Overextending and “win more” are two very common, and in many ways similar, pitfalls of a lot of new players, and even a decent number of veteran players. This article will explain what these strategies are and why they are so destructive to your progress during games.
We’ll start with overextending. This term refers to committing a large number of creatures (or, in rare cases, other permanents) to the board to gain the greatest advantage possible. At first glance this doesn’t seem so bad. When you’re trying to kill your opponent, attacking for 8 damage a turn seems a lot better than attacking for 5 damage a turn. But in fact this is a poor tactic in many match-ups.
Let’s suppose you’re playing against a Standard format burn deck. You’re playing a white/green deck with loads of creatures. Most of the creatures you’ve played have been killed by Char and Volcanic Hammer, and you’re getting sick of it. He’s down to 8 life and you have a Watchwolf and 2 saproling tokens in play. This turn you’ll attack him down to 3 life, and next turn you’ll have plenty to kill him. But wait! What if he uses another hammer to kill your watchwolf? Then next turn he’ll only be taking two damage and still be alive at 1. Ok, first thing’s first. You attack him to 3 life and then decide to play out the creatures in your hand: a savannah lions and another watchwolf. Now you’re feeling good, knowing that he can’t have enough burn to kill your whole army. On his turn he untaps his land, draws, and plays Wildfire. All five of your creatures die and you’re left with only 3 lands in play.
So what happened? You overextended. Your creatures were killing your opponent pretty quickly, so he needed to find an answer immediately. Obviously in this case he used wildfire to stop you from killing him the next turn. Mass removal, like wildfire or Wrath of God, punish you for overextending. In the scenario above you should realize that you are forcing him to commit his resources to staying alive. You can keep the lions and watchwolf in your hand as backup, if he remains alive. Instead what you did was throw it all out recklessly and he killed everything you had. Now you’ll be searching for ways to kill him when you didn’t have to.
This scenario is actually a pretty normal example of overextending. It’s not always that obvious, though. There are very subtle versions of it as well. Let’s say you’re playing that same green/white deck, but this time you’re playing against a blue/white control deck. All of your precious watchwolves have been countered or incapacitated with faith’s fetters. Now your only active win condition is your Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree. You’re really excited because your opponent’s life is dropping fast. He’s had plenty of land for a few turns, but strangely hasn’t played any huge threats yet, so you continue to make tokens. On your turn you untap, draw and play a land, then attack with your 4 saprolings. He’s down to 5 life. Without a faith’s fetters he’s dead next turn, so you make a fifth saproling to kill him on the next attack. On his turn he plays Wrath of God and kills every saproling you have. Oh no!
This scenario brings up another important point to overextending. When you’re winning the game it’s best to see how your opponent can handle the current situation, holding back your extra resources for a second army. What you did was make a saproling on your turn, leaving it vulnerable to that wrath of god just like the rest. What you should have done was to produce one at the end of his turn. Being able to leave instants for the last possible second is what makes them great, and the city-tree’s ability can be played as an instant.