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It's All About Hand Grenades

    Something that is rarely addressed in the realm of Magic are the "close"
situations in the game. How many times have you seen people not be unable to
close out games?  Or how often have you seen someone not attack, and later
have that one attack phase make all the difference in the game? 

    This is nothing new.  Nor is it anything complicated to understand.  You
just have to pay attention to the game situation at all points.  You don't
have to be a super intelligent person to figure all of this out.  Just be
observant and aware.  We held a Standard (Type 2) CASH tournament this past
weekend and examples of these were shown:

    The first example involved eventual tournament champion Zach Karthauser
and finalist John Park.  Park had Karthauser down to 10 and has Fires of
Yavimaya, Saproling Burst (Faded to 3), Saproling Burst (just cast),
Flametongue Kavu, Chimeric Idol, Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves. 
Karthuaser only has out a Saproling Burst (faded to 2) and Llanowar Elves. 
Park's lifetime was pretty much inconsequential.  He was at 16.  Karthauser
had only two Forest and the one Llanowar Elves for mana.  The rest had been
killed by Dust Bowl controlled by Park.  Park could have just attacked with
everything for the win.  Everyone was already aware that Karthauser was not
playing Tangle due to earlier games and situations.  Why did Park not attack?
 Honestly, no clue.  The game was well over.  Funny enough, Park didn't win
until two turns later.  He felt he was making a "safe" play.  Even though we
all knew that Zach had no Tangle in his deck or sideboard.  However, from the
way it sounded, Park was not sure if he really didn't have it or not.  Silly
as it sounded, Park could have lost the game had Zach drawn up the right
cards, because Zach was playing Thunderscape Battlemages that day.  Had he
drawn up a red source of mana over those two turns, things could have gotten
turned around.

    However, Park won the game and Zach went on to win the match.  It's just
silly in hindsight.  The match seemed more controllish with two Fires
variants playing each other which was really strange to begin with. 
Regardless, the point here is, be aware of when to go all out and close out

    Something else to touch on, is not being afraid to take damage.  Too
often I see players afraid to take damage for some unknown reason.  You get
20 points to start with.  Make the most of all of them.  If it's not going to
put you into the danger zone of losing to various cards in your opponents
deck, don't worry about the damage.  There are also times you have to
understand when the damage regardless of it you block or not make you
susceptible to those same cards that would finish you.  I got another example
here from that same event:

    This game also included Zach Karthauser (who is also potentially the
luckiest man in the world) and his opponent is Top 8 finisher Milton Vasquez.
 This was in the round of eight.  Milton playing Blue Skies has out two
Islands, a Troublesome Spirit, Glacial Wall, and a Spiketail Hatchling. 
Karthuaser has out various pain lands, Thunderscape Battlemage, Chimeric
Idol, and Flametongue Kavu. With Vasquez at six life and Karthauser at five
life, Vasquez opted to attack with just his Troublesome Spirit.  Karthauser
without any way to stop the damage, obviously, took three to put him at two. 
On Karthauser's next turn, he drew up a land and attacked with everything,
since he couldn't block Milton's fliers anyway.  Vasquez fearing a burn card,
blocked with his hatchling and wall to go down to four life.  Zach then casts
a Flametongue Kavu targeting the Troublesome Spirit and dropping himself to

    The funny part of this situation is that Vasquez from this point drew up
nothing to help him and lost the match.  However, had he attacked with both
his Spiketail Hatchling and his Troublesome Spirit, Karthauser would have
been at one.  He then would not have been able to cast anything with his pain
lands and that would have been the difference in the game.  Also, Milton's
blocking assignments lacked a bit of logic.  He is giving up his option to
win by blocking to begin with.  On top of that, he blocked fearing a burn
card or finisher to put him away.  However, Zach drawing up the card to put
away either of his creatures or to pump something would have definitely put
Vasquez away.  But, having no counters in hand, he should have just taken the
damage and force him to draw up the card.  If he doesn't he attacks with the
hatchling for the win.

    I'm not wanting to use these examples to pick on anyone.  I myself make
mistakes still and when I make them, I analyze them just the same.  What I am
trying to show you is that even when the game is close, or appears to be
over, any simple mistake and turn momentum around the other way.  Also, you
have to know when to deal the deathblow and when to play on to the defensive

    I'll admit, risky plays are definitely more interesting.  Also, slow
control games are boring to watch.  Both styles and decks have their times
and place.  Just be aware of what is necessary at each point during a
tournament.  You have to remember that close is not good enough in Magic. 
Many good players have won dozens of games at five life or less.  I myself
can probably account for 13 or so games I won being at one life for over ten
consecutive turns.  It's not over until it's over.  Close only counts in
horseshoes and hand grenades.

    I apologize for the shortness of this article, but I have a tournament
report to get up as well :)

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn