i must win at magic!
October 8, 2012 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me beat a friend at magic: the gathering. Money is on the line. I'm a noob.

I've entered into a bet with two friends who have a passion for magic which was reignited after the release of the new set Return to Ravnica. Bet one is against a player that focuses on the detain creature ability. I must win 2 out of 5 games on the day after I buy my cards, so I will have at least a small amount of practice. The bet amount is equal to whatever I choose to spend on cards (I have none currently ). Bet two is $40 that I can't win 1 out of 5 gamesagainst a different person 2 days after the first match. This player tends to focus on "milling" or making an opponent waste his undrawn cards.

I will be picking up cards on Thursday, first match on friday. I'm willing to spend $100 or more on the cards.

What's my best strategy for buying cards - fat box, plus boosters, all booster packs, etc? And what would be the best strategy for playing my two opponents?

I should add I've played maybe 5 times in 10 years, and I recently attended a small tournament the 2 friends played in, so I have some idea about the play mechanics. At the tournament both friends did horribly, btw.
posted by efalk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have an iPad? There's a Magic: The Gathering game that's a great introduction to the series. Play a bunch of games, get a feel for the game, and try to learn what kind of deck (color-wise) you work best with. I don't know how far the game will get you if you don't wanna spend money, but it could be good practice.

After you know what color decks you like, I would buy a few decks in your preferred color(s), then spend the rest of what you wanted to bet on booster packs.

Next, post on either magic card forums or reddit or here or something all the cards you have, and try to get advice for putting a deck together. Finally, try to get as many practice games in with your deck as you can before the tournament.

EDIT: on second glace it looks like you already have magic experience. So you could probably skip the game (although it still is good practice for what colors you prefer)
posted by Strass at 3:55 PM on October 8, 2012

It sounds like they're both pretty casual. You can be pretty confident of winning if you're willing to spend some money to build a "real" deck. You don't really specify parameters about what kind of cards you can buy/use, but for the sake of argument we can assume the "Standard" format.

The first serious Standard tournament with Return to Ravnica cards was held last weekend. You can see all the top decks here: decks.

I think your chances would be pretty excellent with just a basic red/black Zombies deck. Something like this one: Rakdos Aggro. Keep in mind that you can buy singles. The only really expensive card in there is Faklenrath Aristocrat, you can skip that.

Whether you want to take such a serious approach or not, you should definitely pick up four Elixir of Immortality to counter the mill deck.
posted by Perplexity at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do they have the same deck limitations? It sounds like you have to go and construct a Limited deck and they get to play their old trusty ones. F that!

The Detain ability is a function of the blue/white Azorius guild. So get their starter deck to begin with, then plan out a deck based on that as the core. Don't buy boosters - buy individual cards. You can scan the MTG Salvation forums (Edit: ungh, site may be redirect hacked, clicker beware) for actual deck lists. Your local card shop should have cards for sale, as would sites like Card Kingdom and so on. Ask your local shop about resale. "Hey, if I buy this $10 card from you, what can I sell it back to you for?" so you can earn some extra cash back if you lose the bet, but get even more if you win.

Do you have other friends you could borrow cards (Hollowed Fountain, the blue/white dual land) from? Lease the cards from them (5c common, 25c uncommon, 1$ rare) that you need, get a receipt, and get repaid when you win.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:00 PM on October 8, 2012

If you're building a real deck (and you should if you want to win), buying singles will always be cheaper than buying random cards.
posted by kavasa at 4:02 PM on October 8, 2012

Anyways, I risked the dangers and found some talk of a Blue/White control deck in the forums that might work for you.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2012

Response by poster: We'll all be using the new Return to Ravnica set, although they do have some older cards for a sideboard (?). This is a pretty friendly competition, but I put my money where my mouth was, and here we are. Player 1 (detain) bought a standard Ravnica deck, a "Fat Box" of 9 booster packs, and probably 15 or so other booster packs. Player 2 probably spent a tad less. The shop I'll be picking up the cards at has a pretty good selection of singles, from what I saw.

As far as strategy, I'm not limited by playing the same cards (aside from playing the cards available from Ravnica) as them or play style. This is just how they happen to be playing, and building their decks around. One player told me he'd be willing to trade cards to help me build up my deck, and I assume the other would as well
posted by efalk at 4:11 PM on October 8, 2012

It's been a long time since I played, but this is what I'd suggest.

I don't know if you're familiar with the idea behind the historical aggressive red or "sligh" deck, but the idea is to use all your available mana every turn and just come out firing. Even creatures that look bad are pretty good if your opponent either hasn't had time to develop their own defense, or because you've blasted their defenders out of the way. Here's an article that might give you some insight into it.


This seems like a reasonably good strategy against both decks. Against the first, detain isn't going to be as harsh when it's locking down one of many small creatures as opposed to one large or important one. Against the 2nd deck, you're going to be aggressive and hopefully you can win before a milling strategy can outlast you. Being red, you'll also have some options for going directly to the face so you might be able to get some final damage in even if they develop board control.

