Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tip of the Day #3

Quick note: For fans disappointed in the lack of longer form content, I hear you, and I have a few things in the works that I think you will really enjoy.  In the meantime, I will be posting another edition of The Road this week, and a writing article should appear on Sunday or Monday.

In the last TotD, I focused on your gameplan when it comes to selecting a deck and executing that plan when it comes time to game at a major tournament (or even FNM, for that matter).  One step I mostly left out was practice, and it's critical that you don't do the same.  Practice is important the way that having air to breathe is important.

If you're still alive then you appreciate what I'm saying.  One thing, I consider practice to be different from playesting.  You do practice while you playtest, but playtesting should also incorporate metagame considerations and developing strategies against specific decks.  When I practice, I'm generating sample hands and figuring out how the starting seven fits into my gameplan.  I even like to think out games in my head, visualizing the action and simulating cards drawn.  If you are thinking about how stupid that sounds, think about how you would imagine a game playing out with your deck.  You'd probably draw a pretty good hand, right?  And more than likely you'd be mise-ing like Budde in his prime, true?

Well, the reason this wish-fulfillment is useful is that it helps you recognize what the best hands for your deck are, which should lead to better mulligan decisions, and help you identify the optimal lines of play for your particular 75.

Speaking of mulligans...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tip of the Day #2

One mistake that a lot of players make when they start transitioning to the semi-pro and pro-level is to give in to the fish-out-of-water feeling that accompanies sitting down at a Grand Prix for the first time.  Whether Round Four comes along and you find yourself matched up against a future Hall of Famer, or whether the first hand you draw for the tournament is six lands and a five-drop, whatever the situation, you have to clear your mind and, calm down, and focus on what you need to do.

Execute your gameplan.  Of course, that means you have to have a gameplan, so if you don't, well, chalk that up to mistake number two.  It is absolutely amazing how few people can articulate what it is that their deck is supposed to do.  As an example, let's look at what happens when someone picks up Red Deck Wins for a PTQ.

They might have a short answer to the question about their gameplan, something like, "My goal is to deal 20 damage as fast as possible with creatures and burn spells."  Even that limited plan is better than nothing, but if you really want to be playing the deck as well as it can be played, you should be able to explain to your friends and teammates that your plan is to

                  1) Apply early pressure with a combination of one and two drop creatures.
                  2) Control the board using direct damage and by economically trading for value in combat.
                  3) Use more powerful cards to craft an end-game involving a flurry of direct damage, or a massive  
                      swing with powered up creatures.

If it sounds like common sense, it is, and this tip isn't meant for you, but you would be surprised by how often this minor detail gets overlooked.  Mike Flores has written several articles about pre-visualization and the importance of your gameplan, and it never hurts to review the foundations that the rest of your game is built on.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tip of the Day #1

Reid Duke's win at Grand Prix: Nashville was a wild ride for everyone but the eventual victor.  The new draft format has proven to be a tough nut to crack.  Wizards has been pushing card quality since Shards of Alara, and the new reality is that your drafts are going to play more and more like Constructed matches.  To that end, our first tip comes from Reid's interview with Rich Hagon.

Adjust for real life play by becoming more aware of your draft.  

Reid discussed the transition from online grinding to success at major tournaments, noting especially that the fact that MTGO tracks your picks and can even display your curve can make for awkward situations in live drafting.

Understanding the role that different options can play in your deck can be the difference between a 3-0 or 2-1 and a 1-2 performance.  Practice making the right decision in the moment, but don't fall into the trap of missing out on a curve-filling choice because you are attracted to the shiny rare or uncommon.

Silverchase Fox is probably worse than Smite the Monstrous, but if you've already filled your four-drop slot with Inquisitors, Mausoleum Guards, and Sentries, you might need the body.  Similarly, if your deck is comprised mostly of token generators, having the Fox might get you out of a sticky situation when you face down a surprise Curse of Death's Hold.

To re-iterate, Reid Duke credited his ability to adjust to memorizing the relevant cards in a given draft as one of the most important steps he took in becoming a more complete player.  You can do the same.