(Un)Competitive Magic

I had my first competitive game of Magic on Monday. I lost, 0-2.

Most of the Magic I’ve been playing has been at the day job – I posted something there about starting a Magic league (no prizes, just for fun) and had an enthusiastic response. We now have ten players split into two divisions. The thing that still amazes me is that this is not all the Magic players I work with.

Matches started this week, and my first match in the Stonehenge division (the other is called Machu Picchu) was against a player with a lot more experience of Magic than I. He’d built a deck that was pretty heavy on control and I was expecting my aggressive deck to do well. Unfortunately, this did not happen – my deck just fizzled.

I think the main thing that went wrong* was that my deck is trying to do too many things. I’ve got three distinct strategies in the deck, two of which reinforce each other but the third is a bit of a fifth wheel. There’s also a backup plan of big creatures to finish. Having too many unrelated strategies competing for space in the deck reduces the probability of any of them connecting.

Another issue is that I didn’t do enough play testing, and I didn’t have a clear idea of how to play the deck. Now, it’s my deck and I have a good idea of its win conditions, but I didn’t have a strong sense of how to get from the opening hand to one of those win conditions. Basically, I didn’t have any idea of what an ideal hand would look like, nor did I know what I should mulligan** for (apart from land).

There was some good news: I was worried about the land base being too slow but that was not an issue, and the sideboard worked. There were certain spells my opponent played which I could do nothing about in the first game of the match, and I sideboarded in answers to those spells which helped me survive longer in the second game. And the match as a whole was not a blow-out – the 0-2 result masks the fact that I did a lot of damage to my opponent, he just did more damage to me and I lost.

So the plan with this deck now is to refocus on the strategies that reinforce each other, and to do more play-tests so I have a clearer idea of what cards I need in my opening hand.

On to the next game.

[*] apart from bad draws. Magic is, as one vlogger puts it, a high variance game: depending on the luck of the draw, anyone can win and anyone can lose.

[**] the mulligan is a term borrowed from golf, where a golfer gets to replay a bad shot. In Magic, if a hand is unplayable then you can shuffle it back into the deck and redraw – although whenever you do this your opening hand size drops one card.

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