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Posted January 25, 2016 by Scott Gerhardt in Card Games

Dirty little secrets #1

Quick preamble.  We are in the process of redesigning and cleaning up the site.  You may encounter things that or broken or possibly just tacky.  Sorry.  I hope to have it done relatively soon, but it’s about the content, right?  Well, here’s content. 🙂

“Scott, why is your article called dirty little secrets?”  I’m so glad you asked.  In my 20+ years of playing Magic, I have learned a trick or two when playing against people.  Now, I don’t know if I would try most of these in the Pro Tour or Day 2 of a GP, but to less experienced players, these tricks will work now and again, some more than others.  Magic is a mental game.  You are trying to outplay and out think your opponent.  There are several ways to out think them, and this article series is going to concentrate on that.  Additionally, I want to show you the foil to these tricks if they get used against you.  Just to make something very clear:  I will never support or condone any”dirty little secret” which involves cheating.  Always play the game honorably.

Dirty Little Secret #1 – “I’ll concede”

Sometimes you will find yourself in a position where you know you are dead to a certain card.  Usually it’s some form of a counter or removal spell.  This trick is most effective when used game 2 down a game or game 3, and thus your opponent has the opportunity to win the match, though you can try it at other times.  It’s a very statement that you make:  “Show me the (insert card name/type here) and I’ll scoop right now.”

Now, first of all, I want to make one thing very clear:  if they show you what you’ve asked for, you scoop.  If you do not, you are absolute scum.  I am going under the premise that I have honorable readers here.  This trick is not designed into forcing your opponent to show you cards from their hand for you to gain an upper hand.  Plus, well, you might have a pretty pissed off opponent.

Once you’ve asked the question, you’ve forced your opponent into a corner whether they know it or not.  Wanting to win the game, a vast majority of players will simply show you the card if they actually have it – eliminates wasted time and brain energy thinking about something you don’t need to.  With that in mind, if they DON’T show you the card, you can 98% of the time assume they don’t have it.  Now, they might have something else, but you really only get 1 swing at this a match, so choose the spot carefully.  So, I want to give some examples of good questions and ones that maybe aren’t so good.

“Show me the Spell Shrivel and I’ll scoop”  I actually used that exact one last night.  I was 100% dead to Spell Shrivel, but if he didn’t have it, there was a particular way I could play that would allow me to keep myself from being in a losing position.  My opponent just kinda shrugged his shoulders and didn’t do anything.  He didn’t have it, and I knew I could play as though he did not.  In the end, did he have it?  Nope.  Mind you, I still lost the game 2 turns later as he was able to gain a touch more board position on me, but the point is I was able to play that pivotal turn with the knowledge that he was not holding Spell Shrivel.

“Show me removal for (insert creature here) and I’ll scoop.”  This one can be particularly effective since if there are multiple cards in the format or deck that would be able to kill it, you have a chance to rule out more than one card at a time.  This is definitely a “know they tricks” card so you can properly rule out certain spells.  This can be particularly effective when determining what creature to attempt to play or knowing whether or not you should attack/block.  Be careful, though, when asking this question when there are a LOT of options available to kill the creature.  If that’s the case, your opponent may give you a false positive since it would be giving a LOT of information.  But, even that said, it will probably work.

“If you’ve got X card or card type (land) on top of your deck I’ll scoop.”  This is a bad question since your opponent’s action is technically against the rule, especially if the top card is hidden information.  Now, lets say your opponent Scryed something to the top.  You COULD ask the question then, but it actually becomes super awkward since you would have to concede to their word, and only after you scoop they show you it was the card….maybe.  It’s a trap question.  The only time I could possibly see it being used would be in the process of determining something going to the top of their library or not – the point before the card goes on top.  But even then…..  How about this:  don’t use this question.

“If you’ll trade me that (some card, likely a sweet one they have played) then I’ll scoop.”  DO NOT EVER ASK THIS QUESTION OR ANYTHING SIMILAR UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE!  Despite there not being a solid gain by one person for the result of the match, this is still considered bribery and can get you shoved on the DCI shelf for a while.  I hope no one would do this, but I’m just covering the bases.

The Foil

Someone does this to you.  How do you deal with it?  Well, if you have the card, so long as you don’t suspect your opponent to be the aforementioned scumbag, then just show it and win.  If you do not have it, this is when you need to get vocal whether you want to or not. Remember, this question is designed to trap on inaction, so you have to take action.  “How about this – you do what you’re gonna do and we’ll find out if I have it or not.”  Another response would be just a very short and somewhat stern “just play the game”.  I don’t like that because it makes you seem like a dick.  Also, unless you super snap say it, your opponent might still gather the knowledge that you don’t have it.  Remember, if you do have it, you’ve won anyway, so your opponent is going to look for any amount of pause or hesitation.

Furthermore, if you DO have it, don’t show it, especially if you think you might ever play this person again.  If they go for it thinking you don’t have it, and you do, then you have completely neutralized their ability to ask the question in the future because a non-answer gains them no information.

As always, questions and comments below.  This time, we covered a trick for the end of the match.  Next time, we’ll look at one for the beginning of the match.

Keep playing everyone!


Scott Gerhardt

Scott has....thoughts. They can be about this, that, or just about anything. Seldom at a loss for words, you can find his thoughts chronicled here