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Aburame Shino

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Aburame Shino's Corner

All-in with 7/2 Off suit?! What a bluff!
April 18, 2006

    There are a few things that really confuse me about some Magic players and the decisions that they make during a tournament. A lot of them revolve mainly around strategies that they feel are smart at the time, but in the long run don't end up being helpful at all. I'm talking about many things when I say this, but the main one that people don't seem to understand is the art of the bluff.

Bluffing can be a huge game breaker when put into the hands of somebody with experience, as showcased by Professional Poker players such as Daniel Negreanu and Johnny Chan. They will put their tournament life on the line with some of the worst hands on the planet and get away with it because they know what they are doing. Of course, being known by millions of people around the world doesn't hurt either when performing these bluffs. Bluffing can be really easy to pull off in this game, but people don't seem to realize this.

"I should've tried to represent a Hinder..."

Bluffing is all about making the opponent think you've got something that you don't. This can be done in many different ways. By holding back that Silhana Ledgewalker, you could easily represent that you have a Might of Oaks in your hand if the opponent's aware you're running them. If you're using a mono-black deck, you could stop players from throwing out creatures in case of a Dark Banishing you may or may not have. Hell, even a Mono-Blue deck that has a full seven-card hand that's nothing but Islands can stop the opponent from playing that one card that will win them the game. And do you know why? Because blue has enough counters to counter the counters that are countering your counters. Blue has the tendency to not let anything dangerous resolve, so a hand that size could really throw off the opponent.

You have to realize that these could be both small and big bluffs, and win you the game if you execute them well. If you're opponent's preparing to play a spell, start reaching for your land to make it look like you're prepared to stop it as soon as it hits the table. Pull a card out of your hand as soon as you see that Watchwolf about to be played to show you're prepared for it, even though you're not. It could even be as small as simply saying, "You know I could Shock that easily, right?” It's all about how you perform the bluff.

It's hard to bluff without a hand.

Could somebody explain to me why people insist on playing any and every land they draw while they're in top deck mode? Unless you are getting severely mana-screwed or your opponent has a Hypnotic Specter in play, there is no reason why you should ever play any lands you top deck, and even if you are getting mana screwed you have no serious benefit from playing the land anyway. Playing the land won't give you any sort of advantage. Even if you play the land, if you top deck another one, what did you gain from playing the previous one? Absolutely nothing.

If you keep it in your hand, you have a chance to represent a card that can stop the opponent. The only times you should ever play lands when you are in top deck mode are either when your opponent is playing Land Destruction (to keep up with the amount of land your opponent's getting rid of) or when you have one card in your hand other than the lands you're drawing, and you need enough land to cast that card. Even though most of the time this will not work (they'll know the chances of you drawing the nuts are low), it is still worth trying besides the alternative of getting hit without fear.

I knew what you were holding, that's why you lost.

Now when I say you should bluff, I don't mean that you should bluff all of the time. Let's take a look at my above example. More times than not your opponent will not believe that you have a card in your hand that can stop them if you are in top deck mode. This is mainly the opponent's brain telling them that their opponent doesn't have enough cards to represent anything dangerous, so it's safe to attack/play spells. The only time you should ever seriously bluff is when you are on a downhill slope to lose the game and when you have at least three or more cards in your hand. Anything less will typically not work because of the previous mindset.

You have to realize that trying to represent something you don't have is not as easy as some people make it look. You could have the best poker face on the planet, but if the opponent doesn't think you have the stone cold nuts you're going to get served. That is the fatal flaw in trying to do this. If your opponent doesn't believe you, then there's no reason for you to try and bluff them out of doing something.

I want you people to realize that you don’t always have to do what is printed on the pieces of cardboard. If you know what you are doing, then those should be the last things you are paying attention to. You should be studying your opponent, and seeing what he thinks you have. Because if you can make him think you have something that you don’t, that will give you a much higher advantage over them in the long run.

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