Card Advantage

Discussion in 'CPA/WOTC Magic Issues' started by Gizmo, May 17, 2001.

  1. Gizmo Composite: 1860

    This is the early Alpha draft of my card advantage work. it`s an EARLY version, remember - I am rather unhappy with the example I have chosen, and will probably change it. I am also uncertain as to how much further to extend the example into more complext factors. Possibly I will return to the example in the final segment and continue it in a sort of 'for advanced readers' kind of deal.


    I first wrote this article, or attempted to, in November 1998. Three months prior to that I developed a personal understanding of how card advantage worked, before which I had been a competent Magic player in local tournaments - regularly making Top-8 and Top-4 at tournaments but seemingly unable to make the next step and begin winning tournaments. Within two months of developing my card advantage theory I had won two prestigious regional tournaments, designed the Rath-cycle deck that won Grand Prix: Birmingham, and had attended my first Pro-Tour in Rome - the ‘next step’ had apparently been made.
    That it has taken so long for this article to become published is largely a result of how difficult I found it to fully and adequately explain my theory to other people as it integrated so many elements that I found self-evident and the language and terminology did not really exist in which I could express those ideas. Two and a half years later I hope that I have finally succeeded in making my card advantage theory understandable to a wider audience - what follows isn`t intended to re-invent Magic strategy as many other ‘treaties’ on card advantage have attempted to do, I simply hope that I have been able to put into words what in my experience all good Magic players know instinctively and yet had not possessed the structure to explain - how to win at Magic: The Gathering.

    by David Sutcliffe

    1: Premises

    Cards are what magic is all about. I think everybody has pretty much agreed by now that the core of Magic strategy is card advantage - the truth is that it is much more than just the core of Magic strategy, it is ALL that there is to Magic strategy. You simply can`t win a game of Magic without first gaining card advantage - it`s thus also utterly impossible to lose a game if you have card advantage.

    Don`t believe me?
    Then you don`t understand card advantage.

    Truth is the existing theories of card advantage really only tell a half, or less, of the story. Card advantage is, as is befitting of the central strategy in a game as compex as Magic, a far more dynamic and complicated thing than existing strategies would have you believe. There are a number of separate aspects to card advantage that are already widely known and understood, such as drawing cards and ‘time advantage’, and other aspects that go unrecognised or are at best only infrequently talked about, such as card quality and dead cards. These aspects are usually held as separate strategic concepts, and yet are in fact deeply connected and utterly inseperable - you can`t have one and not know it`s relationship to the others.

    Lets start with some basic principles of what a card actually does in order to ‘count’ s having been an influence on the game, just to kill off the basic misconception that simply drawing more cards than your opponent is how you win the game:
    1) First of all it`s not enough to simply draw the cards into your hand. It`s pretty obvious that any cards you don`t play won`t have made any impact. So in addition to drawing cards you have to play them.
    2) But there also cards you can play that won`t actually have an impact on the outcome of the game - such as playing a Wall Of Fire when your opponent is only attacking with flying creatures. You drew the card, and you played the card, but it still had no impact on the course of the game.
    3) Therefore you have to draw cards, play those cards, and make those cards useful. By this definition of useful we mean that they must prevent one of your opponent`s card from being ‘useful’. Essentially you are trying to make sure that your cards trade off with your opponent`s cards. More than that, they are trying to trade off with your opponent`s ‘useful’ cards.
    4) So we can go so far that there are really only two criteria for making a card ‘count’. That card must have either:
    a) nullified one (or more) of your opponent`s cards:
    b) Contributed ‘usefully’ to your victory. See that key word, ‘usefully’ - that`s where it gets tricky. In essence it`s saying that not all aggressive plays, damaging though they might be, are important. If, for example, when you win the game you attack to put your opponent at -4 life then had you cast a Shock on your opponent during the match that Shock was not making a ‘useful’ contribution as you would have won regardless of whether or not you cast the Shock on your opponent.
    The importance of cards being ‘useful’ in this way is paramount because you are only interested in nullifying your opponent`s ‘useful’ cards, and thus it is possible to waste your own cards, even though they nullified an opponent`s card, if the card they nullfy was not going to be ‘useful’ for your opponent. This might sound complicated, but it will soon make perfect sense.

    This is a key part of understanding card advantage, perhaps it is even possible to go so far as to say that most of the ‘skill’ involved in playing Magic is here - in determining what cards of your opponent`s are ‘useful’ to him and which can be effectively ignored.

    Here is an example of making a card useful, let`s use the popular card Seal Of Cleansing, from Nemesis, as you will see the discussion rapidly becomes complex:
    1) I draw Seal Of Cleansing. So far Seal Of Cleansing has not been ‘useful’.

    2) I cast Seal Of Cleansing. Here I have ‘played’ the card, but it has not yet actually done anything other than tap two of my mana sources, so cannot be said to have been ‘useful’.

