Resource Management

Joshua Vanderwall | 14 Dec 2011 16:20
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Probably my favorite Card Advantage spell right now is Curiosity. This aura, when cast on an evasive creature like the Unblockable and Hexproof Invisible Stalker, allows you to draw an extra card every time you attack and deal damage to the opponent. This can be incredibly powerful in a deck which seeks to gain the advantage in a longer game. Spells like the aforementioned Think Twice that have Flashback also constitute Card Advantage once they're in your Graveyard. You can cast the spell straight from your graveyard for its Flashback cost, which basically acts like having that card in your hand again. This also allows spells like Forbidden Alchemy to generate additional card advantage by 'milling' you, or putting cards from your Library into your Graveyard. (See Millstone for the origin of that terminology.) Any Flashback spell you mill with Forbidden Alchemy behaves as Card Advantage!

Mana. Always Mana
There is a fine art of managing your mana, to be sure, but that is far too variable from deck to deck and game to game to really allow for thorough treatment here. I would like to take a moment to discuss what it means to manage your mana, however, as I often see people losing matches due to mana management issues.

First off, there's Blue. If you're playing Blue and you have a Counterspell of any sort in hand, then it's usually worthwhile to pass your turn with enough mana to counter the next spell the opponent casts. Mana Leak, for example, is an incredibly efficient counter, and if you aren't on the ropes already, it's usually recommended to keep Mana Leak mana available during your opponent's turn. If you can afford to cast something big on your turn, your opponent can probably afford something just as game-changing on theirs, so it's advisable to be able to counter it! Of course, this goes both ways. If you're playing against Blue, and they are leaving 1U available every turn, they're probably sitting on a Mana Leak, and you should play around it by sitting on your big spell until you can afford the extra 3 mana it will cost when it gets leaked!

Next we've got things like Regenerate abilities on creatures. Let's look at Cudgel Troll here as a simple example. His Regenerate ability costs G to activate, and you're playing against a Black deck with plenty of removal. Instead of casting him when you hit 4 Forests, you can wait until you've got 5 so you have the extra mana to Regenerate through a Doom Blade. That makes him a very poor target for their removal spells and it works for Day of Judgment, too!

On the same token, keep an eye out for Combat Tricks you can cast when attacking or blocking. As with our earlier scenario, if you're on the losing end of the exchange, but you've got a Giant Growth in hand, as long as you leave mana up to cast it, your opponent is forced to block your Grizzly Bear, otherwise you can Giant Growth your bear and win immediately! If they trade bear for bear, then you've got the options of either saving your bear with a Giant Growth, or casting a different spell after combat, but by keeping the mana available during your combat step, you forced your opponent to do something they may not have otherwise done. Controlling an opponent's actions is a sure way to win a game of Magic!

While this covers the most basic of game resources, there are many other factors which can be considered from a resource management perspective. While covered under the umbrella of Card Advantage, Creatures on the Battlefield can be considered another resource, especially for a creature-centric deck like Red Goblins. In some cases, you'll be happy to attack into larger defenders just to eke a couple extra points of damage through. You can also use them more directly as resources with spells like Goblin Grenade, which lets you sacrifice a Goblin to deal a whopping 5 points of damage, a full quarter of your opponent's starting health. Being sure to maximize your creature's value is key to making these plays work, of course, and takes a bit of practice to really get down to a science.

What kind of resources do you focus on? Do you tend to guard your life total at all costs, or do you like to take the hits until it gets down to the wire? Do you play a fast deck that doesn't care about long-term card advantage, or a late-game strategy that requires a draw engine?

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