Beginners guide to MTG play mistakes by Kevin Klotz

Beginners guide to MTG play mistakes by Kevin Klotz

So last Friday night I was playing some Magic the Gathering at my local shop (I mean, what else would I be doing on a Friday Night) and let’s just say, I wasn’t playing so hot.

During either round two or three, I don’t remember exactly which one, I sat down across from my opponent with my Grixis Control deck and prepared to go up against Tempered Steel. My opponent was somebody from the shop who I had played against many times in the past but had not seen in a long while until this night. During many of the previous matches I had played against him, I had defeated him and then afterwards explained to him how he could have won the match if he had not made certain play mistakes. So needless to say, combined with that information and knowing that he had just got back into Magic, I was feeling pretty good about my chances in the match.

So we shuffled up and started the match. I was on the play and at the end of his second turn he had three creatures on the board and I was sitting pretty with a Black Sun’s Zenith in my hand; ready to use it for one and wipe his board, which I proceeded to do. I was feeling pretty good with an empty board and counter magic as well as removal in my hand. I wasn’t worried about the turn three Tempered Steel that he may play because I figured it would be worth the three for one from the Zenith. So sure enough, for his turn three he played a Tempered Steel and passed.

I don’t remember the exact events of the game for the next few turns but we came to a point where I had five lands in play with a Dissipate and a Devil’s Play among other cards in my hand and my opponent only had his Tempered steel in play. For his turn he cast an Etched Champion. I could have, and probably should have, countered it but I figured he didn’t have metalcraft so I could just kill it with my Devil’s Play and leave mana open to counter anything he plays next turn. Now if you stop and think for a minute you will realize the flaw in this logic. Devil’s play is not an instant and I only had five lands in play. If you don’t see the problem here just wait and you will.

So he passed his turn, I untapped and proceeded to use my Devil’s Play to kill the Champion as planned. So I tapped three lands and threw the Devil’s Play at my opponents Champion for two damage to kill it. My opponent gave me a puzzled look and said “okay“. I paused for a moment wondering why he wasn’t proceeding to place his Champion into the graveyard.

It was at that point I remembered a key factor, there was a Tempered Steel in play. So two damage wasn’t enough to kill the Champion. So what did I do? I tapped one more land and said “oh, I meant to do it for three damage”. My opponent looked at me again with a smirk on his face and politely repeated… “okay“. At this point I was still wondering why he wasn’t moving the Champion to the graveyard and asked “HOW BIG IS THAT THING ANYWAY?” as I grabbed the Tempered Steel to read it. It was at this point I made the obvious realization that I had to do FOUR damage to the Champion in order to kill it. Feeling incredibly stupid I asked my opponent again, “can I take that back” wanting to cast the Devil’s Play for four and actually KILL the Champion. He responded with, “no, I already let you take it back once, I am not going to let you do it again. Especially after all the times you told me my mistakes at the end of matches that cost me the win“.

So there I was, with only one land untapped, counter magic in hand and a wasted Devil’s Play in my graveyard. At that point I might as well have scooped it up because my opponent took full advantage of me being tapped out and I spent the rest of the game trying to deal with the Champion and ultimately lost.

Afterwards we had a good laugh about the game.Recapping my thoughts of the game went something like… “here, you can win, I don’t want to… no seriously I don’t want to win… I’ll just punt the game right here and now“. I then made a comment of how “It would be nice if I actually KNEW how to play Magic. I might actually be able to win!“.

So what can be learned from all of this? 

For starters, be sure that you read the cards when you are playing MTG and know EXACTLY what they do.  And then make sure you REMEMBER.  I think we get so used to seeing the same cards over and over when we play competitive MTG that sometimes we only partially remember what the exact text on a card is, or what we assume it does. 

Of course there are also the times (like this one) when we just completely forget about a card being on the board.  I have noticed that sometimes when there are enchantments or artifacts in play that are just sitting on the side automatically doing things; we can overlook them or even forget they are there.  So it is also important to keep up with the game-state during a match.  Remember, in competitive play, if there is a card on the field that automatically does something every turn (like a Shrine) then you are required to make sure it gets all it’s counters or whatever it is that card does, even if it isn’t your card.  If you miss an activation, that isn’t a “may” ability, and there is a judge dispute over it, you will both be penalized for not maintaining game-state, not just the controller of the card.

So pay attention and be smart when you are playing MTG.  Play mistakes are the difference between an average player and a professional.

Check out gameplays from my weekly FNM on

Kevin Klotz

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