    3.i) My opponent then plays a Chimeric Idol and I use the Seal Of Cleansing to destroy that Chimeric Idol. The Seal Of Cleansing as thus finally been ‘useful’ because it has nullified a card of my opponent`s that would have been useful for him had it remained in play.
    3.ii) But if my opponent had played an artifact or enchantment that would not have been useful for him, such as Circle Of Protection: Red against my deck of only White damage sources, then destroying it with the Seal Of Cleansing would not have made my Seal Of Cleansing ‘useful’. While my Seal Of Cleansing is sat in play it is not being ‘useful’, just as my opponent`s Circle Of Protection: Red is not being ‘useful’ for him - from this perspective I don`t lose anything by destroying the Circle as neither card was ‘useful’, what makes it a bad play is that it is possible that my Seal Of Cleansing will be able to trade off for another card of my opponent`s later in the game and that card would be more likely to have been ‘useful’ for my opponent.

    It helps to understand what is happening if you attempt express that advantage numerically - while my opponent and I both had our respective cards sitting in play the score was 1-1 in nullified cards as neither card was ‘useful’. Had I chosen to destroy the Circle Of Protection the score would have remained at 1-1 and I would not have lost any advantage, but if I had on the other hand chosen to wait and later destroyed a Chimeric Idol, for instance, the score would have been 1-2 as the Circle Of Protection would remain ‘nullified’ even without the Seal Of Cleansing in play. Destroying the Circle Of Protection isn`t in itself a negative play, but it does remove the potential for a positive play at a later date.
    That was a simple example, in that the Circle Of Protection: Red was obviously a card that was unlikely to prove ‘useful’ for your opponent, it didn`t take a great deal of skill on my part to know that it was a bad play to destroy the CoP:Red with my Seal Of Cleansing. But there is a second assumption being made in the case of the second example - that the Chimeric Idol would prove ‘useful’ for my opponent if I chose not to destroy it, which is by no means certain. Both those examples were taking place in a vacuum, so lets go on to consider some hypothetical game situations that latter example could have taken place in:

    4) Both players are on 20 life, and both players have 0 cards in hand. In addition to my Seal Of Cleansing I have an Air Elemental in play and my opponent has the Circle Of Protection: Red and the Chimeric Idol. In this situation I can effectively ignore the Chimeric Idol as my 4/4 Air Elemental will kill my opponent a full two turns before the 3/3 Chimeric Idol kills me. As the Chimeric Idol will not nullify a useful card nor contribute significantly to my defeat it is not going to prove ‘useful’ to my opponent and so I CAN ignore the Chimeric Idol in the same way as I can afford to ignore the Circle Of Protection: Red.

    Ok, so far so good. Let`s increase the stakes a little, because there are a full five turns before the game ends yet and the above example doesn`t take into account the cards that both players can draw. So let`s throw in the next set of factors:
    5) The above situation is in effect, but in addition to that I know that my opponent is playing with a large number of creatures in his deck, and that I am playing with a smaller number of creature removal spells in my deck. While I can expect to race my opponent to victory if nothing changes in the game status I am now having to take into account that I might well find myself on the losing side of that race if my opponent draws more creature threats than I draw creature removal spells over the next few turns.
    Two new factors now enter the equation of whether destroying the Chimeric Idol with my Seal Of Cleansing will be making the Seal Of Cleansing useful:
    a) How likely it is that my opponent will have a better draw quality than I do? Are the numbers of creatures and removal spells equal, or does one player have an advantage? If for example my opponent had 16 creatures left in his deck, and I only had 8 removal spells then there is obviously twice as much chance that my opponent will draw the creatures he needs than there is that I will draw the removal that I need.
    Also are the cards that are NOT creatures or creature removal spells going to be useful in this situation? If my non-creature removal spells are all going to be cards that allow me to draw more cards, such as Opportunity or Opt, then it is more likely that I will be able to draw enough removal to defend myself, on the other hand if my opponent`s non-creature spells are all going to be removal spells of his own, that could destroy my Air Elemental, then he gains the advantage and the Chimeric Idol is more likely to prove ‘useful’.
    b) How likely is it that my opponent is going to play another Artifact or Enchantment that the Seal Of Cleansing is going to be able to become ‘useful’ by destroying in the next few turns? If the only targets for Seal Of Cleansing in my opponent`s deck are four Chimeric Idol and two Circle Of Protection: Red then I lose nothing by choosing to destroy the Chimeric Idol in play - the worst case scenario for me is that my opponent draws and plays another Chimeric Idol, and in this case I will be destroying a Chimeric Idol with a Seal Of Cleansing in any case. On the other hand if my opponent`s deck contains more threatening targets for my Seal Of Cleansing, such as four Pariah and four Confiscate which my opponent has yet to draw then there is a much greater incentive to wait and not sacrifice my only answer to Artifacts or Enchantments as either a Pariah or Confiscate would not only be ‘useful’ in themselves by nullifying the Air Elemental as a threat, but also make the Chimeric Idol ‘useful’ as it would now be able to make a significant contribution to my opponent`s victory because the Air Elemental could no longer successfully ‘race’ it to the kill.

