deluxeicoff's picture
By: deluxeicoff, Adrian Grey Marsden
Feb 25 2010 1:39am
Login to post comments

 Main Entry: Pav·lov·ian

Pronunciation: \pav-ˈl-vē-ən, -ˈlō-; -ˈl-fē-\
Function: adjective
: of or relating to Ivan Pavlov or to his work and theories <Pavlovian conditioning>
Pav·lov \ˈpäv-ˌlf, ˈpav-, -ˌlv\, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936), Russian physiologist. Pavlov is most famous for developing the concept of the conditioned reflex. In his classic experiment he trained a hungry dog to salivate at the sound of a bell by conditioning the dog to associate the sound of the bell with the sight of food. His earlier research had been concerned with cardiac physiology and the regulation of blood pressure. Carefully dissecting the fine cardiac nerves, he demonstrated that the strength of the heartbeat was controlled by nerves leaving the cardiac plexus. He later turned his attention to the study of the secretory activity of digestion. Having devised with the German physiologist Rudolph Heidenhain an operation to prepare what is now often called a Pavlov pouch, he was able to isolate the stomach from salivary and pancreatic secretions and thereby study the gastrointestinal secretions in a normal animal over its life span. This research led him to formulate the laws of the conditioned reflex. In 1904 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiology of digestive secretions.

What does this have to do with MAGIC? 

Let me explain...
Imagine how many, THOUSANDS of magic games you've participated in.  For me it's a VERY BIG number, (as I'm a bit of a magic Methuselah compared to the rest of the field).  Each time your playing, your programming yourself...some call this habits, but it's technically programming.

Repetition is the mother of all learning.  If you don't believe me, just say the definition of an unknown word, mindlessly, about 20 times out loud. 
Seriously try it...use hash marks - It only takes about 2 minutes....and I'll supply the word:

A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.

It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Example: "Mark my words. No, Mark, I really need my words." — Stephen Colbert

"She got her good looks from her father, he's a plastic surgeon." — Groucho Marx

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx
Enough examples of those great phrases...but now,  guess what?  Tomorrow you're going to have that definition downloaded in your brain - it's a longwinded process, but unless there's something medically 'off' - you just programmed yourself, this isn't some pavlovian nonsense, (Filthy Cur art & punn intended) - it's hard science and you don't need a degree in human psychology to use it to your advantage.

Here's a phrase that has a lot to do with what I'm trying to get across:

"Practice makes PERMANENT" 

Notice I didn't write, "PERFECT" - there's a huge difference.  If you practice the word memorization above the wrong way, it will only be "Perfectly Wrong" - AND it WILL BE permanently stitched on your wrinkly brain as the way to say & spell said word.

Magic's every element allows for error, this is what makes it so challenging and great.  From the vast rules and interpretation, to the physical twitches some of us have when not playing online, the errors abound.  

There's something every magic player shares...

We all chase perfection. 

Some chase perfection with deck building, and others in their play - and even when we think we've achieved it, an outside perspective can usually, and quite quickly, depict what you did wrong.  

It is with this in mind, that I'd like to share with you the things I've learned...mostly the hard way (see also: Losing & Scooping)...

Some of these will seem silly; others obvious, and I hope perhaps one will hit you as profound...

Matching Art
Get into the habit of matching artwork on your lands, spells...everything you have a multiple of.  If you're playing with creatures, make sure they all look that foil Counterspell for a regular one to match your three others...why?  Imagine the below scenario:

Your opponent has 2 cards in hand and casts a foil Graceful Antelope (minus 2 points if you had to look it up!), you counter, they replay a Graceful Antelope.  See the difference?  You know now what card is in their hand, as the second card wasn't an antelope of the shiny persuasion.

A more common error is non-matching lands.  Many a time I've played a Duress, taking note of what art & artist is on each land. 
For example, lets say my opponent reveals 2 similar but different swamps:

Then on his turn, he untaps...draws a card and then plays the swamp below...

Thanks to your opponent's love of art, or now know what cards they're still holding.  Obviously the implications of this are far-reaching, and most often happens with bounced permanents.

