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MTG fundamentals: Card Quality & Card Advantage

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.


Magic: The Gathering like many other games is a game based on resource management. What are these resources? There are many options but the most common are for example the Life Points (a common saying says that all life points are expendable, except of course the last one), as well as the amount of lands that we can use in each turn to cast our own spells or as few realize even the number of cards that make up the deck are a resource as well as those that are in our hand.

Speaking mainly of the cards in our deck, each deck has a fixed minimum quantity of cards that can be inserted into the Mainboard or the Sideboard (in this article we will mainly deal with 60-card decks with 15 additional cards in the Sideboard but the same principle applies to all formats). This quantity is usually defined as the minimum quantity to be able to access a tournament and there are normally no restrictions on the maximum number (except for problems of randomization of the deck due to the difficulty of mixing too large decks) so much so that cards have also been created that allow you to win the game if a player has more than 200 cards left in his deck during the upkeep.


Card Quality

Barring these humorous variations, a player should never exceed the minimum number of cards allowed by even a single unit.
The main reason why you shouldn't put more than 60 cards in a deck (or 40 in limited) is for statistical purposes as each additional card beyond the standard decreases the likelihood of getting the best cards in the deck in the starting hand or drawing them in the course of the game, especially for those cards that are only in 1-2 copies. This effect is even more visible in limited decks, consisting of 40 cards, where most of the cards are mono-copy or in any case limited in number. What chance will you have of having the rare card bomb in a 40 card deck in your starting hand? and with 45 cards? and with 50?
(Hint: respectively 17.5%, 15.5% and 14% on the play. 20%, 17.7% and 16% on the Draw)

The only exception to the rule that is more commonly accepted is in those decks that can be defined as Toolbox (like the old Birthing Pod deck) or with the ability to tutor consistently for specific cards, in this case the advantage of having an additional tool is greater than the statistical damage.

So if the standard number of cards in the deck cannot be exceeded, every single slot must be chosen with due attention so that it is of high quality and that it is functional for the functioning of the deck, focused on the optimization of the gameplay.

This is why very often 0-cost cards are not used equally in all possible decks. Yet it seems counterintuitive, why wouldn't we want to have an advantage for Free?
Well, the explanation is that although we don't pay a mana cost to cast that card, we still pay a cost by wasting a slot in our deck and diluting the consistency of the deck, in these cases the real cost is losing the opportunity to play a better card. (even at the cost of having to pay its mana cost).
The only exception to this rule is when all these "0" cost cards are part of a combo deck that uses these elements to implement its Gameplay (such as the old Modern Cheerios / Second Sunrise / Eggs decks)

The same also happens when in the same pool of cards we have access to both 2/2 at cost 2 and at cost 3. Why should I choose the worst card? Why not just play the best and call it a day?


Card Advantage

Card quality is only one side of the coin, while Card Advantage is the second side.
Both elements must work together to maximize the beneficial effect for the functioning of the deck.

If both players draw 7 starting cards and draw a card in turn they will have access to essentially the same amount of resources and therefore the player who will be able to have access to the best quality cards and use them in the best possible way, will easily have the chance to win.
Similarly, if both have cards of similar quality and similar skills but only one will have access to more cards, the latter will have an advantage over the opponent.

Focus on the quality of the cards first and then on the card advantage immediately afterwards.

Card Advantage can come in many forms.
The most common form of card advantage is the intelligent use of the cards at one's disposal.
The simplest example to show how a player can gain card advantage is to use their resources intelligently, if one of our creatures manages to destroy more creatures during the game (for example a 3/3 against 2/2 and 1/1 creatures), very easily one of our good quality cards has allowed us to gain card advantage over the opponent and consequently is helping us to win the game.
Another possible way to gain card advantage is to use cards that can hit multiple targets (such as the classic Fireball or Wrath of God) or by exploiting the weak points of the opponent's plays (such as destroying with a single card a creature empowered by aura cards or combat tricks).


In addition to this, another way to obtain card advantage is the use of cards that offer marginal advantages but which can be added up over time, this method is mainly related to color combinations such as Green-Black or Red-Black. where in response to a removal a creature can be sacrificed for an additional effect.
In these cases a trade is made (one-to-one exchange of cards) but at the same time one of the two players obtains a minor advantage (which usually alone is not worth a card) which added to other small advantages can become considerable.

Similar to the previous case there can also be cards called mana sinks where the excess mana can be used for additional effects.

The last source of card Advantage is the use of cards (mechanics mainly visible in Blue or Black cards) that allow you to draw more than one card or to discard more than one card, or to use what are called drawing engines that allow a repeatable source of card advantage such as by sacrificing life or other resources.

© 2021 Christian Allasia

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