As Magic players, we hear the same, age-old statements over and over again. These generalities are good. “Save removal for their last threat.” “Play 17 lands and 23 spells.” Not always right, but rules of thumb are good to aid learning.

There are some rules that I hear over and over again that I think are just bogus. Today I want to talk about them.

“Mulligan hands that are already ‘virtual mulligans.'”

I hear this all the time. “This hand is already a virtual mulligan, so throw it back.” Well, what is a virtual mulligan?

Say your opening hand has only 2 lands and a [card nicol bolas, planeswalker]Nicol Bolas[/card]. Since [card nicol bolas, planeswalker]Nicol Bolas[/card] is basically uncastable, this hand is a "virtual mulligan." “It basically only has 6 cards.” Well, yes, except it also has a [card nicol bolas, planeswalker]Nicol Bolas[/card].

Even if one of the cards in your hand is going to be hard to cast, one day you may actually be able to cast it. And if it's really uncastable, why is it in your deck to begin with? Sounds like a deckbuilding problem.

[draft]Living End[/draft]

I have played a lot of the Living End deck that casts [card]Living End[/card] off of [card]Violent Outburst[/card]s and [card]Demonic Dread[/card]s. The deck needs to play a lot of [card]Living End[/card]s, even you rarely suspend it. Well, isn't it a virtual mulligan now?

Sure, except say we mulligan for a fresh 6 because this 7 isn't great and it has a [card]Living End[/card]. What happens when we draw a 6 with [card]Living End[/card] in it? After all, that's bound to happen—we did put the card in our deck. Do we go to 5 because it is a “virtual mulligan”?

I think the whole “virtual mulligan” thing is bogus. Extra cards are great.

“One-landers are better keeps on the draw than on the play.”

Here's a topic I've tackled before and would love to tackle again. One-landers are always risky keeps, but I know that most people are much more likely to keep them on the draw than on the play. Makes sense, because you get an extra draw step.

Well, you actually get the same number of draw steps on the play. What do I mean?

Say I mulligan into a 6-card hand that is incredible if I hit my second land drop. If I am on the draw, I get two draw steps to hit that land, but on the play I only get one—or do I?

In reality, on the play I have two draw steps to keep pace with my opponent. I have one draw step to go ahead of my opponent, and two draw steps to keep pace. Make sense? To me, I am actually MORE likely to keep 1-landers on the play. I think it's safer.

One of the big reasons we are naturally more inclined to 1-landers on the draw is because of the embarrassment factor. There is a stigma to keeping 1-landers. “My opponent kept a one-lander! He's so bad.” (Although personally I keep a lot of 6-card 1-landers.)

On the draw, although you have the same number of draw steps to keep pace, you have two draw steps to not reveal that you kept a 1-lander (avoiding ridicule). On the play, you only have one chance to not let your opponent know you kept a 1-lander.

Who cares what the opponent thinks? Play to win.

“A hand has to have castable spells to be a keep.”

It's no secret that I like to keep most hands. I often keep hands that have NO castable spells. Imagine a hand with a Swamp, a colorless land, and 3-plus-drops. That hand is fine to me on the play.

“But you can't cast any spells… literally none… why don't you mulligan to hand a that can CAST SOMETHING?”

Yeah, I hear it a lot, and it makes sense.

And I answer in the same way.

There's this rule in Magic. “The draw step.” You actually get to draw a card every single turn of the game! Every single turn! You get a new card. It's a pretty sweet rule. And it's the reason why you can keep hands that don't do anything.

Because hands don't need to do something to win. Because we aren't limited to only 7 cards in a game of Magic. We get a whole new one very single turn!

“Always choose to play first.”

It's pretty obvious when we get rolled over so fast we can't do anything. “If I had won the die roll, I would have won the match!”

It's not so obvious when we slowly run out of stuff and barely lose by a single card. But it happens a lot. Being on the draw is really not so bad.

Once you reach a certain level of competitiveness, you know that drawing first in Sealed can be pretty smart. It's slow enough that you aren't going to die, and hitting land drops is awesome.

But there are also times to choose to draw first in Constructed. A classic example of this is the mono-red burn mirror match. Speed is important sure, but an extra card is 3 extra damage. This is just one example, but playing second comes up a surprising amount, and it's usually not at all obvious.

“If you want to make it to the Pro Tour you can't skip PTQs.”

I stopped by a Modern PTQ this weekend for hangouts and casual gaming. I had a conversation with a friend who said he “hated the format” and “hated all the decks.” I asked him why he was here.

“I want to qualify for the Pro Tour. Thus, I can't skip tournaments.”

If you want to have a sustainable relationship with Magic (and play on the Pro Tour) you need to have fun. If you burn out, you are not going to make it. You are going to quit! Because it's not fun, and it's (probably) not work either.

If you don't like the format, sleep in. If you don't have a deck you like, sleep in. It's fine. You don't need to play in everything.

After all, the person who usually wins the tournament is the person who LOVES their deck and knows it inside and out. They LOVE the format and know all the decks inside and out. And they win.

So if you don't want to play, don't feel guilty. Eventually you will find that deck that you LOVE in a format you LOVE to play, and THAT is when you will qualify for the Pro Tour.

“There are good and bad players.”

I know it's pretty common in local settings to label “good players” and “bad players.” “Bad players” aspire to become “good players.” And “good players” hate the “bad players.”

When a “bad player” takes the tournament down, the “good players” are disgusted—actually disgusted. A “good player” will walk by and watch a couple turns of a “bad player,” see a mistake, and walk away in disgust. He's SO BAD! HOW IS HE WINNING?

Look, Magic is a hard game. It's hard to play. It's impossible to master. People make mistakes. I make mistakes. Pro Tour winners make mistakes—CONSTANTLY. These players are not even “good players.” They are just players who have dedicated a certain amount of time to playing and improving.

There are no “good” or “bad” players. There are just people who are on a scale of time spent improving. The more you practice, the better you get. Some people haven't spent that much time yet. Some people have spent more than others. But no one ever gets “good” and no one is ever “bad.”

So don't worry about who the “good players” are. Don't worry how you are perceived. You have spent x time, and if you want to get better, pump x. That's it.

<3 Travis

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Questions! Comments!! Think there's something I forgot?