Dear noobs; I envy you. I can not recall a fonder time than the days when I reveled in the ignorant bliss that was the early days of magic. Days before I was haunted by the omnipresence of a mana-curve, a meta-game, or even that frigid mistress known as “the stack”. Of course, if this article is being viewed by new players, you might not have any idea what I am talking about. Enjoy it. Enjoy every game that you win (or lose) by playing that awesome card (that you pulled in a pack) from the top of your library, and smashing your opponents face in. Enjoy every game you play that goes on until turn 12 or 13. You must even enjoy every game you lose against your buddies crude sliver deck, because once you enter the arena of tournament level magic (even the meager prerelease), well then the times they are a’ changing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tournaments, and I encourage every casual player to read the basic rules regarding the stack and “priority”, which you can find on “Magic the gathering’s” web site and play in the next pre-release. After all, the heart of magic is competition and if one wishes to be a great competitor he has to venture away from the kitchen table. If you go to a prerelease you will have a blast. You’ll be surprised how many other players are playing at the same level as you. I once played against a girl who hadn’t played since the Ice Age set some ten years ago. She had a blast. People are pretty laid back and not too finicky about the rules so you don’t have to worry about Jon Alpha-mage figuratively peeing all over you for forgetting to untap before you draw. (Sorry about that mental image but I’ve dealt with such people and they aren’t far off from the description in it’s non figurative form.)
I’ve been playing tournaments for about three years now. All things considered, I am batting 500, which means I am about where I started in rankings. I do well here, do poorly there. Place highly in a pre-release, crap out in a PTQ. I play all different formats, read the magic articles, and study the new sets. Yet I still am not a notable player. Most amateur athletes in a situation like this would be baffled. If they train sufficiently then their game should improve. I’m not unstoppably stupid. I don’t make many play errors, and I make enough money to put together some great decks. I understand what a good mana curve is, and how to fix mana in a multi color deck. I am familiar with different play tricks and how to manipulate the stack. I still don’t win. And the crazy thing is I know why.
Before I reveal the man behind the curtain, I should familiarize the newer players with a couple of concepts. The first is the concept of a mana curve.
If you are familiar with this site, which I assume you are, then you should already know at least a little about the mana curve, so I will not dwell on it. Basically, in a typical deck, you want to be able to play the most efficient spells you can each turn. In order to do that, you have to have some spells that are cheap, many spells that are mediocre cost, and some spells that are higher in terms of mana cost. The theory behind this concept is that you don’t want to be holding any playable cards when you win the game. That makes sense. What is the point of having a deck full of cheap 1/1’s? You will empty your hand by turn 4, but they will be worthless the second your opponent has a couple of 2/2’s in play. Alternately, why have a hand full of cards that cost 6 or more mana to play? You will be dead long before you can play them all. You want to start the game with strength, continue the game with strength and finish with strength. That is how games are won. A chart with a
good mana curve could look like this:
as you can see, you have eight options to play first turn, twelve options to play second turn, and 16 whopping options for the third turn. After that you could play a “three drop” and a “one drop”, or two “two drops”, or a “four drop”. The point is you have powerful options.