    The key factors in making your cards ‘useful’ can be summarised as such:
    a) Cards you do not play are not useful. You might as well not have drawn them.
    eg. You draw five counterspells but your opponent only allows you to counter two of his ‘useful’ spells, the three additional counterspells can be effectively discarded. Similarly topdecking counterspells is a bad thing when your opponent already has creatures on the board, for instance, as those counterspells will be useless unless you can remove the threats.

    b) Nullifying a card of your opponent`s that would not have proven ‘useful’ is not making your card useful.
    eg. You and your opponent are both playing mono-black decks, you cast Duress but the only spell in your opponent`s hand you can make him discard is Dark Banishing which is useless against your black creatures.

    c) A card that nullifies one fo your opponent`s cards that would have been ‘useful’ makes your card ‘useful’.
    eg. Your opponent plays a Serra Angel and will be able to kill you with it before you can kill your opponent, casting a Blaze on that Serra Angel makes the Blaze useful.

    d) A card that damages your opponent, but does not make a significant contribution to your victory on the turn on which it was achieved, is no making that card useful.
    eg. Dealing 19 points of damage to your opponent with a barrage of direct damage spells does not make any of the spells ‘useful’ unless you are able to deal the final point of damage and win the game. If you were to find that extra point of damage then it is likely that all the direct damage spells you cast on your opponent were ‘useful’. This the inherent weakness in Stupid Red Burn (SRB) tactics - you risk playing ten spells but making none of them useful if you don`t play an eleventh spell in time.
    You are attacking with a Jade Leech for four turns, dealing twenty damage. Casting an Urza`s Rage onto your opponent to deal 23 damage does not make the Urza`s Rage useful as it did not contribute to winning the game - it was simply overkill.


    If you are paying full attention then it`s very possible that you have spotted a potential flaw in my card advantage theories - that flaw being that had I, to use the above example, used my Seal Of Cleansing to kill the Circle of Protection:Red, wouldn`t it have in fact made the Circle of Protection:Red useful for my opponent, as he effectively used it to ‘destroy’ my Seal Of Cleansing? Further, isn`t it true that in fact every time you make one of your cards ‘useful’ in the sense of nullifying an opponent`s card you are inevitably also making your opponent`s cards ‘useful’ at the same time? So what`s the point then - if the ‘useful’ cards for each player will always be trading off on a one-for-one basis and so each player will inevitably always have exactly as many ‘useful’ cards as his opponent, how does that help us in understanding how to win?

    Truth is, it`s only half of the story. I was just explaining what the ‘Card’ half of the equation meant. Next time I`ll talk about creating the ‘Advantage’.
  2. Landkiller CPA Menace

    Good stuff, Gizmo. This is a good guide to making in-game decisions, on how to cast spells, when it's better to wait, etc. But, for deckbuilding, how can you apply this philosophy? How can you design a deck to make every card as useful as possible?
  3. Duel Has Less Posts Than Spiderman

    The truth is, there are two kind of decks:
    Silver Bullet

    The basic theory of both relies on card advantage.
    Silver Bullet: One card of yours is going to effectively neutralize several cards of theirs.i.e. Moat neutralizes all non-flying creatures. The deck is based around getting the 2-3 cards that, chances are, will neutralize all their threats. That's card advantage.

    Redundundundancy: Control or beatdown, it doesn't matter. These decks work on the theory that each card of theirs nets them the most card advantage. Wrath should kill 1 more creature of theirs than it does of yours. Any more than that is card advantage. Blastoderm must be chump blocked three times, that's 3-1 card advantage. Each card of yours should either trade 1 for 1, or better.

    For instance, let's analyze Fires, using this theory Gizmo showed us.
    First, a fires decklist:

    4 Birds of Paradise (acceleration for mana. IF you outrace your opponent, they won't be able to play as many cards as you. Remember, cards need to be played, not drawn)
    4 Blastoderm (it makes most of your opponents removal spells useless, and often goes 3-1)
    3 Flametongue Kavu (The most blatant example in the deck. Kills a creature when it comes out, and then it either kills another with it's 4 power, or takes a removal spell to kill.)
    4 Llanowar Elves (See Birds of Paradise)
    2 River Boa (Regeneration makes alot of red removal useless, and renders any big attacker without trample helpless. Islandwalk makes blue blockers useless)
    2 Shivan Wurm (bigger than most any creature, meaning, in general, it takes 2 cards to kill. Regenerators don't stop it either.)
    3 Thornscape Battlemage (The red kicker means this can kill a creature when it comes into play, going 2-1)
    1 Thunderscape Battlemage (The black kicker means they lose 2 cards from their hand, and a creature/removal spell killing it, and the green kicker means they also can lose an enchantment)
    2 Chimeric Idol (Neutralizes Wrath and Color-hosers in their deck. All those cards become useless against it.)
    4 Fires of Yavimaya (Makes blastoderm and Saporling Burst last a turn longer. It's a kind of card advantage. Also, if they kill it, it's secondary ability comes in, making it about 1.5-1)
    2 Ghitu Fire (1-1 trade, if it isn't used to kill them)
    4 Saproling Burst (In order to block this, they need 3-4 creatures. At worst, this meets with an enchantment removal, and goes 1-1. At best, it either kills them or takes out 3-4 of their cards.
    1 Wax/ Wane (a 1-1 trade. Either saves a creature or kills an enchantment)

