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Tim Stoltzfus on Magic
Improving as a Magic Player
August 8, 2005

                You're playing in the second round of a Kamigawa block booster draft tournament.  You're in game two of what has been, so far, a tough match.  Your opponent plays Seizan, Perverter of Truth.  You are at eight life several creatures on the board and a winning position until Seizan hit the board.  Your opponent is at six life.  You take your turn, draw your two extra cards for the turn and go to six life.  You can't stop Seizan from coming through because you don't have any fliers to block him.  This game is lost.  You play a creature and pass the turn.  Miraculously, your opponent forgets to attack!  He plays a small creature ans passes his turn as well!  Suddenly you could win just by your opponent not playing correctly.  You're in luck!  Your opponent never attacks with Seizan, and you win! 

                Ok go read that paragraph again quick.  Just from the information that paragraph contains, tell me what error the player telling the story made.   

                Figure it out?  He didn't read the card. 

                That is actually from a match I played, and I was the player in the position facing down Seizan, Perverter of Truth.  I didn't read the card.  Why did I think I had lost?  Because I thought Seizan had flying.  Which isn't unreasonable, look at the art.  There's several spirits in Kamigawa block that have this problem, in my opinion, but that is a discussion for another topic.  The point is, I thought the game was lost, but in reality, it was never even in question, given the cards that were played.  The game was played on Magic Online, and I almost conceded the game, thinking I had it lost! 

                DeQuan's column last week got me thinking about ways to improve at Magic and I wanted to explore this aspect a bit this week.  Many players, especially newer players starting to take the game seriously, don't recognize the value of the classic rule "Read the Card"  It seems simple, but being aware of what cards can and can't do is very important, and it is something you should have figured out before you sit down to play. 

                I play a lot of drafts and sealed primarily because I enjoy them, but also because the more you play, the more card interactions you see, and the better you understand what a card does.  I played against an opponent last week who played Shifting Borders in limited play.  This card is virtually unplayable, if you understand what it does.  The reason he played it is because he tried to take my only two Swamps and give me more Islands, in an effort to color-screw me.  If  Shifting Borders worked that way, it would have been a great play.  Sadly, for him, it doesn't.  The upshot of this is he will never play Shifting Borders wrong again, the same way I will never forget that Seizan doesn't have flying.   

                In the column, when I say "Read the Card", I am talking as much about being sure you know how everything on the board works as much as I am talking about understanding what a card does.   

                Usually when I am writing a column, I will start it one day, and then let it sit for a day or two while I think about the topic, and look for more situations that I can draw from in the meantime until I finish the article.  Last night I had yet another situation that applies to this topic.  In playing a Mirrodin Block draft, I played the card Savage Beating.  I didn’t want the turn to go too quickly so I missed my chance, so I cast it at the beginning of combat before I attacked.  I thought the card would untap all creatures at end of combat and then give another combat step.  If you read the card you’ll see that it untaps the creatures when the spell resolves.  I went to lose that game the next turn when I should have won it.  If I had taken the time to completely understand the card, I would have won instead.

                So, in short, take the time to really know the cards you’re playing.  Understand their interactions, exactly how they work, and how you can most effectively use them.  You will find yourself winning more games just because you took that time to make sure you are playing your cards optmially.

                Unlike me.

                Tim Stoltzfus



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