Hello, readers! This week I wanted to dive into something that not a lot of players, especially those who play formats most would define as “casual”, tend to think about – resource management. While most of my points in this article will come from an EDH perspective, let this be a lesson for players of all formats.
While a lot of strategies seem linear and low-variance at first glance, when we take a deeper look at the exploration of how certain strategies work, you can really get a handle on how to maximize the amount of resources you have at your disposal and how best to use them to deplete the resources your opponent has.
Something I’ve studied relentlessly from my days as a Yu-Gi-Oh! player is the vigilant management of card advantage. Translation of this concept to a game where you’re adding an entirely different variable resource whose worth greatly impacts the game (that resource, of course, is mana) has been admittedly rather difficult, and I’ve since slacked off in my once-watchful eye of maintaining a watchful eye on how much of an advantage I actually have over my opponent.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Before I let my propensity for point-based explanations take over, I want to mention the most important factor of resource management is trial and error. Always coincide the two when your aim is optimal play. (I’ve written an article on trial and error that will be included at the end of this one.)
-Make sure every spell you cast has an impact
It’s very easy to get carried away about thinking of the value of a card in a vacuum, but you want to be making sure every card in your deck does something. For example, in a metagame heavy in artifacts, Ancient Grudge is excellent. However, err on the side of flexibility if possible – The Standard format has the ability to just chuck a card like Ancient Grudge into its sideboard, where it’s best (after all, you don’t ever want to draw Ancient Grudge in a board state with no artifacts, especially in 1v1, when it counts the most), and in EDH you have Chaos Warp and Beast Within as more flexible spot removal options and Decimate as a more wide-range threat. Again, don’t get carried away, though – Decimate may offer more flexibility on the surface, but in a meta without Rhystic Study or other ilk of must-kill enchantments, Decimate is rather poor.
Being able to cast either the answer or the must-answer is the cornerstone of deckbuilding. Standard has Supreme Verdict Voice of Resurgence and Burning-Tree Emissary as great examples. EDH has most Wrath of God effects, Deadeye Navigator, Eldrazi and cards like Sylvan Primordial. These are the cards that may not be the centerpiece of your strategy, but act as the support structure – without them, your deck lacks both power and range.
-Focus on removing your opponent’s resources as much as building your own
Have you ever wondered why 95% of Magic players with more than two months’ experience have stated that most lifegain and heavy creature strategies are easily dismissed? Newer players will gravitate towards creatures like Alms Beast and spells like Pulse of the Fields or Shiv’s Embrace because they provide flashy effects without looking at the actual value these cards lack that are better represented through other cards.
The biggest issue with the aforementioned cards is mana cost – Alms Beast is not Tarmogoyf. Pulse of the Fields is not Martyr of Sands. Shiv’s Embrace is not Spectral Flight. But moreover, the cards don’t specifically do anything. Having played various “burn” strategies over the years, I’ve learned that life is like a house, and when you remove the other resources your opponents have (metaphorically, the foundation of the house), the house crumples without the other resources to support it. If the house is made of straw, it’s an easy sell for the burn archetype. But if the house is made of stone, you can huff, and you can puff, but you will not blow that house down. Alms Beast is easy to block and provides no lasting impact. Pulse of the Fields is a dead card in any situation where bolstering your own resources are a means to removing your opponent’s (which, in every single game of Magic you’ll ever play, is all of them). And while making your own creature more powerful is important, any intelligent opponent will be able to remove the creature it’s attached to, which depletes more of your resources than your opponent’s. This leads me to my next point…
-The more resources your opponent loses than you do simultaneously, the better
Like I said before, each card must stand out on its own, whether it’s the answer, the must-answer, or the support structure. So long as you have more cards than your opponents and are at a comfortable life total, you are in a winning position.
Removal of opponent’s resources is important. On the flipside, always remember that life totals are easily the least important resource as far as resource assessment is concerned. You can be at one point of life or one hundred and the player with more resources at their disposal will win in almost every situation. (This is especially true in EDH, where general damage is extremely impactful and a huge detriment to the lifegain archetype.)
Balancing the amount of resources is always going to be difficult, but there are many cards that can be huge blowouts for opponents and can swing the resource race in your favor.