    How about U/W control: This is a combination of silver bullet and redundancy

    4 Blinding Angel (renders all non-flyers useless. If they ca't fly, they can't attack OR block. That's card advantage)4 Absorb (trades 1-1 and helps you win)
    4 Counterspell (1-1)
    2 Daze (1-1)
    2 Disenchant (1-1. A Silver Bullet. Dismantling blows are often considered better because they can go -1 to 1)
    4 Fact or Fiction (You can get anywhere from 1 to 5 for 1 with this. It also lets you search)
    4 Opt (0-0, but allows you to search as well)
    2 Power Sink (1-1)
    1 Recall (Unfavorable card advantage, but allows searching through used cards, which can lead to card advantage)
    2 Tsabo's Web (0-0 at worst. If they play with, say, ports, it's at least 2-1.)
    4 Wrath of God (This is the real winner. This card can go 5-1 on a regular basis, if not better. It's also a silver bullet of a sort, but a very broad one.)

    Notice that this deck has many more 1-1's than fires. How can it afford this? It searches for what it needs at that exact moment, and casts that for maximum card advantage. Blastoderm is met with counterspell for 1-1, Any and all creatures greet Wrath for X-1, Burst meets a counterspell or a disenchant for 1-1, as does chimeric idol. Wurm, Idol, derm, burst, all go bye-bye to blinding angel. Flametongue meets counterspell, going 1-1. You see how it works?

    If you want, I'll analyze historical decks by the same method. The Deck is the first example of that, if anyone has the decklist, and you can go through it and show what it does and how.
  4. Gizmo Composite: 1860

    I`ll ignore the 'there are two kinds of decks' for now. Not because it`s necessarily wrong, but because 1) I`m trying to take this slowly, and 2) I`ve got a stinking head cold and can`t think about things properly.

    What I will do is run an evaluation of Fires, as I would see it, using the list Duel gave:

    Firstly, I think Duel missed out some of the most important cards - the land. Lets assume that there are 24 land, no Ports, just for the sake of argument.

    24 Lands
    Lands are dead legs you carry into the match as in 99% of games they are 0-1 card swaps (you have lost a card, your opponent has lost no cards). Almost never 'useful'.

    4 Birds of Paradise
    In essence just lands #25-28, it is very rare that your Birds Of Paradise will ever become 1-1 card swaps unless your opponent chooses to kill them directly, and so Birds are rarely ever going to prove 'useful'.

    4 Llanowar Elves
    Basically the Elves are very similar to the BoPs and lands, but as they have a power they may occasionally be able to trade off and become 'useful' if they kill a creature in combat (but remember - do they kill a useful creature? Alternatively they can deal damage to your opponent, but remember the case that the damage they deal might be 'overkill' if you find yourself serving vastly more damage than necessary eventually. In truth in a lot of games the Llanowar Elves will not prove 'useful'.

    So already we are 32 cards in, and so far we have no cards that will prove useful. There is now going to be an awful burden on the remaining deck and cards to recover that advantage, as the deck needs to operate at a certain advantage simply to break even as it is playing 32 cards that are basically 'useless'.

    2 River Boa
    Duel says:Regeneration makes alot of red removal useless...
    True it does, but that isn`t necessarily going to prove a factor. What you need to consider is whether or not that removal is going to simply be redirected onto another 'useful' creature if we are to consider Boa a 2-1 card swap. That the Boa has regneration is not a factor if it simply makes your opponent Rage the Idol instead, as the Rage still proved useful.
    Duel says: and renders any big attacker without trample helpless.
    Not a factor that can generate an advantage, however, in this way it only means that your opponent will not be able to use the greater size of his creatures to create an advantage by forcing you to 'chumpblock' giving him a 2-1 or 3-1 trade. Regeneration becomes an advantage-creater when the Boa regenerates to avoid trading 1-1 with an opponent`s creature and makes the trade 0-1 - remember though that the creature that dies needed to be 'useful' for you to count it.
    Duel: Islandwalk makes blue blockers useless.
    Very true, and if the Boa deals 'useful' damage then, yes, this ability may well have made some of your opponent`s creatures 'useless' if they could have usefully blocked but could not do so. But did their creature usefully block something else instead? For exmaple if you have a 2/3 creature and a River Boa, and your opponent has a Wall Of Ice then just because the Boa has Islandwalk does not produce advantage.

    This is why Boa soon came out of Fires - the burden on the final 28 cards to produce advantage is so huge that the fact that Boa so rarely produces a 2-1 swap makes it a poor choice for the deck.

    2 Chimeric Idol
    Duel says: Neutralizes Wrath and Color-hosers in their deck.
    Neutralises is a strong word. If Chimeric Idol is your only useful threat, then the Wrath is, yes, neutralised. If your opponent Wraths away a Blastoderm and leaves Idol standing, was Wrath neutralised? No, all Idol did was lower the margin of advantage that the Wrath gave to the opponent (ie, a 2-1 useful trade killing a Blastoderm and River Boa became a 1-1 trade as the Idol repalces the Boa). What the Idol gives Fires is that the opponent is forced to find an extra removal spell to kill the Idol, and that it must be Instant-speed - it produces an extra threat type your opponent must 'solve'. Conversely the idol might well make an opponent`s Disenchant effect 'useful' when it otherwise would have been dead if you had no other artifacts or enchantments.