As far as buying cards goes, I would probably just figure out what deck you want to play and then just try to buy those specific cards at a card store. You'll end up getting something that's much more focused than trying to buy random boosters.

I was looking at Magic's card search engine Gatherer and searching for cards that contain red and which are uncommon and common (cheaper and more readily available).

Blistercoil Weird, Gore-House Chainwalker, Guttersnipe, Rakdos Cackler, Rakdos Shred-freak, Splatterthug all seem like a good start and are at most uncommon. Annhilating Fire and Dynacharge aren't great but if you're limited to Return to Ravnica they might be the best options for spells. Maybe a Traitorous Instinct or two. You can add some creature kill, especially if you want to dip into black there's a rare X direct damage spell. You say you have $100 to spend, so you could go a little crazy.

None of the lands or artifacts seem like anything you couldn't live without. You don't want any land that would come into play tapped.

Good luck. Memail me if you have any questions.
posted by cali59 at 4:12 PM on October 8, 2012

Ah, so that means you will be playing, effectively, "Return to Ravnica Block Constructed". You should read this article.
posted by Perplexity at 4:25 PM on October 8, 2012

Yeah, the format allowed is going to change things. Block constructed will really limit you since you'll only be able to use Return to Ravnica stuff. Standard will let you use M13 and the Innistrad block as well. That's most likely what you'll be using.

I'd suggest going all in aggro. It's easy. It's fast. It's more fun if you ask me.

Red is one of the major ways to go with that. Here's an example. The whole point of the deck is to get out a lot of creatures and swing with 'em.

I'm currently working on a Black/Red deck that's the same basic idea. But it opens things up to more available creatures. And I really love my zombies.

If you want a little more interaction you can go with something like my Black/Blue deck that I ran for a while. Basically the same idea in getting creatures out fast. But the blue lets you interact a bit more with what the other player is doing.

Don't forget about green either. They have a ton of creatures and spells that let you get extra mana out.

kavasa: "If you're building a real deck (and you should if you want to win), buying singles will always be cheaper than buying random cards."

Yep. 1,000x yep. Buying packs will get you cards, and it might get you something you want. But having 1 of something is almost always useless.

cali59: "You don't want any land that would come into play tapped."

This depends on what kind of stuff you're running. Obviously coming in untapped is always going to be better. But when I fix up that Red/Black deck I linked above I'll have most of my creatures at 1 mana. I'm running the Rakdos Guildates right now since I don't have Blood Crypts. It sucks to not be able to use that land for a turn, but my stuff doesn't cost a lot and it's worth it to have the color choice when I need it.

Here are some specific suggestions based on what you'll be playing against.

1 - Guys with hexproof will be good against detain since they can't be targeted. Also having a shitton of creatures out will be good since detaining one of your 20 1/1 tokens won't really hurt too much.

2 - Witchbane Orb will be your friend against the mill deck. You can't be the target of spells or abilities you don't control. And it's a bulk rare so it's pretty cheap.

Feel free to ask more questions.
posted by theichibun at 6:10 PM on October 8, 2012

cali59: "You don't want any land that would come into play tapped."

This depends on what kind of stuff you're running. Obviously coming in untapped is always going to be better. But when I fix up that Red/Black deck I linked above I'll have most of my creatures at 1 mana. I'm running the Rakdos Guildates right now since I don't have Blood Crypts. It sucks to not be able to use that land for a turn, but my stuff doesn't cost a lot and it's worth it to have the color choice when I need it.

Talking about the lands coming into play tapped was advice specifically tailored towards the particular deck I was describing. It needs to hit the ground running. If you can't play your Rakdos Cackler on the first turn because the land came into play tapped, that might be 2, 4 or 6 damage you can't deal because you've got to use all available mana on subsequent turns to cast your 2cc and 3cc spells.

The deck I was talking about making probably isn't objectively very good but it seemed reasonable for someone to construct against his specific opponents especially when they have to buy all the cards (focusing on commons and uncommons). With the way the power creep is anymore, you can see creatures in the set which are 3/3 (or 4/4) for 3cc, 4/4 (or 5/5) for 4cc, all the more reason to need to get everything you can on the table as fast as you can (but a lot of these are rare and might be unavailable for the OP or his opponents).

I agree that for a slower, fatter, controlling, multicolor deck, tapped lands will be of great value because your first turn won't be as critical.
posted by cali59 at 7:21 PM on October 8, 2012

Response by poster: If anyone is keeping score, I won against the detain deck with a green deck, but I had lots of help building that after buying an entire box of boosters, a starter box and then having the very curious card shop denizens offer to help me out. I did not win against my second opponent, unfortunately as I was playing somewhat incorrectly. It was fun and although it was a net loss in terms of money (although I took pity on opponent #1 and he paid roughly half what he should have), I would probably do it again.
posted by efalk at 2:20 AM on November 19, 2012

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