The most innocuous of these cards is the Wrath of God effect. In certain situations, you can remove the entirety of your opponent’s resources with just this one effect, crippling their ability to combat you.
The graveyard is the counteractive strategy to this. Flashback, Dredge, Unearth, Retrace – all of these effects allow you to retain resources through their use while “depleted” and in your graveyard. Effects like these should always be considered when building a deck, as some are incredibly powerful. (Life From the Loam is perhaps the best example.)
My favorite of these effects is the classic 2-for-1. While Wrath of God effects potentially 2-for-1, there are cards like Treachery, Return to Dust, Bribery, Decimate, Hex, Into the Core, Rain of Thorns and more, which will almost always have multiple targets and remove two or more resources from the opponent while removing only one of yours. No matter how you look at it, you’re gaining a significant lead in the resource race by doing this, and I find that cards like these should always be considered for deckbuilding.
The last of these types of resources are the repeatable resources – generals in EDH are the oft-overlooked herald of this type of resource when it comes to the format, given that opponents will spend their resources to remove a resource you consistently have access to. Other examples of this type of resource are buyback, retrace, dredge, and activated abilities that either bolster your resources or remove your opponents’, such as many planeswalkers, Stonehewer Giant, and Visara the Dreadful.
-If you’re hard-pressed to remove your opponents’ resources, prioritize carefully
This is a concept even the most experienced players misconstrue – analysis of threat density. Generally, this varies from matchup to matchup – an opponent casts Bribery targeting the Mayael the Anima player when you have Counterspell and Cyclonic Rift sitting in your hand. You don’t know whether or not you can effectively deal with whatever the Bribery target is, so you Counterspell it.
Understanding when and how to use your resources in the most efficient way possible is the number one way you will improve yourself as a player. Being able to recognize “I have A card and B card in my hand. A card deals with anything, while B card deals with only X threat. Opponent casts X threat, B card answers X threat, so A card should be saved for a threat that B card can’t cover while B card answers X threat” is a bit more of a black-and-white look at the aforementioned situation, but sometimes we see every card aimed at depleting our resources in gray when it really is just that simple.
Playing your Angel of Serenity and not getting rid of your opponent’s ETB is a fine play in almost every matchup. If they remove the Angel, it’s an ETB they’re not getting back. If you neglect to exile Restoration Angel and they use it to block, they gained 5 life and that’s one more turn they have. Either way, you’re depleting their resources while not giving your opponent the opportunity to blink his ETB’s, a valuable resource in any Restoration Angel deck.
This is a more prevalent point the less resources you have, and is especially important when dealing with counterspells. In EDH, you can let a normally high-threat card like Sylvan Primordial happen if you don’t have a vital noncreature permanent and you have more important spells to counter. Your opponent gaining the mana off the ETB, or the removal of another opponents’ high-threat permanent (such as a Debtors’ Knell) is something you have to be wary of, but keep in mind using your resources to deny or deplete another player’s resources can get that player’s attention, which can be difficult when you’re already low on resources to answer them with.
TIPS FOR RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
I know I tend to spout off about things when it comes to the points I try to make, so let me attempt to simplify things for people who want to make a deck and are having trouble figuring out what to include or remove:
-Effects that net multiple resources (massive card draw, mass removal) are always high-priority
-Flexibility is key
-Make sure to balance bolstering your resources with removing your opponents’
-Incremental resource gain is always great (Rhystic Study, Mycoloth, Cathars’ Crusade)
-Effects that bolster your resources while removing your opponents’ are always worth considering
And as far as gameplay goes:
-Never spend too many resources of your own to remove an opponent’s single resource unless you will lose for not removing it
-Always be watchful of your opponent’s resources
-Balance tempo and resource management effectively
-Bolstering your own resources too much can draw attention to you, causing multiple people to spend their resources to kill you
-Always prioritize which resources are the most important to remove
I hope I’ve given you all something to think about here. A board state is a board state, but there’s much more to a game than a flashy creature being on board – be sure to keep an eye on the position your opponent is actually in and how well you can deal with it at all times, and if you’re having trouble keeping up with what your opponent is capable of, consider taking a look at what it is your resources are doing for you!
Until next time,
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of Dragon’s Maze:
Planeswalking and You:
Trial & Error: