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Essential Magic Articles


The Techniques that Magic Forgot. (A Reintroduction into Mind Games and Bluffing)

by Allanon555

Recently I started playing magic again in order to enter a legacy tournament that has a Black Lotus for a prize. As I play again with friends and unfamiliar faces, something was bothering me. I could not quite put my finger on it, but the nagging sensation would not leave my mind. It took me a few days and I realized how underutilized Bluffing is in magic. Bluffing is a technique. It is used in almost every competitive game that I know of. Yet, in magic it is seldom used or just used improperly. As you see more and more former magic players making it big in poker, they will all tell you that they used the skills they learned from playing Magic to get where they are now. A lot of those former players did exceptionally well in tournaments. They were able to play mind games at the magic table, and thus were able to play them at the magic table. Playing mind games with your opponent is always a good idea if you can execute it properly. Most of us already play mind games whether we know it or not. An example, and I am sure you have all experienced it, is the infamous "Yup." or "Sure.". I always find it comical when I am playing against a Goblin deck and anything I play that isn't a basic land gets an green light from the goblin player. The game might go something like this:

Me: I will play first.
Goblins: Yup.
Me: I will keep my hand.
Goblins: Me too.
Me: Forest (1). Birds of Paradise.
Goblins: Sure.
Me: Go.

Now, obviously there wasn't any need at all for him to tell me that he has no response to my Birds. However, even though it is proper to declare that you have no response, normally on turn 1 with nothing in play for him, I can take for granted that he has no response for my first turn drop. The way I see it, the goblin player is not declaring that he has no response, what he is actually saying is "yeah, whatever". If he was brutally honest and really wanted to say what he meant the conversation would go like this:

Me: I will play first.
Goblins: Yup.
Me: I will keep my hand.
Goblins: Me too.
Me: Forest. Birds of Paradise.
Goblins: What a surprise. I saw that coming and I am not worried about it. I can handle it when I play my first turn Mogg Fanatic.
Me: Splendid.

I think we can all name a time where the "Sure." game is played. It even happens mid game. Play Jitte. Sure. Equip Jitte. Yup. Swing. Good Game. Even when their impending demise is taking place they will still act like they are not pissed off and that they saw it coming the entire game (in which case they should have saved time and conceded right away). That is a small example of mind games that take place during a game.

       Bluffing on the other hand seems to have all but disappeared in the game of Magic. When I started playing 11 years ago, maybe it was my youth but I didn't see to much of the "Sure." game going on. I did on the other hand see plenty of bluffing. I have a story of a situation that took place and I was completely dumbfounded when it happened. Two guys were playing each other in a tournament a few years back. One was playing Food Chain goblin combo, the other was playing Madness. It was a vintage tournament and at that point in time Madness had the upper hand and was about to win. The Food chain guy after thinking it through said "Just show me a Force." implying that he would concede if the other player had a Force of Will in his hand. The other place then showed his hand and the force in it. The goblins then proceeded to play around the force of will, and save enough mana to play a second food chain after the first one was countered. Instead of winning on the same turn he played Food Chain, he spent his 2 green mana and sacrificed enough goblins to Skirk Prospector to play a Food Chain and then save his second green mana to play a second food chain. Normally he would have just used his two {G} to play a Food Chain then proceed to combo out for the win. He won the game the next turn. The point of that story is, if the other guy had said "No.", or if he wanted to really do a bluff say "I do not have a Force of Will in my hand." Then proceed to Force of Will when food chain hit, he could have stayed in control of that game. Would it be right lying to a person to gain an edge? Maybe morally probably not, but what right do they have to ask you what specifically is in your hand? I don't blame either player in that particular story though, the thought of winning right then and there would entice me to make the same decision that Madness did.

I think that bluffing is a great tool that needs to see more play in magic. It does not have to be difficult, but you should never show your opponent with your actions and words that they have already won the game. You do not know what the player knows, or thinks or is going to do. Never assume. If you are down to one option in your entire deck and you need that one card or your going to lose. Don't tell the other player that and don't get a sour look on your face when you don't draw it. Just act normal and do the best you can do. There are plenty of games where I already know that I am going to win, just by their reaction at the first seven cards they draw. When you draw your first seven and then go "What the hell?! I should mulligan but I will keep I guess." That statement usually changes how I would play. I might play a first turn Birds instead of a first turn Thoughtseize because chances are you won't have a fantastic first turn and I can Thoughseize just as effectively second turn. On the other hand, if bluffing was more rampant in magic, you could easily make that statement and then when I played my first turn Birds, you play your first turn æther Vial. Bluffing is underutilized and should be used more in competitive play, it can drastically change game play in your favor with the simplest actions or reactions to what is being play. For the record, saying "Good Luck!" to an opponent before a game, is not considered bluffing.

Last edited 8/19/2008 11:57:01 AM Page 1 of 1  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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