I started playing magic about a year ago, when a Mormon friend of mine came back from a mission and introduced me to the game. As he was not allowed to play video games, this was his major pastime. I was hooked immediately.
It took me about a year to get where I am now, full of knowledge of the meta-game, knowing every card out there, and some of the common decks and combos, which is handy no matter what format you play in.
I consider myself a mediocre player at best. Knowing all the cards and net-decking (which I despise, but that is not what this article is about) can only get you so far. This is when I realized that you not only have to play your cards, you have to play your opponent.
Anyone who has ever played poker can understand this. Playing your opponent comes in the form of mind games, bluffing, and sometimes just plain lying (without breaking the rules) to gain any advantage.
The easiest way to bluff that comes to mind is when you start your turn with no cards in hand. When you draw a card, and that card is a land that you Do Not need to drop, Do Not put that land into play unless it will immediately impact the game. I have seen so many people do this. Let your opponent sweat; maybe you can make him think you are holding a Cancel
, or something similar. Make your opponent think you have a good card you are saving, and he might just waste mana or a turn having you discard it. If you are playing blue, he might hesitate to play anything for fear of having it countered. Sometimes this can buy you the extra turn you need. After all, who wants to attack into open mana?
You can also bluff with your mana. I can’t remember how many times people have not cast a creature spell when I had one white mana and a few cards in my hand, thinking I have a Path to Exile
or an Unsummon
. I remember when a guy had seen my Lightning Bolt
in a previous round, so I always kept one mana open for it, even when I did not have it. This made him more hesitant to tap out because he wanted to save for a counterspell. This allowed me to build while he couldn’t play his game, beating himself in the process.
Lying can also be useful, or downright hilarious. I recently drafted M10. I was playing black, white, and green, and my opponent had only seen white and green. I had hinted that I was playing three colors. I had a plains and a forest on the board, and he cast a Convincing Mirage
on my plains, turning it into a island. I looked at him and I said ‘you sure you want to do that? I’m playing blue…’ Sure enough, he bought it hook, line, and sinker and turned it into a swamp. Next turn I put in another swamp and cast my Royal Assassin
whilst laughing. It pissed him off so much that it threw him off his game. Angry for the whole match, he lost focus, and I won. I do have to thank him for his idea of Convincing Mirage
to try and color screw me. I might just have to use that sometime.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to top-deck something amazing, and then give a resigned sigh and pass the turn, making your opponent think he can go for the win. Especially fun if you draw a kill spell that takes out his main attacker. Players also tend to get careless and hasty when they see a despondent opponent. Use it to your advantage.
Against the good players, of course, these strategies can be less effective. And, if you come up against someone who likes to play tricks and games, here’s what you do; just play your game. Don’t let them throw you off. If you do, you’ve already lost. Slow down and think. Read the friggin’ cards.
Anyway, this was my first article. Let me know what you think, and share your own experiences of the shenanigans you have pulled while playing the best card game on earth!