    Chimeric remains in the deck because it does reduce the effectiveness of perhaps the most important defensive spell in the environmentand can often be the vital difference between the control making a 3-1 or 2-1 card swap, also as a 3/3 it immediately devalues any 2/2 creatures on the table and makes them more likely to be 'useless' - in a field of Rebel grizzly bears and Nether Spirits this is potentially valuable. Also the risk of making an opponent`s dead removal useful is relatively low as Fires also plays 8 other enchantment targets.

    3 Thornscape Battlemage
    Duel: The red kicker means this can kill a creature when it comes into play, going 2-1
    Fairly self-explanatory - the kicker effects mean that it is rare that the Mage will ever fail to trade 1-1 at least, if it can kill an artifact or creature on entry. It only becomes a 2-1 card trade in the eventuality that the 2/2 creature makes a valid contribution and doesn`t just get used as a chumpblock.

    1 Thunderscape Battlemage
    Duel: The black kicker means they lose 2 cards from their hand, and a creature/removal spell killing it, and the green kicker means they also can lose an enchantment.
    Again the Mage can produce a 2-1 card swap. In the black kicker there is potential for a much greater card swing, assuming that the cards your opponent discards would have proven 'useful' in the event of him being allowed to play them. This means that not only would he have had a target for them, but that he would have been able to cast them before the game ended.

    The Battlemages begin the card advantage fightback properly by producing the possibilty for multiple 2-1 or 3-1 card swaps if properly played. In fact in my personal experience the power of the Battlemages is so strong (particularly a well-timed Thunderscape) that I would probably run at least 3 of each in my deck, and I today met a deck that ran 4 of each and came away with a brand new respect. The Battlemages are VERY good in Fires, provided the matchup you are playing them in allows you the time and mana to cast them usefully alongside your other cards (the downside being that possibly playing Battlemages as 4cc or 5cc spells will slow the deck down and leave you unable to cast other spells).
    The Battlemages provide a telling key to how Fires is now changing and being reconsidered. Originally they were considered far too slow as Fires was a deck attempting to gain a measure of advantage by playing at a rapid tempo, leaving cards dead in it`s opponent`s hand at the end of the game. That Battlemages are now in the deck is a response to the rise of the control decks, now better able to avoid losing to the tempo advantage of Fires by the use of cards like Force Spike, Nether Spirit, Foil, and Tsabo`s Web - Fires now approaches the control matchups trying to generate card advantage by numerical swaps as well as tempo advantage.

    3 Flametongue Kavu
    Duel: The most blatant example in the deck. Kills a creature when it comes out, and then it either kills another with it's 4 power, or takes a removal spell to kill
    I can`t really add anything else - as a 4-damage spell the FTK is very likely to produce an immediate card swap with an opponent`s creature, and as a 4-power creature is very likely to become 'useful' by dealing important amounts of damage, thus making it an obvious target for an opponent`s removal spell. In fact just about the only times an FTK won`t trade 2-1 are when it gets countered (only a 1-1 swap) and when the target creature does not die, or is one of your own creatures.

    The FTK is good in Fires whether it is creating temporal advantage or numerical advantage (a 4/2 creature pours the damage on fast enough as well as removing a creature that could block) - justifiably ranked one of the best cards in Fires.

    4 Blastoderm
    Duel: it makes most of your opponents removal spells useless, and often goes 3-1
    The Blastoderm is the meatgrinder of Fires - cheap, fast, hard to kill without expending significant amounts of mana - it does the greatest work in Fires. It`s size creates an important temporal clock, it`s untargetability is an equal part of this, making it virtually impossible to kill the Blastoderm for less than four mana.
    The other side of Blastoderm is that it`s size can, as Duel suggests, create card advantage by grinding more sensibly-powered creatures under it's cloven hooves.
    Now, what you need to consider before you start calling Blastoderm a 3-1 card swap is that, in this case, the Blastoderm will eventually die regardless, more importantly each chumpblocker is effectively being played as 'gain 5 life' by your opponent. Now a 'gain 5 life' spell isn`t particularly good for your opponent unless it allows him to survive further into the game and avoid losing to the Tempo-Advantage in Fires - so if your opponent is going to chumpblock be aware that it could be the reason he wis the game, if he then goes on to generate card advantage in the mid-late game.

    I think it`s worth pointing out just how much the addition of the Battlemages help out Blastoderms, as not only does the Thornscape add extra removal to force the Blastoderm through chumblockers, but the numerical advantage they generate makes Fires less dependent on the tempo advantage of Blastoderm, and more able to absorb a failed Blastoderm assault and go on to win the game through numerical advantage.
    As you might be able to tell by now, I REALLY like Fires with Battlemages in. :)

    4 Saproling Burst
    Duel: In order to block this, they need 3-4 creatures. At worst, this meets with an enchantment removal, and goes 1-1. At best, it either kills them or takes out 3-4 of their cards.
    Saproling Burst is a real power card for Fires, as it`s the single card most likely to simply end the game immediately if your opponent cannot destroy it. Saproling Burst has multiple effects that match the fundamental theme of Fires - being hard to control (more on this below) and it can, as Duel says, in a worst case scenario trade of for multiple creatures.

