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Some Basic Tips

Some Basic Tips – July 19, 2007 6:22 PM (edited 7/19/07 2:22 PM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I'm far from a go-to guy for Magic playing strategy, but I have done a lot of limited play on Magic Online, so I know some basic stuff, both in terms of general strategy, and Magic Online's user interface. I'm not gonna talk about anything I'm only so-so with (like deck construction), just the stuff I'm sure of.

In terms of general strategy, a few basic limited things I've noted either in my own play or playing you guys in the past few days:

* Use your second main phase. If you want to play a creature or other permanent, and it doesn't affect your attack phase, play it during your second main phase. No reason to show your opponent what you've got until as late as possible. (Similarly, save your instant's for your opponent's end of turn step when possible.)

* Consider your life total before chump blocking. If they attack with a 3/3 and you've got a 2/2 and 20 life, just let it through. You can always block it on a later turn, or block an even bigger threat they haven't played yet.

* Life is a resource. You start with 20 life, and you can lose the first 19 without penalty. Life becomes more or less important based on what deck you're playing. In a race, every point counts, but if you establish total board control at 3 life, you're still in a great position.

* Remember card advantage. The theory of card advantage says that whoever uses up more cards is losing. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it's a reminder that 2-for-1 trades should be avoided if possible.

* Don't live in fear of tricks. If your opponent is representing a devastating trick, the instinct is to play around it. Indeed, that's often the best plan, but if they have some combat trick that's going to wreck you no matter what, you may as well make them play it now and get it out of their hand.

* Don't overcommit. Sweeping removal is not all that common in Limited, but nonetheless it is often a bad idea to put out more permanents than you actually need. If a creature isn't going to noticeably improve your board position, hold it back. If you have all the lands you need, don't play another. Cards in hand can make your opponent sweat, and they have a habit of becoming useful in ways you weren't expecting.

* Don't give up. People see a bad board position and tend to want to give up, but you can make some surprising comebacks, especially in limited. Until the attack or spell that kills you is officially on the way, there is hope - your opponent could always screw up, after all. Besides, you can learn a lot during the time between when your end becomes inevitable and when it actually comes.

* Analyze threats and effectiveness in multiplayer. If you're playing a control deck and an aggro deck whose best creature has a Hellbent ability, and you have a Rack, play it on the aggro deck. This is true even if the control deck is the larger threat, because the Rack likely won't do anything to a control deck. Even if you have a "primary target" in multiplayer, keep in mind you need to kill everyone (or at least outlast them) to win.

As for the Magic Online UI, yes, it's a pain in the ass, and it's incredibly unforgiving. The only thing you can take back is mana production, so consider carefully before committing to any action. Read all of your opponent's cards carefully, keep in mind how many cards they have in hand and in their graveyard (and even in their deck, later in the game). Follow some basic interface tips:

* F2 is the "OK" button, and F4 is the "my turn is done" button. People, especially in pickup games, appreciate speedy play, and these facilitate that. But don't go too fast, lest you miss an opportunity to play a spell.

* When a repeating effect (usually triggered) goes off over and over, pressing OK each time gets tedious. If you right click the effect when it is on top of the stack, you get the option to automatically yield to that ability forever or until the end of the turn. This can save tons of time, especially in multiplayer. If for whatever reason you need to respond to an effect you have on auto-yield, you can right click the play area and choose "remove auto-yields."

* Know and understand how stops work. They are represented by red and blue dots on the turn phase icons. Red dots indicate stops on the current turn, while blue dots represent stops on other turns. You use the same stops for all opponents' turns in multiplayer, and a different set for your own. By default, you'll generally want to have stops on both of your own main phases, and both your own and your opponent's declare attackers or blockers step. Every other stop location is only applicable sometimes.

* You will generally only need an upkeep stop on your own upkeep, and then only if you have an activated ability that only works during your upkeep. You will automatically get to respond to triggered upkeep abilities, so this stop is fairly uncommon.

* Keeping stops on your own main phases is vital, but it is incredibly rare to need them on your opponent's main phases. You will almost always want to play spells during their attack or end of turn phases so they cannot respond with sorceries or new permanents.

