If you haven’t already, go read Jamie Wakefield’s article ‘Mistakes,’ you should. Unfortunately, the Dojo seems to have taken down Wakefield’s old articles (!), so I’m not sure if I am capable of pointing you to it. (Ferrett?) In it, Wakefield referred to a method of limiting one’s play errors during a play testing game, simply putting a six-sided die in front of you, and adding a number to it every time you screw up. If you hit six, you lose. Both simple and elegant.
Recently, I’ve been noticing my mistakes a lot more often. Perhaps it’s because I’m playing more, every day, and working harder and harder at the game. Whatever’s caused it, it’s a very Good Thing™. I don’t actually have a six-sided die sitting in front of me, but believe me, I should. One of the keys to improving how well you play Magic is avoiding making the obvious mistakes you always make.
“Duh,” you say. “No kidding, if I don’t screw up, I won’t lose as much? Really?”
Enough with the sarcasm!
Seriously, the number of mistakes an average player makes during a single game is quite unexpected. I started counting recently, I tend to make four or five fairly obvious play errors during any given game. As an example:
I’ve been playing mono-blue Cowardice recently. It’s fairly standard, for a Cowardice deck, and really plays more like Draw-Go than anything vaguely resembling a combo deck. Rhystic Deluge, Foil, Gush, Counterspell, etc… Just today, I found myself dueling another fairly standard deck, Blue Skies. We played three times, without sideboards. I won the match 2-1, but found myself counting my obvious play errors and not liking the numbers I was coming up with. In the first game, I failed to use Soothsaying no less than three times at the end of my opponent’s turn to dig deeper for the Rhystic Deluge I was in such desperate need of. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I did use it, I forgot to use its second ability to get rid of all the bad cards that were accumulating on top of my deck.
While I was busy making these mistakes, I was being beaten about the head and shoulders by a couple of Bouncers. Fortunately, Blue Skies wasn’t drawing much of anything for beatdown either, but nonetheless… I lost that game.
Game two. An early pair (!) of Cloudskates would have been pretty bad, but my Rejuvenation Chamber was kind enough to keep my life total at 14 by the time the dumb little Skates faded out the game. And my Chamber went with it. Now, the Chamber is one of the key cards in my deck against anything aggressive. Blue Skies is aggressive. So, I would have done anything to keep my Chamber, yes?
Well, as it turns out, I wouldn’t use Rishadan Pawnshop to shuffle it back in. Oops. I had a Soothsaying, too, so I might have been able to search the thing back up if I had Pawnshopped. That would have almost certainly meant concession for my opponent. There goes my only stalling card… Furthermore, I ended up countering a series of Chimeric Idols while my Cowardice combo had the board locked up and under complete control. Now, none of this got me killed (once Cowardice is down, what are they gonna do to me?), but those are mistakes that simply shouldn’t be made.
Third game. It gets worse. I won this game, too, but put simply, I should have lost horribly. I forgot to use Soothsaying again, but that wasn’t so bad. After all, I had seven true counters in my hand when my combo hit the board. That’s pretty sick. At this point, my opponent starts Gushing. I know exactly what he’s looking for. Rath’s Edge. I’m at 9. My only good kill is a Pawnshop recursion and decking trick, or a beatdown with a single creature. He’s at 20, and has targeted effects in his hand (Withdraws), which bounce my critter due to Cowardice. He has a ton of land on the board.
Do I counter his three Gushes? No. WHAT? What was I thinking? Seven true counters. My only attacker is a 2/2, which takes ten turns to win. My opponent can get a Rath’s Edge and kill me before ten turns is up. And I don’t have the 2/2 to start attacking yet. So, I allow my opponent to draw six cards deeper into his deck, looking for a card that kills me almost automatically, when I could have stopped him? Let me clarify: What I’m doing here is letting him have a chance at winning that I could deny him without any appreciable loss. Bleh.
So, I screwed up. This is a Bad Thing™, and something that needs to be remedied. And ya’ know, I don’t think these types of simple logical errors or mistakes spawned from playing too quickly are all that rare. I noticed three or four going on in the other games around me, and that was only at a glance. Perhaps all the people I play with suck, that’s entirely possible. But if everyone makes mistakes as often as I do, something needs to be fixed.
Perhaps putting a single die to use might actually do something. Next time you play test a deck, grab a die. Start counting every time you screw up. It can be anything, failure to pay Echo, or groaning at a draw and telling your opponent that your topdecking skills are on par with those of an average dead lab rat. And when you hit six, you’ve lost. You can keep playing, but you probably deserve to lose. I know I deserved to lose that set of games.
“… Clear the Land might be viable…”
--Zadok001, aka Greater Good fanatic (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“We have more sprouts than they have hands.”