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The Innocence of Survival

One of the biggest mistakes that I see constantly repeated by many many people, good players and newbies, is that they don't know what the term 'playing to win' entails. Right after you learn how not to impale all your creatures on your opponent's ones, this is what you should learn. When you say 'of course I'm playing to win', you are missing the point. First off, don't cheat, ever; it proves you are an idiot if you do. Second off, don't be a jerk to your opponent, especially if they are a newbie or you are at a prerelease or something. This includes being abusive of the phrase "JUDGE!!". If your opponent is truly a jerk or a cheater, that's one thing, but them just being about to beat you in a match does not count as them being a jerk.

And for the third point I will start a new paragraph, as this is the most important, and what this article is really all about. When you are losing a match, or sometimes even just playing a match, stop and think about what could happen, and how you intend to win this game. When you are 5 apparently inevitable turns away from being killed, stop, think, and try to figure out what you could topdeck in order to win, and play accordingly. DO NOT PLAY TO SURVIVE, PLAY TO WIN. Do not just chump block in order to live longer, calculate whether you are going to need that creature to kill your opponent or not. "what can I draw to win this game? Well, based on what's in my deck, if during my next 2 turns, I draw a giant strength, then a brainstorm that gets me my last giant strength and a rushing river, I can win. Other wise I die… I could chump block and survive for 4 turns total, sacrificing my capability to win, or I could not block this turn, shorten my life clock to 2 turns, and attempt to win." So many people get on the losing side of a battle and basically give up and hope to draw up 'the answer', relying on their deck to pull them out of the game… but sometimes your deck will try to help you, but you were stuck in the mentality of "must stop as much damage as possible". What can your deck do? And how can you win with it? Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop all the damage you can, like if all you need to do is pull up the urza's rage for the win. But sometimes you are losing and are just praying that your deck will provide something for you. If you aren't aware of what that something could be, you could just be digging yourself deeper.
"I need to sac 3 land to the new zuran orb enchantment to stay alive, leaving me only 2 land in play… which 2 land should it be? The forest and the plains, so if I topdeck another land I can for sure play this instant gating cat (and still be losing), or a swamp and the forest, so if I topdeck the Do or Die I can stabilize, and if I topdeck a plains I can play the cat anyways (for all the good it will do)" it may sound like simple stuff, but so many people throw away their game because they are not playing to win, they are playing to survive. The 2 are one and the same in many circumstances, but in many others they are two very separate things. Chump blocking just to live longer with no plans for the future is, to me, just as big a mistake as the one mentioned above about impaling creatures on your opponent's because you are used to attacking with everything every turn. It really is just easy and basic risk management, and like I said, this may all seem very obvious as you are reading it here, or you may think I'm just running on at the mouth and should be put out of my misery, but like I said… it is one of the most common mistakes that A LOT of people make on a regular basis, good players and bad alike. And to the same end, you should occasionally give thought to your opponent playing to win… next time you're beating some random dude down, pay attention to what your opponent could possibly pull out of their butt to turn the tide in their favor, and play accordingly… the word you may have heard in this case is 'overextending', and again, you may think you already know this, but there are many different forms of overextending, and they will often times get overlooked in a very fatal way; especially if you are the type that gets overconfident easily. Just stop and think the next time you are playing, and you might snag yourself an extra game win or 2 during your next tourney. Good luck and have fun! J

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