Making Mistakes: Lessons Learnt in Magic by Ruairidh Macdonald

M14 Sealed Pre-release Event & Deck Tech and Set Observations by Ruairidh Macdonald

Making Mistakes: Lessons Learnt in Magic

I have been making a multitude of mistakes recently. Rather than keep them to myself, why don’t we all benefit from my lessons.

1. Hemlockless Black-Red

I attended a Theros Re-release Sealed event with my fingers and toes crossed that I would open a mono blue deck.

Unfortunately my blue was sub-par. On the other hand, Black and Red yielded:

[draft]Magma jet : Magma jet : Pharika’s Cure : Pharika’s Cure[/draft][draft]Lash of the Whip : Lash of the Whip : Rage of Purphoros : Rage of Purphoros[/draft]

Don’t worry, your eyesight is fine; these were all doubles! I felt pretty sorted on the removal front. I pigeon holed myself into playing Black-Red and splashed green for some beef in the form of Mistcutter Hydra and Nessian Asp.

It was a trap! Without Sip of Hemlock I found that I could not deal with Toughness 5+ threats. Nemesis of Mortals became the scariest card to see across from me.

If you are playing Black-Red, you either have to win quickly, or have some late game action in the form of Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Sip of Hemlock. Otherwise, you will be outclassed quicker than you expect.

2. The maths fail

When facing a Black-White devotion/heroic deck I made a serious misplay that cost me the match.

BloodToll Situation

I attacked with Blood-Toll Harpy wearing Ordeal of Erebos taking him down to 3 Life. The Ordeal ‘popped’ but he hadn’t any cards to discard. I had a Lash of the Whip in hand.

On his turn he attacks with Evangel of Heliod for 2dmg lifelinked (bestowed with Hopeful Eidolon and enchanted with Chosen by Heliod). Without doing the math, I Lash of the Whip‘d his creature so that I would win the race.

I could have just taken it, went to 2life, Lash’d any blocker he top decks and attack for lethal on my turn!

He then casts a Wingsteed Rider. Groaning in my brain I realise I have just thrown away a potential winning turn.

Here’s where it gets worse. I then scooped because I thought I was dead on board. The harpy can block damn it!

After getting frustrated, it doubles your chances of making more mistakes. Solution? Just don’t make mistakes in the first place?

I should take more time to analyse the life-totals and board positions before making rash moves.

3. Protection from rules

Shipbreaker Kraken

I was on the opposite end of this erroneous play.

My opponent had just cast a Shipbreaker Kraken while I had no creatures on the board. My odd’s of winning could not have been high at this point. Fortunately I was able to cast a Mistcutter Hydra on my turn as a 5/5.

Passing back, my opponent goes monsterous and attacks. I point out that he cannot tap my Hydra due to it being pro-blue. He attacks anyway and I block with the hydra.

NB. He was still right to attack, as he had two Divine Verdict‘s in his deck. I was still right to block, as you can’t play around that bluff when it means taking 10 dmg!

A few turns later saw my Hydra get Divine Verdict’d on the block, and me adding a Blood-Toll Harpy and a Gray Merchant of Asphodel to the board.

A couple turns later (surviving!) the opportunity to double block the Kraken with a Nessian Asp + Gray Merchant presented itself. I had the mana to monstrosity the Asp, so this would spell death to the Kraken. My opponent apparently didn’t know you could monstrosity ‘at instant speed’. The Asp and the Kraken traded, and I went on to win that game.

Protection from a colour is one of the more complicated rules, read up on it here. Furthermore, unless an activated ability states otherwise, you should assume that you can activate it any time that you could cast an instant.

4. Scry Land Trap

I had been fortunate enough to open two Scry Lands in my Sealed Pool. They were both partially on colour, but I played them anyway as they help smooth out draws and keep card quality higher. For my final match, I was a game up and drew this as my opening hand for game 2.

[draft]Temple of Triumph : Temple of Deceit : Forest : Mountain[/draft][draft]Swamp : Mountain : Sylvan Caryatid[/draft]

I’m embarrassed to say… I kept this. Lured in by the promise of card draw fixing from the two scry lands, I kept a 6 lander + mana source!

Unbelievably foolish. It is like having a hand rich in Manamorphose or Gitaxian Probes – you don’t know what you are cantripping into, so assume the worst and chuck it back (unless you are playing storm!).

5. Secretling

I played some games of Standard recently with the Esper deck listed on my previous article. The first match was against BUG control, though I only saw Nightveil Specter‘s and a multitude of counterspells game 1. I assumed this to be some homemade brew, solely hoping to land a Specter and take home the bacon with it.

