Different players at different levels make different kinds of mistakes; at least habitual mistakes.
Some classes of mistakes you will not generally make until you reach a certain level of ability because you lack the context. So just as you make rookie mistakes less frequently as you increase your knowledge of the game and improve your mental shortcuts, you can start to make new kinds of mistakes based on imperfect applications of your greater tool set.
Summon up your basic notion of the mana curve: using most or all of your mana every single turn. As a general operating rule it is very useful to learn this shortcut to clean play. Imagine for a moment it's your third turn and you can play a Grey Ogre or a Grizzly Bears.
Vanilla 2/2 for three mana...or vanilla 2/2 for two mana?
A Grey Ogre and a Grizzly Bears are the same once they're already on the table, so assuming you weren't doing anything with the free land you save nothing by playing the cheaper card instead of the more expensive one. If you have the option of a land that comes into play tapped for your third land or you have a good trick for one mana that might be a reason to drop the Grizzly Bears instead...but all other things held equal, if you have three mana available you will have more long-run success if you know the mana curve mental shortcut of casting your Grey Ogre instead of your Grizzly Bears. Next turn you might draw another Grizzly Bears and then you can play two Grizzly Bears!
For me, personally, using all of my mana every single turn has become my most frequent source of habitual, strategic sorts of mistakes. I can play pretty heedlessly into Dazes and Force Spikes, and sometimes drop the shields on the wrong turn, blue-on-blue, getting my big spell countered but eating the opponent's big spell.
See how tapping all your mana is the kind of mistake you only make when you achieve a certain level of understanding? If no one ever taught me that maximizing my mana consumption was a plus-operating behavior I might fall short less frequently by tapping all my mana (at the wrong time). On balance, I am sure I have won countless games because, most of the time, tapping more of my mana is better than not.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor with Mana Leak open?
I'll play Consecrated Sphinx. What can he do? At least I'll draw two cards!
Like I said: Me? My most common strategic screwup is that I tap all my mana in spots where I should be looser with my lands.
From some of the answers to this week's Make the Play Monday hypothetical... I fear some of you might have the same trouble I sometimes do.
To me this is a pretty straightforward situation.
It is pretty early in the game; we've already nabbed a two-for-one on the opponent thanks to his somewhat slow draw + hitting our Scouring Sands.
On balance we started out with a mulligan so even though we are in a good spot it really could be one card more commanding.
For reference, here is the deck we are working with:
...of course we are sideboarded (cue Scouring Sands), but you get the idea: absolutely great creatures plus lots of removal. Speaking of both great creatures and an abundance of removal, Heliod's Pilgrim might be at an all-time height in the Boss Sligh matchup we're in. Not only does its usual target Chained to the Rocks handle most anything, Heliod's Pilgrim's usually tiny 1/2 body actually trades with cards like Firedrinker Satyr and absolutely bullies base-1/1 folk like Akroan Crusader (and its little buddies).
In the spot we are in currently we have both three great creatures and a contextually excellent removal card.
How do we deploy them?
Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall?
"I am having a hard time even imagining a situation where you would play your Wingmate Roc here.
"Obviously if you did not draw another creature you would play your Wingmate Roc (to set up your next Wingmate Roc)...but the same things that beat Wingmate Roc beat Brimaz, King of Oreskos; and Brimaz leaves you with more options.
"The big threat is that the opponent plays a fourth land and has Stoke the Flames. Stoke the Flames kills either Brimaz, King of Oreskos or Wingmate Roc...but Brimaz leaves you with the ability to interact with the opponent if he has something less powerful, but still relevant.
"...and of course we aren't burning the potential upside on a Wingmate Roc."
Brian David-Marshall's Play: Play Mountain, play Brimaz, King of Oreskos.
Call a spade a spade: We're way ahead here and should be a favorite to win regardless of which 3/4 we make this turn. We have a ton of life, the opponent has no threat on the battlefield, and all our potential threats this turn are resilient against red-based removal; resilient, but not immune.
In spots like this it can be useful to try to imagine the worst case scenario. Like BDM said, the big problem would be Stoke the Flames, but Stoke the Flames kills Wingmate Roc and Brimaz, King of Oreskos equally.
What's the next worst thing that can happen, then?
After thinking about it for a long time, I determined that I wouldn't want to see a fourth Mountain into Goblin Rabblemaster.
If the opponent played a pre-combat Goblin Rabblemaster, then produced and attacked with a token, I would feel obligated to block.
I'm not interested in taking a point of damage, and I'm not interested in letting the opponent start making a Goblin army.
Now if I had Wingmate Roc... What's the worst that could happen?
I think the worst would be if he had Titan's Strength. Then he could kill my Wingmate Roc. Trading a [free] Goblin Token and a Titan's Strength for a Wingmate Roc (even unenhanced) has got to feel like winning the lottery for my opponent.
Man! Feeling obligated to block and actually blocking are too different things (if the opponent is lining up aces).
But what if I had Brimaz, King of Oreskos instead?
For one, I could just kill his stupid Goblin Rabblemaster pre-combat, preventing any kind of shenanigans. BUT! Since we are speculating on a situation where the opponent has a Titan's Strength, presumably he would be able to keep his Goblin Rabblemaster. BUT! When we blocked the oncoming Goblin Token (and he used his Titan's Strength) we would be able to respond with Magma Jet. Card for card, a Brimaz on the battlefield will generally outperform a Goblin Rabblemaster, and ours is following up with Wingmate Roc into Wingmate Roc!
Even if I brain farted multiple times and managed to lose my 3/4 Brimaz I should still have a 1/1 token to set up raid for my first Wingmate Roc. After that, I'd have two big birds, making it awfully hard to miss my next Wingmate Roc's raid. It's hard to imagine losing to this deck from this life total with those things coming together.
Ultimately with Brimaz, my open mana, and Magma Jet; it seems awfully hard to not finish somewhere ahead of where I am now.
Now even if we weren't focused on the worst that could happen, I'd argue that Brimaz is the better card on the battlefield regardless of cost.
While our RW deck is more than willing to invest in four copies of Wingmate Roc, that is largely for Wingmate Roc's upside, both short term and longer term. Right now, the first Wingmate Roc is advertised as a 3/4 flying creature with a very minor life gain ability for five mana. Or, just not a great deal at five.
On the other hand, Brimaz, King of Oreskos is a 3/4 creature with a ton of special abilities for only three mana.
Which would you rather have on the battlefield? Brimaz in all its token-making / vigilant glory...or a 3/4 flyer with a very minor life gain line?
There are very few situations I can imagine where I would want an un-paired Wingmate Roc over a Brimaz, at least at relatively high life total, which we are at now.
Mike's Play: Play Mountain, play Brimaz, King of Oreskos.This week's hypothetical was relatively simple. Merry Christmas!
But in the spirit of giving, here come some great $25 gift cards, courtesy of our buddies at TCGplayer.com!
For agreeing with Celebrity Guest Brian David-Marshall, Steve Winz gets a $25 gift card.
For agreeing with Yours Truly, Michael Kinney gets a $25 gift card as well.
Congratulations Steve Winz and Michael Kinney. Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize!
Brian David-Marshall is a sometimes Pro player, sometimes tournament organizer, but always the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Historian. He has been a regular contributor to the various Wizards of the Coast official web properties as a columnist and coverage reporter for over a decade. Brian has been the co-host of the Top 8 Magic podcast with YT since 2005. If you aren't already following him on Twitter at @top8games you should really take a moment to evaluate these horrible choices you call a life.