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Getting Aggressive on Control

Believe it or not, we writers cruise the net just like the rest of you. I know I look over several sites every week. I look at everything from my fantasy football to ebay. Now, I am looking for something different on each of these sites. Sometimes, I'm looking for humor. Sometimes, I'm looking for strategy. On some sites, I am just looking for particular columns or writers.

That brought me around to thinking that I haven't given a good thank you to the readers in a while. If it weren't for you guys, this site wouldn't float. Without you, there would be very little reason for us to write. I know that many of you read my writing in different publications as well, and I want to say, "Thank you."

OK, with that out of the way I want to discuss something else that's been on my mind a little bit. Obviously, I get to see several games of Magic played each week since I own and run a full service game store. The funny thing is that I have actually gotten better watching others mistakes. I do see something that many new/inexperienced players seem to have trouble with. Most of them don't understand how to play a traditional aggressive deck against a slower control deck.

There are several reasons for me to discuss this. The first is that most aggressive (aggro) decks use creatures. This seems so important to me, because creatures are truly the basis of the game of Magic: the Gathering. Another important reason, is that new/inexperienced players are most likely going to be playing creature based decks. I'm not trying to say that creature decks are inferior. That's not the case at all. Some of the best decks and many big tournament winners included creatures. It just simply comes down to logistics. Creatures are the easiest and most obvious way to win. And the last reason is that right now there are several popular creatures decks being played, so this should be a lesson that almost any player can use.

Have A Plan

This will sound silly to many of you, but this is important. Once you get the first signal that it's a control deck, try to establish what style. Is it traditional blue/white control? Maybe it's mono-white control. It could just as well be Astral Slide. And yes, believe it or not, in most circles Astral Slide decks are considered to be control decks. You need to start thinking about what spells that they have (or can have). Try to figure out which of your spells are going to be the most important to force through.

Knowing what spells are and aren't expendable is key. Also, if there are key cards in their deck, that can be important too. If you can figure out a game plan earlier, the game can set up well for you in the long run.

Pick and Choose

In some ways, the term control doesn't truly define the deck class that it describes. The reason I say this, is because a good player generally gets to dictate the tempo of the game. When you are playing aggro against the control deck, you are in control of what dies are what gets countered even. You just have to be really careful and calculated.

Don't allow yourself to get rattled into bad decisions.  One of my favorite things to do is to think during my opponent's turn.  Most control players are slower.  Mainly because in a tight game, the pressure is usually on them until the later turns if they have worked themselves into a winning situation.  So think during their turn, make your final decision on your turn, act, and pass the turn back.  This can put pressure on them.  Also, it saves you time and might even keep you from overthinking yourself.

Early and Often

You need to get out of the gates as fast as possible.  Most control decks don't get power spells until somewhere around the three mana mark.  So force them to draw one or cast one to stay in the game.  If you don't think you can put the heat on early, I would suggest mulliganing and trying again.  Even if you draw into a worse hands, your back was to the wall anyway, so it's not much different.

If you have someway to disrupt what they are doing go for it.  If you can make them discard a card, go for it.  If you've got a way to destroy a land, go for it.  Control decks MUST have lots of land to operate in 90%+ of all cases.  Anything you can do to pressure them early is the way to go.  This will take away their luxury of using search cards to search for was convenient.  They are put into situations to get cards that are needed to stay in the game instead. 

Make a Commitment...

You're going to have to play cards.  If you sit and wait to cast stuff, you're going to lose.  What if they have a spell counter?  I know that's what some of you are thinking.  The real mentality of a true aggro deck is: What if they DON'T have a spell counter?  That's pretty much how you have to operate.  Keep that line of thinking.

Generally, if you sit and wait, they are amassing spell counters OR acquiring MORE spell counters.  When you get the mana to start casting multiple spells in a turn, it's going to be tough to force one through.  Because control decks generally run more mana sources (and ways to get them or get them into play) than aggro decks, they will usually win that situation.  So cast your creatures and put the heat on.

...But Don't Over Commit

If you are lucky enough to get a couple of creatures on the board (or a form of steady disruption or damage) early, hold back a few spells.  Remember what I said earlier about their key spells being four mana or more usually?  Well, if you get a creature on turn two and turn three, and they hit the table unmolested, you are in command.  You then force the other player to act.  Don't give them an easy out.  If they are going to Wrath of God or Mutilate your creatures away, give them the minimum number of creatures.  Don't let them get three, four, or more for one card if you can avoid it.

As a rule of thumb, I try to not have more than three creatures out fighting at one time if they have none on the board.  If they have one out, I want three, unless I have a way to deal with their singular creature.  I would only play and extra creature if the math works out that I can win on the following turn.  By being conservative, you can drop a guy or two right after that big Wrath of God that wipes the board out.  Again, this puts the pressure right back on the control player.

For inexpereinced/weaker players, control decks are very tough and boring to play against.  This can lead to frustration.  Don't let it get to you.  Once you start getting frustrated, it's too easy to get distracted and let things slip away.  And until you get good at it, dealing with control decks can take a lot of thinking.

I just hope this was a useful read.  Maybe those of you that have been having trouble dealing with control decks now have a better perspective on the situation.  Every little edge you can get in a tough matchup helps you and your confidence.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn

PowrDragn at Pojo dot com





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