I won game 1, but then tapped out during game 2 to allow my opponent to play Aetherling. I was on the other end of an Aetherling for once, and it wasn’t pretty.

Just because I did not see it game 1, does not mean it is not there. When playing against control in Standard just now, let’s just safely assume everyone is playing 2x Aetherling.

6. Legion of Purphoros

Purphoros, God of the ForgeI then went on to battle against Boros aggro sporting the awkward-to-disable Assemble the Legion  + Purphoros, God of the Forge combo. Jace, Architect of Thought wrapped up game 1 nicely. The +1 ability allowed me to watch the Legion accrue harmlessly while I had put Purphoros in a Detention Sphere.  I lost the second game from having not enough answers for threats.

The third game presented a similar stalemate to the first, but not without a bit more of a struggle.

I played Jace.

He played Pithing Needle (naming Jace).

I had a Detention Sphere in hand, but wanted to wait to see which part of the puzzle he had first. I passed the turn.

He played Assemble the Legion – dang!

Target acquired – I put the Needle in detention and prayed  he did not have Purphoros.

He did.

Then I topdecked my second Detention Sphere and diffused Purphoros with it (I wish I had more DSphere in the sideboard now). I had regained a position of safety, for now.

Between Boros Reckoner‘s and Chandra’s Phoenix‘s I found my hand size and life total depleting. I had a Supreme Verdict or two still but was down to my last Dissolve in hand. I did however have an Aetherling on the board, ready to start a clock.

At 7 Life he tries to Warleader’s Helixs me, also  meaning that he will get back a Phoenix and attack for 1, putting me to 2 life. Unsettled by the idea of going so low and being dead to any burn spell or a second Pheonix, I used my Dissolve to counter the Helix.

Then in comes Glare of Heresy to exile my Detention Sphere on Purphoros, freeing him of doing lines in the spare classroom, and back to business!

Death ensued.

With a crystal ball we can see that I should have held the Dissolve, but I am not sure this was a misplay. I thought it an interesting situation though, and a line to look out for when facing the Legion.

7. Elspeth vs Aetherling

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Paired up against UW control, I had missed a few land drops and was stuck on 6 lands. My opponent had tapped out so I seized the opportunity to slam Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I had the misguided notion that Elspeth would run away with the game, leaving my opponent kicking over tapping out and letting her through.


He cast an Aetherling and passed.

The dawning realisation occured to me that Aetherling straight up beat’s Elspeth in the control mirror, and I had given the match away.

The cherry on top is that I missed the land drop again, and so had to slam my own Gamberling  (an Aetherling without Flicker mana available) as it was the only hope of winning the race.

I then got blown out by a miser one-of post board Supreme Verdict!

NB. I had 12 or so soldiers running the roost during game 2 when my opponent cast a Ratchet Bomb. I thought to myself “There goes the troops, and it’ll elongate the clock by a turn or 2”. However, my opponent was unaware that Ratchet Bomb can be immediately used to destroy these tokens seeing as they have a converted mana cost of 0.

Thought I’d share others blunders as well as my own for maximum learn-age!

8. Limiting Options

I drafted Theros at a friends house recently and made a spicy UWR midrange deck with some monstrosity late game.

My opponent had an excellently curved Black Red minotaur early-mid game with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Abhorrent Overlord for the late.

I played a Sealock Monster on turn 4 due to a Opaline Unicorn. The following turn I bestowed the Octomonster with Spearpoint Oread so as to more efficiently use my mana, knowing the Octopus would be online the following turn.

My opponent played a Blood-Toll Harpy and passed. I dropped my 6th land and turned the Sealock Monster into a monstrosity keen on being turned sideways.

On my opponents turn he then puts an Ordeal of Erebos on Blood-Toll Harpy and attacked, ticking it up to a 3/2. This meant it was now out of range of the Last Breath in my hand.

A few turns later of getting the Sealock Monster chumped blocked I had been beaten to death by the harpy.

I have preached that you should use Monstrosity at the end of your opponents turn. It means you will suffer less to a removal based blow-out, and have access to all your mana for longer. I ignored my rule because the Sealock Monster couldn’t attack till monstrous and I didn’t want to delay a turn of attacking. Had I followed the rules though, I could have 2-1’d the Harpy with my Last Breath – well worth a turn.

Bestowing the Sealock Monster was also pointless (unless it had been an evasion based aura). It wasn’t going to lose in combat, and I was just blunting my attack by having less creatures.

We all make mistakes. Learning from them is what turns the negative scenario into a positive result. Hopefully you and I will make less of them from now on.

small thumbs upTill next time nerds!



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