Tiny Edge #2: Think Before You Act

Most of the edges you can get in Magic come from a macro-perspective. They’re about choosing the right deck for an event, or understanding that you should adopt an aggressive posture instead of a defensive one. Those are singular decisions that will radically change your win percentage—choose a bad deck, and you’ll win 40% of your games; choose a good one, and you might win 60%. Go aggressive at exactly the right moment, and you might swing a game that you could otherwise never win. This type of big strategic decision is where I feel I personally have the biggest edge, even among PT competitors.

There are, however, a series of small things you can do that will also give you an edge in a tournament. By themselves, each will each increase your win percentage by a tiny amount—say, a quarter of a percent, or half a percent—but once you add up 10 or 20 of them, then the increased win rate becomes noticeable. Most professional players already do those things regularly, so if you do not do them or do not realize they are being done, you’re letting them get ahead of you.

In Tiny Edges, I talk about one small change you can incorporate into your game play to win just slightly more than you do now. Some of them will be basic, and some will be more complex. Hopefully, once the series is done, the tiny edges will group together to give you a significant edge over your opponent.

Tiny Edge #2: Think Before You Act

A lot of people like to alternate thinking and acting (they’ll come up with a play, make the play, and then consider where they go from there), but I think this is an inferior way of playing. Your turn should not be “think, play”; “think, play”; “think, play.” It should be “think, think, think,”; “play, play, play.”

Thinking about the entire turn and then everything, as opposed to alternating, has two main benefits:

  1. It lets you make a more informed decision, since you’re considering all the decisions together while incorporating the impact of each one in the final scenario. When you make decisions, you want to consider their impact in the future, not in the present. The problem is that when you make your first decisions, your vision of the future is flawed because it doesn’t yet incorporate the result of your next batch of decisions. You only know what the future will actually look like once you’ve decided everything. Not acting on your first decisions until you’ve thought about all of them gives you the chance to go back and correct them to better match what the future will actually look like.I’m going to present you with a dumb example that I hope illustrates my point:Say the first decision you have on your turn is, “should you Ruinous Path your opponent’s 20/20?” Say you look at the board and decide that yeah, you should do that, so you do it. So far, so good.Then, next decision—should you cast Wrath of God?Upon looking at the board, you realize that you actually should just cast Wrath of God. So you do that. Now you wish you hadn’t cast that Ruinous Path, but it’s too late because you’ve already done it—you acted before you made all your decisions. If you only think about casting the Ruinous Path but don’t actually do it, then move to the Wrath of God decision, you’ll go back and realize that the Ruinous Path decision wasn’t right, because your vision of what the future would be wasn’t right.
  2. It hides what you have from your opponent. If you only think in the specific spot in which you have a decision to make, then they know this is the exact spot in which you have options.The example I like to use is that you’re playing Zoo, and your turn is going to be “keep, play fetchland, sac it, get Stomping Grounds, and play a 1-drop.” If you keep, sac your fetch, get untapped Stomping Ground, and only then you start thinking, then your opponent knows that the bifurcation point is which 1-drop to play—they know that you can play two different cards and are choosing which one because that’s the only thing you can possibly be thinking about.Imagine, however, that you think about the entire turn, and only then keep your hand and make all your actions. Now your opponent doesn’t know if you were thinking about whether to keep the hand or not. They don’t know if you were thinking about which land to play, which land to fetch, or whether you wanted to take damage or not. You could be thinking about any of those things, or many of them.By thinking about everything and then acting on it, you end up denying your opponent information.


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