    2 Shivan Wurm
    Duel: bigger than most any creature, meaning, in general, it takes 2 cards to kill. Regenerators don't stop it either.
    As Boas are not legal the regeneration aspect isn`t so much of a factor, although Nether Spirit and recursive Rebel production are similar effects. The size of the Shivan Wurm is an obvious part of the 'clock' and unlike Blastoderms chumpblocking isn`t a viable defensive strategy. I don`t think you can really see the Shivan Wurm as a 'tempo advantage' card because of it`s high casting cost, but what it does do is make the vast majority of your opponent`s creature meaningless because of it`s size, or at least trade 2-1 or even 3-1.

    This rounds up the creature base of Fires` aggression, so what are the themes that allow it to recover the lost advantage. Well, if you look at the 'classic' Fires cards - Blastoderm, Sap Burst, Chim Idol, Shivan Wurm - then the theme is being hard to control, the deck is not vulnerable to any one defensive strategy. To beat Blastoderm you need mass-removal, which is classically Sorcery-speed. Chimeric Idol, on the other hand, is immune to the Sorcery mass-removal and thus lives to keep pressure on the opponent. Saproling Burst is vulnerable to neither strategy particularly as it produces multiple creatures that will attack at least once before a Sorcery can intervence, and alongside Shivan Wurm makes any defence based around creatures less likely to succeed as they can punch through and around.
    Wrath won`t stop Fires, Teminate won`t stop Fires, Nether Spirit won`t stop Fires - you need to draw a combination of defensive cards to fight Fires off, and that makes it much much harder to defend against it.

    The addition of Battlemages to the Fires deck provides a great secondary strategy that goes beyond simply being hard to stop, and gives the deck a much better chance of producing a numerical recovery if the initial rush fails. The original Fires deck, pre-Flametongue, had no real way of producing numerical advantage and had to race hell-for-leather to win by temporal advantage. Planeshift has given it an opportunity to include a much more reliable secondary strategy, as the high casting cost of Fires cards never really followed a tempo strategy. Fires no longer falls over to removing it`s early mana, Fires no longer falls over to countering one or two spells. Fires is growing and developing into a deck that can consistently challenge it`s opponent beyond the first six turns of playing threats.

    4 Fires of Yavimaya
    Duel: Makes blastoderm and Saproling Burst last a turn longer. It's a kind of card advantage.
    Fires itself. When Fires began the Fires were key in producing the tempo advantage - if it`s in play it`s basically a time walk as you attack a turn earlier - obviously very strong in producing a temporal advantage as it ends the game a turn earlier.
    Secondary effects are that Fires makes sorcery removal far weaker, with the main decks reliant on Wrath Of God it makes them far more likely to be redundant and not 'useful' as the cumulative effect of the attacks that get through can render an opponent dead very suddenly.
    But nobody ever played Fervor before, this is partially because the field was stronger then, more importantly the sacrifice effect makes multiple copies of Fires useful, and also allows Fires to contribute either to damage or to replace a creature in a card swap. Fires can contribute usefully as tempo advantage or as sustaining the theme of making your creatures hard to control, by devaluing both Sorcery and burn removal spells.

    However, Fires itself a 0-1 trade unless you sacrifice it, thus correct use of the sacrifice ability is a key to the succesful use of this card. If you don`t sacrifice Fires you are making an even greater burden on the remaining cards to produce the temporal advantage and so you have to carefully judge at which point you have gained as much advantage as you are likely to do from Fires`s haste ability, and it is time to trade Fires in for an opponent`s card and keep one of your creatures in play.

    2 Ghitu Fire
    Duel: 1-1 trade, if it isn't used to kill them.
    Ghitu Fire should only ever be used as a 1-1 trade, or as a kill. Ghitu Fire doesn`t help you gain numerical advantage, but it does work synergistically with the rest of the deck. It widens the range of threats you set your opponent to solve, he must now not only have removal for all your various creatures, but also for the threat of direct damage. Fire also supports temporal advantage strategies by removing blockers.

    1 Wax/Wane
    Duel: a 1-1 trade. Either saves a creature or kills an enchantment
    Wax/Wane is the card here I don`t particularly agree with - if your opponent isn`t using creatures or burn spells to defend the Wane half of the card might never prove 'useful' unless it deals the last two damage points, and the Wane half is dependent on them having scary enchantments. As such Wax/Wane is by far the card most likely to be 'useless' in the deck, and for that risk you potetially gain nothing as you will never be able to trade Wax/Wane for more than one card. With Wax/Wane you either lose or break even - bad planning. As a cheap spell it adds to the potential to win by tempo, but as we have seen Fires is moving away from this strategy.

    Thus considering Fires from a card advantage shows us this:
    1) It`s weakness is that it only has 28 spells, thus putting huge burden on the deck`s spells to gain a large advantage back.

