Planning every aspect One of the most important skills that has helped me succeed in Magic has been the ability to formulate a plan.  This is a skill that has been cultivated through my preferred deck archetype of choice, puzzle decks.  Every deck that I have performed well with (Bloom Titan, Lantern Control, KFC, Tron) has had this common theme (and Ancient Stirrings among other things). If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!
-Benjamin Franklin

Win the game! Competitively speaking, the overall goal in every match should be to come to a state in the match were you have won the game.  Every action you make should be in an attempt to get you closer to executing this plan and signing the match slip in your favor.  In a macro sense, that is all you need to start with to improve your game by starting to self-critique and be continuously think.  Once we start to dive into the depth of the game, this main goal can start to get split into more smaller manageable goals, each layer becoming more finite than the previous.

Breaking down the plan

a fantastic read Since MTG Arena broke onto the scene, the magic community has been flooded with newer players that haven’t yet quite grasped this concept yet.  During a late night twitch binge, I was able to watch the growth of one fresh player and help them grow over the course of just a few games.  What started with TyrannasaurusLex asking chat about every play made during a sealed league, all the way down to which creatures they should attack with, ended with a quite amazing evolution into plan formulation and execution all on their own.

The scene was set, the hands drawn and the first decision of the game was about to be made which set rolling a plan.  A hand of 5 Plains, 1 March of the Multitudes, 1 Flower // Flourish was presented.  While the decision was made to keep the hand was shocking, the thing that was said next really blew me away.

I have all the cards I need to win, my plan is to March for 7 guys and Flourish them for 21 damage

In fewer than 7 single game matches of sealed she had already learned to and started making a plan.  This is where things started to break down and multiple decision points came into play that hindered the perfect plan.  It was turn 2 and the opponent started tapping their mana, Vernadi Shieldmate, our plan was foiled!  There was no way were were going to get to 11 mana before that pesky 2/2 dealt us 20 damage, worst yet, it would mean we would now need an 8th soldier to to get around this new threat and present a single lethal attack!

The good news came quick, a Hitchclaw Recluse soon made it’s way to the Battlefield to pad ourselves from the furious onslaught the Shieldmate was presenting, with the added bonus of accelerating us to the 12th mana due to the convoke mechanic on March.  The game continued to evolve as we fast forwarded to the turn before the final step of our plan, 12 available mana at our expense, just need to survive to our turn while being a decently healthy life total and flourish for the win.  A small diverge from our main goal threw the game into a tail spin which ultimately lost us the game.  A non lethal attack was responded to with not only the casting of the March of the Multitudes but also soon after the blocking of a large creature with one of the tokens.  This slight miscalculation ended up in only being able to swing though 18 of the 20 damage…so close!

The lesson here is to stick to the plan.  Mixing a few steps from plan A with a few steps from plan B typically will not result in the expected outcome.  We saw a game quickly unravel when plan A (attack for 21) was deviated from and a decision was made that detracted from our main goal.  This was amplified further when we then set to bring plan A to fruition after it had become unfeasible.  At this point it was time for us to break the main goal (Win the game) down further and formulate a new plan.

Planning to plan

The most growth that I have had as a player recently was during my stint last modern PPTQ season (2017) while on Lantern Control.  As everyone knows, these games can take a while, so I needed to find a way to take advantage of saving every second of the clock.  I came to the conclusion that I could save a minute or more if I started using a sideboard guide.  At first, I just copied pre-written guides from mr. Lantern himself, Kanister, but after learning the deck I was then able to tweak and adjust the board to better fit the evolving metagame.

Applying my in game skills at creating a plan to constructing a sideboard took my play to another level.  The most helpful aspect of the sideboard guide actually came even before the first game was played.  The most important part of the plan is to constantly be thinking and adjusting the plan to make sure it still lines up with the end goal.  Creating these micro guides forced me to think about each match and figure out a game plan for each.  I began to think from my opponents side of the table and figure out what their plan was going to be before they even had a chance to start formulating a plan for themselves.

During this period you did not want to be sitting across the table from me.

Utilizing this skill to it’s full potential was work, plain and simple.  To be fully prepared and pilot Lantern of Insight well took much research.  I reviewed hundreds of decklists, not of just Lantern, but all of Modern.  With such low quality of Draft Chaff I needed an air tight plan for every match.  This time and effort paid off for the most part. While I wasn’t able to clench the PPTQ invite, I did make it to the elimination rounds at every event I entered that season and I gained a more useful reward that continues to pay off, Planning.

Mine + Power Plant + Tower = 7

Utilizing this skill in this years PPTQ season finally paid off when I was able to take down a PPTQ with my latest Combo Control Tempo Puzzle deck of choice, Tron.  This deck does get a lot of flack for taking 0 skill to play (which is partially true), but I have quickly realized there are a lot of decision points that pay off in the planning with this deck.

The main puzzle to this deck is how to assemble tron as quickly as possible, however breaking this down further it seems like the real goal is just figuring out a way to survive long enough to accomplish this, that is where that last 30% comes from.  To see Tron to it’s full potential you really do need to start formulating a plan even before the first Urza’s Mine is played during mulligans.  Without a deep dive into the mulligan decision let me just say that this is what seperates the Karn Liberateds from the Karn, Scion of Urza‘s.

The long pause

One thing that I hadn’t planned on was how to end my first article, so…long pause…

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