In a world of Magic the Gathering, nothing is simple. Ever since competitive Magic became a thing, many great minds wrote about the game, the how’s, the when’s, and the why’s.
We writers always strive to be the one that makes the revelation, the one who speaks to the masses and opens their eyes, guides them, or just be the first one to come up with something. In this article, I will do nothing of the above. This is a collection of the best, heck, greatest competitive Magic the Gathering articles. Chances are you know them all, but if not, be sure to check them out; you’ll learn from the best (not me, the pro’s), and many of the published articles are evergreen.
There was something similar posted on some blog, but it’s gone now. So let me fill in the gap. This is how I improved my game.
I started with the mana base, and there is no better article than Frank Analysis – How Many Colored Mana Sources Do You Need to Consistently Cast Your Spells? by Frank Karsten on Channel Fireball. His easy to follow explanation (after all the math nonsense) is a must read for anyone making their own deck. Start there.
Another interesting piece (or pieces, to be exact) is The Mathematics of Magic: The Gathering, a study in probability, statistics, strategy, and game theory by Jon Prywes. Yes, it’s from 1999, but constructed MTG still plays with 60 card decks, and all the theory is still valid, especially the part about drawing cards.
These two articles are where I started reading the theory of Magic: the Gathering – no format, just pure math regarding mana, drawing, and something called probability. Here I learned that luck was in fact based on the probability itself. You might feel unlucky you didn’t draw that 1-of to win the game, yet it all comes down to chance – if you had only one out, then you are lucky IF YOU DRAW IT (unless it’s the only card left in your deck).
There is also this excellent forum post that is long gone, but alive in the wayback machine. It’s called What I Know About Magic: the Gathering and if the username doesn’t lie, it’s the work of one Douglas Buel. The article (or post) is a readable introduction and explanation of MTG, archtypes and the circle of metagame.
The further we dig into deckbuilding, the more doors open; questions arise. It’s not only about the mana base, which usually consists from 30 to 40% of the deck, we have to fill the rest of the deck with spells. Enter Magic the Classroom: the Rule of Nine by Dan Eckstein. It emphasises the importance of selecting as few different cards in a deck as possible, which means 9 playsets and 24 lands. Read it.
However, there is more to it then just picking nine cards and lands, and Beyond the Basics: One for All by Gavin Verhey gives another perspective you cannot ignore. There are many reasons why we run 1-ofs and this article explains it nicely (there are also more articles of Beyond the Basics series linked there).
Brian Kibler is a long-time Magic pro who wrote an article The Number One Rule where he talks about all the important aspects of deckbuilding. He wrote: “The number one rule of building a good deck is to have a powerful, proactive game plan,” and I do believe him, and so should you. And no, he is not saying we should all dump control and play Aggro/Combo decks, so just read it please.
Once we have our decks ready, we move on to the next stage: the game itself. What is your role in this match-up? Who’s the Beatdown by Mike Flores is probably one of the best, most important and iconic articles of Magic: the Gathering. I know you have read it, but if you did not, do so now. Now!
Zvi Mowshowitz took the idea of Flores and wrote an excellent article (sequel?) called Who’s The Beatdown II: Multitasking, so after you finish reading Mike’s article, check Zvi’s as well. Both are must read for anyone with some competitive aspirations.
Next we talk about Red, my favorite color in the multiverse of Magic: the Gathering. The Philosophy of Fire by Mike Flores (again, he surely is a father of teaching MTG) is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the thought process behind creating decks (notice I didn’t use building, rather creating) and playing the deck to it’s maximum potential. Why Firebrand Ranger over Goblin Raider? This article really opened my eyes on how decks, cards, resources and advantage meshes in the world of MTG metagame.
Another great article about the gameplay is One Word by Jim Davis. Planning and deduction plays a big part in competitive Magic, so be sure to be on top of that. It’s not only technical play, you have to know the metagame, know what to expect and how to think during the match. Davis is also one of the better Goblin players, so he gets even more respect from me.
Reid Duke is one of the most known and respected faces in MTG community and his Line-Up Theory is not only well written, but he talks about one of the most important aspects of Magic; what to expect, when and how to answer a specific threat. Please do read it, it’s an excellent piece. The article is a part of a Level One: The Full Course, which is a largest and most in-depth write-up by one person, and Duke is surely a suitable author for it.
If you are playing constructed Magic, then you know about discard effects, and the king of all discard spells is Thoughtseize (sorry, Cabal Therapy). If you wonder who wrote the article Thoughtseize You, it’s Reid Duke, and by now you should trust this guy and read his stuff. It’s for real. Here, Duke speaks about decision making that comes with playing discard spells, and even if you never play decks with discard spells, you can learn a lot by reading this – remember, it comes in handy when playing against discard just as well.
Gerry Thompson wrote The False Tempo Archetype, where he explains how different decks (archetypes) approach their gameplan, and on what axis to attack. I suggest the read, even if the decks are from old Standard, the idea is still the same.
There is also this great series by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on Channel Fireball, in which he talks about all the archetypes, technical play and much more. Recommended!
PV’s Playhouse – Technical Play
PV’s Playhouse – Aggro
PV’s Playhouse – Control
PV’s Playhouse – Aggro-Control
PV’s Playhouse – Combo
PV’s Playhouse – The Art of Reducing Variance
PV’s Playhouse – Midrange
PV’s Playhouse – Playing With Counterspells
There are many more articles on the web that are good or even better then some of the mentioned ones, but all in all you have it covered if you read those from this post. My game did improve after reading them, but only after I played, practiced, and played some more. Theory is great and all, but practice makes perfect, or so they say.
Until next time, play to your outs guys!