"F4" &"F6"

I didn't know the above hotkeys of magic online for a LONG TIME.  For those new to it, F4 passes priority, allowing your crippled tournament fingers a brief rest.  This is usually a safe play because if something is cast, MTGO still asks you for permission "OK?" 
However, F6 can lose you tournaments!

I won't get long-winded about it, just know that F6 passes your priority for an entire turn.  This is a great feature if tapped out against a "storm" mechanic and you need to go wash the car, start dinner and/or start a hobby (Seriously, sometimes when I F6 against storm, I can leave for about 5 minutes and their still going!) - but it's terrible if you'd wish to do anything to the current game state.

To slow down, or speed up?

Many a time - while playing an online're going to need to keep a steady eye on your clock.  "How obvious!" - Many of you may be saying...and indeed you're right.  My friend who first taught me magic, loses again and again to me due to the time issue online...yet despite this
obvious note,  sometimes you do need to actually slow down...

Get into the habit of taking a deep breath before each spell.  Don't go hyperventilating on me now, just take a quick beat/breath, and look at your options.  I think my lifetime win % would go up about 4% if I could always remember to do this.

A good example of this was my last pauper tournament.  I was facing a dredge TE deck and the situation was quite hopeless regarding I took a breath, stepped back, and realized that in order for my opponent to keep blocking my flyers...he needed to keep dredging his Stinkweed Imp.

A Eureka moment happened there, as I quickly did the math and realized I had the game if I would just switch my thinking to see another perspective....milling him.  Egocentrically speaking I obviously wouldn't bring this up unless I had won...but the point is sound regardless of my transparency!

With respect to the previous rule, sometimes, if your opponent is running low on time....then it is YOUR TIME to start using the benefits of the F4 and dreaded F6 Key...which can drastically add time for you and decrease the length of digital rope with which your opponent is now hanging from, more notes on how to do this below...

Tournament Deck Folders

I don't mean to sound anal-retentive about this, but being 'neat' and 'tidy' goes hand in hand with consistent winning.
Perhaps a visual reference is needed:

For those of you that don't recognize the picture above it is from the TV show "MONK."  The main character is a super-neat-freak among other things and it does wonders for him - and it can for you too!  It's also a great example of this next point:

Take the time to make a "TOURNAMENT" Folder

Make sure there are no multiple copies of any one said deck.  I personally lost a tournament last year by accidentally clicking on a similar deck...about 8 moves into round 1- I thought, "...Hey! Where did that forest came from?!"

Then I realized I was an idiot.

Simply put -  When you have the decklist figured out, save it to a secure, "Tourney only" location.  If adjustments are needed to them elsewhere, this folder should be considered sacred, the only files saved here are ready to do battle against even the most belligerent and super lucky foes!  (insert evil laughter here)

The TOP & BOTTOM Trick...

Lets suppose you're playing online, and your opponent casts something like Agony Warp.

Until recently, I had no idea how this worked....  I don't mean the card obviously...but the order of "HOW IT HAPPENS" - Exactly what creature gets the first drawback, and which the second?!?!  The artistic arrows of online play happen at the same time, and the text screen does not help either.

I'll make this as clear as possible.  The first targeted creature, gets the first drawback (-3/-0) the second targeted creature gets (-0/-3).  If you look to the right on the text side of the screen, whichever creature is mentioned first, gets the first ability, and the second the second.

Agony Warp is cast on a Wild Mongrel and a Basking Rootwalla.  The text screen will say something like, "so and so casts Agony Warp targeting Wild Mongrel and Basking Rootwalla.  Because the creatures are listed in this order, you know that the Mongrel will become a -1/2 and the Rootwalla will die at 1/-2 (unless pumped then it'll be a 3/0.

So now you can use your instantaneous and newfound magic trick to better your win percentages!  Simply open the text screen to the right to get a statistical rundown of what is happening to who.  This happens on quite a few cards...but this is the most likely. 