    2) It attempts to do this by a combination of:
    a) Temporal advantage
    b) Redundancy advantage
    and Planeshift adds
    c) Numerical advantage

    3) It`s possible to beat Fires simply by trading 1-1 with their effective cards as you are likely to have far more cards that are effective than they do. The downside to this is the difficulty of finding 1-1 card swaps that can handle untargetable creatures, haste creatures, enchantments, and burn spells (why do you think counterspell strategies are so popular). Unfortunately in the current environment there are very few counterspells costed cheap enough to be dangerous to Fires, and as soon as you start to play permanents you simply play into the hands of their secondary strategy of 187 effects.

    And stuff...

    Tired now... head feels slow... Okk need sleep... ZZZzzzz...
  5. Duel Has Less Posts Than Spiderman

    I THINK he just agreed with me for the most part. My analysis should have implied that no one removal strategy stops fires, and that is it's power. Also that U/W control is good because it has 1-1 trades for almost everything fires has.

    Birds and Elves are NOT land.
    The key to them is you must play the cards in order to make them worthwhile, and Birds and Elves allow you to play them before your opponent does. These are two of the best temporal advantage weapons in the deck. So much so that I've often seen birds go 1-1 being killed by a shock or seal of fire.

    and U/W control should have agreed with him, too. Making fires trade 1-1 in general means that you win.
  6. Gizmo Composite: 1860

    What needs appreciating is that Birds don`t really add very much to the tempo at which Fires plays - a typical tempo-advantage deck would play to an early tempo of 1,1,2,2 (casting 6 spells in the first four turns). Fires isn`t about tempo advantage, if we choose not to see the BoPs and Elves as useful cards then the tempo is more like 0,1,1,1 - Fires doesn`t win by tempo.

    Fires wins by consistently producing hard-to-control threats - the game CAN easily be won before your opponent plays his cards out, simply because of how much of a 'solve me or die' threat each card in Fires is - but the key aspect is really that the Birds simply allow it to play expensive but hard to control spells, as opposed to accelerate it`s tempo.
  7. Zadok001 CPA Founder, Greater Good

    Interpretation of Gizmo's last post (correct me I got the wrong idea):

    Extended Stompy (9-land Green) is temporal advantage, playing many, many threats early. By taking full advantage of every card they draw in the first few turns, they try to negate the disadvantage of having "not useful" cards in the deck like Giant Growth or Invigorate. In a long game, those two cards are weak. But Stompy, by playing all their cards early, makes those cards individual weaknesses irrelevant next to massive advantage gained by playing everything? (I know that reads wierd. So sue me. I'm tired.)

    Fires, on the other hand, plays cards that require a minimum of commitment. Any single threat in Fires can win the game, so it doesn't commit everything to the table. It commits individual threats, and waits until its opponent runs out of solutions, then wins? Or is there something deeper than that at work that I'm missing?
  8. Istanbul Sucker MCs call me sire.

    Birds and Elves are not land. Nor are they good card advantage. They're acceleration, plain and simple. The entire purpose of Birds and Elves is basically the same as playing Moxes; they enable you to play more and better spells faster than your opponent. They aren't in the deck to provide numerical advantage, but it's important to realize that they're vulnerable to a whole class of spells as creatures. They make cards like Wrath or Pestilence into *amazing* card advantage. Hopefully, by the time your opponent can play cards like this, you've made ample use of your acceleration.

    Here's an interesting thought. What about cards like Boomerang?
    What about mass-bounce cards like Evacuation?
    Reuseable bounce like Tradewind Rider?
  9. DÛke Memento Mori

    ...don't think bounce is card advantage.

    When I think of card advantage, I think of cards hitting the graveyard. It maybe wrong, but that's my opinion.

    When you Counterspell, you are performing 1 for 1 card advantage, which isn't really any advantage.

    When you Memory Lapse, you are not performing 1 for 1. You're delaying a card, and that's about it. Of course, the opponent will have to redraw that card, which is advantageous to you, but not in a card-advantage way...probably in a time-advantage.

    Bounce works the same way. They're all time, or delay-advantage. Even endless bouncers like Tradewind Rider, although powerful, they're simply delaying.
  10. Lotus Mox New Member

    Why is an endless bouncer just delaying? It shuts down 1 card and with it many other cards which can't be played because you have to replay 1 card again and again, so Tradewind Rider has potential for huge card advantage.
  11. DÛke Memento Mori

    ...because the opponent is not losing anything, and you're not gaining anything. I think card advantage is when you get a card to do something, and that's it. Tradewind Rider is amazing, but it's not advantage. It only delays the opponent for a long, and probably permanent time...still, in my opinion, I don't see it as advantage.

    Masticore is another creature. It kills the opposing creatures, and you don't have to repeat it. Once you kill, you kill. You have gained card advantage.
  12. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    I can see what you're saying, DUke, but on the other hand if you have the Tradewind lock going and are continually bouncing his creature/land/whatever, you have basically stopped your opponent from further his agenda. Thus one card is doing the work of what 4 Boomerangs or 4 Unsummons would have done.... so I think in that respect it's kinda card advantage (but probably more time advantage).
  13. DÛke Memento Mori

    ...but see, you'll have to waste your OWN resources over and over to gain that advantage. In my opinion, card advantage are cards like Wrath of God, Armageddon, Stone Rain, Dark Banishing...etc...

