Uncounterable Resolutions

Ben Fischer • January 3, 2022

Happy New Year! Limited players were treated to some challenging, fun, and unique sets this year, and I’m already looking forward to our return to Kamigawa. Start off the New Year the right way with some simply uncounterable resolutions!

Let’s be honest: we all prefer it when our spells resolve. I snuck a copy of Great Sable Stag into my Elk EDH deck just to mess with my blue mage buddies. Resolutions are no less important in life, and the new year is a great motivator to form some healthy habits. The following are some goals, considerations, and rules I’d like to put forth for my limited gameplay in 2022. Maybe you share these goals, or maybe you already achieved them, but I feel like putting these things out onto the internet will force me to be accountable either way!

Resolution 1: Review and reflect on my gameplay.

I lost a lot of games of Magic in 2021. In fact, according to my 17Lands data, I lost well over 1,400 games (I also won over 2,000, but who’s counting?). Thinking about this number, I realized something. After about 95% of those games, I moved on. Maybe to the next game, or maybe to something else entirely. Only after about 5% of those games did I really dig into what had happened -- what were the key plays, the crucial attacks, the brutal punts?

I value improvement, and as a teacher by trade, I know that a great way to improve at something is to think about how you think about it -- often called metacognition. The same can be true for Magic. In 2022, I’d like to spend more time not just thinking about how I play Limited, but thinking about how I thought and played during games. After all, the best person to learn something from really is yourself, and I have no shortage of losses to analyze.

A good brainstorming session never hurts.

Resolution 2: Play spells during Main Phase 2.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but I believe this is one of the toughest habits to kick. I see it on Arena, and on Twitch, and even from the pro players sometimes. When your play for the turn is very clearly going to be simply playing an on-curve creature and attacking your opponent, there is some innate urge to cast your 3-drop, then swing in with your 2-drop, as long as the coast is clear.

Go ahead and roll your eyes, but I would argue that the ease of this play does not make up for the free information you give your opponent. The potential factors that influence the “correctness” of this play include potential blocks, combat tricks, removal spells, flash creatures, and instants from your opponent. In 2022, I’m going to practice waiting as long as I can to make a play in order to maximize the information I have from my opponent, and minimize the information I give to them.

Always make sure your reinforcements are timely!

Resolution 3: Use more mana than my opponent.

The results are in! Long-hypothesized by conscientious players and now backed up by raw data, there seems to be a correlation between using more mana per turn than your opponent and a higher winrate. Here’s an extreme case to demonstrate the point: a player who “curves out” with a 2-drop, 3-drop, 4-drop, and 5-drop is favored against a player that plays only a 2-drop each turn for the entire game. The first player has used all of their mana each turn very efficiently, while the second player has left a lot of mana unspent.

There are other ways to play efficiently besides curving out, and sets over the last year have given limited players a variety of ways to make use of their mana. Blood tokens, Lesson/Learn cards, and Foretell allowed players options on how they spent their turns. In 2022, I would like to spend more mana than my opponents each game and each turn, making use of the set mechanics to manage my resources well.

It can be a real drain when your opponent curves out and you don't.

Resolution 4: Draft and play with the same plan.

Those that consume a good amount of Limited content have probably heard the phrase, “draft with a plan” before. You may have even heard that you should “play with a plan.” It might sound like common sense that these two plans should match, but that sense is less common than you think! I can think of instances where I built a deck to do one thing, then played it as if it could do another.

For example, imagine you play an aggressive black-red deck in Crimson Vow draft. Your opponent is on the same deck, wins the die roll, and gets off to a strong start. Many players would set up for a defensive play pattern here, leaving them susceptible to combat tricks and double-block blowouts. Your deck was drafted along an aggressive vector -- now your gameplay should mirror that! Your best bet here is likely to race your opponent and leverage removal wisely. In 2022, I’d like to make a habit of aligning my draft and gameplay vector directions, allowing my cards to do the things they were meant to do.

Strategic planning can lead to some easy wins.

Resolution 5: Play more cubes!

Out of all the Magic formats, I feel as though Cube has the highest differential between “how often I play it” and “how much I enjoy it.” From Arena Cube to Vintage Cube, a cube offers unique draft and gameplay experiences almost by definition. To be honest, I’m still a bit intimidated by Legacy and Vintage cubes, where I’m less familiar with the strong cards and interactions. This is a challenge that I’ve backed down from for long enough. I plan on chatting with friends and watching some of my favorite content creators to get a better hang of the formats. Eventually, I’d like the Draft Chaff Cube to be my Limited set of choice.

Stick to the non-carnivorous cubes.

If you’d like to see how I do this year, feel free to hop in the Draft Chaff Discord, or listen along to the show! Fun and self-improvement are high on our list of priorities, and we’re looking forward to a great year of limited. Happy New Year!