Don't reveal a lost hand

Imagine if you will...(of course you will, unless you just turn back now) - a game where you mulligan down to two still haven't drawn a land, but you can't go any further.  Yet your opponent opens fast and furious with the nemesis to your deck still haven't even played a single land and it's your finally draw a land turn 4...what should you do?

Do nothing.

This is an opportunity for you to see the rest of your opponents deck.

Did you finally draw something cast-able?  Big deal, you're going to lose anyways.  

Why give your opponent valuable information about what colors you may or may not be playing?!?!  Imagine the actual advantage you have (albeit a small one) going into the sideboard for game've seen what his deck can do, you know how it "ticks" many cases & meta games you now know the actual decklist!  - Wait to concede until you're forced to discard, or selectively discard and/or play lands to lead your opponent to the wrong conclusions...OR you can just F6 yourself, thus eating away at his clock, maybe even seeing the majority of his deck in the process!

All this time, you must remember, he knows next to nothing about your deck, other than thinking that you're a poor deck-designer with awful land/ratio skills!  If you folded before showing anything, then your opponent actually knows nothing about your deck.

Attack...THEN play

This is my biggest problem.  I'm in a game, and turn after turn, I cast stuff, then attack...leaving little to no mana open for tricks.
This is a conditioned response to constant repetition and play error.  However, you can adversely lose weight and play better by doing the following:
When you commit the above trespass, do 5 pushups.  

Not that many, not that few...but there's a lot of attack phases in a typical game, and this conditioning will quickly cause you to slow down and think before committing your soldiers to an attack.

Pattern Recognition

Online play is very fine tuned...thus timing and digital reactions must be analyzed closely...if you wish to have a slight edge.

Have you ever noticed how quickly people play when you're mana screwed?  It's as if they think they can win if they just play fast.  It makes no sense obviously, but I catch myself doing it all the time, even when I'm aware of it.  I'm sure some adrenaline is to blame, as tournament play is exciting...but you need to regulate your digital play and image.  Fast plays make for fast defeats via big errors.

Additionally, when your opponent has zero cards in hand and is on the draw, what pauses and/or timings take place when he draws land?  What about a clutch spell...remember this in games two and perhaps three.  Why remember it?  Imagine he's bluffing that he has removal - knowing and remembering what you saw him do last turn, did he play fast or slow?  This will probably tell you if he has a removal spell, as most bluffs are one dimensional...most opponents won't be thinking that you were watching them for the last few draws...learning their digital moods...their ups and downs.  This is a tiny edge, but can really pay off.  

With regards to real "paper-Magic"...
Way back in 2001 (some new guy named Kai was all the rage :) - I tried to qualify for a spot on the Pro Tour for New Orleans...after about 14 hours of play, I was in the finals.  At the time, my rules knowledge was pretty low, but my poker skills were quite high.  All tournament long, I was studying my opponents...which is nothing new, but I was also policing my own play...let me explain:

I would draw each turn and not look at my card right away.  Instead I'd sit back and re-look at the board.  I did this EVERY SINGLE TURN.  Furthermore, I hold my magic cards differently than most cardgames:

Holding cards like this causes opponents to think you only have one card if they weren't paying attention, and this was crucial as I was playing U/G Tempo control.  Of course, all they have to do is ask me, but most people don't.

Physical play has so many advantages for pattern recognition...posture on the draw, are they depressed, excited etc.., even reflections off of wrist-watches and sunglasses have often offered me a free peek!

So that's it for me I said before, I'm sure some of the above 'tricks' were obvious, but I hope one made you go..."AH!...interesting!"
Until next time ~ may all your mana be perfect!
Adrian Grey - "deluxeicoff" on MTGO


Ah...duh, makes sense now, by deluxeicoff at Sat, 06/19/2010 - 20:59
deluxeicoff's picture

Ah...duh, makes sense now, same way I do photos, thanks Leviathan!

Gitaxian Probe if finally by deluxeicoff at Fri, 05/27/2011 - 14:06
deluxeicoff's picture

Gitaxian Probe if finally teaching people the valuable lesson of why it is important to play with matching lands/art. I've won the second tournament today with it, VERY relaxing feeling knowing what your opp has, or is pretending to have...