    Basically, the "one shot" cards are card advantage. You don't have to repeat what you're doin' to regain the advantage. Otherwise, you're probably goin' out of your way to regain the advantage, which can't really be called advantage...
  14. Duel Has Less Posts Than Spiderman

    Look, HAVING a card is useless. USING it produces card advantage. If you have a Moat in play, you don't get rid of any of their creatures, but produce card advantage nonetheless, by neutralizing them. Boomerang is not card advantage (Unless, say, you boomerang a cloaked panther and kill the cloak). It delays the inevitable, in general. Capsize is card equality. The key is that capsize deals with ANY threat.

    Tradewind rider is card equality. One card of yours = one card of theirs that never stays in play. However, if that's a land, tradewind takes advantage of the one land a turn rule. Mind you, though, if they get rid of tradewind then all the cards you neutralize with it come back.
  15. Zadok001 CPA Founder, Greater Good

    "One card of yours = one card of theirs that never stays in play."

    Revise that math to say THREE of your cards to one of theirs. :)

    I think the thing in question here is the old Virtual vs. True card advantage question. True card advantage is what DUke describes - You use a card to neutralize one or more of your opponent's cards. Wrath of God is X:1, Counterspell is 1:1, Plague Spores is 2:1, etc. These can be given exact values once they have been played an resolved. Basically, it's removal. Essentially, any card that can be shown to have an EXACT numeric card advantage ratio when it is resolved is TRUE card advantage.

    Virtual card advantage is different. You play a Moat. Your opponent has two non-flying, non-wall creatures in play. Those are now non-cards. You have gained 2:1 VIRTUAL card advantage. The difference is several fold. First of all, when Moat is played and resolved, you cannot immedietely assign a card advantage value to it. Your opponent may draw more creatures, making it better, or Disenchant it at the end of your turn, making it worse. So, you cannot assign a value to it right away. Therefore, it is virtual card advantage.

    There are exceptions, of course, as with every other rule. :) Duress, for example, seems to be a clear 1:1 True card advantage when played (assuming you got something, otherwise it's 0:1 and still True). However, if you remove, say, an Ancestral Recall, you have effectively forced your opponent to lose 3 cards, not one. So, it's debatable whether such cards are True or Vitual (and really, CAN be debatable for ANY card, but it's too much work to debate them all - Wrath of God, for example, could take out a Brass Man which then prevents your opponent from effectively playing Covetous Dragon, etc...). Basically, I feel that if you need to start applying specific cards to a situation in order to argue whether a card is True or Virtual, the discussion is probably wasted.

    Tradewind Rider is only Virtual card advantage, until your opponent's hand size grows past seven, in which case it is indirectly True. :) Etc...

    Does that make sense?
  16. Duel Has Less Posts Than Spiderman

    Right. you're neutralizing a card without getting rid of it. I don't count tradewind as 1-3 card advantage, because tapping two creatures does not render them useless, nescessarily.
  17. Zadok001 CPA Founder, Greater Good

    But you counted Tradewind as being rendered useless by in the same equation... ?
  18. Gizmo Composite: 1860

    I think it`s fair to see Tradewind as a 1-3 trade whenever you use it - however it is far more than this in other respects as while you are 1-3 on the permanent you bounce there is a good chance you are actually also causing a huge tailback of cards in his hand that he can't clear until he draws more mana.

    Situation A: Your opponent is playing a deck of Pups and Fanatics and stuff, and has 4 mana. Bouncing a Pup is a 1-3 swap because it doesn`t not really prevent him playing any other spells.

    Situation B: You opponent is playing a deck of fat guys, and only has five mana in play. Bouncing his Jade Leech is a 1-3 swap. He draws a Scoria Cat and plays the Leech - you bounce it (now a 2-3 swap). He draws a Hunted Wumpus, plays Leech, you bounce it (now a 3-3 swap). And so on and so forth...

    But considering that the Tradewind 1-3 is also dependent on you considering the creatures you put under the Tradewind to be useful elsewhere - it`s one thing to be bouncing by tapping a BoP and a Wall when you have plenty of land and nothing to blck, different entirely when you are tapping two 3/3 flyers or something. Often a Tradewind is only a 1-1 trade because the creatures that go under it are unimportant in their own right. Combine that concept with the first, and Tradewind can just as often be 3-1 as 1-3.
  19. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Do you consider card advantage on the merits of the card itself, or in combo with each other?

    Like if you have Arcane Laboratory in play with a Tradewind, you've basically created the lock so your opponent can't do anything until he bounces/disechants the Lab. So until that time, since you've effectively stopped your opponent from playing spells, you've created the situation that Zadok described, by making their hand grow > 7.
  20. Gizmo Composite: 1860

    I would count no advantage until they started to discard cards they would otherwise have played, but when the game ends any cards in their hands are considered to be 'discarded' I suppose because they made no impact. As long as Lab is in play, and the game continues, your opponent is in a position to kill the Lab and play all the spells you have so far stopped him from playing, thus no advantage would have been created.

    Labs are bad, 90% of the time, people get far too excited over a card that does basically nothing.

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