s Standard environment, how many mono-colored decks are there? Not many. Therefore, the new Invasion duals**** make it into a lot of decks. So, let’s try this again: If your opponent plays an Elfhame Palace, he’s probably playing BlastoGeddon. A Shivan Oasis generally means you’re facing Fires. Urborg Volcano, Salt Marsh, and Coastal Tower point to Black/Red Control, Blue/Black Control, and Blue/White Control respectively. (Lots of control, eh?)
So the first Sith Mind Trick happens on the very first turn. How do you execute this advantage well? You have to know the field. Know that if you see a Shivan Oasis, you’re going to have to deal with Blastoderm, Urza’s Rage, and Fires of Yavimaya. Know that if you see a Coastal Tower, you’re going to have to deal with lots of counters, Wrath of God, and possibly Blinding Angel and Teferi’s Moat. This should help you shape your strategy for the upcoming game.
SITH MIND TRICK #2: Calling your Opponent’s Bluff.
This one doesn’t always work. If you’re playing against someone who’s really trying to fool you, you can usually figure it out. If you’re not in an amazingly high-stakes tournament, start to tap your land, and see if your opponent immediately picks up two (or three or four) lands for that counter. If he goes into the motion of tapping them before you’ve even announced your spell, he probably doesn’t have a counter. He’s desperately hoping that he can fool you. Also, the "I’m holding four cards in my left hand and one in my right hand; guess how many counters are in my left hand" line is usually a dead giveaway that you’re being taken.
Be careful, though. If this is the style of someone with whom you play a lot, don’t rely on this advice. If your counter-fanatic friend picks up Islands every time you pick a card out of your hand (even land) whether or not he’s planning on countering it, then this strategy becomes moot. Also, if you’re playing against a serious Tricker, he won’t do anything at all. He’ll just stare at you and wait. He won’t ask if you’re done or if you want to cast a spell. He’ll be extremely patient. He’s either going to heave a sigh of relief when you cast the spell he wants to counter or don’t cast what he can’t counter. One way or the other, it’s very hard to figure it out. Be wary.
SITH MIND TRICK #3: Knowing When You’re Beaten:
If your opponent has two blue mana available, six cards in hand, and has countered three spells this game, your next game-breaking spell is most likely going to be countered. So for the love of God, don’t cast it! If you’re playing a casual game, and you remember your opponent boastingly showing you an Arena Counterspell that he hasn’t played, you know he’s going to counter your Boil. The only way to get past this is by reverting to Jedi Mind Tricks. During his end step, Rage his Noble Panther instead of his Bird of Paradise (of which he only has one and three lands). After he Waxes it, Shock his Bird. He’d probably rather keep the Bird for the next turn ‘Geddon, but you’ve Tricked him into losing it. Not everything can be Dark.
SITH MIND TRICK #4: Knowing What Your Opponent Needs To Topdeck.
If your opponent knocks on his deck before his draw step, you should always know what he wants to draw. Does he need Parallax Wave to force an attack through, or Wrath of God to clear the board? Does he need Fact or Fiction to get some cards in his hand, or simply an Absorb to be ready for you? Does he want to draw a Birds of Paradise or a Forest? You must always know.
Think of yourself in his position. What would YOU need in this situation? If he has five cards in hand, try to figure out what they are. If he’s playing Black/Red and you only have one creature out, he’s probably holding spot removal for a bigger threat or Earthquake for several smaller ones. If he’s playing Fires of Yavimaya, he’s probably holding burn for any creatures that might block his surprise Blastoderm. If he hasn’t cast Blastoderm yet, he’s probably looking for one; if your opponent who’s playing Black/Red keeps leaving land untapped without casting instants during your turn, he’s probably looking for a Vampiric Tutor or a Thrashing Wumpus.
SITH MIND TRICK #5: Knowing What Your Opponent Has In His Hand.
If the one card that your opponent could have in hand to wreck you is a Wrath of God, then he has a Wrath of God. At least for the purposes of your gameplay, he does. Even if there aren’t any in his deck, if you don’t know this for a fact, you should always be ready for a Wrath. This way you don’t get caught off guard.
But, if you have no choice but to cast a card, keep in mind SITH MIND TRICK #5.5: Always have a Plan B. If you’re playing against a white deck that rolls over and dies to Tangle Wire, by all means, cast Tangle Wire. However, even as you play the third land with which to cast it, know in the back of your mind what you’re going to do if it gets Disenchanted.
These are some ways in which artificial knowledge can be very advantageous to you. These methods aren’t perfect, and for a flawless game, they should be combined with strategic gameplay, good luck, and polished Jedi Mind Tricks. In the world of Magic, Dark and Light have to go hand-in-hand to assure victory.
* – Matt Eddleman only gets recognized for this use of Jedi Mind tricks by people who actually read these footnotes.
** – Who will only be known as Israel Marques by people who read these footnotes.
*** – In case you haven’t realized, that’s what I almost always write about.
**** – I refuse to call them "taplands." Almost EVERY land is a "tapland," because you tap it for mana.