* Understanding the attack steps is key. You use stops at each step of the attack phase for different reasons. "Beginning combat" is for using fast effects before attackers are declared, such as tapping down creatures so they cannot attack. "Declare attackers" lets you use abilities after attackers are declared, so it is the time for removal (so you'll know if you need to block, should they have a response), playing instant blockers, and almost anything else you play on your opponent's creatures. "Declare blockers" is for effects on your own blockers, or effects that affect power and toughness right before combat damage. "Combat damage" is when damage is on the stack, so it is used primarily to bounce creatures once they've dealt their damage (but before they die themselves). It is rare to need a stop at the "end of combat" step, restricted mainly to cards that can only be played during combat, but are used after combat damage has been dealt.

* You usually won't need a stop at your own end of turn step, but it is not a bad idea to always have one up for your opponent's, even if you don't need it. That way it will keep them guessing, and it will be there when you do need it whether you remember to set it up or not. This step is generally used for playing instants right before your own turn starts.

(signature removed)

Re: Some Basic Tips – July 19, 2007 6:33 PM (edited 7/19/07 2:33 PM)
Airclair (1096 posts) Doesn't Play Well with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Get used to stops at your Upkeep step and your opponent's upkeep step.

Get used to a stop at the Beginning of Combat step.

Get used to stops at the End of Turn step (opp only).

Play around commons, and know the commons in the set, in limited. In constructed you have to know the decks you're playing against, in limited, just know what your opponent probably has, and learn to play around it.

At some point you have to make him have it, right then. The longer you wait, the more draw steps your opponent has, the more cards he sees, the more likely he could have it. If he's seen 10 cards out of 40, there's a 3/4 chance he hasn't seen his trump card. Make him have it. Plus if he uses it early, then you don't need to worry about it anymore.

Go for the throat in limited, even a single draw step you give your opponent could let him find his out. Don't overcommit either, but squeeze every point of damage out of every card in your deck (the Theory of Fire or some such).

Know if your deck is the race deck , the control deck, or the tempo deck. It's almost always better to take 2 on turn 3 and to swing back than to block.

Don't block with your fliers unless you have to, evasion is god. Remember that for deck construction too.

etc etc etc.

Here's my real advice:

To get good at magic, play, and play a lot. Every you win because you're opponent got lucky, recognize you screwed up somewhere. Jon Finkel used to say "There is only one right play" which basically means every time you have a decision to make, even the smallest of decisions, there is a right and a wrong answer in Magic.

If you played a perfect game, it means you just didn't notice the mistakes you made. Learn to recognize your mistakes, and understand that your frustration is not at your opponent, but should be at yourself, for missing something you didn't even realize you missed. It is the rarest of games that was truly unwinnable from the word go.

Re: Some Basic Tips – July 19, 2007 6:37 PM (edited 7/19/07 2:37 PM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Ooh, Clair posted Magic tips in my thread, I'm honored. (No, seriously... that's good stuff.)

But that reminds me of the most important Magic Online-specific tip I totally forgot: there is a button on the main page called "My Games": learn it, use it, love it. It will let you watch replays of your most recent games, step-by-step and in engine. It is an amazing analysis tool, where you can go back and see your opponent setting up for a play you never suspected the first time, see plays you missed, etc. I've learned a ton just watching my own games over a few times.

(signature removed)

Re: Some Basic Tips – July 19, 2007 6:52 PM (edited 7/19/07 2:52 PM)
Airclair (1096 posts) Doesn't Play Well with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Honestly there's nothing I enjoy more than sitting behind a person analyzing his every decision, and writing about it is a close second.

I used to beg (almost on my hands and knees) for pros to do that to me and whenever they offered even the smallest hint, it would open up whole new universes of thought.

When Finkel could tell me what was in my opponent's hand after glancing over my board position for a few seconds, I knew that there was no such thing as luck in M:tg. I've walked by newbies on friday night magic and taking a look at the board and their hand played out the entire game in my head, but it's nothing like what the real pros of the game can do.


Re: Some Basic Tips – July 20, 2007 7:55 PM (edited 7/20/07 3:55 PM)
Draethor (651 posts) Captain Hook
Rating: Not Rated
I feel like I should throw in my 2 cents too. Learn the rules Smile I thought I was going to beat Dowd because a card that drains life in response to combat damage. Turns out I died before it triggered.

Re: Some Basic Tips – July 20, 2007 8:00 PM (edited 7/20/07 4:00 PM)
Airclair (1096 posts) Doesn't Play Well with Others
Rating: Not Rated
0 life is a state based effect, you will die even if a drain is on the stack Frown

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