Everyone misplays. It is unavoidable, even at the highest levels of play (just watch the live Starcity Games 5K top 8 coverages, you’ll see tons of them). We can become better players by recognizing the mistakes we make, and analyze them to find the correct play for next time. This is the first in the “I’m a Bad Magic Player” series where I will disclose my most fragrant misplays, mistakes, and punts so that I can become a better player. It is also so you all can have a good laugh at my expense. Enjoy after the bump.
Tournament: Grand Prix Baltimore Trial, Carlisle PA (paper)
Deck Played: Esper Control (not ‘solar flare’)
Misplay #1: Round 1, game 2 against UW Puresteel Paladin. My opponent has an Invisible Stalker in play equipped with a Sylvok Lifestaff. I’m at 10 life to his 20, with a Mana Leak and Doom Blade in hand. With 4 mana available and two cards, he casts Flayer Husk. Fearing the clock moving from a 5 turn to a 3 turn, I counter it, assuming he’ll pay the 3 mana to cancel the mana leak and not be able to play what was in his hand. He lets the Mana Leak resolve. Then he plays Sword of War and Peace, attacks and pass the turn. Fortunately, I only take 2 hits from the stalker + sword as I drew an Oblivion Ring a few turns later to take care of the sword, and ultimately save my ass with a Timely Reinforcements followed by Elesh Norn for the win.
Analysis: The Flayer Husk was counter bait for the Sword, and while it worked out in the end, I probably should have considered what the other card in his hand could have been, and a sword would have been better to keep the counter for. On the other hand, the other card could have been just a land or other meaningless card, and then the Mana Leak would have have been paid for and I’d still have the Flayer Husk to deal with. I’m not really sure what the right play was there, (I also had 3 Day of Judgments in the deck I hadn’t ripped yet, which also would have been answers to the situation) but I want to be aware generally of being baited to play counter spells on weaker threats instead of holding on for the big stuff.
Misplay # 2: Not necessarily a misplay, but more of just being stupid, in Round 2 during my epic mulligan to 5 for game 1 I wasn’t paying attention and cut my own deck. Luckily I stopped in the middle before I put the two cuts together and it was merely an awkward moment. But the really stupid part was when I did it again during my mulligan to 6 game 2, but I made the full cut. My opponent, bless his heart, laughed and just reshuffled the deck instead of calling a judge for a penalty that could have possibly been up to a game loss since it was the second time I did it that match (not sure, any judges reading this let me know what you think would have happened had one been called).
Analysis: I blame this one on my inability to stay focused and my poker habit. After playing Texas Hold’em 3-4 times a week for several months, my instinct is to cut any deck that is put in front of me – even my own, apparently. I got lucky this time since my opponent was nice and wanted to beat me with his card playing skills rather than the rules (which he did).
Misplay #3: After winning game 1 in Round 4, I found myself in a drawn-out battle against UW Haunted Humans. I had less than 15 cards in my deck, we were both basically topdecking for threats, and other than lands the only thing on board was my opponent’s Oblivion Ring on my Gideon Jura planeswalker. He rips Batterskull and begins to turn the tides (He was at 10 and I was in the high teens thanks to chain Timely Reinforcements, that card is so awesome in control decks!). I found Elesh Norn, resolved it, and was able to put a little pressure on him, forcing him to block with the germ, (gaining 2) bounce Batterskull to his hand at the end of my turn, and replay it next turn, consuming 8 of his 10-11 mana every turn.
In my head I knew that my one shot left in the deck was to rip my 2nd Oblivion Ring to get Gideon back. When I finally ripped it a few turns later, my mind decided to leave me for a minute, and I triumphantly and confidently threw the O-Ring on top of the…..Batterskull. Oops. In response my opponent bounced back to his hand, and we went back to the routine until I ran out of cards to draw. Time ran out shortly after that and so the match ended in a draw.
Analysis: While I can’t say I knew for sure whether I would win if I had gotten Gideon back, it certainly would have given me some hope. The Batterskull was enough defense to leave me out to dry without any cards in the library and only one threat, where Gideon would have been able to push Elesh Norn through for a net of 2 damage (assuming he’d block Gideon and gain 2 life each attack). When I ripped the Oblivion Ring my opponent was at 16 or 17 life and I had enough cards to last a 2-damage-per-turn clock if all things remained the same.
I know I made more mistakes, but these were the three that stuck out most in my mind that I can use as learning moments for future play. Remember, we need to learn from our mistakes so we don’t make them again, and in doing so we can become better players. One loss is enough motivation to make the right decision next time!